This photo, taken by Nancy Kay Shapiro and then reproduced in Gothamist, at first seems like a silly error, the product of some clueless clerk at Balducci’s. But then I read Bah, Hanukkah by Christopher Hitchens over at Slate, followed by A Very Osama Hanukkah and The Festival of Lights Cartoon on Jewcy, and finished it off with Who are Today’s Maccabees over at Jewschool.

These all point out that the Maccabees engaged in activities that by today’s standards would not exactly be nice. They note that Al-Quaeda, Iraqui insurgents and Islamic Suicide Bombers have much in common with the heroes of Hanukkah. Hitchens believes that “when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded…”because it led to the development of Christianity and Islam and the continuity of Judaism, “an ancient and cruel faith.” Eli Valley and David Kelsey’s cartoon portrays Jewish Hellenists as innocent humanists who just wanted to be left alone and to live in peace and who were not at all complicit in Hellenist oppression of the Jewish faithful. His depiction of the Maccabees as “bloodthirsty bastards” is echoed in fellow Jewcer Steve Almond’s Osama article. I am going to once again ignore the fact that the wedding party that was attacked by the Maccabees was peopled by a clan that had earlier robbed the Maccabees and were responsible for the death of one of their brothers. I’ll ignore the fact that holding aloft the severed head of a vanquished general, while not pretty, is not exactly the same as beheading innocent civilian non-combatants. I’ll just ignore a whole mess of details and agree with everyone – those Maccabees were bad, bad people. Not at all warm and fuzzy. Not. At. All.

One fact I won’t ignore is that much modern Hanukkah celebration in the diaspora is just Christmas envy. Had many of these celebrants lived at the time of those murderous Maccabees they would in all likelihood have been their victims.

Thus rather than laugh at Balducci’s error, what we should do is gain inspiration from it. See, the proper way to commemorate Hanukkah is not by “lionizing” the Maccabees. If we truly value tolerance, if we are really opposed to Theocracy and “tribal Jewish backwardness,” if we really cherish freedom, tolerance and inclusiveness, we should commemorate Hanukkah not by lighting Menorahs or eating sufganiyot and latkes. Fuck that shit. What we should do is eat pork.

Steve Almond’s Osama article recounts the martyrdom of the woman who chose a horrific death at the hands of Antiochus’ soldiers for her and her seven sons rather than eat pork. What a stupid cow. What a “disturbing emphasis on martyrdom.” She was seriously no different than those assholes that blow themselves up in Pizza Parlors and Falafel stands or fly Jumbo Jets into office buildings. How better to demonstrate the values cherished by most American Jews than by rejecting everything those Maccabee thugs stood for?

Happy Hanukkah. Now let’s go have some pork.

About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • I once read somewhere (probably one of my Jewish history / sociology books) that today’s concept of Hanukkah is the Americanized version, spread all over the world through modern media, mostly thanks to TV comedy shows. There’s something to that claim as I know from many oldtimers that over here, Hanukkah was widely not celebrated at all.

  • Back here on Earth, all of the couples I know who have one or more children are going to Hanukkah parties, lighting candles at home every night – usually on multiple menorahs – enjoying latkes and jelly-filled doughnuts (in the diaspora we dare not call them sufganyot) and generally ignoring the anger of some angry childless people who don’t have to worry about transmitting traditions or some angry atheists who want to prove something against religion in general.

    So what is Chanukah about for these families? It is about the heroism of fighting for the right to practice one’s faith freely. To put it into terms even an angry atheist would understand, the sense is that the Maccabees were fighting, quite bravely and against strong odds, to prevent a governmental entity from preventing people to live as they would have liked.

    While this isn’t the full picture of the history of this holiday, it is the idea that has dominated for all of these centuries and it is what most Jews identify as Hanukah today.

    As I told Kelsey and Valley, any symbol can be cut down to size. Why should they or Hitchens stop with Channucah? They can also destroy Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, Passover, Easter, and any number of holidays – religious and secular – that represent a very different meaning to most today than they may have when first originated.

