Greeks and Palestinians, then and now


Nadav Shragai

Make no mistake, both "extremist" Hamas and the "moderate" Palestinian Authority, the raving Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal and the simpleton Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, will never make do with sovereignty in this land or the banishment of the "Zionist entity." Similar to the way the Greeks behaved some 2,170 years ago during the struggle that is the basis for our Hanukkah celebration, they still struggle with the issue of a Jewish state and us Jews as a collective identity within that state.

The Greeks, as opposed to Roman Emperor Titus or Haman — the 5th century B.C.E. Persian vizier under King Ahasuerus — focused less on the physical destruction of the Jews than on the destruction of their identity and culture. Our sages accurately stated that the Greeks "contaminated all the oils, but did not spill them." They made sure that the oil would be available, but not kosher for Jewish ritual use. Similarly, they let the Jews live, if they agreed to be Hellenized.

There is a well-known Talmudic discussion regarding which miracle Hanukkah is based on — our military victory of the few and weak over the many and powerful or the miracle of finding a single cruse of pure oil, which ultimately ensured the survival of Jewish identity and kept the menorah in the Temple lit for eight days, despite containing only enough oil to last one day. Our sages agreed that the cruse of oil was more miraculous than our military victory over the Greeks and Hanukkah forever became a holiday we celebrate in commemoration of the saving of our Torah and Jewish identity against which the Greeks fought their true battle.

There are those in this generation as well who continue to believe that our conflict with the Arabs is over territory or sovereignty. They tend to ignore that the conflict is based on religion, our Judaism and our identity as a people. Abbas has always meant what he says time and time again all over the world about Israel "contaminating Jerusalem's Muslim identity."

The masked men who appeared on stage at a Palestinian rally in the Gaza Strip on Saturday promised to "purify the holy sites of Jerusalem." Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority indoctrinate their publics in the "legend of the Temple" that never existed, or, as they call it, "al-Mazum" — the alleged and the false.

When Mahmoud al-Habash, the Palestinian minister responsible for religious endowments, speaks of the need for Palestinians to wage "ribat" — a holy war defending Islamic lands — and his students learn that their conflict with Israel is "one of the highest levels of ribat," it is no wonder that Palestinian clerics call openly for the murder of Jews and surveys indicate a high percentage of support among Palestinians for suicide attacks on Jews.

The war the Greeks fought against the Jews was a unique war. More than wanting to kill us physically, they wanted to destroy our identity and culture. Our conflict with the Palestinians is also unique because not only does a non-Arab presence between Jordan and the sea irk them, but also that it is Jews who are present throughout the entire land, especially in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount. It is due to this that their struggle against Israel has long ago been transformed from one of a national task to one of an uncompromising religious nature. Expressions of this have been declared openly on countless occasions by the PA, Hamas, and Islamic movements within Israel. A culture of lies in support of their struggle also features among these groups, such as their constant and systematic fabrications and rewriting of historical events in an attempt to deny any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Those who choose to bury their heads in the sand, to fall into the abyss of illusions and play games mainly with themselves of formulating a Palestinian state with all kinds of different borders, have my blessings. But those who internalize the reality should perhaps congratulate the Palestinians for unintentionally returning us to our identity, our Judaism, and our Jerusalem.

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