An evil empire focused on domination. A scrappy upstart rebellion led by warrior-priests. A lot of…sand. Hanukkah and “Star Wars” have some remarkable parallels, making “Star Wars” GIFs the perfect way to illuminate this fan-favorite Jewish holiday. Now, let’s pan down from a shot of an inky, star-filled sky, press play on that iconic John Williams score and dive right in to the Hanukkah story.
A long time ago (around 2,200-ish years ago), in a Middle East far, far away…
Hanukkah: Episode I
A Jew Hope
Judea, the land of Israel, has fallen under the control of the Syrian-Greek Seleucid empire dominated by King Antiochus—just a gem of a human being. JK, he’s awful, despite his midiclorian count being off the charts.
Antiochus wants to unify his kingdom through imposing Hellenistic culture on the indigenous Jewish population, so he decides to outlaw practicing Judaism and tries to force the Jews to start worshipping multiple gods. Spoiler alert: They aren’t into it.
His stormtroopers, er…soldiers, descend upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the Jewish Temple.
Antiochus’s men go from community to community to force the Jewish people to ditch Judaism. Some Jews start getting creative, pretending to play the game of dreidel when they were secretly studying Torah. This is a Jedi mind trick to misdirect the soldiers.
At this dark time, a Jewish rebellion begins to take shape.
The Jewish priest Matisyahu and his five sons, known as the Maccabees, have the chutzpah to form the Judean rebel alliance. Judah Maccabee (“The Hammer”) begins to lead the revolt, fighting back against overwhelming odds.
The Maccabees largely rely on guerilla warfare tactics, hiding in caves and probably learning the ways of the Force.
Antiochus sends in his General Grievous, er…Apolonius, to wipe out Judah and the rebel base.
Though greater in number and better equipped than the Jewish fighters, the Syrians are soundly defeated by the Maccabees.
Antiochus legit cannot believe what’s happening, so he sends out another expedition, which ALSO gets defeated, making him realize that only by sending his whole army could he hope to defeat Judah and the rebellion.
His army numbers 40,000, but the scrappy Maccabees have a pretty definitive response to that ish.
Amazingly, the smaller force of the rebels manages to drive the army of Antiochus out of Jerusalem, liberating it!
They enter the desecrated Temple and clear it of the idols placed there by Antiochus, and on the 25th of the month of Kislev, the Jews rededicate the Temple.
The only thing the Jews lack is enough pure olive oil to light the menorah, the ceremonial candelabra in the Temple. Miraculously, the small amount of oil they had, supposedly enough for only one day, lasts eight days. In memory of this event, Jews celebrate the Hanukkah holiday for eight nights.
Hanukkah today revolves around lighting menorahs in our own homes, with a new candle added each night. We display the lit menorahs in our windows or doorways to remind us and others about the many miracles of Hanukkah, and as a tangible sign of what a determined few can accomplish against an overwhelming evil. May the Force be with you!