Chanukah and the United Nations

The irony of a UN resolution condemning the Jewish settlements during the holiday of Chanukah is pretty incredible. Chanukah celebrates the establishment of Jewish political sovereignty over the land of Israel, including the very areas the United Nations now claims no longer belong to Israel! Besides the spiritual victory of Jews refusing to abandon their faith in favor of Greek Hellenism, Chanukah celebrates the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greek Seleucid Empire, resulting in more than 200 years of Jewish political sovereignty over the land of Israel. That Jewish sovereignty lasted for two centuries until the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 CE and exiled our people.

Although Jews always continued to live in Israel since the Roman exile, it wasn’t until the creation of the modern state in 1948 that political sovereignty and independence was returned to the Jewish people. As we know, this happened through a majority vote taken by the General Assembly of the United Nations. 19 years later in 1967 when Egypt and Syria were about to simultaneously attack Israel in an unprovoked war and Israel was forced to strike preemptively, she not only defended herself against annihilation, but in six days reunited Jerusalem, captured the Sinai Dessert, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. That defensive war gave Israel the legitimate right to govern and once again exercise political sovereignty over those lands.

In the history of mankind, the aforementioned processes are the only two recognized ways in which countries legitimately gain sovereignty over land: a majority vote by the nations of the world or defensive military action. There is no historical precedent for a country which has gained territory in a defensive war to return it. It is of course Israel’s prerogative to do so in order to advance peace with its neighbors, but from a moral standpoint it has absolute legitimacy over those lands. Can you imagine anyone telling the Maccabees, in the aftermath of their successful revolt against the oppressive Greek regime, to return the land they legitimately took in their battle against the Syrian-Seleucid Empire?

This Chanukah we should not only commemorate the sovereignty the Maccabees established over Israel two millennia ago, but also reaffirm the legitimacy of Israel’s sovereignty over the land of Israel today. Anything less fails to do justice to what Chanukah is all about.

About the Author
Rabbi Mark Wildes, known as The Urban Millennials' Rabbi, founded Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) in 1998. Since then, he has become one of America’s most inspirational and dynamic Jewish educators. Rabbi Wildes holds a BA in Psychology from Yeshiva University, a JD from the Cardozo School of Law, a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and was ordained from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Mark & his wife Jill and their children Yosef, Ezra, Judah and Avigayil live on the Upper West Side where they maintain a warm and welcoming home for all.
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