In just a few days, my family will gather for Chanukah. Outside in the courtyard of our home. Alongside chanukiot filled precisely with pressed olive oil. Continuing the tradition of the ancient Maccabim.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
My neighbors will assemble with their families.
The streets of Modi’in will gradually be infused with light.
We have returned.
Great miracles along with tremendous personal and national sacrifice have empowered us to raise our flag high in the air.
Streets, roads, houses, schools, thriving businesses, mikvaot, and synagogues continue to be constructed.
Modern Israeli communities that replicate our past.
Proudly we stand high up on the mountain.
Centered between the holy city of Jerusalem and the industrial Jaffa Coast.
We are a link in the chain.
We are living a miraculous existence.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה נִסִּים לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם בִּזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.
A Bit of Chanukah History
There are four books that chronicle the history of the Maccabees.
The first book, most likely authored by the Hasmonean family chronicles the War of Independence, which lasted four years.
The war did not end after the redemption of the Temple, instead, for four years the battle continued with the Greeks trying to reconquer Jerusalem.
Chanukah: The War of Independence
Archeologists have discovered that ancient Jewish communities often centered around a Great Hall – a Synagogue, and many mikvaot, religious baths.
Ancient Jews practiced Judaism locally, in their communities, while maintaining strong ties to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The arrival of the Greeks to Israel brought an influx of western culture in the form of theater, arts, philosophy, and math, along with religious persecution.
The War of Independence, 167 – 160 BCE, centered around the struggle of synthesizing Judaism and Western culture.
The Maccabim passionately fought against the Hellenists, Jews that chose to follow orders of Antiochus, the Greek King.
Modi’in – Site of the Maccabean Rebellion
News began to spread, Antiochus had sent government officials to Modi’in to enforce the decrees on Jewish religious practice. Matityahu, the high priest was approached by members of the community. They begged him to convince the people to follow the King’s orders and worship the Greek gods.
Matityahu the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire with his refusal to worship the Greek gods. During a communal gathering in the synagogue, in Modi’in, a Jew stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol, on the bameh. Zealously, defending the brit avot, Matityahu, murdered him. This sparked the rebellion, and Mattiyahu and his sons fled to the mountains.
The Legacy of Shimon Hamaccabi
Four years later, to mark the miraculous Maccabean victory, Shimon Hamaccabi, the surviving son, erected a tribute as both a memorial for his family and a proclamation.
Built high at the top of the mountain, overlooking Jerusalem, the spiritual center and facing the coast, the path to western commerce. The even gazit consisted of a burial ground and seven tall pyramids on bases illustrated with pillars and boats.
Shimon Hamaccabi broadcasted to the world the strength, the independence and the destiny of Jewish State.
He envisioned a future, where the Jewish people strived to synthesize the ideals of the western world while remaining independent, committed to brit avot, Jewish tradition in Israel, our Homeland.
A future of worldwide recognition in the Maoz Tzur, The Rock of Israel.
Ok…. So… Where is Modi’in?
Modern archaeologists are in search of the places mentioned in ancient sources and maps.
The Madaba Map, one of the oldest maps, found in Jordan, in the 6th or 7th century CE specifies Modi’in and the Tomb of Mattiyahu.
Anu Nosi’im Lapidim
Modern Zionists were greatly influenced and inspired by the miracles of Chanukah, specifically successful Maccabean victory culminating in Jewish Independence in Israel.
1907, marked the first time since the Maccabean victory that Israel was in Jewish hands. Modern Israeli Zionists saw themselves as the extension of Maccabean revolt and victory.
Eighteen idealistic teenagers from the Herzliya Gymnasium, in Tel Aviv, set out on a journey in search of their heroes, the Maccabean graves.
As the teenagers neared Modiin, an Arab shepherd approached them. He inquired, “Are you looking for the ancient Jewish tombs?” He pointed them to “Qubur el-Yahood” (“Tombs of the Jews”) adjacent to the Ben Shemen Forest.
Full of emotion, they lit the first lights of Chanukah, high up on the mountain next to Maccabean graves, accompanied by song and dance.
Despite the weak archaeological evidence, this location remains a symbolic site. The pyramids were rebuilt, and a memorial site was constructed in 1948 for the newest fallen soldiers – additional sacrifices in the continued and painful fight for Jewish independence.
Modern Modi’in: Umm al- Umdan
In 1996, the Cornerstone of Modi’in was laid and the modern city of Modi’in was created.
During construction of the modern city of Modi’in in 2001, an ancient village, Khirbet Umm al-Umdan- “the ruin of the pillars” was discovered, by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Artifacts from an ancient village that existed from the Hellenistic period to the Hasmonean period lasting until the Bar Kochba revolt were found: coins with Hebrew and Aramaic writing, stamps, along with pottery cooking utensils and ovens.
In the center of the village, a synagogue was found from the time of the Beit Hamikdash, with three levels and walls painted in fresco, complete with a courtyard.
The name “Umdan” referred to the pillars, some of which still remain today. Or, “Umdan” may refer to the ancient city of Modi’in.
Currently, Umm al Umdan, located along the Derech Hachashmonaim highway, adjacent to Modi’in’s Moriah neighborhood, is considered the most authentic site.
Archaeologists continue searching for pivotal moments in Jewish history.
Jews around the world connect with the heroic story of the Maccabim and the ancient city Modi’in.
Today’s residents of Modi’in, stand with humility and pride on the physical land that our ancestors, the Maccabim once stood.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לִזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Persevering to protect the Maccabean legacy as we continue to defend our independent Jewish state.
This Chanukah, carry the torch.
Participate in the initiative of Modi’in resident, Rabbi Elli Fischer and daven Kabbalat Shabbat in Umm al Umdan, the ancient synagogue.
Together, we pray for the most radiant light and the ultimate miracle.
Maoz tzur yeshua-ti
Lecha na-eh li-sha-beyach
Tikone bait ti-fee-lati
Vi-sham todah ni-za-beyach.
My refuge, my rock of salvation! ‘Tis pleasant to sing Your praises. Let our house of prayer be restored. And there we will offer You our thanks. When You will have slaughtered the barking foe.Then we will celebrate with song and psalm the altar’s dedication.
Yocheved Pianko Feinerman is the High Energy Mom. She is “leaning in” and embracing the harmony and chaos of raising four “spirited” children, juggling an active career in digital marketing, while planning the next 24-hour getaway with her husband.
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