The film Emperors and Rebels: The True Story of Hanukah

Introduction by the Producer, Asaf Golan

Presented as opening remarks at University of Central Florida on November 30, 2004

I am often asked why Hanukah? I was born on Hanukah and that I suppose made me wonder more about it.

But before I began the documentary a Jewish film producer heard I was writing a novel about the Maccabees. He asked me “Why did we fight against the Greek culture? It’s such a beautiful culture.” I told him, “You would not say that if you knew about their culture.”

Let me give you an example by what I mean. The Greek and Roman societies are almost exactly the same. A Roman historian named Tacitus said: “They (the Jews) have introduced circumcision to show that they are different from others… It is a crime among them to kill any newly born infant.”

The Abortion debate aside, in the Hellenistic culture, if you were a newborn child and blind or physically deformed, mentally retarded, a product of an adulterous affair, or maybe you’re just a girl --- you would be taken to the market, or the city gates and left there exposed.

If someone wanted to adopt a child they might pick you up. If they wanted a slave, you might be chosen. But if you died from the heat, the cold, hunger, thirst, from the bites of a hungry rabid rat, well - that was all right too.

One reason why the Jews were hated in Grecian cities was because they would pick these children up and raise them. Here is what a Greek or Roman would say to such a person: "What is good must be set apart from the good for nothing.”

This was the Hellenistic culture. Let me emphasize that this was not what the Maccabees fought against. The Maccabees fought the King’s decrees forbidding us the Sabbath rest, our dietary laws, and circumcision rights. When these decrees were recalled (after the death of Antiochus) most of the Jews stopped fighting. The Hasmoneans however continued the fight, this time to achieve political independence. They believed that without political independence another tyrant would come and do the same thing--forbid us the right of circumcision, as did in fact happen in 130 BCE which generated the Bar Kochva rebellion.


(Return to the 2004 UCF Hanukah page)


© Copyright ISFSP International Society for Sephardic Progress