-"We come not to these lands as a foreign conqueror. Our forefathers were forcefully expelled from our God-given lands by the Babylonians and by His grace, we are back in our homeland. We are returning to what is rightfully ours. You are sitting on our lands and the time has come for you to remove yourselves from them."

This clear and unapologetic statement was made by Yochanan Horkinus the Macabbee leader 2,100 years ago.

After His father and uncles(the five Maccabee brothers) won a prolonged war of liberation and religious liberty from the Greek world power, Yochanan turned his attention to the pockets of foreign occupation that developed during the generations of Jewish exile and military impotence.
That had now changed with the astounding routing of successive vast Greek armies.
It was time to reassert Jewish sovereignty in all the land of Israel.
That meant all those peoples who have filled the vacuum and trespassed while the Jews were in exile.
The process of reconquest led to the establishment of the widest borders since the time of King David and Solomon.

Fast forward two thousand years.
The Jewish people miraculously return from, not seventy years of exile but close to two thousand, culminating with the worst blow ever delivered to the Jewish people or any people ever.

Despite impossible odds, the tattered remains of the Jewish people rebuilt (bought before being attacked) and claimed their homeland; the same one that Yochanan the Macabbee reclaimed twenty-one hundred years ago.
The liberation of the land came in stages and at a heavy price - just as it was in the times of the Maccabees.
Who is not familiar with the amazing history-making dates, nineteen forty-eight and nineteen sixty-seven?

However, unlike the Maccabees, the leaders of the modern returnees did not possess the belief that it was God that has indeed wrought these extraordinary miracles for us.
They would never dare make a speech such as Yochanan the Maccabee did when returning to the land.

Another watershed date will always be remembered in Jewish history as the exact opposite of the 1948 and 1967 miracles and certainly unlike the events or twenty-one hundred years ago.

I refer to 1993 and the perfidious, nefarious, "Oslo" agreements.
Instead of claiming and securing sovereignty over lands liberated in the miraculous Six Day War of 1967, our "leaders" INVITED those who CLAIMED our land as their own to settle on it and then, armed them in order for them to PROTECT us!
It cost us, so far, thousands of Jewish lives.

All this is well known recent historic tragedy.

The entire saga returned to me yesterday when I attended a tour of the Macabeean palaces in Jericho.
I visited this unique (there are no other Maccabean remains found in Israel) site years ago, before the dangers and restrictions that the Oslo "peace" created.
I remember being wowed by the enormity of the find and feeling directly atttached to the Macabbees at that moment and place.
The palaces, swimming pools, the mikvah, and especially the synagogue were spectacular.
It was an impressive excavation that stood by itself with no buildings or agriculture anywhere near it.
It stood alone in its brilliance as a rare gem should.

Though I have since discussed the find that I was privileged to see many years ago with tourists, as we bypass Jericho (area "A" - a no-go area for Jews), I have not been back there for many years. The Oslo peace, you know.

Yesterday, Chanukah I returned.
The excavations are in "area C". This, according to the Oslo agreement is an area under full Israeli control, as opposed to A and B in which Jews are very sternly warned not to enter due to great potential physical harm (at the hands of our peace partners whom we have graciously armed).
Despite it being in area C and an official Israel national park, the authorities do not allow free Jewish access due to what they deem political/security considerations since it is near area A.
Complicated, I know..

A number of groups have petitioned the military administration in charge of the "territories" to allow Jews to visit the spectacular site - at least once a year, on Chanukah.
After much effort, permission was granted for one day (out of the entire year).
That is how I found myself attending a tour of a site that I had seen with such ease and comfort years ago. This time there was a very large military presence that protected us from the locals who entered "our" area C with impunity.
I suppose the force was also there to make sure that Jews did not wander off into "their" territory which would have been a major political issue or perhaps even a lynching.

The site is almost unrecognizable.

The Arabs use the surrounding areas as garbage dumps. Where I saw, years ago, open spaces around the site, now are cluttered with an assortment of huts, animal pens, hothouses, and garbage. Arabs continually damage the priceless artifacts.

It was explained to us that the Arab presence near the site is indeed area C - ours, BUT the Israeli authorities just do not enforce the law. This criminal negligence is common all over the "territories" - except when it comes to enforcing the law against Jews. In that case, there are never a lack of resources or determination - or cruelty on the part of the Israeli authorities..

Needless to say, my Chanuka visit to the Macabee palace made me think of my last visit there so many years ago; the one that filled me with pride and joy; the one that made it very clear why I left the USA and came home.
It made me think of the speech given by Yochanan, the one that was the exact opposite of the warning on the big red signs that forbid Jews to enter parts of our beloved land (this is the true apartheid in Israel).

Yesterday I and many others on the tour asked ourselves, why? Why?
Where are the Maccabees today? Where?

Do not miss my amazing winter Negev tour on Sunday, December 23

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