12/23/2009

Postcolonial Chanukah

The past couple of years, I discussed the different "Chanukah"s - the different narratives that various segments of the Jewish people read into the holiday of Chanukah. Most are familiar, or at least would sound familiar if you heard it.

This year, two new Chanukah's seem to have been making the rounds.
The first is the David Brooks/ Tony Judt/ Christopher Hitchens/ post-Zionist Chanukah - Chanukah as a celebration of a bloody guerilla war in which a bunch of backward peasants took on their more civilized coreligionists and ultimately an empire before turning into a regime that was no better than the one it replaced. Or something like that.

The second is the Postcolonial Chanukah, in which the struggle of the Hasmoneans against the Seleucids was the struggle of a native culture against a totalizing and colonizing empire. In this version of Chanukah, the Palestinians are today's Maccabees. Edward Said would be proud. Here are a couple of examples:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-michael-lerner/responding-to-hitchens-on_b_392018.html
http://www.tabletmag.com/arts-and-culture/22806/judahs-avatar/
[I wish I could find the article that actually says that the Palestinians are more like Maccabees and the Jews are more like the Greeks in today's conflict. I'll post the link when I find it].

In a variation of this theme, Shai sent over an article by Prof. Moshe Benovitz that argues for a revival of Chanukah in 3rd Century E. Israel after it had not been celebrated for 200 years there. The setting is the brief Palmyrene rule over Palestine and Egypt. It's a wonderful article. I would have said that this reading has anti-imperialist overtones as well (especially the part of lighting the candles specifically to show defiance against the Palmyrene/ Tadmorian/ Tarmodai soldiers), except that the Jews were in fact agitating for a return to Roman rule.
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