What does archaeology in Israel tell us about Hanukkah?

JPost One-on-One Zoomcast , Episode 43 - Rossella Tercatin and Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon: Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist explains what archaeology can teach us about Hanukkah.

What does archaeology in Israel tell us about Hanukkah?

Between November 28 and December 6, Jews in Israel and all over the world will celebrate the festival of Hanukkah, light candles, eat fried delicacies and remember the heroic deeds of the Maccabee family who led a victorious war against the Seleucid kingdom which had desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post’s Zoomcast series, Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority and director of excavation at the Western Wall Plaza explained what archaeology can teach about the period and the festival.

“Around mid-2nd century BCE, the Seleucid empire ruling Israel was in political and financial trouble,” Monnickendam-Givon said. “In 176, King Antiochus IV, which we know as Antiochus Harasha in Hebrew, the evil Antiochus, marched to Egypt to conquer the Ptolemaic Kingdom.”

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“His campaign failed and in his retreat he marched through Israel,” he further said. “At its center was the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. At that time, temples were also banks, a lot of money and treasures were kept in them. Antiochus wanted to rob it and finance his failed campaign. This was the background behind the anti-Jewish sentiment and laws that we know from the story of Hanukkah.”

These specific events have left little archaeological evidence, since it is rare to find remains of battles, Monnickendam-Givon noted.

However, all over Israel countless sites offer important insights into the story of the Hasmonean dynasty which started with the Maccabee family and into its war with the Seleucids that went on for decades.

Fortresses, buildings and artifacts also shed light on the cultural battle that took place in the period, showing how Greek culture influenced life and habits of the Jews in the land of Israel.