Google Earth Tracks Chanukah War

A rabbi is utilizing Google Earth to re-enact the battlefield miracle of 2,000 years ago when a small band of Maccabeans defeated the Greek army.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 11:13 AM

Google Earth and the Maccabees
Google Earth and the Maccabees
Israel news photo

Google Earth is helping Jews in Israel and all over the world understand the miraculous victory of the Jews over Greek invaders 2,000 years ago thanks to the initiative of a rabbi who brings history back to life on the computer.


Jews soon will celebrate the two miracles of Chanukah, the battlefield victory and the ritual burning of the discovery of pure olive oil in the Holy Temple that the Greeks had desecrated.  The High Priests at the time found one container of oil that had been prepared according to Jewish law, and they used it to light the Menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple. Miraculously, it remained burning for eight days, even though the amount would normally have lasted only one day.


In addition, the Jews also enjoyed a military victory, which can now be followed via a Google Earth presentation prepared by Rabbi Shlomo Hecht.  He related that during a recent visit in San Diego, California, he realized the difficulty in explaining to the Jewish community what really happened in the war between the Jewish forces, led by Yehuda (Judah) the Maccabi, and the Syrian-Greek army.


With a press of the button, Rabbi Hecht toggles between a contemporary map and the historic routes and points of conflict that allow viewers to follow maneuvers day and night.


He incorporates the topography as well as modern names of the communities to get across his message, which is embellished by emphasizing Zionist values. “This makes it easier to understand the challenges and difficulties in decision-making by Judah the Maccabi,” he said at a recent demonstration at the Jewish community at Maaleh Levonah in Samaria.


The small town is slightly north of an important battlefield, where the rabbi’s Google Earth presentation shows how the Maccabees waited in hiding for the overwhelming Greek force to arrive at a narrow passage, now known as Highway 60. After the Greeks were forced to change their course because of the narrow road, the smaller Jewish army attacked.


His lecture and 3-D presentation also illustrate crucial decisions and tactics over which modern historians still argue.   


After Chanukah, Rabbi Hecht hopes to use the same modern technology to teach about the battles of Kings Saul and David.