preface and adaptation: Malka Haas
Dramatization of Chanukah
In the Rimon kindergarten at Sdeh Eliyahu in the Beit Shean Valley we have developed over the years the following text. We wanted to bring the children closer to the work of the Temple in the ancient texts. We told them about bringing the first fruits, about the Jewish feast of water-drawing and about the dedication of the new Temple as a family experience, rich with sensory input and full of emotions.
Therefore we started the story of Chanukah with a description of the lives of Matityahu and his sons in Modiin and until they took up their posts guaring the Temple in Jerusalem We followed the family until the dedication of the Temple, the experiences of the story in instalments and the many activities relating to it and finally we concentrated on the dramatization, in which we, the adults, wrote the texts and the children acted in a kind of pantomime.
Therefore the text presented here is solely an outline that lessens the description of the sensory input and the emotions and focuses mainly on the actions that the children can perform during the dramatization.
The story of Chanukah
Many years ago when the Temple still existed the priests lit the gold Menorah in it every day. The Greeks came and conquered Israel, and they reached Jerusalem. The Greeks did not acknowledge G-d, they prayed to a stone idol.
The Greeks did not study Torah and did not keep the Sabbath because they were Greeks.
And they wanted everyone to be Greeks like them.
The king of the Greeks was called Antiochus. He sent his soldiers to conquer Jerusalem. The Greek soldiers wore iron armour and wore iron helmets. They had long swords and round shields and they rode on elephants, on elephants who knew war well. Huge and heavy elephants that trampled on everything that stood in their way.
The Greeks reached the Temple on the Temple Mount, they entered with the elephants into the courtyards of the Temple and the elephants trampled everything in their way. The Greeks removed the gold Menorah, they took with them all the utensils made of silver and gold, and they took down the altar cloth and the beautiful rugs, all the earthenware jugs full of pure olive oil, they smashed into the Temple and placed an idol.
And King Antiochus ordered all the Jews and said: “From now on the Jews must be alike the Greeks! You must not circumcise the babies! You must now study Torah! You must not keep the Sabbath! You must not pray to G-d! From now on all the Jews must pray to this idol like the Greeks and whoever does not do so will die!
And King Antiochus sent the Greek officers to all the towns and to all the villages in Israel in order to inform all the Jews about his order. One of the Greek officers reached Modiin on the road up to Jerusalem.
A family of priests lived in Modiin who worked in the Temple - when it was their turn - before the Greeks arrived. The father of the family was an old and clever man who was called Matitiyahu the Priest. . And he had five sons: Yohanan, Shimon, Yehuda, Eliezer and Yehonatan. All of them worked in the fields and the vineyards and the orchards, because they could not go up to Jerusalem to the Temple, and everyone studied Torah.
When the Greek officer arrived in Modiin, he placed the idol in the middle of the village and called to all the people of Modiin to gather around it and told them: Hear the order of Antiochus to all the Jews: “ You must not circumcise babies! You must not study Torah! You must not keep the Sabbath! And you must not pray to G-d! And now....come here and bow down to the idol!!!
Silence....all the people of Modiin stood around. None of them moved. And suddenly Matityahu the old man called out loudly: “Everyone who is for G-d come to me”!
He jumped forward, killed the Greek officer, pushed over the idol and broke it into pieces.
Matityahu told his sons and all the people of Modiin: “We will not obey King Antiochus” We will not be like the Greeks! Come and we will hide in caves, there we will be able to study Torah and the Greeks will not find us and there we will be able to learn how to fight”.
All the people of Modiin listened to Matityahu, they left their homes, the fields, the vineyards and the orchards and went to hide in the caves in the mountains. There they studied Torah, there they kept the Sabbath, there they prayed to G-d and there they prepared for war and trained to expel the Greeks from Israel.
And Matityahu was an old man and the time came when he felt he was going to die. He gathered together all the Jews in the cave and said to them: “ Yehuda the Maccabee, he is the cleverest and strongest of my children, when I die he will lead you in the war against the Greeks - and you will obey him”.
King Antiochus was very angry with the Jews who did not want to be like the Greeks and he sent more soldiers and more elephants to fight the Jews and force them to be like the Greeks.
Yehuda the Maccabee gathered all the Jews in the cave and said to them: “We will fight the Greeks and expel them from Israel! And now we will all pray together to G-d for him to help us - because we are few and the Greeks are many. They have elephants and tools of war”.
When all the Jews were praying together in the cave, they heard a convoy in the distance coming closer: they were the Greek soldiers, wearing helmets and armed with swords and shields, who were riding on elephants on the road leading to Jerusalem, and when the convoy of the Greeks passed through the narrow path between the mountains Yehuda shouted: “Who is for G-d come to me”.
Suddenly all the Jews rushed out of the cave and stabbed the elephants from below with spears. The elephants stopped in the narrow pathway between the mountains. The Greeks became confused and were frightened. And the Jews fought them and triumphed and expelled them from Israel!
Then Yehuda the Maccabee called: “G-d granted us salvation! G-d gave the many to the hands of the few. And now we will all go up to Jerusalem and purify the Temple so that we can pray there to G-d and thank Him.”
All the Jews went up to Jerusalem and came to the Temple which was completely contaminated and defiled and an idol stood in its midst. They shattered the idol into pieces and removed from the courtyards all the weeds that had grown in them and all the dirt from the elephants.
Later everyone helped to clean and repair the Temple. The builders repaired the floor tiles and the columns. The painters painted the doors and the windows. The weavers wove a new altar cloth and rugs. The silver and goldsmiths cast utensils in gold and silver and the gold Menorah for light.
And when the Temple was completely clean and polished and pure Yehuda the Maccabee invited all the Jews to dedicate the Temple.
All the Jews wore festive clothing and came to the Temple singing and dancing. Yehuda the Maccabee prepared the wicks in the cups of the gold Menorah in order to light it again on the day of dedication of the Temple, however he did not find any pure olive oil sealed with the seal of the High Priest, with which it was only permitted to pour into the cups of the gold Menorah.
Yehuda searched throughout the Temple and in all the courtyards, and all the brothers searched.
They searched and searched - until Yehonatan found in a corner of a courtyard one jar full of pure olive oil, sealed with the seal of the High Priest, and there was oil which was sufficient to light the Menorah only for one day.
Yehuda poured the oil from the jar into the cups of the gold Menorah, and lit the wicks.
All the Jews, the fathers, the mothers and the children, the grandfathers and the grandmothers, saw the candles glowing in the gold Menorah and everyone prayed and sang and were happy with the dedication of the Temple, until they became tired and went home to sleep.
The following morning Yehuda the Maccabee came to the Temple and behold a miracle had occurred: the oil from the jar continued to burn for the glowing candles and the gold Menorah continued to give light.
Every day the Jews came to the Temple and every day they saw the glowing candles in the holy gold Menorah. Eight days the dedication of the Temple continued and for eight days the oil from the jar continued to burn for the candles in the gold Menorah - until the priests crushed the olives and extracted new pure olive oil, and they filled many jars sealed with the seal of the High Priest.
And each and every year all the Jews light the Chanukah candles. Each day they add one candle until eight candles are alight which remind us of the miracle of the jar of oil that was sufficient to burn for eight days for the candles in the holy gold Menorah during the dedication of the Temple.
[Note: Dedication of the Temple in Hebrew is Chanukat Beit Hamikdash]