'Scientists On The Trains' Hannuka Lecture on Maccabees Departing from Modiin

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'Scientists On The Trains' Hannuka Lecture on Maccabees Departing from Modiin

Second lecture in series by Hebrew U., Israel Railways

Jerusalem, 16 December, 2009 - Commuters on Israel's trains will be transported back into history next week with the second Scientists on the Trains lectures on 'Stories of the Maccabees: What really happened?' to coincide with the festival of Hannuka.

This is the second in a series of lectures by leading experts from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in cooperation with Israel Railways, for passengers on different Israel Railways lines across Israel over the coming year, under the title: 'Scientists on the Trains'. The next lecture will take place on Wednesday, December 16 on the Modiin-Binyamina line and will be delivered by Prof. Isaiah Gafni from the department of History of the Jewish People and former chair of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University.

TrainThe train's departure from the town of Modiin has particular significance for this Hannuka lecture. Ancient Modiin was the original location of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty that ruled Judea in the second and first centuries B.C.E., and where the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks began.

According to Prof. Gafni, "The story of the Hasmoneans has come down to us through various channels, all of which were very tendentious - rather than telling us what really happened. One of the earliest sources – The First Book of Maccabees – is a pro-Hasmonean text that was written to give legitimacy to the high-priesthood of the Hasmonean dynasty and to their rule over Israel. The First Book of Maccabees claims that they were the chosen family to lead Israel, and so consequently the rebellion under Judah the Maccabee and his brothers could do no wrong."

"However, the Hasmonean state which emerged following the rebellion is also known to us through a number of anti-Hasmonean sources, such as Nicolaus of Damascus, the court historian of King Herod the Great, who destroyed the Hasmonean family when he came to the throne," continues Prof. Gafni. "This source contributed significantly to the negative image we have today of the Hasmonean state."

"Subsequent generations also imposed their own agenda on the Maccabees – such as the modern Zionist movement – refashioning the Jewish people into a 'normal' nation which would entail an active military and political agenda. The Hasmoneans provided them with that image of activism and political assertiveness – which reached almost ironic proportions with the designation of Jewish sports clubs with the name 'Maccabi' – notwithstanding the fact that the original Maccabees had opposed Hellenistic behavior, which centered around the importance of athletics and physical prowess."

The upcoming 'Scientists on the Trains' lectures will take place on Wednesday, December 16, departing from Modiin Central to Tel Aviv Savidor 9.05 a.m. – 9.35 a.m., and again (on the same carriage) from Tel Aviv University to Binyamina 9.45 a.m. – 10.15 a.m.

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