The French have a wonderful expression: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I sat down this morning to read about the history behind Chanukah, from the rebellion led by Yehuda haMakabi and the purification of the temple, to the final demise of the Hashmonaim dynasty in the hands of Herod some one hundred and thirty years later. I thought that in view of the holiday I should remind myself of some distant historic facts that have nothing to do with present day events apart from a nostalgic, national and religious connection. And what can I say – the surprise was complete, even chilling.
The story has all the hallmarks of the history of the Middle East during the last one hundred years – superpowers fighting for control over the land of Israel, a rebellious Jewish people achieving independence despite losses and defeats, an independent Jewish kingdom building a military and economic might and expanding territorially, conflicts of interests between religion and state, a deep ideological division within the people, futile hatred, quarrels between brothers, political plots and the assassination of leaders.
And the story continues to places that modern history has not yet arrived at, and lets hope it never does – the conquest of the land of Israel by the Romans, the fall of the Kingdom of the Hashmonaim and the destruction of the Second Temple.
The Kingdom of the Hashmonaim was the last independent Jewish state for the two thousand years that followed it. If there is one main lesson that the Macabi rebellion and the Hashmonai Kingdom that followed it teach us, it is that military might alone is not enough to ensure an independent existence. Internal unity and national standing power when faced with existential challenges are no less important.