Every Jerusalem Stone Has a Story… The Chanukah Story is Still Alive Today

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South of the Temple Mount near the Ophel, archeologists claim to have found the “Acra” – the famous stronghold built around 168 BCE, by the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (4th) in the northern section of the City of David. (Near the Givati carpark and currently part of further excavations). 

Years later the Maccabees managed to take control of the Acra, and rebuild sections of the fortress and drove out the Greeks. And so the “story” of Chanukah comes to life in our time in Jerusalem.

But there is a lot more to the Chanukah story which is alive and well today. 

“Hashem made miracles in those times and also today?”

What does this mean and what are the lessons to be learnt from Chanukah? 

First lets recap – The Persian kings (Cyrus and Darius) “allowed” us to return home and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, but sadly most Jews remained in exile and of course we were still “under the thumb” of the Persians.

The Persian Empire crumbled and the Greek Empire rose in the year 338 BCE, with the new “star” being Alexander the Great. Following his death, the Empire was divided with warring governors at each other’s throats. And so the Land of Israel was traversed by war mongering leaders, each with their own agenda and each bringing with him a foreign Greek culture and lifestyle, that was sadly desired by some faint hearted Jews. (Hellenists)

One such ruler was Antiochus Epiphanes (4th) who had no time or patience for the spiritual Jewish Torah life and so after ransacking the Temple (168  BCE), also made decrees against the Jewish people. (No learning Torah, No circumcision, No Declaring new moon as the primary decrees)

Matityahu Cohen Ben Yochanan (מתיתיהו כהן בן יוחנן – מכבי) together with his 5 sons started the Jewish rebellion in Modiin, and with pure faith in Hashem, stealth and the refusal to be deterred by the size of the enemy, took on both the Greek Empire and the Jewish Hellenists who wished to uproot the Torah from the Jewish people.

On the 25th of Kislev (And they rested on the 25th (חנו – כה   the Maccabees had a decisive victory over the Greeks and Hellenists, and then entered Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

הר הבית בידינו  (The Temple Mount is in our hands) was probably also screamed from the Jerusalem rooftops in 165 BCE by the Maccabees. (In 1967 during the Six day war Motta Gur said those famous words when the Temple Mount and the Walled City of Jerusalem was returned to its rightful heirs).

But it was short lived. Notwithstanding the joy, the prayers of thanks to Hashem, the rededication of the Temple and the finding of one crucible of pure oil (signed by the High Priest) which miraculously lasted 8 days (not just 1), we still had a wars to fight.  In fact – most of Matityahu’s sons died in these wars including Judah the Maccabee (Hammer מקב) and Elazar who was crushed under one of the elephants brought to Israel by the Greek commander Lysius.

It took another 20 years of fighting and “political deals” before one of the sons – Shimon was actually declared the king or head of the Jews. (142 BCE) And yet, there were still problems with the surrounding Greek governors and the Hellenists. Life in Israel was not smooth. 

As priests, and not from the Davidic dynasty, the Maccabees were not permitted to be kings of Israel. According to some sources this may have been the reason why we only had Jewish control over Israel for a very short time period before the Roman Empire rose and took control of the world. In fact we were already under the “thumb” of the Romans, when they placed a famous Idumean puppet ruler Herod on the throne in the year 36 BCE.

Article by Daniel Luria

Daniel Luria is the Executive Director and International Spokesman for Ateret Cohanim. He is considered a global expert on Jerusalem, with a focus on urban land reclamation initiatives. he is a sought after speaker, guide, and informal educator in relation to his work in Jerusalem.

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