    Ultimately, the people who do this end up worshipping at their own altar – that of rejecting others and their traditions or customs. To Hitchens, there is nothing holier than his atheism and rejection of religion. It’s an unfortunate disease and one he and others should try to repel. They’d be better off in THE MIDDLE where they would recognize that there’s a way to appreciate these traditions and customs as part of a culture and history that bear some meaning to those who choose to respect these traditions. Those of us who do so for reasons that don’t involve fear or respect of God but because of personal interest may do so out of respect for the longevity of traditions, the fact they influenced generations of our ancestors going back centuries and millenia, the beauty one finds in their modern readings or even because of the respect we accord to the many who gave up their lives over millenia to respect these traditions.

  • Wait, I’m confused by this:

    One fact I won’t ignore is that much modern Hanukkah celebration in the diaspora is just Christmas envy. Had many of these celebrants lived at the time of those murderous Maccabees they would in all likelihood have been their victims.

    For one thing, our comic accounted for proto-Christmas envy in the postscript Talmudic conversation.

    And although I do like taunting Chabad types, telling the emissaries standing outside their Rape Rooms — sorry, Mitzvah Tanks — that I’m a Hellenist, the point of the comic was not to say “Let’s eat pork” but let’s understand the full dimensions of our history before blindly mythologizing the past.

    You’re joking when you say we should eat pork. What we should do, maybe, is use the holiday of Hanukkah to marginalize the extremists among us who dream of establishing a new fundamentalist and tyrannical state. There are many of them where you live, ck. Go nuts.

  • TM,

    The Hasmoneans became that which they conquered.

    And since we’re referencing comments on Kvetcher, let me repeat: understanding the origins of holidays and celebrating those holidays are not mutually exclusive. We weren’t saying they should not be celebrated, but simply that they should be examined more fully. If a culture cannot thrive outside the exclusive domain of half-truths and myths, that culture is already half-dead.

  • On Kvetcher, I responded to you,

    “EV, you are trying to tell me what I should think about Hanukah. In other words, you’d like me to take my innocent and lovely impressions of this holiday and defile them with your angry images and ideas of supposedly crazed zealots from 2000 years ago. Why would I do that? Am I not proof that our religion has evolved? I think I am. I think that Jews today are extraordinarily different than their forebears 2000 years ago. I view them in the context of their time just as I view myself in the context of our time. I view Channukah in the context of our time as well, just as I do all of our other holidays. I would say the same is true of most Jews including even the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, or at least that what I’ve seen in their schools.”

    When you speak about “blind mythology” you are precisely missing the point. Of course we know the history. You can go to university classes and hear it or, if you’re Orthodox, you’ll study it in some of our ancient literature.

    Time does create a myth from events that transpired and that myth becomes the defining reality for the group. We tend to view Chanukkah today in a manner that has evolved from these myths. You would like us to think of Hanukah as a festival celebrating zealotry when I’d rather celebrate the fight against oppression. That is what we’re celebrating, ya know.

  • My European-background suggestion: take the kitsch out of religious education, call traditions what they are (as TM did above) – namely traditions, not laws. I’ve seen frighteningly low actual education on religious matters among many of my religious friends over there. Over here, religion / ethics is a mandatory subject at schools, and teachers that teach those have received extensive academic training. “Frum”, the same as in the original Middle High German which eventually developed into modern Standard German “fromm”, actually means blindly and uneducatedly religious; it denotes a way of adherence bare of thinking. Just thought I’d share that…

  • Muffti, it’s not that hard to attack days commemorating soldiers…

    But it’s not me who is seeking to destroy symbols here, it’s those who are making these absurd claims about what I’m celebrating when I celebrate Hannuka.

  • Of course we know the history

    Really? What percentage of Jews do you think knows the full history of Hanukkah?

    Give me a number.

  • There is a reason Mel Gibson considered doing a movie on Chanukah and not Tu B’shvat. Not all holidays are the same. No Jewish holiday celebrated had much Jewish violence against both Jews and gentiles, and no, not even Purim. Purim is — at its core — about God saving the Jewish people, and navigating Jewish history.

