Study and Theory/
Chanukah

Dotan Barom

Americanization and Hellenization

At Chanukah we remind ourselves of the Maccabees’ rebellion against the Greeks. A rebellion which more than it was a military rebellion was a cultural rebellion. Throughout Judea the Jews adopted Hellenism: Greek names, Greek dress, Greek gods and a Greek outlook. Greek art, Greek recreations and Greek ethics. Throughout Judea the Jews revoked their original cultural creativity in favour of being part of a huge empire.

However within this assimilation, another voice was heard. A weak but aggressive voice, which insisted on an alternative - on a life of freedom and independent choice and of original Jewish culture and creativity. This voice carried with it additional voices and at the end of our narrative we tell ourselves how we gained our freedom, how we continued to form our own lives.

However have we succeeded? When I look around me, I can see a new Hellenization, an assimilation in the current empire: the United States of America. I can see a superficial and consumer-based American culture, as a rule with nothing to say. I see American brands everywhere - starting from the clothes that we wear and the (fast) food that we eat, and as far as the computers that we use and the cars that we drive from place to place. I see American financial perceptions that are taking control of the ideals upon which our country was built and the American dream which replaced the dreams that were dreamt here once upon a time. I see American ethics in which a foreigner and a widow have the unrestricted right to die under a bridge, instead of the old Hebrew ethics - in which we were commanded to support them.

At times like this, I would like to be a voice of rebellion. I wish to be a voice crying out - freedom! And this is not a rebellion of clubs and pitchforks, but rather a rebellion of choice. A rebellion in which we will insist on creating original Hebrew creations, with a significant content that is relative to the here and now. A rebellion in which we will choose to put consumerism in a marginal place in our lives, and we will replace it with significant human relations. A rebellion in which we will choose to act against the plague of privatization that is dismantling any remnant of solidarity in the Israeli society, and we will return to the work of man and his land instead of capitalism. A rebellion in which we will choose to see the exceptional in every person, and take responsibility for each other.

Chanukah is a wonderful time to remind ourselves about what and why to rebel, and to start to light torches of light and fire in the world.

“And everyone who has a heart that is thirsty for light, shall look to the heavens and come to us - to the light!"

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Chagim Center

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