'Happy Hanukkah' Is a Subtle Confirmation That Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews


If you’re like me, you’ve probably wished a happy Hanukkah to one or more Jewish friends this December. You’re also probably familiar with the basics of the holiday — end of epic battle, eight candles, miracle, festival of lights, etc. (This knowledge is probably a bit more extensive if you’re Jewish, mind you.)

But did you know that every time you say those words, you’re subtly confirming that Jerusalem does indeed belong to the Jewish people?

At The Federalist, writer David Harsanyi talked about the reactions to a tweet in which he said just that.

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Harsanyi characterized some of the reactions he got in one paragraph: “Why are you politicizing such a pleasant holiday? Does wishing someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ now mean that you accept Jesus as your lord and savior?”

“Well, first of all, the story of Hanukkah isn’t pleasant,” he wrote. “Violent, brutal, and passionate, maybe. But not pleasant. And of course wishing someone a ‘Happy Hanukkah’ isn’t an endorsement of any theological position, any more than wishing someone Merry Christmas is (although we appreciate the recognition of the Jewish presence in ancient Bethlehem). Mostly it’s convention and good manners. Thank you.”

And Hanukkah isn’t necessarily a theological holiday, he notes, pointing out that the so-called miracle of lights was an addendum to the story much later. It sounds nice, but it’s actually not the point of the eight days.

The holiday began, he explains, when Mattathias — a Jewish priest — joined with his five sons in a revolt against the Hellenistic Syrian king Antiochus. Antiochus wanted a statue of the Greek god Zeus put up in the Holy Temple and pigs to be sacrificed in his name.

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“As some readers have suggested, Hanukkah might be the only Jewish holiday that celebrates events confirmed by the historical record,” Harsanyi writes. “The Hasmonean dynasty, founded by Mattathias’ son Simon, is a fact.”

The holiday is also, as he said, “a reminder that Jews have a singular, millennia-long historic relationship with Jerusalem.” Jerusalem had already been in the hands of the Jews for roughly a thousand years by the time that Mattathias began his revolt in 139 B.C.

“The problem is that many are trying to erase the Jewish claim,” Harsanyi writes.

“It wasn’t long ago that the United Nations’ cultural arm UNESCO passed a resolution denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall by using only Islamic names for the city’s holy sites and arguing that Jewish historic claims were the domain of ‘Israeli right-wing extremists.’ This kind of political revisionism is widespread in certain areas of the world, and used to stoke hatred and terrorism.”

Yet evidence of how deep Jewish roots in Israel are continues to grow by the year.

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“Nearly every time an archaeologist digs in the city, some incredible cache of evidence of an ancient Jewish presence is found,” Harsanyi writes. “It’s going to take heavy lifting to untether thousands of years of Jewish history and faith from Israel. But these efforts are also an attempt to deny the spiritual connection Jews have with (the) city.

“The UN’s decision is particularly odious when we consider Israel has handed control of the Temple Mount to Muslims even though pre-1967 Jerusalem’s holy sites were off-limits to Jews. According to Jewish tradition, of course, the Temple Mount is where God found the dust that was used to create Adam, where God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, where King Solomon built the First Temple. And so on and on and on.”

While he notes that this doesn’t reduce the claim of those who came later in terms of peaceful coexistence, that still doesn’t erase the historical claim that the Jews have on Israel.

And Hanukkah, Harsanyi says, is the story of how, “after a number of near-catastrophic events, Jews have reclaimed their historic homeland. This achievement is far more miraculous than a one-day supply of oil lasting eight. Their subsequent attempts to peacefully share that land have been repeatedly and violently rejected. So at this point, there is nothing for the UN or European Union or anyone else to give or take.”

That’s a miracle supporters of Israel can all get behind.

If the enemies of Israel want to erase history, they can certainly try, but the facts aren’t on their side. When you wish someone a happy Hanukkah, in a very subtle way, you emphasize that — even if you didn’t know about Mattathias, the battle against Antiochus or how Jerusalem is truly the historical home of the Jewish people. And, if you hear a liberal who gives blanket support to Palestinian causes no matter how much violence terrorist groups associated with them may cause say, “Happy Hanukkah,” perhaps you can also offer a history lesson.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture