Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where the Story of Hanukkah Comes to Life

By Linda Gradstein
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008; Page P01

"I am the old Mattathias, and I have seen a lot in my life," he says in a booming voice. "The Greeks have forbidden us from reading the Torah and observing the Sabbath. . . . We are Jews, and we will always be Jews. Whoever is for God, follow me!"

What follows is a tale of military triumph and a miraculous supply of oil, a story told the world over that gains magic when recounted in the land where it took place. The reenactment of the Hanukkah story, which commemorates the time when a small band of Jews, the Hasmoneans, fought the Greeks for the right to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, is only part of a visit to Baram's Hasmonean village, which tries to re-create life during that period, more than 2,000 years ago.

At the village, about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, children can participate in several activities appropriate to Hanukkah. In one area they harvest olives from a tree and crush them into oil using an ancient olive press. In another they make mosaics, and in a third they make copies of ancient coins.

Baram says old coins were found here, less than a mile from the traditional site of the grave of the Maccabees, the leaders of the group that eventually won independence from the Greeks. He says understanding the Hanukkah story is one way to deepen Israeli children's Jewish identity.

Did I mention that Hanukkah starts tomorrow night at sundown?

Judging by the date of this article, the Washington Post also seems to be celebrating Pretend To Be A Time Traveler Day a little late.

UPDATE (21 December): Dead link fixed. Sorry!