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From everyone at the Center for Israel Education, We wish you and your families a joyous and happy Hanukkah.
As you prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, please note that The Center for Israel Education’s 12th annual Professional Development Workshop on the History, Culture and Politics of Modern Israel will be held June 23-28, 2013, in Atlanta, GA. As a past participant in a CIE one-week or one-day workshop, you know firsthand of the value that attending our workshop provides. Please help us by spreading the word about the Summer 2013 conference to your friends and colleagues. Click here for a flyer in pdf format that you can download and forward or see the video and links in the sidebar on the left to learn how you can help others get this gift of learning.
Our next CIE newsletter will be on January 10th and will highlight the theme of Social Responsibility and Israel. If you have suggestions for future e-newsletters or wish to contribute, please contact us.
For the Educator
CIE Tips for Infusing Israel into Your Teaching and Celebration of Hanukkah
Hanukkah resources for Teaching Israel
Perhaps more than any other Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has incredible significance and connection to both ancient Israel and the modern Jewish State. Here are a few ways that CIE suggests infusing Hanukkah into your teaching about Israel - or vice versa. As always, we encourage you to share your own ideas and successes on our Facebook page.
1.The Maccabees as an inspiration for revolt and the role it had on Rabbinic Judaism and the Holiday of Hanukkah and shifting attitudes towards Israel in Jewish thought and practice
Following their defeat of Antiochus in 165 BCE, the Maccabees reestablished Jewish autonomy in Israel for 100 years. Despite the popular notion today that the ensuing eight day holiday was a celebration over the miracle of oil, the sources point to a different reason. The Second Book of the Maccabees quotes from a letter sent circa 125 BCE that refers to Hanukkah as, "The festival of Sukkot celebrated in the month of Kislev." Since the Jews were still fighting Antiochus' army in Tishrei, they could not properly honor the 8 day festival of Sukkot, which included a pilgrimage to the Temple; hence it was postponed until after the recapture of Jerusalem and the purification of the Temple.
As a result of this success, the Maccabees and the Hanukkah victory served as an inspiration for the later revolts that would occur against the Romans in the first and second centuries. The failure of those revolts, and the large scale deaths that occurred among the Jews, especially during the Bar Kochva revolt of 132-136 CE when 580,000 Jews were killed in battle according to Roman sources, led to a shift in Jewish ideology and practice towards the land of Israel with a new emphasis placed on the spiritual connection to the land and return through utopian measures (a return to Zion became dependent on following mitzvot) and the de-emphasis of the human initiative to return to the land that would not change until the beginnings of the Zionist movement.
Activity Suggestion: Have students compare the text of Al-Hanisim, the prayer inserted into the Amidah and Birkat Hamazon during Hanukkah and Babylonian Talmud Tractate Shabbat 21b (The last 2 paragraphs in the linked page). How is each of these texts different? What do each emphasize? Why do the students think that there is a difference? How did this shifting attitude towards Hanukkah and the land of Israel change Jewish practice?
2. Full Circle Shift - The Zionists embrace the Maccabees as a national symbol of strength and the Jewish quest for self-determination
"The Maccabees will be resurrected!" is the final sentence of Theodor Herzl's book, the Jewish State in 1897. Zionist leaders gave rise to a new interpretation of the Maccabees as well as the holiday of Hanukkah. While the Rabbis had de-emphasized the military and self-determination component as outlined above, the Zionists of course embraced it and the holiday shifted from a minor home observance focused on the miracle of the oil to a public celebration of political liberation. The books of the Maccabees, which had been rejected by the Rabbis and not included in the Biblical canon were adopted in the national school curriculum. The holiday became Hag HaMaccabim, the Holiday of the Maccabees.
A few more ideas/suggestions:
Have students look at the Hanukkah posters and images in the Central Zionist Archives and discuss the imagery and themes that are represented there. What Hanukkah themes are stressed? How are these similar or different to Hanukkah imagery from their own experience?
In 1897, Theodor Herzl wrote a short story entitled, "The Menorah." The story is about an assimilated artist reconnecting with his Jewish roots through the observance of Hanukkah, ultimately deciding, "that there was only one way out of the Jewish tragedy, and that was a return of the Jews to their homeland." An excerpt of the story can be found here, while the full story is available in The Jewish Spirit: A Celebration in Stories and Art edited by Ellen Frankel. Have students read the story or the excerpt. How does Herzl use the metaphor of light? What is the significance of the artist trying to "revive this dried Menorah, to nurture its roots like a tree?" Can this be compared to any aspects of Jewish life or practice in their lives?
As mentioned above, the Zionists openly challenged and belittled the miracle of the oil component of the Hanukkah story because of its emphasis on the passive approach that they felt had come to typify Diaspora Judaism. Evidence of this shift is in the Hanukkah songs that are written during the early years of the State of Israel. One example, and perhaps the best illustration of the Zionist approach to Hanukkah is the song "Anu Nosim Lapidim" (We are Carrying Torches) written by the poet Aharon Ze'ev and published in 1951. Click here for an audio recording of the song. Lyrics can be found in Hebrew here and in English (with transliteration) here. Have students compare the lyrics of Anu Nosim Lapidim with the lyrics of the more traditional Hanukkah song Maoz Tzur (rock of Ages) which is believed to have been written in the 13th century. How is each song different? Which is more relevant today and why? How does each song treat Hanukkah?