In the year 164BCE, the Jews in the land of Israel successfully evicted the Selucid Greeks from Jerusalem and rededicated the Jewish Temple which had been defiled. Roughly 2200 years later, history has been inverted.
The Selucid Greeks Come to the Holy Land
The Selucid Greeks (from Syria) and the Egyptians were the major powers in the Middle East 2200 years ago. Israel acted as a buffer region between the two powers, and often fell under the authority of one or the other.
The Selucid King Antiochus III (241BCE-187BCE) expanded his kingdom into Asia and took control of Israel from the Egyptians. Generally, he treated the Jews well and they continued their autonomy and Temple worship in Jerusalem. When he died, his son Antiochus IV became king, who sought to unify the various parts of the expanded Selucid kingdom via a common religion and culture. He removed the Jewish High Priest Yochanan from the Temple in Jerusalem and installed Yochanan’s brother Jason who was willing to permit more Hellenistic and pagan worship. Jason was later replaced by Menalus who promised even more pagan rituals.
Before long, Antiochus IV came to the holy land and began to ban important parts of Judaism such as circumcision and observing the Sabbath. He enforced his vision via the sword.
As the Selucid Greeks rampaged through Israel, they descended on an important city in the heart of Judea, 19km northwest of Jerusalem.
The Priestly City of Modi’in
Modi’in had grown into a large city full of priests to help manage Temple worship in Jerusalem. As thousands of Jews from northern Israel went to Jerusalem for sacrifices, the city was often overwhelmed both in terms of places for pilgrims to stay and in processing animals and offerings. Modi’in became the main city for Jews of northern Israel to stop into before continuing to the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests in Modi’in acted as partners to Jerusalem’s priests in managing an orderly Temple service.
The priests of Modi’in were already alarmed by the defilement of the Temple when Antiochus came to their city to install pagan altars. The priests, led by Mattityahu, rebelled against Antiochus and over the next years, turned back the Selucid’s evil decrees and rededicated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday of Chanukah is a celebration of the re-establishment of Jewish autonomy throughout the holy land and purification of the holy Jewish Temple.
The Inverted Chanukah Today
The modern city of Modi’in was established in 1993 as a central hub halfway between the major Israeli urban centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. As the city grew to nearly 100,000 people, it incorporated the neighboring villages of Maccabim (named after the Maccabees who fought the Selucid Greeks) and Re’ut. Nearby towns also carry the names of the Jewish heroes of 2200 years ago, such as Chashmona’im, named after the Hasmonean Dynasty.
In August 2012, the European Union declared that Modi’in was not part of the Jewish State. The EU followed that ruling in November 2015, when it began to label any products from the city and the rest of Judea and Samaria as distinct from Israel.
While the EU was declaring that the heart of Judea and Samaria were not part of Israel, the Palestinian Arabs were complaining that Jews were defiling their holy places on the Temple Mount.
In September 2015, acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas called for Arabs to rebel against Jews who were defiling Jerusalem: “We bless you, we bless the Murabitin (those carrying out Ribat, religious conflict/war to protect land claimed to be Islamic), we bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah. The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is ours, and they have no right to defile them with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”
Arabs took the streets with knives stabbing Jews throughout the holy land. The United Nations, the United States and the EU did not condemn Abbas’s calls of incitement. Instead, they spoke about the “legitimate grievances” of Muslims and Arabs. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to limit access for Jews to the Temple Mount.
This Chanukah, the world bears witness to evil in the Middle East once again, as Palestinian Arabs stab Israeli civilians and the Islamic State beheads infidels. The desire to establish a homogeneous religion and culture still simmers in the Arab world.
But some history is now inverted:
- Modi’in, the large ancient city where the Jewish revolt was launched, which now houses nearly 100,000 Jews, is now not considered part of the Jewish State by the global community.
- The Jews complained and fought to remove pagan practices from their Temple long ago, and now Muslims seek to remove Jews from the Temple Mount (even though the Jews have done nothing to block Muslim worship).
On the first Chanukah 2200 years ago, Jews purged the pagan presence from Judea and Jerusalem. Today, the world works to purge those cities of Jews.
This year, Jews should not just celebrate the holiday of lights, but commemorate the holiday of rights. The meaning of the holiday is about Jewish autonomy and rights of worship from Judea to Jerusalem. Put your menorah in the window and your voice on the web.
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