...to celebrate Hanukkah is to celebrate not just the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness but also the accidental birth of Judaism's bastard child in the shape of Christianity. You might think that masochism could do no more. Except that it always can. Without the precedents of Orthodox Judaism and Roman Christianity, on which it is based and from which it is borrowed, there would be no Islam, either. Every Jew who honors the Hanukkah holiday because it gives his child an excuse to mingle the dreidel with the Christmas tree and the sleigh (neither of these absurd symbols having the least thing to do with Palestine two millenniums past) is celebrating the making of a series of rods for his own back. And this is not just a disaster for the Jews. When the fanatics of Palestine won that victory, and when Judaism repudiated Athens for Jerusalem, the development of the whole of humanity was terribly retarded.A similar point is made, in a more tactful way, in Jennifer Michael Hecht's excellent book, Doubt: A History, which she also told on the New York Times' blog last December. She tells the story of how the events that led to the celebration of Hanukkah were a triumph of religious dogmatism and zealotry over secularism. She recommends lighting an extra candle in the memory of Miriam, the Hellenized Jewish woman who thought sacrifice was superstition and was "punished" for striking the temple altar with her sandal, yelling "Wolf, wolf, you have squandered the riches of Israel!"