12 December 2007

Ami vs Hitch on Hanukkah: that was too easy

That broadside against Hanukkah by Christopher Hitchens caused a mixed reaction in the camp of Hitch's followers and in that other camp. I was rather amused by that piece.

When Hitch unequivocally states that:

And so we have a semiofficial celebration of Hanukkah, complete with menorah, to celebrate not the ignition of a light but the imposition of theocratic darkness.
he is rather, in the inertia of his monumental (no cynicism here) drive against theocracies of all kinds, throwing the baby away with the water. Besides pissing off lots of people for no good reason, he should have studied the history of that specific holiday.

As I have mentioned, being a surfing lightweight with a short memory, I would have forgotten about this unsuccessful lunge of Hitch's sword, if it were not for a repartee by Ami Isseroff, who is a formidable opponent for anyone, Hitch included. In this post, which I recommend to both pro- and anti-Hitchenits, Ami neatly demolished that unfortunate article. Just a few quotes, and then read the whole yourself.

The first quote is chosen for its superb acidity:
From Hitchens' point of view, the victory of the American colonists in 1776 was a victory of colonial provincialism and particularism over the magnificent culture and traditions of the British Empire, whilst the expulsion of the British from India must be regretted as a victory of paganism and backwardness over European civilization. Hitchens should also have pointed out that if the story of Passover is true, the Jews escaped from the benefits of the sophisticated culture of Egypt into the primitive wilds of the Sinai desert.
And the second actually demolishes the main postulate of Hitch's grumble:

Hanukkah was not well beloved of Jewish zealots, because the Maccabees were Hellenizers, and because the victory elevated a civil authority as central to the Jewish people, eclipsing the priesthood.
An my own two cents: Hitch clearly doesn't understand the spirit of Hanukkah as it is celebrated today. First of all, like Purim (which could be also reconstructed by Hitch as celebration of backward Jooz gaining an upper hand over the enlightenment of Persian Empire), Hanukkah is mainly a kids' holiday, beloved for many happy reasons (one of them being the presents they get).

Secondly, we have that Maccabee beer - not bad at all. And than, there is a tradition of Maccabee Tel-Aviv giving a bloody nose to a Greek team on the eve of this holiday, which couldn't be all bad, you have to agree...

And the last argument - this time against Hellenism: if I were forced to choose between Hellenism and Judaism (which I am not, thanks Zeus), I would have chosen the latter in a jiffy. How does a normal person cope with such a shitload of gods is absolutely mind-boggling - I barely remember my kids' birthdays. Comparatively, Judaism is what is called today streamlining, I believe...