Chanukah is almost upon us, starting tomorrow night, as is Christmas too! All the more reason for a great Good News Friday post.
I’ll start with news from last week, when Jewish communities and their supporters the world over took part in IsrAction Day – a day when people went out to their local shops and supermarkets to buy Israeli goods, which were then donated to the needy.
It was an astounding success by all standards:
Kol hakavod to Sussex Friends of Israel, StandWithUs and all the other organizations around the world which promoted and participated in this wonderful idea. Through this innovative idea a mitzvah was fulfilled of aiding the needy, and the best bonus was a kick in the teeth to BDS. Well done to everyone involved! Tizku Lemitzvot!
Since we are on the verge of Chanukah, how about some extremely timely archeological news?
First, a Hasmonean-era bowl with Hebrew writing on it was discovered in Jerusalem:
More than two millennia after the Maccabean revolt against the anti-Semitic Greeks, artifacts from that era continue to surface in Jerusalem.
Now a fragment of a chalkstone bowl from the same period, bearing a Hebrew inscription reading “Horkanos,” has been unearthed in an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority next to the City of David. Horkanos was a common name in the Hasmonean period, and two Hasmonean leaders bore that name. Researchers at the IAA are trying to ferret out the identity of the Horkanos whose name appears on the bowl.
“The bowl that was found is one of the earliest examples of chalkstone dishes in Jerusalem. These dishes were in wide use, mainly among Jews, because they were considered vessels that could not be made impure,” Dr. Doron Ben Ami of the IAA and Professor Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University said in a statement.
Even more closely related to the calendar, a bronze coin was unearthed this week with the face of the Chanukah villain Antiochus imprinted on it:
Just in time for Hanukkah: A bronze coin that was in circulation in the time of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who decreed that the Jews must be annihilated and during whose reign the Maccabean revolt took place, has been discovered at the Tower of David archaeological site in Jerusalem.
No one expected that decades after the excavations at the Tower of David citadel wrapped up, new discoveries would still be made on the museum grounds. During routine cleaning and maintenance work at the site, chief conservator Orna Cohen noticed a metal object among the stones of the Hasmonean Wall inside the citadel. A careful examination revealed that it was a bronze prutah, a coin that was in use over 2,000 years ago.
The front of the coin features Antiochus wearing a crown. The reverse features the image of a goddess wrapped in a scarf.
Officials from the Tower of David noted that while there is no date on the coin, “we know that these coins were minted in Acre, which in that time was called Ptolemais, apparently between 172 and 168 BCE.”
Antiochus’ death sentence on the Jewish people sparked the Maccabean revolt, in which a small minority defeated much greater forces, leading to the re-sanctification the Holy Temple and the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, an event commemorated by the approaching Hanukkah holiday.
The best comment came from the Curator of the Tower of David Museum:
Director and Chief Curator of the Tower of David Museum Eilat Lieber told Israel Hayom: “It’s exciting to find, in the winter of 2016, Antiochus himself thrown down here between the stones and tell him: We’re still here celebrating Hanukkah — and how!”
What fascinating discoveries! And the timing gives me goosebumps – in a good way of course. 🙂
Kol hakavod to all the archeologists, historians and researchers who worked on these important projects and figured out the artefacts’ provenance.
And one more item from history, though not from quite so long ago. The Picture A Day website reminds us that exactly 99 years ago today, on the 24th Kislev, the eve of Hanukah 1917, the British captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire, thus setting in motion the Balfour Declaration and the eventual establishment of the Jewish State of Israel.
How incredibly fitting: the British army captured Jerusalem on the 24th day of Kislev, in December 1917, on the eve of the Holiday of Lights commemorating the re-establishment of the Jewish Temple. How the Jews of Jerusalem responded can be seen in this flyer distributed on the first anniversary in 1918.
The words read:
The Council announces to our brethren in the congregations of the God’s people to honor Thursday, the 24th day of Kislev [Hanukkah eve], the first anniversary of the capture of Holy Jerusalem by the government of Britain – on this honored day, all synagogues and study halls should thank the Lord for the redemption and salvation and pray after the Torah reading the prayer “Who givest salvation unto the King of Great Britain …” [based on the Psalms 144: “Who givest salvation unto kings, who rescuest David Thy servant from the hurtful sword.”]
How fitting is that for Chanukah, which celebrates the Jews’ victory in their fight for independence from the Greeks 2,000 years ago!
I leave you with these celebratory thoughts as I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!