hammer, sure, but against whom?
December 12, 2004 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Who are today's Maccabees? Fundamentalists fighting a secular culture? Or as our president states in his Hanukkah message, our brave soldiers in Iraq? Or is it the Iraqis themselves, rebelling against an invading and occupying force? Or is it the white supremacists? The enduring power of a symbol of resistance and its many and incompatible uses--all in time for Hanukkah.
posted by amberglow (26 comments total)

 
from the second link, on Mel Gibson's upcoming movie about them: ... Many Jews grew up thinking of Hanukkah (which in 2004 falls on December 8-15) as an innocuous children’s festival. Actually the Maccabean revolt was deadly serious business, and it recalls one of the great tensions in our own modern American society: the conflict was between what today one might call religious fundamentalists and the secular elite. ...
The same conflict reflected in the Hanukkah story is still being enacted down to our own time. Though every Jewish festival has its unique relevance to our contemporary lives, Hanukkah’s relevance is especially provocative and especially political.

posted by amberglow at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2004


I'm wondering when some American faction will bring up Masada, another variation on the same general theme.
posted by davy at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2004


I ♥ Maccabees
posted by wendell at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2004


There's really been a reexamination of the whole holiday from some.

A little more from Jewlicious: Down with Hanukkah (and this was written by a Rabbi) ...Not only is Chanukah really a foolish and unnecessary holiday, it is also one that is dangerously fanatical and illiberal. The first act of rebellion, the first enemy who fell at the hands of the brave Jewish heroes whom our delightful children portray so cleverly in their Sunday and religious school pageants, was not a Greek. He was a Jew. When the enemy sent his troops into Modin to set up an idol and demand its worship, it was a Jew who decided to exercise his freedom of pagan worship and who approached the altar to worship Zeus (after all, what business was it of anyone what this fellow worshiped?) And it was this Jew, this apostate, this religious traitor who was struck down by the brave, glorious, courageous, (are these not the words all our Sunday schools use to describe him?) Mattathias, as he shouted: “Whoever is for G-d, follow me!”

What have we here? What kind of religious intolerance and bigotry? ...

posted by amberglow at 1:14 PM on December 12, 2004


Great post, amberglow.
Tom "the Hammer" Delay... coincidence?
So a mistold religious tale will now be misused to nefarious ends by a bunch of jerks, while pretending to honor and respect Jewish tradition. Man, what a co-opting, insulting and sick strategy. Ugh.
posted by faux ami at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2004


and don't forget, the secret to good latkes is to press the moisture out of the potatos, but save the starch precipitate and mix it back in.
posted by allan at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2004


w is a real mensch.
posted by quonsar at 1:33 PM on December 12, 2004


As I understand it, one of the problems the Maccabees had with winning the war was their refusal to fight on the Sabbath. The tide turned a bit when they decided that this was a rule that could be broken in times of "necessity".
posted by ontic at 1:36 PM on December 12, 2004


From the first link:

"Oh irony... If only Bush would stop skullfucking your corpse."

I think I've got a new favorite quote.
posted by ontic at 1:39 PM on December 12, 2004


i loved that too, ontic. It's a fun site.
posted by amberglow at 1:46 PM on December 12, 2004


It always comes down to whether they are "your" terrorists or "their" terrorists, doesn't it? See "All Kinds of Terrorists" (Nov. 5, 2001)
posted by spock at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2004


Interesting in light of the fact (pun intended, ha ha, I'll be here all night folks) that Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of the oil, not the success of the rebellion, since Jews do not glorify violent conflict.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:55 PM on December 12, 2004


I'm thrilled to see Hanukkah drawn and quartered every which way to meet the pre-fab needs of various extremists, the white power goons included.

But like so many reinterpretations and perversions of history, it 'aint new. Hanukkah was revamped in the wake of the founding of the state of Israel, after languishing in the dusty corners of the Jewish tradition for centuries (the Hanukkah narrative isn't included in the canonical Hebrew bible but was preserved through the Catholic Church's codification of the so-called "Hagiographa"). Its revival served both to cajole American Jews to be equal-opportunity consumers (and lo, God said, let there be eight nights of presents) and to provide the new Jewish state with a national holiday that commemorated Jewish political resistance and independence. In the US, Hanukkah was also integrated into the Cold War discourse on "religious freedom" (that is, vs. Godless communism). The story of the Maccabees became a story of the fight for religious freedom against those who worshipped false gods (hint, hint).

Jews do not glorify violent conflict.

Ever read the "Scroll of Esther," aka the Purim legend? Go to the bottom of the link.

