The Lights in the Clear Air

Last week the air was so clear in Israel that I could see all the way to Mt. Hermon, about two hundred kilometers away. I saw the snow-capped Syrian Hermon. That is to say: it was so clear that I could see from the very middle of the country, in Samaria, all the way to beyond our border.
Really, in Israel the air is also always so clear that you can see really far, all the way back to two or three thousand years ago. For example, I can look down, from my home in Eli, to the valley below, and I can see the Seleucid-Greek army, elephants and all, marching on their way to force their rule on a people by suppressing a group of Jewish patriots they think of as "Jewish bandits". They don't know it yet – but I do, with hindsight – that just beyond the bend in the valley, up on the hilltops where today the Jewish community of Ma'ale Levona sits, the fighters of the Maccabees, with Judah in the lead, are waiting in ambush to swoop down and rout the foreign Seleucid army. Not too long after this and a few more victories, Judah will lead his followers to cleanse the Temple that was desecrated by the supposedly pluralistic, tolerant Hellenist society.
I see the Maccabees especially well this week, the week of Chanuka, when we light candles to connect to the successful fight that was fought then for spiritual independence, the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation everywhere and for all time. I think that as the Jewish fighters, with Judah the Maccabee, quietly and quickly pass through the valley to take up positions for the planned ambush – they look up and see me, too, because the clarity of air in the Holy Land works both ways. As Judah looks up he raises his hand in salute to me, because I represent his future, as I salute him from whom I take inspiration. We bond through the spirit of Judaism that stems from the twin source, the Torah and the Holy Land, which define our religious, national identity.
As the sun sets I light the Chanukah candles, reminiscent of the candles lit in the Temple in Jerusalem. When I look down again, I see the rearguard of the ancient Jewish army, under the command of Shimon, another of the five sons of Matityahu, the Maccabees. Years later he will lead the people in freeing parts of the Holy Land, including Jaffa and Gezer. It will be then that a Seleucid king, representing a European-sourced empire, will accuse Shimon and the Jews of seizing and occupying land that doesn't belong to them. Shimon will answer: "We have not taken a foreign land, nor do we rule over foreign possessions. Rather: the land of our forefathers that was in the hands of our enemies for some time after having been unjustly seized from us – when the time and opportunity came, we returned this land, our inheritance, to our sovereignty".
Shimon will see me light the candles just outside my home, in a land that is once again being falsely labeled by Europeans and others as a land foreign to me and me to it. He will smile at me, as if to say: "I've been there. We've all been there before. You'll get through it. Truth and justice will prevail if you will it, merit it, and work hard at it with a pioneering spirit, with God's help".
Some people in the world are blind to the vile motivation fermenting in the minds behind fingers pulling triggers to kill innocents. Some misrepresent, or are ignorant of the truth, morality and justice of the cause of those who wish only to build a better society in their homeland, to be a blessing to the world.
Yesterday in the early morning I saw Shechem and Elon Moreh, where Abraham first arrived in the Holy Land. Then I went to the synagogue for the Sabbath morning prayers, during which my new grandson was entered into the covenant of Abraham.
Peace and spiritual light to all!