This past Friday, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket into southern Israel without any provocation, setting off air-raid sirens and rekindling fears of a return to this past summer’s hostilities.
Indeed, although barely four months have passed since the end of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas is said to be actively preparing for the next round of conflict, rebuilding its network of terror tunnels and working to improve the accuracy of its arsenal.
It is no wonder, then, that Israel’s Military Intelligence is forecasting a possible resumption of fighting in 2015.
The Gaza conundrum, which has been a nettlesome thorn in the Jewish state’s side for years, in particular since the Hamas takeover of the area, continues to befuddle successive Israeli governments. Pinpoint air-strikes, restrictions on the importation of goods, limited ground incursions and larger-scale military operations have all failed to quash the growing threat posed by Hamas in Gaza, leaving many to wonder if there is any way to put an end to this ongoing peril.
The answer is a resounding “yes!” and we need only look to the Maccabees, the heroes of Hanukka, to see how it can be done.
It was in the year 145 BCE, some two decades after the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the oil, that the Hasmonean king Jonathan, the youngest of Matityahu’s five sons, attacked Gaza and its hostile population.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother Judah the Maccabee, Jonathan heroically proceeded to subdue his foes.
As the historian Josephus writes in his The Antiquities of the Jews (Volume 13, 5:5), “[H] e set a part of his army round about Gaza itself, so with the rest he overran their land, and spoiled it, and burnt what was in it. When the people of Gaza saw themselves in this state of affliction... so they sent to Jonathan, and professed they would be his friends, and afford him assistance.” In other words, Jonathan conquered the area, pacified it thoroughly and compelled Gaza’s residents to plead for peace.
Nonetheless, despite their professions of amity, Gaza’s residents continued to agitate against Israel, leading Simon the Maccabee, who had succeeded Jonathan, to conclude what his brother had started.
As recounted in the First Book of Maccabees, “In those days, Simon camped against Gaza and besieged it round about. He made also an engine of war and set it by the city, and battered a certain tower and took it.”
Simon’s soldiers entered Gaza city, which led the local populace to “cry with a loud voice beseeching Simon to grant them peace.” They implored the Maccabee: “Deal not with us according to our wickedness but according to your mercy.”
Simon agreed, but not before taking a series of measures to try and ensure that Gaza would never again pose a threat.
Among these, he “placed such men there as would keep the law, and made it stronger than it was before,” essentially reimposing security on the unruly strip of land. Simon also sent Jews to settle the area, and he even built himself a home in Gaza, as if to underline the fact that the Jewish people had every intention of remaining.
But even these measures did not quell the Gaza problem.
It was only when Alexander Jannaeus, Matityahu’s great-grandson, captured the city in the year 100 BCE that the threat was finally ended and the southwestern border of the Hasmonean Jewish state enjoyed some long-sought peace. Alexander, Josephus tells us, “had utterly overthrown their city... having spent a year in that siege.”
It is remarkable how history can seemingly repeat itself, even after a stretch of more than 2,000 years. For nowadays, just like the Maccabees we find ourselves contending repeatedly with a hostile Gaza, one that claims to want peace yet which does not miss an opportunity to attack or undermine us. Recurrent military operations, like those of Jonathan and Simon the Maccabees, bring temporary peace and quiet to the area, but it is only once an Alexander thoroughly defeats Gaza and brings it under full control that the anti-Israel violence will be brought to an end.
There’s a lesson here that the Jewish state of today desperately needs to learn.
Like the Maccabees of old, we must stand firm, mustering up the courage and determination that are necessary to defeat our foes, be they in Gaza or elsewhere. We cannot and must not tolerate a situation in which Gaza becomes a platform for prolonged warfare against Israel, nor can we sit by idly while Hamas arms itself to attack us. It is therefore time for Israel to embrace the Maccabean solution to Gaza, and deliver a decisive blow to the Palestinian terrorist groups which controls it.
Just as the Hanukka candles that we kindle each night stand ramrod straight, giving off light in defiance of their surroundings, so too must Israel now do the same, taking the initiative to forestall the possibility of thousands of rockets raining down on the country in 2015 or beyond.
It took the Maccabees nearly five decades to realize that Gaza had to be totally and unconditionally defeated. Let’s learn from their experience and put an end to this problem once and for all.