by Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The legacy of Chanukah - faith, patriotism, defiance
of extreme odds and tenacity in the battle of liberty against tyranny
- has underlined the American spirit since the early pilgrims, enhancing
the unique foundation of the U.S.-Israel covenant: shared values.
For instance, the statue of Judah the Maccabee, the
hero of the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian-Seleucid Empire, is displayed
at the West Point Military Academy, the most prestigious U.S. military
academy, founded in 1802. The statue of Judah the Maccabee, known for
his principle-driven leadership and daring battle tactics, is displayed
along with the statues of Joshua, David, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar,
Hector, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon - "the Nine
George Washington became acquainted with the spirit of the
Maccabees, upon settling, in December (Chanukah) 1777, at his new headquarters
at Valley Forge, Penn., with ill-equipped, weary troops. Faced with a
superpower, George III of Britain, Washington concluded that only a dramatic
change could avoid a defeat. According to the diary entries of Louisa
Hart, Washington told the Harts about a Jewish solider at Valley Forge
who lit a Chanukah candle and explained its significance. Washington's
reaction was: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have
us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it is long past
... It pleases me to think that miracles still happen." Six months
later, on June 19, 1778, the Continental Army implemented the battle tactics
of Judah the Maccabee, leaving Valley Forge in pursuit of the British,
who were moving toward New York. Although the war would linger for five
more years, Washington won a decisive victory.
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were
inspired by the Maccabees, proposing "Rebellion against tyrants is
obedience to God" as the American official seal. Just like the Founding
Fathers, the Maccabees were a tiny minority of "rebels" - condemned
by the "loyalist/pragmatist" Jewish establishment - rebelling
against an oppressive superpower. They prevailed thanks to their conviction-driven
determination. They knew that swimming against the stream gets one closer
to the source. The Maccabees were a role model for Paul Revere, who was
referred to as "a modern day Maccabee" and the organizers of
the Boston Tea Party, who realized that there were no free lunches for
"In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees'
battle cry, which adopted Moses' battle cry against the builders of the
Golden Calf. A literal translation of the battle cry is "Whoever
trusts God; join me!" The Maccabees' sacrifice and lack of political
correctness also inspired Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give
In 2011, Chanukah is still a living experience in the U.S.
For example, the residents of Billings, Mont. celebrate Chanukah in solidarity
with the Jewish community of 40 families, and in protest of the 1993 vandals
who broke the windows of Jewish homes that displayed Chanukah menorahs.
In response, more than 10,000 of the city's residents put makeshift menorahs
in their own windows. They persist, annually, in this ritual.
Chanukah and the Maccabees have become an integral part
of the American way of life, culturally and politically. Americans respect
the legacy of the Maccabees, who fought the Syrian-Seleucid super-power,
mostly, in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, in the Judean Desert and
in Jerusalem. Judah the Maccabee's own Valley Forge was at Beit El; his
capital was Jerusalem; he scored dramatic victories in Beit Horon (over
Seron), Hadashah (over Nicanor), Beit Zur (over Lysias) and Ma'aleh Levona
(over Apolonius); he was defeated at Elazar and killed at Ba'al Hatzor
- all are located beyond the "1967 Lines."
The descendants of the Maccabees are not "occupiers" in the
cradle of their own history. Chanukah is not a holiday of "occupation,"
but a holiday of deliverance. Chanukah is a holiday which highlights the
moral high ground of Jews in their ancestral homeland.
Shimon the Maccabee - who succeeded Judah and Yonatan the
Maccabees - articulated the Jewish territorial case when responding to
an ultimatum by Antiochus, who demanded an end to the Jewish "occupation"
of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Ekron: "We have not occupied
a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the
land of our forefathers from foreign occupation," Shimon said.
Pressuring the Jewish state to withdraw from the mountain
ridges of Judea and Samaria defies the American story. Either you are
with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other
defenders of liberty, or you provide - inadvertently - a tailwind to the
forces of tyranny.
Source: From "Israel Hayom" and "Israpundit",
as posted on http://lazerbrody.typepad.com (December 28, 2011).
Yoram Ettinger was (1989-1992) the Israel's Minister
for Congressional Affairs - with the rank of Ambassador - at the Embassy
in Washington, DC.