    If I understand ck correctly, I agree that some of us would probably not have done too well under the Hashmoneans. I don’t deny that. I am also not ashamed of it. I can criticize the Hasmoneans WITHOUT taking a pro-Hellenist stand.

    Chanukah is a mixed bag…I am not dismissing that there were problems with the Greeks, and with select and powerful Greek-sympathizers. And I concede that such an environment lends itself to excess in resistance.

    But as ck knows quite well, Eli, Almond and myself were hardly the first ones to have issues with the Hellenists. And the rabbis shifted the narrative of Chanukah overtly and dramatically. They did so because the Hasmoneans proved themselves destructive, and something was wrong AT IT’S ROOT.

    ck is presenting a false dichotomy, even if he remains sympathetic to the hard choices themselves. But the idea that, “You are either with us, or you are against us,” is classic fundamentalism. And framing it like that is essentially the same mistake that the Hasmoneans made themselves.

    I will agree that Jews can celebrate that which they like about the rabbinical Chanukah narrative. But that simply wasn’t what it was in its entirety. Chanukah, as it really was, was quite problematic, and led to the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash. Because of “needless” and/or perhaps, “excessive” hatred.

    The worst offenders were the Hasmoneans. They hated the Greeks too much, and brought in the Romans. They hated the gentiles too much, and forcibly converted them. They hated “Hellenists” too much, and killed Jews who were innocent.

  • EV, you are proving my point. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5% or 50% who know the history. I was referring to those of us who are educated about their Jewish history and suspect that Soviet Jews weren’t exposed to the same Jewish education as me. When we celebrate Channukah, however, we are celebrating more or less the same tradition – that of Jews fighting mightily to remove an oppressive power restricting their right to practice their faith and defiling their temple.

    You’d like me to see angry, murderous zealots and essentially to end this tradition. Please don’t tell me that you don’t wish me to end this custom because the logical conclusion to your re-education is that this is not a holiday we should be celebrating. The only way for you to deny this is to say that you respect the tradition anyway, despite its baggage…which would make your views the same as mine.

  • The worst offenders were the Hasmoneans. They hated the Greeks too much, and brought in the Romans. They hated the gentiles too much, and forcibly converted them. They hated “Hellenists” too much, and killed Jews who were innocent.

    You’re right.

    I’m throwing out our menorahs today.

    Bye bye Hanuka, it was fattening but good to know ye.

  • I find the concept of celebrating the remembrance of a group of men that cleaned up a place not too far-fetched…

    Seriously though, the Puritans were anti-Judaistic by theology, anti-Semite by practice; does that keep anybody over there from enjoying two days off over Thanksgiving?

  • TM,

    Of course it matters. I sent the comic out to some friends, and I received a version of the following email back from no less than six people:

    “Hey papi, I miss you. The paternity test came back negative, so you really don’t need to hide no more. Oh, you left your mink on my dresser. Why don’t you drop by and pick it up sometime? No pressure. Hey, do you have the $45 you borrowed? If not, NO PROBLEMO, seriously. I just want to see you. Oh, and that comic? I didn’t understand the historical elements, because I had always been told that the point of the holiday was that it was a celebration of religious freedom.”

    Most people have no clue about the history. Don’t put words in my mouth about ending the tradition. I’m not saying abolish the holiday. I’m saying know it, put it in context, and use it to warn against future — even contemporary — incarnations of Hasmonean motherfuckers.

  • TM,

    We need a solstice holiday anyway, and we got nothing else. So light the candles, eat some hot potato foods, and enjoy. As for me, well, I will wait if/until I have kids to bother, unless I am with friends and family, in which case, well, wtf…I don’t want to bring the party down, I believe in Jewish community, and am going to go to one tonight. Thrown by Maccabean-loving Zionists, even.And I am bringing two friends who could use a little Chanukah celebration. Cause I’m a hypocrite like that. And sometimes you do things you aren’t comfortable with, and don’t really make sense historically, because you ARE comfortable that such celebrations add something communally.

