14 December 2009

What Happens When a Secular Jew Approaches the Truth About Hanukkah


Originally published as a comment to the article "Confrontation at Ma'ale Levona", 14 December 2009;
Copyright © R. Kossover, 2009

Some of you may have read the first article I ever wrote for Blogcritics Magazine, depicting the events Hanukkah celebrates for what it really was - a civil war.

Four years later, on 11 December, a secular Jew, David Brooks, wrote a similar article as an op-ed piece for the New York Times - depicting the events surrounding Hanukkah as a civil war - but of course, being an American assimilated Jew, he could not reach for the truth of the matter. And being a blinded secular American Jew, he cannot see the terrifying reflection of events 2,100 years ago recurring once again today. This is no surprise. The thumbnail of education he brings to the matter helps him not at all, and similar Jews whine that he has ruined their holiday - so says this article in Ha'aretz comparing 'fanatic' Maccabees to modern 'Jewish hard-core'.

From the Ha'aretz article:
Some readers declared their holiday "officially ruined," calling on Brooks to be ashamed, while others praise him for shining a light on the true nature of the lovable winter festival.

In his article, Brooks seeks to trace the historical underpinnings of Hanukkah, thus refuting its governing myth of "the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire."

The writers emphasizes the fact that the Maccabean Revolt took place in a time of internal Jewish discord which culminated in what he sees as a Jewish civil war.

While the Maccabees, who the writer says are "best understood as moderate fanatics," were "fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith," Brooks emphasizes the fact that the language they chose to justify their rebellion was in fact that of Greek law.

"They were not the last bunch of angry, bearded religious guys to win an insurgency campaign against a great power in the Middle East, but they may have been among the first," Brooks wrote in his New York Times article.
Brooks' conclusion (from his NYT op-ed piece):
But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.
What a fool. All history is dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices. This is not news. What fools his whiners are. The truth always hurts when you've been taught lies all your life.

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Blogger Kanani said...

Hi Ruvy,
I always enjoy reading about your experiences. FYI, I've written my last post for Blogcritics. I found out that the order of categories are placed according to "volume." Hence, there are more "reviewers" of electronics, music etc. and those articles get placed "above the fold." Everything else --politics, world events, just isn't a priority. It's hits over substance. Hence, the quality of the articles suffer, and so do the comments that can stay on track.

I've been asked to contribute to HuffPo, as well as another online blog, so I'll be moving there when I get things set up!

25 December, 2009 09:43  
Blogger Ruvy said...


Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for explaining what nobody else at the site would explain. I'll have to try again at Pajams Media to see if I can get my stuff published there. Trouble is they do not like anything that has to do with religion.

How did you find out about the rankings at BC?

25 December, 2009 10:56  
Blogger Kanani said...

This autumn, I met both Eric Olsen and Lisa McKay. So I've been having nice email discussions with them from time to time. They are both very committed individuals.

As you know, BC was bought by Technorati. While I admire R. Jalichandra's work, their focus is volume and hits, which can be linked to making revenue through ad placements and sales of books/records/whatever. Not that one doesn't want revenues for a site, but the result is that BC's main focus is just that ...reviews on commercial products.

This is what I asked: "Why is the politics section always at the bottom?"

Here was the reply from L. McKay, executive editor:
"The sections on the front page are actually arranged according to volume (i.e. where we publish most of our articles), and our review sections (video, music, books) have always been and continue to be our heavy-hitters. Politics is certainly the most vocal, but not the busiest. So the layout actually doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the writing, simply the volume of articles."

Suffice it to say, the quality of the writing at BC is a huge problem. The thought process in many of the writers just isn't there, hence, the writing tends to be very poor. I find the reviews to be lacking to the point that one can deduce that most aren't even aware of industry standards or "how to's" of reviewing books.

I just don't think it's a place to waste your better writing. And so I'm not! They would like to get more military bloggers over there, but why should they bother when they know their insight is going to go below a review of an Indie rock band?


26 December, 2009 09:20  
Blogger Ruvy said...

Thank you very much, Kanani. Most illuminating! I just got on the computer after the Sabbath ended here. That was at 17:30 our time and that, in part, dictates when I am or am not writing here. I got your message this morning (my time) about eight hours ago.

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas holiday. I always get nervous about Christmas - not for religious reasons - I got a heart attack on 26 December 2003. Haven't been feeling too great lately and one has to wonder....

Anyway, shavúa tov - have a good week!

26 December, 2009 17:46  
Blogger Dennis Tate said...

Shalom Ruvy: I assume that it is OK to quote you in full as long as I leave the link to your blog?

I get into a lot of debates on Facebook where I can have a lot of fun quoting you.

29 November, 2010 18:49  

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