Maccabees won, Jews still speak Hebrew: Future generations stand strong

We continue our ancient tradition and it gives us the strength to join together in our shared future.

A symbol of a 'chanuckia', used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, is displayed on the Old City walls of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2015. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple. The festival is observed by  (photo credit: MENDY HECHTMAN/FLASH90)
A symbol of a 'chanuckia', used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, is displayed on the Old City walls of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2015. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple. The festival is observed by
(photo credit: MENDY HECHTMAN/FLASH90)
While lighting Chanukah candles, my thoughts wander to a time many years ago, in the village of Modi’in, where Matityahu, surrounded by his five sons, faced dozens, perhaps hundreds, of soldiers – and declared war on the Greek empire.  Looking back on this event it seems crazy.  What was Matityahu thinking? That he could beat the great Greeks? That he could topple the entire empire? It was a hopeless war!
In my imagination, I can picture the huge army standing across from this small group, their fortresses and fortifications, the elephants of war and all their ammunition. Many against few in a war with seemingly no chance of victory. What was the Maccabees’ secret? How did they beat the Greeks? To understand this, we have to understand who the Maccabees were.
When Matityahu called out “Whoever is for G-d, join me,” he did not intend to expand his land or build himself a kingdom. The war waged by Matityahu and his sons, the Maccabees, was never about control. The Maccabees did not fight to conquer land or property. 
They stood alone in the face of the strongest empire in the world and fought for one and only one reason – for the right to stay who they were, to remain the sons of their parents and the grandchildren of their grandparents. They fought to be part of the Jewish chain of generations that reached up to them and whose existence was now wholly in their hands. 
That’s what they fought for and that’s the war they won. How big was their victory? I challenge you to find one child in Greece who speaks, reads and writes ancient Greek. Or to go to Rome to find one person who still worships Roman gods.  But here, at the Western Wall, and everywhere you can find Jews in the world, we speak the language of our ancestors. We read and write Hebrew. 
We continue our ancient tradition and it gives us the strength to join together in our shared future.
There are those who explain the name Maccabee as standing for the Hebrew words of the verse “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?” The Maccabees offered a contrast to the popular Greek gods; a different faith and a proud and independent Jewish identity. 
This identity was preserved and passed from father to son and from mother to daughter throughout the generations until today.
During these days of Chanukah, we are grateful to the Maccabees, who faced a tremendous culture and persevered. Thanks to them, we can all see ourselves as those for whom that same miracle happened. This is our generation’s time to preserve the miracle of the rebellion, to preserve Jewish identity and to keep the light of the Jewish nation burning for generations to come.