Illustration: IDF Soldiers Celebrate Hanukkah by Israel Defense Forces [CC BY-NC 2.0] via Flickr
Over Hanukkah I attended a tour of the Maccabean palaces in Jericho, the only Maccabean remains found in Israel. I visited this unique site years ago, before the dangers and restrictions that the Oslo "peace" created.
I remember being awestruck by the enormity of the find, and feeling directly attached to the Maccabees at that moment and place. The palaces, swimming pools, mikveh (ritual bath), and especially the synagogue were spectacular.
It was an impressive excavation that stood by itself with no buildings or agriculture anywhere near it. It stood alone in its brilliance — as a rare gem should.
Though I have since discussed the find that I was privileged to see many years ago in talks with tourists as we bypass Jericho in “Area A" — a no-go area for Jews under Palestinian Authority control according to Oslo — I have not been back there for years. Another benefit of the Oslo “peace.”
This Hanukkah I returned.
The excavations are located in "Area C," regions that according to the Oslo agreement are under full Israeli control, as opposed to A and B where Jews are very sternly warned not to enter due to great potential physical harm — at the hands of our “peace partners” whom we graciously armed.
Despite it being in Area C and an official Israeli National Park, the authorities do not allow free Jewish access due to what they deem political/security considerations, since it is near Area A.
Complicated, I know.
A number of groups have petitioned the military administration in charge of the "territories" to allow Jews to visit the spectacular site at least once a year, on Hanukkah. After much effort, permission was granted for one day out of the entire year.
That is how I found myself attending a tour of a site that I had seen with such ease and comfort years ago. But this time there was a very large military presence that protected us from the “locals” who entered "our" Area C with impunity.
I suppose the force was also there to make sure that Jews did not wander off into "their" territory, which would have been a major political issue — or perhaps even a lynching.
The site is almost unrecognizable.
The Arabs use the surrounding areas as garbage dumps. The open spaces I saw around the site years ago are now cluttered with an assortment of huts, animal pens, hothouses, and garbage. Arabs continually damage the priceless artifacts.
It was explained to us that the Arab presence near the site is indeed in Area C — under our administration according to Oslo. But the Israeli authorities simply do not enforce the law.
This criminal negligence is common all over the "territories,” except when it comes to enforcing the law against Jews. Then there is never a lack of resources or determination — or cruelty — on the part of the Israeli authorities.
Needless to say, my Hanukkah visit to the Maccabee palace made me think of my last visit there so many years ago, the one that filled me with pride and joy and made it very clear why I left the U.S. and came home.
It made me think of a clear and unapologetic statement made by the Maccabee leader Simon over 2100 years ago.
“The land that we have returned to inherit is the possession of our fathers, and no foreigner has a portion or inheritance within it. For our enemies robbed our portion and held it wrongfully and unjustly, and now, because G-d has made our path successful, we have taken our fathers’ portion and settled in it.”
The Book of the Maccabees I 15:34-35
Simon’s words are the exact opposite of the warning on the big red signs that forbid Jews to enter the parts of our beloved land labelled Areas A and B — this is the true apartheid in Israel.
After winning a prolonged war of liberation and religious liberty from the Greek world power with his father and brothers, Simon turned his attention to the pockets of foreign occupation that developed during the generations of Jewish exile and military impotence. That had now changed with the astounding routing of successive vast Greek armies.
It was time to reassert Jewish sovereignty in all the land of Israel, and so Simon expelled gentiles — who had filled the vacuum and trespassed while the Jews were in exile — from Yafo (Jaffa or Joppa) and Gezer (Gazara). The process of reconquest led to the establishment of Israel’s widest borders since the time of King David and King Solomon.
Fast forward over 2000 years.
The Jewish people have miraculously returned from not 70 years of exile but close to 2000, which culminated with the Holocaust, the worst blow ever delivered to the Jewish people or any people ever.
Despite impossible odds, the tattered remains of the Jewish people rebuilt and reclaimed their homeland — the same one that Simon the Maccabee reclaimed more than 2100 years ago.
The liberation of the land has come in stages and at a heavy price — just as it was in the times of the Maccabees. Who is not familiar with the amazing history-making dates of 1948 and 1967?
However, unlike the Maccabees, the leaders of the modern returnees did not possess the belief that it was indeed G-d that wrought these extraordinary miracles for us. They would never dare make a speech such as that of Simon the Maccabee when returning to the land.
Another watershed date will always be remembered in Jewish history as the exact opposite of the 1948 and 1967 miracles, and certainly unlike the events of 2100 years ago. I refer to 1993 and the perfidious, nefarious Oslo agreements.
Instead of claiming and securing sovereignty over lands liberated in the miraculous Six Day War of 1967, our "leaders" invited those who claimed our land as their own to settle on it, and then they armed them in order for them to protect us!
So far, it has cost us thousands of Jewish lives, and tragically the number continues to rise.
While touring the Maccabee palaces this Hanukkah, I and many others asked ourselves: “Where are the Maccabees today? Where?”
Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.