    Chanukah is important in terms of what went wrong as well as what went right. In terms of what was rejected by the sages, what was kept, and what was missing; added both by the sages, and added annually by ourselves.

    So Happy Chanukah, TM. And many, many more.

  • No way, Kelsey, I’m done with Hannukah. Evil Hasmonean lunatics! You better not enjoy any of the food you have at that party.

    Now, can we destroy Passover as well? I’ll help with the comic this time and show it to my son. I’ve always had my doubts about some of the plagues, the mass murder of Egyptian children and the whole notion of splitting the sea. Those silly songs like Had Gadya and all that food are just a distraction from the real meaning of our blood-thirsty, murderous ancestors.

    Oh, and I have some ideas about Purim as well.

    I don’t have the balls to do it myself, but maybe when we’re done with those, you could write a little something about that guy who some say was resurrected…

  • …just taking things to their logical conclusion. You can’t destroy symbols and traditions selectively. If the intent is to show that we’re a barbaric, backward religion, then let’s apply the criticism across the board…

    Of course, the joke here is that their Jewish upbringing is what brought Valley and Kelsey to these conclusions in the first place.

    I’m being a little unfair here. The Hitchens and the Almond articles were far worse than the Valley comic.

  • We’re not selective, we’re just focusing on our own culture.

    But if you think we gave Christianity a free pass, read the lower left panel.

  • I know you’re not being selective. I eagerly await your future attacks on other Jewish symbols and holidays.

    Can you start with the Kotel? When I visited recently I was having a sublime and rare spiritual moment when some schmuck dressed like a Jew from Poland circa 1600s approached me and asked for “charity.” It completely ruined the experience for me and then I realized he was doing it to other people as well.

    I’m angry about this, so let’s have at people like him, the Temple Mount, the Kotel and any other symbol you think we might be able to rip apart effectively. After all, it’s our heritage to destroy.

  • But Sarah. Weren’t the Puritans trying their best to be Orthodox Jews, without knowing it, or who knows, maybe they did know it? They wanted a non-Italian Christianity, as close as possible to what they called “the Old Testament”. Black and white clothes too.

  • Wait, is that humor?

    Where’s the hypocrisy in asking for charity?

    Now if he’d behaved cruelly towards you because you were, say, not the same type of Jew as he is, or if you were a woman, now there would be something to ridicule. Because he would be using religion to dehumanize another human being.

    But charity? I don’t get it. What’s wrong with tzedakkah in Jewish tradition? Why are you coming up with such an insipid and inappropriate example?

  • Oh wait, you mean that we get to pick the aspects of Judaism that we do like and they get a pass?

    By the way, I was gravely offended that he didn’t let me finish what I was doing. It was rude and disruptive. After he left me, I watched him appraoch a man who was literally leaning against the Wall in prayer and interrupted him.

  • This week is not the real Chanuka in the Shtels of American Orthodox Jews. The real Chanuka for the Black Hat crowd celebration takes place from approximately January 18 -January 28 and is called “Mid Winter Vacation” That’s when the airfare is low (such a metzia!) and we can all go to North Miami or Har Nof.
    Of course if you can’t afford those trips then it’s called “let the kids lay around while you try to entertain them without a tv and try to find babysitting coverage if you work”, but somehow, the Yeshiva administrations consider it a very important time of year to take ten days off.

    As for the stupid cow who let her sons jump, maybe if she had more help in tent and a florida vacation once in a while she wouldn’t have let them do it, but she’s no role model in my book.

  • Wait, have you all noticed how many ways Hanukkah has been spelled here? Don’t think I didn’t notice your orthographic shenanigans TM!

    Yeah. So EV and DK – you kinda gotta take responsibility for the style and content of your cartoon. I mean I know what you were trying to say, and you enunciated it well here, but still.

