Good News Weekend – Shabbat Chanukah edition

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these posts, and while I don’t promise to be going back to making this a regular feature, I am delighted to feel “the muse” awaken within me.

It’s the first day of Chanukah today, and soon we’ll begin Shabbat Chanukah. Despite the restrictions of Covid, the government – after dithering and changing its mind – decided against a lockdown, so we are off to our son for Shabbat, which is going to fun (if noisy!).

This year’s Chanukah takes place against a strange but wonderful mix of events. The strange part of course is corona/covid. Who dreamt last year that one year hence we would be in the middle of a pandemic? In fact it’s looking likely that we might be approaching the end of the pandemic with the arrival in Israel of the first batch of vaccines. If these vaccines work, and if they are safe, and if people agree to be vaccinated – a lot of ifs I know – then the light at the ned of the tunnel is rapidly approaching, and thank G-d and all the diligent researchers and scientists and human volunteer guinea pigs for that.

The wonderful news begins here. Once again, just in time for Chanukah, an archaeological discovery made in the 1980s has just been brought to light again – a Menorah engraved on what was possibly  Hasmonean era tomb: 

In the 1980s, during a survey initiated by the Staff Office for Archaeology in Judea and Samaria, a graffito of a seven-branched menorah at the entrance to a tomb on the outskirts of the Arab village of Mukhmas was discovered. The finding was archived at the Staff Office Archaeology Unit and has been brought to light by Dr. Dvir Raviv of Bar-Ilan University’s Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, most recently in a paper published in the archaeology and history journal In the Highland’s Depth.

https://i2.wp.com/www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/one-of-the-menorahs-drawn-in-cistern-at-al-Aliliyat-cliffs-near-Mukhmas-Boaz-Langford.jpg?resize=398%2C265&ssl=1
One of the menorahs drawn in cistern at al-‘Aliliyat cliffs near Mukhmas. / Boaz Langford

The menorah engraving found in Mukhmas dates back to the period between the Hasmonean era and the Bar-Kokhba revolt and is considered a rare and unique find, as decorative use of the Temple menorah was rare during this period. The most prominent examples found to date include depictions of the menorah on coins of the Hasmonean ruler Mattathias Antigonus, on objects and remnants from Jerusalem, on a stone table in Magdala north of Tiberias, and the Arch of Titus in Rome.

The depictions of menorahs found on the outskirts of Mukhmas and the mention of Mikhmas (currently the village of Mukhmas) in the Mishnah as the place from which selected semolina wheat was brought to the Temple (Mishnah Menahot 8:1) may indicate that a priestly population lived there during the Second Temple period. Additionally, Mikhmas is mentioned as the dwelling place of Jonathan the Hasmonean, where he began to establish his status in Judea after the death of his brother Judah Maccabee (1 Maccabees 9:73).

I know we don’t need proof of our long connection to the Land of Israel but it is nice when we find that proof anyway!

Meanwhile, the rejection of Israel as a Jewish state is rapidly fading away as one Arab state after another is both recognizing Israel and renewing diplomatic and economic ties. In contrast to the cold peace reigning between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan, where the ties are diplomatic at most and do not extend to the street level, where the population expresses huge hostility to Israel and Israeli citizens, the new “peace breakout” between Israel and the Gulf States has been nothing short of miraculous! Israelis are flying out in droves to Bahrain and the UAE for shopping and touring, while there are many Arab tourists visiting Tel Aviv and other places.

Last night, in an unprecedented event, the Chanukah menorah was lit in Dubai in public!

https://twitter.com/i/status/1337103015455690760

 

Chanukah Menorah in Dubai

Adding to the burgeoning relations between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE, and even Sudan, it was announced yesterday that Morocco too has agreed with Israel on restoring full ties as soon as possible:

Israel and Morocco have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations, US President Donald Trump announced Thursday, marking the fourth Arab-Israel agreement in four months.

(R-L) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and Moroccan

As part of the announcement, Trump said that the US would recognize Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region.

As his time in office winds down, Trump said Israel and Morocco would restore diplomatic and other relations, including the immediate opening of liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv and the eventual opening of embassies. US officials said it would also include joint overflight rights for airlines.

Channel 13 news reported that the White House is aiming to hold a ceremony to make the agreement official before Trump leaves office on January 20.

In their first reactions to Trump’s announcement later Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moroccan King Mohammed VI lauded the latest normalization agreement.

“This will be a very warm peace. On this Hannukah, the light of peace has never shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” said Netanyahu at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall. He said the relationship of the peoples of both countries “has long been characterized by sympathy, respect, fondness and love,” and praised King Mohammed’s “historic decision” to make peace.

King Mohammed said in a statement that Morocco would take three moves in the near future to advance relations.

First, there would be moves to facilitate direct flights to transport Jews of Moroccan origin and Israeli tourists to and from Morocco, he said.

Second, the North African nation will also seek to “resume official bilateral ties and diplomatic relations [with Israel] as soon as possible.”

Morocco will also seek “to develop innovative relationships in the economic and technological fields. As part of this goal, there will be work on renewing liaison offices in the two countries, as was the case in the past for many years, until 2002,” King Mohammed said.

The king thanked Trump for recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed region of Western Sahara.

Explaining the decision to normalize, King Mohammed cited among other reasons “the historical role that Morocco has played in bringing the peoples of the region together and supporting security and stability in the Middle East, and given the special ties that bind the Jewish community of Moroccan origin, including those in Israel, to the person of His Majesty the King.”

No matter what you think of President Trump, we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to him for enabling this establishment of relations between Israel and so many Arab states. He has done more to create peace in the Middle East than all the other past US presidents combined, with all their legions of “peace processors”, talking shops and endless negotiations with the Palestinians that went nowhere.

Surely this Chanukah is a time of miracles?

May the lights of our Chanukah menorahs light up the world with peace and blessings for good health.

Wishing you all Shabbat shalom and Happy Chanukah!

!שבת שלום וחג אורים שמח

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