Irony of Ages

July 9, 2009 at 09:04 1 comment

The time for the next Maccabiah, that is the Jewish Olympics, is fast approaching. Every four years, Jewish athletes from the Diaspora and Israeli athletes meet in noble sportive combat. The whole circus is organized by the Maccabi World Union.

The name of the games is taken from the Maccabees, the leaders of the Jewish revolt against the Greeks and Hellenized Jews in the second century B.C.E.. Those guys reestablished Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel for a few generations, until the Romans moved in, and for millennia the only celebration of their efforts was the minor holiday of Chanukkah.

When early Zionists, eager to wash away the stigma of Jewish weakness and humiliation in their attempts to create a new Jew, established this sporting event celebrating the Muskeljude, the Maccabees seemed like an obvious choice.

That’s all very nice I guess, but isn’t it ironic (in the Alanis Morisette-way), that the original Maccabees actually risked their lives revolting against the very same Greek culture that stands as the model for the modern games that carry their name?


Entry filed under: Judaism, Life.

Kashua’s Law So It Shall Be Written

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Benjamin  |  July 9, 2009 at 20:25

    Good point!

    What’s even more ironic is that the descendants of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, became more Hellenized with each generation. Even the names of the Hasmonean kings start Jewish and go Greek:

    * Jonathan Maccabaeus 153–142 BC
    * Simon Maccabaeus 142–134 BC
    * John Hyrcanus I 134–104 BC
    * Aristobulus I 104–103 BC
    * Alexander Jannaeus 103–76 BC
    * Alexandra Salome (Queen) 76–67 BC
    * John Hyrcanus II 76–66 BC
    * Aristobulus II 66–63 BC
    * John Hyrcanus II 63–40 BC
    * Antigonus 40–37 BC

    It was during the power struggle between Alexandra Salome’s two sons, John Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, that they invited the Romans to Judea to determine the rightful king. The emerging super power took the opportunity to station troops in the region and gain a foothold in the land. Something that would have disastrous consequences for the Jews and reverberate throughout our history to this day.

    So in a way the irony comes full circle when the Hellenic games are named after the Maccabees. But maybe it should more properly be renamed The Hasmonean Games….


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