This year, on the last night of the holiday, as the candles in our menorah flickered out with puffs of smoke, I thought of the meaning of Hanukkah. We celebrate a long-ago victory in a fight for religious freedom. I grew up listening to the story of how the Maccabees, a group of rebel Jewish warriors, fought a three-year war against the Syrians.
The seeds of this rebellion were planted many years earlier as embers of prejudice against the Jewish religion grew into flames. Ultimately, thousands of Jews were murdered. Serving under the rule of Rome, the Syrian king of Judea enacted a series of harsh decrees prohibiting Jewish worship. Sacred religious texts were confiscated and burned. Sabbath rest, circumcision and Jewish dietary laws were prohibited under penalty of death. The Maccabees fought to regain the right to practice their people’s faith.
After their final victory, the Maccabees entered the holy temple in Jerusalem to find it had been defiled, with the altar used to sacrifice pigs to the Roman god Zeus. Upon cleaning the temple, building a new altar and preparing to welcome Jewish worshipers back, it was discovered that there was only a day’s supply of pure olive oil available. The olive oil was used to fuel the temple’s menorah, a candelabrum which had endured as a symbol of Judaism since the earliest days of Jewish history.
Runners were dispatched to a distant location to secure the olive oil. The round-trip took eight days. Miraculously, the menorah continued to burn the whole time until the fresh supply arrived, despite there being only enough fuel for a single day. This miracle has been celebrated by Jews the world over ever since.
That was not the first or last time that mockery, hatred, bigotry, repression and slaughter were directed at a group simply because their beliefs differed from others. The history of mankind is replete with such insanity.
It always begins with the gradual dehumanizing of a group. The group becomes the target for those with an urge to promote an agenda, sell copy or indulge in malicious gossip. It starts with jokes, lies, rumors and a general besmirching by stereotype. The dehumanizing content is then forwarded via the media and word of mouth.
Historians and social scientists have documented in detail the elements which cause a people to turn away from their normal social behavior to a dark side where unspeakable actions occur and become accepted as “deserved” or “normal.” It always begins with the gradual dehumanizing of a group. The group becomes the target for those with an urge to promote an agenda, sell copy or indulge in malicious gossip. It starts with jokes, lies, rumors and a general besmirching by stereotype. The dehumanizing content is then forwarded via the media and word of mouth.
We then can see the dehumanization escalate into slavery, war or genocide. Such has been the history of the Jewish people. Virtually every minority group can point to a time or times when they were at the sharp end of another group’s sword. The early Christians, various Muslim sects, entire races and nationalities have been bludgeoned to death by the “judgment” of “proper” people.
Why don’t we learn the lesson that every generation who has experienced these horrors tries to teach us? Why does “never forget” turn into “it’s not the same” as history repeats itself?
I am a Jew and a Scientologist. And I will not forget. As a Jew, I have a deep emotional commitment to eradicating hatred and bigotry of any sort. As a Scientologist, I belong to a group that has dedicated itself to building a world “without insanity, without criminals and without war.” Scientology has the tools to accomplish this. There are those who would prevent us from getting this job done. These are the “proper” people who belittle our aims and deride our faith.
I salute friends and allies of every race, creed and religion who are determined to “never forget.” Tolerance and love of one’s fellow man goes a long way to securing freedom for all. We have learned that “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” May we resolve to work together until “never forget” turns into “never again.”
Happy holidays to all!