Hanukka-then and now

I have just finished reading a fascinating, thought-provoking book, one which will not get a review in Ha’aretz, for example… Well, this is not a full -fledged review on my part, just a reflection of some personal thoughts. The book is Temple in flames; The epic story of the final battle for Jerusalem, by Gershon Bar Cochva & Aharon Horovitz[Megalim, 2014]. This is a timely book, describing the last days of the independent Jewish state, which stsrted with the Hsashmonean family, in the 2 century B.C , And ended in the fateful year 70 A.D.

It is timely in Hanukka of this year, as it is in Hanukka of every other year, and it is timely when there is such a ferocious campaign , from inside our house, as well as from outside, as to our rights in Jerusalem, and in particular in Temple Mount, doubts and opposition mainly emanating from the unholy coalition of Islamists and anti/post Zionist Liberals, who want to erase any connection between the Jews and their historic homeland, as part of the delegitimization  campaign against Israel. This is a book relying on anti-Jewish sources, such as Josephus[the notorious turncoat] and Tacitus, so it is not a ”Zionist propaganda ” book, simply a book of historic truth, and those who are REALLY interested in the truth could not have any question raised about OUR rights.

I need to stress , that in mind, OUR collective rights are far superior to  the rights of others,  but this is a political issue, and this piece is not about politics, including the question of what could be the solution of the Jerusalem issue in any future peace treaty[if ever it is to be achieved], nor do I wish in this piece to deal with another volatile political issue, and it is the current -day lessons of the destruction in 70 A.D in terms of how we, the Jews, should handle our affairs in face of an hostile world. The late brilliant Yehoshafat Harkabi dealt a lot with this issue, writing about the Great Rebellion and the subsequent Bar Kochva Rebellion[132-135 A.D ] , and comparing what he considered to be Jewish short-sight policies then to Israeli ”intransigence” with regard  to the Palestinians.All these are serious questions, to be discussed in another piece.

I need however to note, that ANY solution should be based on the unequivocal recognition by Muslims and Christians of the indisputable rights of Jews in Jerusalem, but I have not too many illusions that we can see it happening… surely not when I recall that already in the ill-fated Camp David talks between Arafat and Ehud Barak, the Palestinian terrorist claimed that the Kotel is part of the Al Aksa Mosque, and his successor today, Mahmoud Abbas and his chief negotiator , Saib Eraqat say that the Jews have nothing to do with Temple Mount!… I also understand, that whether we like it or not, Muslims and Christians do feel strongly about Jerusalem, so any solution will have to take it into account, but how , well not here… Back to the book on hand;

I personally was glued to my chair when I read the following , describing the starvation in Jerusalem as the end was near;”For the Jews, along with all egress, every hope of escape was now cut off, and the famine, enlarging its maw, devoured the people by households and families. The roofs were thronged with women and babes completely exhausted, the alleys with the corpses of the aged;children and youths, with swollen figures, roamed like phantoms through the marketplaces and collapsed wherever their doom overtook them”[Josephus , War  v.512-513 ,as quoted by Bar Kochva and Horovitz] and still, they did not surrender, as the Midrash tells us;”This, too, the people of Jerusalem did; they boiled straw in water and ate it. And each and every Jew at the walls said-If someone gives me five dates, I will go down and take five Roman heads”[ Avot de-Rabbi NAatan 6;3, as quoted by Bar-Kochva and Horovitz]

I read that and thought about the Ghetto heroes , in Warsaw and elsewhere, going to the final battle emaciated, with swollen bellies, but with high spirits, fighting , as Mordechai Anilewitch wrote, for the preservation of Jewish honor. So, that brings me back to the real value of this great book[and no, I do not have any personal connection with the writers…], and it is the fact, that SO many of us simply do not know enough about our long history in our homeland, our inseparable attachment to it, so why do we complain about those , Jews and non-Jews who look at us as yet another manifestation of Western colonial invaders to a country which is not theirs.Jews and colonialism in the Land of Israel? NEVER!

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina