My Great Good Friends,
Always curious about the intersection between politics, culture and media manipulation, my interest was peaked when a friend explained Hannukah as a “Festival of Lights”. Sounding more like a GE bulb commercial than a religious raison d’être, a bit of research was in order.
I came across the video record of a lengthy round table discussion between Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris where the first cause is nailed by the recently deceased polemicist Christopher Hitchens as: “The moment in history when everything went wrong. Where the human race took its worst turn.”
To quote Hitch at length:
“If one could nominate one absolute tragic day in human history, it would be the occasion that is commemorated by the vapid holiday now known as ‘Hannukah’. In the pathetic hope of a celebration that coincides with Christmas, here is the terminus to which banal “multiculturalism” has brought us. But there was nothing remotely multicultural that induced Judah Maccabeus to re-consecrate the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC, and to establish the date which the soft celebrants of Hannukah now so emptily commemorate. The Maccabees, who founded the Hasmonean dynasty, were forcibly restoring Mosaic fundamentalism against the many Jews in Palestine and elsewhere who had become attracted by Hellenism. These true multiculturalists had become bored with ‘the Mosaic law’, offended by forced circumcision, interested by Greek literature, drawn by the physical and intellectual exercises of the gymnasium, and rather adept at philosophy. They could feel the pull exerted by Athens, even if only by way of Rome and the memory of Alexander’s time, and were impatient with the stark fear and superstition mandated by the Pentateuch. They obviously seemed to cosmopolitan to the votaries of the old Temple – and it must have been easy to accuse them of “dual loyalty” when they agreed to have a temple of Zeus on the site where smoky and bloody alters used to propitiate their unsmiling deity of yore. At any rate, when the father of Judah Maccabeus saw a Jew making a Hellenic offering on the old alter, he murdered him. Over the next few years of the Maccabean “revolt” the assimilated Jews were slain, forcibly circumcised, or both, and the women who had participated in the Hellenic liberating dispensations suffered even worse. Since the Romans preferred the violent and dogmatic Maccabees to the less militarized and less fanatical Hellenized Jews who had shone in their white togas in the Mediterranean sun, the scene was set for an oppressive alliance between the old garb ultra-Orthodox and the imperial Roman governorate. This relationship was eventually to lead to Christianity and ineluctably to the birth of Islam…. We could have been spared the whole thing.”
An enlightened, Hellenized, assimilated Jewry, not tethered to the site of an already destroyed temple, without a dogma which repressed intellectual inquiry or a political governance controlled by religious leaders would have been a wonderful force for good. In contrast now we are burdened with an apartheid state where the dog of parliamentary rule is wagged by the tiny tail of fanatics in matters small (the weekly arrests of Jewish girls for attempting to pray at the Wailing Wall) and large (attempting to bring on Armageddon). Should this infinitesimal minority (less than 200,000) in the fanatical settler cult succeed in their stated goal of destroying the Al-Aqsa Mosque it is difficult to imagine an alternative to a nuclear exchange.
Ironic that a splinter fringe of fundamentalist Messianic Jews, who historically opposed the Zionist movement, (now aided and abetted by American Christian fundamentalists) manipulate the Israeli government to fulfill an apocalyptic prophesy to bring their Messiah. If Hitch was correct and this is where human history went wrong, to bad he’s not around to see if, in the process, he identified the cause of the end of human history as well.
So “Happy” Hannukah, I guess.