Chanukah is one of the favorite festivals of Jewish people around the world. Groups from both ends of the Jewish spectrum – from the most pious to those who are distant from traditional observance – share this celebration. The main ceremony included in this holiday of lights is the lighting of the candles of the Menorah, to remember the great miracle we celebrate. The story goes that the eight days of Chanukah commemorate the miracle of a small amount of oil lasting for eight days instead of just one day.
This miracle, which took place on the liberated Temple Mount in (East) Jerusalem, symbolizes the even greater miracle of the few untrained and under-armed Jewish soldiers of Yehudah Maccabee, who gained amazing victories over a well-trained and equipped Greek army.
Today, BDS is a movement that calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as a means of punishing Israel for controlling Judea and Samaria (also known as “the West Bank”). Israel has controlled this area for the past 45 years, since the defensive Six Day War in which the tiny Jewish state was forced to defend itself when surrounding Arab nations attacked simultaneously on all fronts, attempting to push the Jews into the sea.
Before this 1967 war, our borders were based on 1949’s cease-fire lines, cooperatively drawn up at Rhodes after Israel’s War of Independence. After the Six Day War, legendary Israeli statesman Abba Eben stated, “We shudder when we think of what would have awaited us in the circumstances of June, 1967, if we had been defeated; with Syrians on the mountains and us in the valley, with the Jordanian army in sight of the sea, with the Egyptians who hold our throat in their hands in Gaza. This is a situation which will never be repeated in history.”
Still, the BDS movement wishes to pressure Israel to relinquish its control over this vital area in order to establish a Palestinian state there.
Among other things the leaders of this movement fail to realize is the fact that the Jewish claim to Judea and Samaria dates much further back than 1967, and that the attachment is not just based on modern practical strategic value.
Chanukah is the Jewish national holiday that celebrates taking our country back from foreign imperialists. In addition to the overwhelming number of Torah events placed in this region, it is interesting to note that all the major battles the Maccabees fought were in locations that were not under Israeli control before the 1967 war. The area that many call “the West Bank” was the exact same area liberated by the historic Hasmonean heroes of the Jewish people back then, so the return of that land to Jewish control forms the basis of the Chanukah festival.
The Jewish rebellion against the Greek imperialists began in Modi’in – now considered a part of the West Bank – and spread throughout this area. Under the leadership of Matityahu the Cohen, who cried out in the city with a loud voice, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come with me!” The city took on self-rule, and all male children were circumcised in fulfillment of Jewish code, which had been outlawed by the Greeks. Collaborators were punished. Matityahu’s son Yehudah then took the lead in the battles outside of Modi’in. The first and most impressive was the battle of Wadi el-Haramiah in Shomron (just south of my home). The Assyrian force under the command of Greek governor Apollonius was defeated, and the sword of Apollonius was taken by Yehudah the Maccabee, who used it in battle for the rest of his life.
Read the book of Maccabees to learn more about the many victories to the north in Shomron and to the south in Yehuda. The climax of this war was liberation of the Temple Mount, followed by the lighting of the great Menorah at the site of the holy Temple. How symbolic that the emotional historic echo was heard so clearly 1803 years later, at the climax of 1967’s Six Day War when General Moti Gur stood at the same spot and declared, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”
My advice to the BDS movement is that if they hope to detach the Jewish people from Judea and Samaria, they would be wise to boycott Chanukah.