Krrlson's comment reminds me of the one Hanukkah I spent in Israel. This was some years ago, after the assassination of Rabin but before the peace process had been nullified. I came upon a right-wing newsletter, published by the settler movement, that re-told the Hanukkah story along all-too-conventient West Bank lines.

No religious or ethnic group is immune from glorifying violent conflict- or from reinterpreting its past - if such glorification or reinterpretation suits its needs.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2004


Hanukkah is, correct me if I'm wrong, the only Jewish holiday which celebrates the use of quasi-military, deadly force. I will exempt Israel Independence Day due to the preceding Mefi discussion about Judaism and Zionism.

As to the question of who holds the Maccabees' torch. It's Dubya if you're for the war and the militants if you're against it. The Maccabees, however, never killed innocent civilians. I'm not sure who that distinguishes them from.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 4:41 PM on December 12, 2004


Actually, they did. They killed the Jews they saw as not being sufficiently observant enough.
posted by amberglow at 4:43 PM on December 12, 2004


In that case co- opt away either side!
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 4:47 PM on December 12, 2004


Ever read the "Scroll of Esther," aka the Purim legend? Go to the bottom of the link.

Indeed I've read it. Purim, too, as far as I know, is a holiday the celebrates survival of the Jews rather than the killing of enemies.

No religious or ethnic group is immune from glorifying violent conflict- or from reinterpreting its past - if such glorification or reinterpretation suits its needs.

By "Jews do not glorify violent conflict" I meant, of course, the teachings of mainstream modern Judaism (or what I know of them, anyway). The Old Testament is certainly very bloody, but the Jewish festivals usually commemorate survival or a miracle, not a military victory. Though of course that is open to reinterpretation by crazies.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:32 PM on December 12, 2004


Indeed I've read it. Purim, too, as far as I know, is a holiday the celebrates survival of the Jews rather than the killing of enemies.

Except that, if I recall correctly, Haman and his sons are all executed at the end, and I'm not even certain what his sons are supposed to have been guilty of.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2004


but the Jewish festivals usually commemorate survival or a miracle, not a military victory. Though of course that is open to reinterpretation by crazies.

Now I'm with you. It was the unilateral statement that got my panties in a knot. But which non-Jewish religious holidays celebrate military victory? To the best of my knowledge, none of the major Christian or Muslim holidays (I'm thinking of Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha here, though I know there are others) do so.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2004


Sigh. Hanukkah was an incredibly minor, unimportant holiday in the calendar which was uncomfortably elevated to major status because of the time of year at which it happens to fall. I wish everyone would stop treating it like the events it celebrates are even remotely a major part of the Jewish faith.

On a different note, I'm pretty sure that the idea that it celebrates the miracle of the oil, rather than the military victory, is a contemporary rewrite designed to appeal to contemporary tastes - as are, for example, the idea that Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son was a bad thing, and the idea that Moses didn't get to go to the Promised Land because he celebrated the deaths of the Egyptians. I don't think these changes are bad things - on the contrary, religions can and do evolve, and evolving against violence seems like a great direction for one to go. But I'm not going to pretend that my ancestors weren't just as much bloody-minded savages as the tribe over the next hill. They were, and pretending they weren't isn't going to change anything.
posted by kyrademon at 5:50 PM on December 12, 2004


i think so too, kyra--and i'm thankful for that. Celebrating a miracle of oil is better than celebrating a band of fundamentalists murdering and killing to get their way. (that said, would we even exist as Jews if it wasn't for them? if it's all true, of course)
posted by amberglow at 6:32 PM on December 12, 2004


Quite possible. In my opinion, though, all religions should be evolving to adapt to the times. I don't think it somehow invalidates a religious doctrine to take into account the evolution of the human mindset.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:55 PM on December 12, 2004


obsession with oil abundance + "we are right and all others must die" = Maccabees Americans
posted by mowglisambo at 7:58 PM on December 12, 2004


They killed the Jews they saw as not being sufficiently observant enough.

The Maccabees were the "taliban" of their time and place. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic line encourages that shit.
posted by davy at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2004


Channukah seems to only be elevated as a major major holiday in the states as a way to have a 'Jewish Christmas'. In other countries (like here in South Africa) it's really not that big a deal and not many kids get Channukah presents like they do in the States. There is one communal menorah lighting service but that's it.
posted by PenDevil at 11:59 PM on December 12, 2004


Man, I thought things on MeFi could get rough until I read that Maccabees thread on JewSchool. We're pussies.
posted by psmealey at 12:00 PM on December 30, 2004


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