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From Chanukah to Christmas

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Every human being's dream: The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard with the kid will lay, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together and a little child leads them. ~ Isaiah 11:6

These days I do not know anyone who thinks the human race is in a good place.

Islam is on the move; it is totally contradictory to all that the "enlightened" west has fought to achieve for centuries. If Islam takes control over the world, as it wants to do, it will throw the free world back to the 7th century and in time, after people decide they have had enough of religious tyranny, the same wars for freedom and liberty will have to be fought all over again.

There is almost nothing in common between Judaism, Christianity and Islam but there can be found a common thread between Judaism and Christianity.

Jerusalem in Christmas
Jerusalem at Christmas, the undivided capital of Israel, the only city in the entire Middle East that honors and respects Christmas
The Jewish nation has just finished celebrating Chanukah. For the Jews, this festival, mind you not based on faith or Biblical Command, is a symbol of courage, heroism and a sign from God; a victory of the few over the oppressors.

To the world, Chanukah needs to be known as the first war fought for the freedom of religion. After all, the call by Mattathias Hashmona'i was poignant: "Who is for God join me."

Mattathias ben Johanan was a Jewish priest, a member of a rural priestly family from Modi'in and served in the Temple in Jerusalem. He is accorded a central role in the story of Chanukah. After the Greek-Seleucid persecutions of Jews in the land of Judea began, Mattathias returned to Modi'in from Jerusalem. In 167 BC, when asked by a Greek - Seleucid government representative, under King Antiochus IV, to offer sacrifice to the Greek gods, not only did he refuse to do so, but as the story goes, he slew with his own hand the Jew who had stepped forward to do so. He then attacked the government official that required the act. Upon the edict for his arrest, he took refuge in the wilderness of Judea with his five sons - Judah, Eleazar, Simon, John and Jonathan, and called upon all Jews to follow him and many eventually responded to his call.

This was the first step in the war of the Maccabees against the Greek-Seleucid, which resulted in Jewish independence, in the land of Judea, for 400 years.

Mattathias, son of Jonathan of the house of the Hasmonean used the call for battle: "Who is for God join me," which marked the beginning of the revolt against the Greek Hellenist-Seleucids and those who collaborated with them, the Hellenized Jews, The revolution was led by the Maccabees. It was not a religious call; it was a call to gather into a camp, with the basic and clearest common denominator of the time, to isolate the wheat from the chaff. This call was to gather the "Lovers of Zion" of the time, God's faithful, under one flag, in order to stand up to the Greeks and the Hellenized Jews who undermined Zion. And this call is true and applies to these days and should stand firm.

The events of the Maccabean revolt and the war of the Maccabees - from 167 to 160 BCE - form the basis for the holiday of Chanukah, which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees and is celebrated by Jews on the 25th of the month of Kislev of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to Mid-November to Late-December on the Gregorian Calendar.

Jews associate Chanukah with miracles; it is the miracle that Jews commemorate because it is a reminder of possibilities. Possibilities to stand for one's rights to be free and practice his or her religion and win the battle; the possibilities that from the darkness of war against oppression, God will emerge and against all odds provide the light for the Temple that will last beyond all expectations. And so each time the Jewish nation lights a Chanukah or Shabbat candle, it releases a flare of light from the darkness, which comes to remind us all of what was, is and can still be.

As soon as Chanukah is over and the last light of the Chanukah menorah dims, the lights of Christmas start shining bright, as if they continue the mission of the Chanukah candles.

Christmas, a widely observed holiday, celebrated on December 25th, by millions of people around the world, is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the father of Christianity, the birth of another monotheistic religion, the second to rise after Judaism.

As a Jew, to me it seems that somehow Christmas has some linkage and continuity to Chanukah; it is symbolized by bright lights and the emphasis on miracles, generosity, faith and family unity, the basis on which human beings' life rests.

There is a very special, positive aura to the period that starts on the day Jews light the first candle of Chanukah and the end of Christmas day and each year I say, I wish it never ends so that reality sets back in.

Nurit Greenger sees Israel and the United States equally, as the last two forts of true democratic freedom and since 2006, has been writing about events in these two countries. Contact her by writing to Read more stories by Nurit Greenger.

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