Today, the United States is being taken over by an insecure, anger-ridden megalomaniac who rose to power through lies and election assistance from a foreign country. He’s already using his position for personal financial gain and nominating federal officials who will help him create further poverty and deprivation for 99.99 percent of the people in the nation. His opposition to any press that he doesn’t control violates the First Amendment, and his plan to stop any protests against him violates the constitutional right of assembly. Democracy as people in the United States is in great danger.
Today is also the first of an eight-day Jewish celebration for the defeat of an insecure narcissist ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, known for his excessively extravagant display of riches and cruelty over two millennia ago. Initially appearing congenial toward his subjects, he felt contempt for them and sold political positions to benefit only the wealthiest in the country. His quick anger earned him the nickname of “madman.” After he forced the Jewish people in his kingdom, which included Judea, to follow the country’s primary religion and culture, Judah Maccabee and his followers revolted. Through their skill and knowledge, they took back their freedom from Antiochus and showed that a minority can fight back against a repressive regime through intelligence and the ability to work together. The exact date of this Jewish festival of lights changes each year because it is tied to the lunar Hebrew calendar.
Last week, Michele and Barack Obama hosted their last Hanukkah party at the White House. His observations about the event demonstrate the articulate graciousness of the current President of the United States at a time when non-Christians are targeted by hatred and bigotry. I will miss President Obama and his leadership in the coming years.
“Today in the White House, as you will soon do in your homes, we recall Hanukkah’s many lessons: How a small group can make a big difference. That’s the story of the Maccabees’ unlikely military victory, and of great moral movements around the globe and across time. How a little bit can go a long way, like the small measure of oil that outlasted every expectation. It reminds us that even when our resources seem limited, our faith can help us make the most of what little we have. The small State of Israel and the relatively small Jewish population of this country have punched far above their weight in their contributions to the world. So the Festival of Lights is also a reminder of how Isaiah saw the Jewish people, as a light unto the nations.
“This is the season that we appreciate the many miracles, large and small, that have graced our lives throughout generations, and to recognize that the most meaningful among them is our freedom. The first chapter of the Hanukkah story was written 22 centuries ago, when rulers banned religious rituals and persecuted Jews who dared to observe their faith. Which is why today we are asked not only to light the menorah, but to proudly display it—to publicize the mitzvah. And that’s why we’ve invited all these reporters who are here.
“Everybody in America can understand the spirit of this tradition. Proudly practicing our religion, whatever it might be—and defending the rights of others to do the same—that’s our common creed. That’s what families from coast to coast confirm when they place their menorah in the window—not to share the candles’ glow with just your family, but also with your community and with your neighbors.
“The story of Hanukkah, the story of the Jewish people, the story of perseverance—these are one and the same. Elie Wiesel taught us that lesson probably better than just about anybody. In one of his memories of the Holocaust, Elie watched a fellow prisoner trade his daily ration of bread for some simple materials with which to piece together a makeshift menorah. And he wrote that he couldn’t believe the sacrifices this man was making to observe the holidays. A stunned Elie asked him, “Hanukkah in Auschwitz?” And the man replied, “Especially in Auschwitz. The world lost my friend, Elie Wiesel, this year. We lost a keeper of our collective conscience….
“Through centuries of exile and persecution, and even the genocide of families like the Wiesels endured, the Hanukkah candles have been kindled. Each wick an answer to the wicked. Each light a signal to the world that yours is an inextinguishable faith.
“Jewish leaders from the Maccabees to the Wiesels, to the college students who proudly sing Hebrew songs on campus, reaffirm our belief that light still drives out darkness, and freedom still needs fighters.
“As many of you know, the name ‘Hanukkah’ comes from the Hebrew word for ‘dedication.’ So we want to thank you again for your dedication to our country, to the historic progress that we’ve made, to the defense of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.”
A video of President Obama giving these comments is here.
Fomented by Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com, much has been said in the conservative media about the president’s “stabbing Israel in the back” by abstaining from the UN resolution to keep further encroachment into Palestine’s West Bank by Israel. Hillel Schenker wrote this in the Times of Israel:
“Thank you President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. And thank you New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia for moving forward with the resolution. And thank you Egypt for drafting the resolution. The passing of yesterday’s UN Security Resolution on the settlements is the best Hanukkah gift you could have given to the people of Israel, and it provides a glimmer of light on the horizon amidst the current darkness. It reaffirms the international commitment to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based upon a two-state solution, the only realistic solution to the conflict that can provide security and peace to both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.”
Schenker explains that, as the resolution states, “the status quo is not sustainable.” He also agrees with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power who said that continued settlement building “undermines” Israel’s own security. Schenker pointed out an appreciation from many Israelis who understand that “it was done in the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948”:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The Declaration also requires that Israel “extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples” and “do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” It added that Israel will “cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947.”
The resolution passed with a 14-0 vote after the U.S. abstained. It states that Israel’s settlements on Palestinian territory since 1967 are not legal and calls for a stop to “all Israeli settlement activities.” At this time, almost a half million from Israeli have claimed ownership of Palestine land and another 200,000 live in east Jerusalem, the area that Palestinians view as their capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to stop the vote with an appeal to Donald Trump (DT), who will not be U.S. president until January 20, 2017. DT also contacted Egypt, asking them to delay the vote indefinitely although he has no legal right to control the current president’s foreign policy. Egypt did so, but four other countries sponsored it.
With strongly pro-settlement David Friedman as his pick for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, DT is following his plan to move the nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, an act which should instead be determined by peace talks. At this time, DT doesn’t understand—or refuses to accept—that the United States has only one president at a time as he continues his thrust to support far-right Israelis in their journey toward creating strength that diminishes the power of oil-producing companies in the Middle East. In this way, DT can both win back evangelical Christian support and join Israel to take over oil fields.
As people have said about the next four years, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Meanwhile we can appreciate President Obama’s last four weeks in supporting the people of the United States. Happy Hanukkah!