    Sometimes circumstances dictate the solution and had the Maccabees not been ruthless, well, probably none of us would be here today. I can say this in full knowledge of the fact that the Hasmonean dynasty turned out to be corrupt, debased and unjust. I learned this at my Orthodox Day School where no attempt was made by my black hat Rabbis to whitewash our people’s history. Even with all that, I’m glad we had the Maccabees when we did, especially if the alternative was to lose Judaism entirely. Judaism idealizes peace it’s true, but not at the expense of life.

    I know, I know, Al-Quaeda feels the same way. But I still think comparing the Maccabees to contemporary terrorists is facile and simplistic, oh and did I mention grossly simplistic? This point was one made by Hitchens, Almond and Sieradski (but not EV and DK). This argument is so idiotic I feel gross even acknowledging it – as if I were arguing with someone who called my Mother a whore, forcing me to explain that my Mom was at home every night taking care of me and my sisters and not down at the docks blowing sailors for $5. See what I mean? Gross.

    But the fact remains that their analysis was one sided and barely mentioned that the Hellenists, Jew and Gentile alike, were complicit in horrific crimes against those Jews who merely wished to practice their religion freely.

    Anyhoo, I’m glad we’re talking these things out and please, by all means, do not eat pork on Chanukah or ever. Not on my account anyway.

  • Don’t get me started on the Jews that ate pork in the Camps…they went on to survive the Holocaust and rebuild families.
    The righteous martyrs who wouldn’t eat treif are nothin’ but D E A D (or maybe they are at the all you can eat treif buffet in Heaven where the lobster and bbq pork ribs never stop coming and which I hope is next store to Rock n Roll Heaven)
    Stayin’ alive:good. Dying for the sake of heaven:extremist, fanatic and bad.

  • There’s a Yiddish joke. Translated it goes like this:

    A rabbi of a small town is good friends with a wealthy Christian merchant, and they meet often for a chat. One day, the rabbi drops by that merchant to find him feasting on a large lunch of six pork cutlets and wine in his study. The merchant offers the rabbi to share his lunch with him, but the rabbi denies kindly, stating he couldn’t eat non-kosher. The merchant finishes off the cutlets, then helps himself to some wine. He offers the rabbi a glass full, but the rabbi kindly denies, stating he couldn’t have it as it was not kosher. “But Rabbi, is there no way you could eat or drink something non-kosher?” “Nu, under threat of death, I don’t have to keep kosher.” The merchant instantly pulls a gun out of a drawer and points it at the rabbi. “Drink.” The rabbi pours down a glass of wine. “More.” The rabbi has another glass of wine. The merchant puts away his gun. “Wasn’t that excellent? Hope you aren’t upset at me now.” “I am upset at you as you didn’t use your gun when you ate the cutlets.”

    (I’ll admit those jokes lose their particular charm in translation.)

  • “…Orthodox Day School where no attempt was made by my Black hat Rabbis to whitewash our people’s history”


  • Good joke, Sarah…

    It didn’t lose anything in translation. 🙂

  • When you celebrate Chanukah behind what was the iron curtain, in Poland, with people who were forbidden to practice their religious beliefs openly…

    When you see Jews rejecting invisibility and standing up for who there are…

    When you see Jews at the forefront of movements for social change…

    Remember, that without the Maccabees/Hasmoneans — warts and all — most likely we would not be around to win any Nobel prizes.

  • Hitchens’ depiction of “an ancient and cruel faith” as such would be funny if it weren’t so cruelly ignorant. Greek civilization inevitably gave way to Rome – a society that thought nothing of a very Spartan type of infanticide that allowed fathers to kill their offspring immediately after birth with a simple acceptance or rejection ritual that left the unfortunate off a cliff or atop a high place to starve or be sacrificed; dominion over the lives of luckier descendants never ended – this was a right that they retained perpetually until their own death – so imagine the political intrigues that led to. In any event, while the Jews respected their forebears’ origins, it was a tradition of ethical prophecy rather than mere military prowess they revered and a fifth commandment rather than the ancestor worshiping traditions of the Romans that has endured until today. The appeal of these innovations, even if transmitted through the vehicle of Christianity, is why the the Roman Empire, that later begat Western civilization, stopped being pagan. Hitchens is either out of his element or neglecting to market atheism as a successor to previous ethical innovations within religious traditions because, well apparently, that just doesn’t seem to appeal to people. Or maybe it just takes him off message from a stance that might require more contempt than historical wisdom.

