The real meaning of Hanukka

What Does Hanukka Mean To You?

What is Hanukka really about?

Is it the story of "Hanukka Joe" (i.e., the Jewish Santa Claus)?

How about the "Hanukka bush" (the Jewish version of a Christmas tree)?

I know: it's about PRESENTS. LOTS more presents in potential than the gentile kids get, right? After all, we Jews have Hanukkah for eight days, while they, poor souls, have only one. Never mind that nobody's parents ever gives them presents on every day of Hanukkah. If you get them on two or three days, you're pretty lucky, no? 
When I was a child in suburban America, it was the presents that were important. Yeah, there was something about a menorah and lighting candles, but that wasn't what grabbed our attention.

There Must Be More To It Than That

Let's look for a moment at what religious Jews add to their three-times-daily prayers during the eight days of Hanukkah (emphasis is mine):

"We thank You [God] for: the miracles, and for the salvation, and for the brave deeds, and for the VICTORIES, and for the WARS that you did for us, in those days, at this time."

Wow. This seems to be saying that the origins of Hanukkah lie in some kind of military victory. The text continues:

"In the days of Yochanan the son of Mattitiyahu the High Priest, the Hasmonean, and his sons - when the wicked kingdom of Greece stood against Your People Israel to cause them to forget Your Torah and to pull them away from the laws of Your will - You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong.

You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the impure into the hands of the pure, the many into the hands of the few, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of those who studied Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in the world, and You performed a great victory and salvation as this day.

And afterward, Your sons came to the Holy of Holies of Your House and cleaned out Your Temple and purified Your Sanctuary, and lit candles in Your holy courtyards, and established these eight days of Hanukkah for thanks and praise for Your great name."
Hanukka And Modern Zionism

To paraphrase: Ancient Hanukkah was a military victory by the Jewish Maccabees over the foreign domination of Israel by the Hellenistic Syrian Seleucids. In some ways, it  looks like - modern Zionism. It's about Jewish ideals and survival. It's about the willingness to fight in order to survive as a nation in the Land of Israel. And Hanukkah is focused on a particular location: what is today called the Temple Mount, the peak of the Moriah mountain where the great Temples stood for nearly 1000 years. Hanukkah was the liberation movement of the People of Israel, the grass-roots effort of a nation seeking to throw off the yoke of  foreign culture that strove to erase the very roots of Jewish civilization.
Hanukka and the Temple Mount

Could it be that we need the spirit of the Maccabees today? Look what is happening on the Temple Mount, the very place that our ancestors fought for and wrested from foreign control:

It is time that we awaken to the calling of the Maccabees. The time has come for the Jewish people to do more than just lighting candles and exchanging presents. We must prepare to ascend to our destiny on Mount Moriah, and wrest it from the hands of those who so clearly seek our annihilation. Like our Maccabean ancestors, we must once again light the candles of the menorah on that holy mountain, and thereby illuminate the whole world with the light of love and knowledge. That is our true destiny, and the real meaning of Hanukkah.