It was the year 166 BC. The Maccabees (a small army of dissident Jews), using guerrilla warfare, toppled the Syrian-Greeks’ stronghold over the Temple and Jerusalem. Their fight was against Hellenism, forced conversions, and the general demise of Jewish practice and identity. The Maccabees, and ultimately the Jewish people, reclaimed what was rightfully theirs. And so, we celebrate Hanukkah to remind us of our history, of what’s happened to us, of who we are and who we should be.
Ask any Jewish child to name the most important city in Israel — the Holy Land…the Land of Milk and Honey — and he or she will tell you. And, no, it’s not Be’er Sheva. It’s not Bethlehem. It’s not Jericho. It’s not Yavneh. It’s not Megiddo. It’s not (my beloved) Tel Aviv.
It’s Jerusalem. Jerusalem…home to the two Temples that were built to honor God. The direction we face when we pray. Plain and simple.
Jerusalem. I don’t know how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in Jewish literature, but it’s a big number. Between the Bible and prayer books and the Talmud and the Haggadah and poetry and … (you get the idea), Jerusalem always has been in the Jewish consciousness. It has forever been the heart and soul and yearning of the Jewish people.
I don’t like politics. Watching Scandal, House of Cards, or even following the process of a real election is enough to know that politics is about deal-making; saying (or not saying), promising (or not promising) or doing (or not doing) whatever is necessary to get (or keep) the powerful in power. Truth is irrelevant. It takes a back seat to political and financial gain. Jerusalem has been an ideal political football — for so many reasons — for centuries…rather, for millennia.
President Trump’s announcement last week, to “officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” was superfluous. Jews, Israelis, and others all know Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. So, why did he say it now? What was gained by his “official” and public recognition of it? Or, more importantly, who whom was he really speaking?
I’m not Olivia Pope, but I believe the simple, obvious statement was directed at the United Nations and UNESCO, as well as former presidents Carter and Obama. To quote Ken Stein, “Trump aligned [himself] with the rights of a sovereign state [Israel] over the opinions of the international community.” Certainly, he did so — now — for political reasons and time eventually will reveal the real motivations and objectives.
For now, ironically, the truth has been told and acknowledged. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Hanukkah is the perfect way to celebrate another victory.