  • Hey, why do we need Mel Gibson, anti-Semites and Israel-hating goyim to make us hate ourselves?

    We’ve got Jewcy!

    Hey, Jewcy, why don’t go outside and play hide and go fuck yourselves?

    Even better, sew your foreskins back on so you don’t have to pretend to be Jews anymore!

    Happy Hanukah, you self-hating motherfuckers!

    Don’t forget to not write!

  • Whoa, Ephraim!

    Look, Muffti is at a complete loss as to what the issue is here. In fact, so far as he can tell, there isn’t one. (1) there is nothing wrong, Muffti takes it, with knowing your history and when the history is fraught with certain ironies, there isnt’ anything wrong with poking fun at them a la EV and Kelsey. (2) Pointing out the bad in an event shouldn’t prevent one from appreciating the good. Or even from using it as a symbol, relgious icon or so forth. One of the geniuses of Muffti’s preferred inquiry, philosophy and logic, was Frege whose diaries reveal him to be a proto-nazi. Obviously Muffti finds that reprehensible but is he going to quit lionizing him as a genius of modern logic? Extremely unlikely.

    So what is the argument here actually about? TM, you’re right that channuka stands as a symbol independantly of some unsavoury facts in the story. Kelsey and EV, you two are right to point out the unsavory parts and mock them in an artistic manner. So far as Muffti can tell, everyone is right which means, ipso crapso there is no argument here.

  • Well I thought Ephraim made a good point. That article was just fucking annoying. I mean reading the story in a catholic bible while talking about ya shiksa wife to be was a bit much to swallow. And I don’t mind swallowing. Latkes ofcourse

  • I find ignorance and foul language to be more annoying than diversity. But then again, I’m European…

  • You guys are still here ! 😉

    In fact Hannuka is not about the freedom to do whatever you want. It is about the freedom to serve God.

    And a number you would not have done well under the hasmonians at all! But you might have been left alone if you didn’t actively join the other side. There were hellenized Jews who joined the Greeks (hmmm not much different than today!).

    -no point in screwing up history.

  • Mocking one’s traditions “in an artistic manner” is one thing, Muffti.

    Shitting all over them is another.

    I’m so fucking sick of “hipster” “Judaism”. Oooohhh, look how transgressive we are. Fear us, you pathetic squares! We are the new face of Judaism!

    Actually, no, you’re not.

    You’re just a bunch, of navel-gazing, self-involved, alienated losers who have been mind-fucked by gentile culture into being ashamed of being Jews. yeah, that’ll stand the test of time.

    Grow the fuck up, get the fuck over yourselves, and learn something about who you are and where you came from before vomiting all over Yiddishkeit, thinking you’re making some kind of bold statement.

    Learning about Chanuka from a Catholic Bible, while trying to teach your gentile fiance, who is “converting” about Judaism?

    I mean, WTF is the matter with you?


  • Ephraim, you’re entitled to disagree with people, but that kind of language hopefully is not what your parents taught you to use.

  • Sarah,
    The truth is that he doesn’t even have to ‘disagree’ with people.

    Most of the people here have already turned their backs on Judaism: they have intermarried or are in the process of intermarrying or are ‘OK’ with it.

    Most of them are ignorant and have taken their westernized upbringing and are trying to mold Judaism to fit that. In that vein they defend every corruption of Judaism they come across.

    They in fact wouldn’t know a Jewish concept if it hit them in the head.

    These people active to torpedo Judaism were exactly who the Macabees were against.
    Read “Down with Hanukkah”

  • Nope. Learned it all by myself.

    Some things deserve nothing but derision and contempt. I make no apologies. What these people stand for is a dagger aimed at the heart of the Jewish people. They should be ashamed of themselves.