Many liberals commoditize Hanukkah in what Depeche Mode might call “words [that] are meaningless and forgettable,” In a tweet posted by Doug Emhoff, husband of Senator (and soon to be Vice President) Kamala Harris (D-CA), Harris believes the holiday commemorates “tikkun olam, which is about fighting for justice and fighting for the dignity of all people.”
And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7) don’t even mention Jews at all in their commemorative tweets; the former merely gives a shout out to “loved ones, neighbors, and friends across the country lighting their first candle tonight.”
But the inconvenient truth is that the real story of Hanukkah is the Jews’ re-gaining autonomy in their ancestral homeland of Judea and Samaria, this time from the Greek Seleucid Empire. The Hanukkah story represents nothing short of the religious and national emancipation of the Jewish people.
To put Hanukkah in context, the Jews had sovereignty or partial-sovereignty/autonomy over Judea and Samaria during:
- The Kingdom of Israel (1020 to 930 BCE) and then a split into:
- The northern Kingdom of Israel (930 BCE to 720 BCE)
- The southern Kingdom of Judah (930 BCE to 586 BCE)
- The Yehud under the Neo-Babylonian/Chaldean Empire (586 BCE-539 BCE);
- The Yehud Medinata under the Persian Achaemenid Empire (539 BCE to 332 BCE);
- The Hasmonean Dynasty under the Greek Seleucid Empire (the Seleucids) (164 BCE to 63 BCE)
- The Hasmonean Dynasty under the Roman Empire (63 BCE to 40 BCE);
- The Herodian Dynasty under the Roman Empire (37 BCE to 6 BCE);
- The First Jewish-Roman War (66 CE to 73 CE);
- The Palestinian Patriarchate under the Roman Empire (80 CE to 425 CE)
- Full independence from the Roman Empire as a result of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (132 CE to 135 CE); and
- Jewish autonomy in Jerusalem under the Persian Sasanian Empire (614-617 CE). Jews retained a presence in the Holy Land after losing that autonomy.
The major events that surround the Hanukkah story take place in Judea and Samaria, and include:
- 168 BCE: In Judea (in Jerusalem, specifically), the Seleucids loot the Second Temple and outlaw Judaism.
- 167 BCE: in Judea (in Jerusalem, specifically), Antiochus IV of the Seleucids orders a statue of Zeus to be erected and pigs to be sacrificed in the Second Temple, and bans circumcision. Matthias ben Johanan and his five sons Jonathan HaGaddi, Simon Maccabee, Eleazar Maccabee, Jonathan Maccabee, and Judah Maccabee initiate the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV and the Seleucids.
- 167 BCE: In Samaria, in the Battle of Wadi Haramia (near modern day Ma’ale Levona), the Maccabees defeat the Seleucids.
- 166 BCE: In Samaria, in the Battle of Beth Haron, Judah Maccabee leads the Maccabees to victory against Seron and the Seleucids.
- 166 BCE: In Samaria, in the Battle of Emmaus, Judah Maccabee leads the Maccabees to victory against Gorgias, Nicanor and Ptolemy the son of Dorymenes and the Seleucids.
- 165 BCE: In Judea (in Jerusalem, specifically), the Maccabees re-capture and re-dedicate the Second Temple. This is the main event celebrated in Hanukkah.
- 164 BCE: In Judea, in the Battle of Beth Zur, Judah Maccabee leads the Maccabees to victory against Viceroy Lysias.
- 162 BCE: In Judea, in the Battle of Beth-Zecharia, Viceroy Lysias and the Seleucids, along with elephants defeat Judah Maccabee and his brother Eleazar and the Maccabees. Eleazar is killed in battle as an elephant he kills falls on him. Elazer, a modern Israeli town in the Gush Etzion Bloc in Judea, is named after him.
- 161 BCE: In Samaria, in the Battle of Adasa in the Givon Valley, Judah Maccabee leads the Maccabees to victory against Nicanor and the Seleucids.
- 160 BCE: In Samaria, in the Battle of Elasa, Bacchides and the Seleucids defeat the Maccabees at Hr Hazor and kill Judah Maccabee.
- Jonathan continues to fight, hiding in the caves of Tekoa in the Judean Hills and going forth to win decisive battles until killed treachorously by the Roman Trifon who had invited him to talk of peace.
- 142 BCE: In Judea, the Hasmonean dynasty, under Simon Macabee, re-establishes the Second Jewish Commonwealth, where the Jews regain autonomy from the Seleucids.
In the modern period, Jews are once again returning to Judea and Samaria. When then-Senator Joe Biden chastised Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin for Israel’s settlement policy in 1982, and Begin responded with his famous “I am not a Jew with trembling knees” speech, Judea and Samaria had less than 22,000 “settlers,” with an additional 76,000 or so living in eastern Jerusalem. Now, Judea and Samaria has over 460,000 Jews, with an additional 220,000 Jews living in eastern Jerusalem.
The Jews are the indigenous inhabitants, not the "occupiers", of Judea and Samaria. In these lands, the Jews fought off occupation and religious persecution from the Greeks to re-establish sovereignty and religious freedom.
Let’s hope that the Jews regain sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Regain, not gain.