On October 13, 2016, UNESCO, the Cultural Agency of the United Nations made a resolution that refers to the Temple Mount having an historical connection solely to the Muslim religion. It completely ignores the historicity of the Holy Temple and any other Jewish historical connection to this site. This resolution is hardly shocking to anyone who follows the organization whom Israeli PM Netanyahu refers to as a ‘political farce’ rather than force. As the 2,200-year old holiday of Hanukah approaches, I want to discuss the holiday from an historical and archaeological perspective to further understand the extent of this blatant anti- Semitic farse.
The oldest Jewish symbol still in use today is the Menorah. The Menorah is described in the book of Exodus in great detail. Lighting the Menorah was one of the daily rituals performed in the Holy Temple. It’s most popular form is the nine branched version lit on Hanukah to commemorate the miracle of the oil burning for eight days. How can one who does not accept the Tanach of significant historical value accept that there ever was a Menorah? Simple.
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israeli archaeologists began to uncover ancient Jerusalem for the first time. Their discoveries are crucial not only for Biblical Archaeology but also for Middle East politics. Many findings reveal scientific evidence that there was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. Many academics argue against the historical accuracy of the stories in the five books of Moses and many of the episodes in the Prophets and Writings as we currently lack physical evidence to many of these events. However, no honest academic can deny that a massive Jewish Temple existed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem prior to it’s destruction in 70 CE!!
The Menorah is one of the many pieces of evidence. In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, underneath Yeshivat Hakotel (where I lived and studied at for two years) is the Wohl Archaeological Museum (aka the Herodian mansions). These mansions contain 2000 year old Jewish ritual baths (mikvaot), charred remains dated to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and a sketching of the Menorah that was used in the Temple services (to name a few…). In 2013, archaeologists discovered pottery shards that contain the Hebrew letters spelling ‘daka l’ya’; pure for God. It is a label for an olive oil container that was used to burn the Temple menorah. In other words, the miracle of the oil is that the Maccabees found only enough pure oil for one day. This oil miraculously burned for eight days until they were able to get more pure oil. The discovery of this small inscription matches the key part of the story of Hanukah as recorded in the Talmud!
The Hasmonean dynasty (aka the Maccabees and their descendants) left several sites in Jerusalem for one to see when visiting Israel. Only a few years ago, the Israeli Antiquity Authority announced that part of the excavations opposite the City of David, just south of the Temple Mount are from the Hasmonean period. This discovery revealed a large structure with coins indicating its early second-century construction and occupation into the Hasmonean era. Additionally, parts of the current Temple Mount Walls were built by the Hasmonean dynasty. Hasmonean stones are recognizable from other stones as they have a distinctive look and have been scientifically dated to the second century BCE. Furthermore, the Arch of Titus in Rome is an original Victory Arch that was part of the Roman celebration of their conquest of Jerusalem. It stands today in Rome as physical testimony to this event! Does UNESCO somehow claim all of these as forgeries? According to UNESCO was there ever an Hasmonean dynasty? Where their menorahs? How do they answer all of the archaeological evidence that proves the history of Hanukah?
What I find most shocking about this one of countless anti-Israel UN affiliated resolutions is that the Catholic Church is silent! The Catholic version of the Bible includes the Book of Macabees! The story of the Macabbean victory over the tyrannical Greek rule is part of their Holy Book. The Jewish warriors brought back their Biblical traditions to the Temple Mount including the famous relighting of the Menorah! Yet, this is all ignored by UNESCO.
A visit to Israel during the 2,200 year old Hanukah festival is a special trip. It is one filled with many authentic Second Temple period sites both in and outside of Jerusalem (the Maccabees native- town Modiin boasts ruins of one of the oldest synagogues in the world). And of course, don’t forget to taste the very competitive sufganiyot from the top bakeries as well as spinning Nes Gadol Haya Poh dreidels! While UNESCO continues to make outrageous claims against Jewish history, it adds even more reason to visit the Jewish ancestral homeland.
Chag Chanukah Sameyach!
Rabbi Shaanan Scherer is a fully Israel licensed tour guide. He currently resides in the GTA as a full time Jewish educator and works as a guide in Israel during winter and summer vacations. For more information, go to www.onlyinisraeltours.com