When asked to identify the most common allegory of redemption, people often refer to the phoenix. According to Greek mythology, a phoenix combusts into flames and turns into ashes when its time has come to die. However, a newborn phoenix rises from the ashes of its predecessor and takes its mantle. This motif repeats itself in many modern cultures that analogize the rebirth of nation-states and empires, redemption of those from the clutches of darkness, and the renewal of values that may have been lost for a time but get reaffirmed by an awakening of the masses.
For the Jewish people, the story of Chanukah promulgates this theme in a manner that still remains evident over 2,000 years after the Maccabean Revolt. When the Seleucid Empire began to severely oppress the practice of Second Temple Judaism, the Jewish people in Judea found themselves at a critical turning point where a decision had to be made: Either the Jews of Judea would succumb to Hellenization and reject the teachings of G-d set forth to them at Mount Sinai upon receipt of the Torah or the Jews of Judea would have to revolt against the Seleucid Empire, liberate their land from Greek influence, and reconstitute the Jewish Kingdom that had been conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians centuries prior. There were no alternatives to either fate.
The Jewish people were divided at that time. Some had embraced the Hellenizer occupants of Judea and their ideologies, believing that they were more cosmopolitan, “sophisticated,” and universalist than the heavily rule-driven beliefs of Second Temple Judaism. The others remained committed to traditional Jewish values despite being subjected to draconian laws by King Antiochus IV that barred Jews from engaging in Jewish customs, including keeping Shabbos and studying the Torah. They were immensely oppressed by the Seleucid Empire, often forced to flee into caves and other hiding spots in order to continue practicing Judaism under the noses of their oppressors.
Before the Revolt, a cold civil war existed between both camps of Judean Jews where Hellenizer charlatans sparred with traditionalists on how to govern in Jerusalem. Once the latter began to revolt against the Seleucid Empire, the Hellenized Jews took up arms against their traditionalist brothers in an attempt to complete the process of Hellenization in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. For a moment in time, it seemed inevitable that the Jewish people and their traditional customs would combust in flames and never be resurrected. Fortunately, the traditionalist Jews led by Judah the Maccabee prevailed against the Seleucid Empire and their treasonous brethren, liberating Judea and constituting the Hasmonean Dynasty. The enemies of both the Jewish people and Jewish values crumbled as the eternal light of the Jewish people illuminated Jerusalem and reaffirmed their commitment to G-d and the values that He embedded in us.
Given the symbolism of Chanukah as one of Jewish redemption from the clutches of an anti-Semitic empire and their Jewish enablers, it comes as no surprise that enemies of the Jewish people often find themselves on the receiving end of poetic justice during this time of year. Take Marc Lamont Hill, the former CNN contributor and Temple University professor, who went to the United Useless Nations Headquarters and called for a free “Palestine” from the river to the sea. Hill is no stranger to controversy within the Jewish community and has made his anti-Zionist views adamantly clear to the rest of the world for years. His association with Louis Farrakhan is the tip of the iceberg compared to his belief that Israel’s use of the Iron Dome, the anti-missile defense system used to intercept Hamas rockets from landing in high population areas, was unfair since it took away Hamas’s military edge. This, as if the openly genocidal terrorist group ought to have the opportunity to shoot rockets into Israeli population centers. Despite the fact that former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke emphatically agrees with Marc Lamont Hill’s viewpoint on this subject, Hill never received the same degree of condemnation and scorn that Duke rightfully deserves for his own anti-Semitism.
However, his call for “Palestine” to be “free” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was a reason that American Jews, including the liberal Jewish establishment, viscerally condemned Hill’s comments. “From the river to the sea” has been a staple in Palestinian-Arab terrorist propaganda since the “Palestine” Liberation Organization was founded in 1964. Jewish college students have heard this chant from pro-Hamas groups like Students of Justice in Palestine Jewish Persecution for over a decade. There is nothing to sugarcoat about its meaning and its intent. History provides the evidence of these facts.
Not long after international treaties codified that a Jewish homeland would be constituted in Judea [known at that time as the Mandate of Palestine], Nazi war criminal Hajj Amin al-Husseini spent decades seeking to undermine those international treaties, inciting genocidal violence against the Jews in the region, and aligned himself with Adolf Hitler to eradicate the Jewish people in the world. Just to provide an example of the Palestinian-Arab national movement’s historical hatred toward the Jews, al-Husseini wrote the following to Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in 1943:
But the Arabs see this Jewish immigration to their lands as a threat to their existential interests, something that causes me to turn your Excellency’s attention to this question and the damage it will cause to the Arabs. The friendly Arab people stood up without hesitation … in support of the Axis in this defensive war against communism and the Anglo-Saxons, and it expects its friends, the Axis powers … [to provide] the solution to the problem of world Jewry by means that will place the Jews under intense supervision and thus prevent the damage and danger expected from them.
Al-Husseini’s genocidal intentions did not die with him, but rather remained part of PLO leader Yassar Arafat’s ultimate goal. Thus, there is no honest, historically-based debate on the meaning of “from the River to the Sea”; it deliberately calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and for returning Islamic control to the land. For Marc Lamont Hill to suggest that it has anything to do with Israel returning to the indefensible 1949 Armistice Lines is to demonstrate that he is either a horrendous liar or an exceptional propagandist continuing the legacy of Nazi war criminals and their apologists. While CNN refused to articulate this point or condemn his anti-Semitism, Marc Lamont Hill lost his contract with the cable news network following his despicable comments at the Useless Nations Headquarters. To the Jewish people, this was vindication that those who openly call for our genocide will continue to receive the scorn they rightfully deserve. Much still needs to be done, but this is a good first step.
What is the lesson to be learned from this? The modern-day anti-Semites and their Jewish enablers are the next generation of soon-to-be losers of a war against the Jews. As the story of Chanukah rightfully teaches us, there are G-dly forces at play that ensure that the Jewish people rise from the ashes of horrific oppression to reassert their covenant to G-d. What Antiochus IV refused to take into account was the willingness of the Maccabees to fight back against them and reclaim their Temple, Jerusalem, and their indigenous homeland. Like the Babylonians and the Philistines before them, the Seleucid Empire succumbed after attempting to oppress the Jewish people. Since the Maccabean Revolt, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, the Roman Empire, the Umayyads, the Byzantine Empire, and other known tyrannical regimes that oppressed the Jews no longer exist. Nevertheless, the Jews have persisted and we will continue to remain regardless of how many times our enemies seek to wreak havoc on our lives. That is what the Jewish people celebrate during Chanukah and that should serve as a warning toward every Jew-hating psychopath in the world.
Chanukah Sameach to the Jewish people and may G-d bless and protect you all!