Hanukkah and the Acra

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The 100 year old quest to uncover the location of the ancient stronghold of Antiochus the Wicked has finally come to a close. Archaeologists believe they found the Acra of Antiochus IV.

It is a known fact that fortifications are built along the borders or peripheral walls of a city to keep the enemy out. So why would one of ancient times most feared and wicked warlords build a massive stronghold in the middle of the city? Perhaps he didn’t build it to keep  unwanted guests out. Maybe he was trying to keep someone away from something. Whoever the someone was, he must have been a frightening opponent, because the wicked dictator built quite a daunting structure.
The 100-year-old quest to uncover the location of the ancient stronghold of Antiochus the Wicked has finally come to a close.  Archaeologists believe they found the Acra of Antiochus IV.
Chanukah Just Got Real 
One can now physically touch the Acra, which lies here in our very own backyard, as is with all the Biblical stories being unearthed in the City of David. Such is the beauty of City of David – the place of Ancient Jerusalem.  And we know there is more. And every proud and excited find raises more interest and curiosity of the international community.
Archaeologist Doron Ben Ami, the head of the Acra excavations, recounts the process: "For months we have been excavating one element, and then another. Everthing is here before us but we still don’t understand . Then, on one clear day, all the pieces just fell into place… I can now say with certainty…that we can put this question (of where the Acra is) behind us.
The site produced many finds, including sling shots made from lead, bronze arrowheads and ballista stones which symbolized the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes,  numerous coins, ranging in date from the reign of Antiochus IV to that of Antiochus VII, and a large number of wine jars that were imported from the Aegean region. These finds testify to the citadel’s chronology, as well as to the non-Jewish identity of its inhabitants.
A Sinful Nation Lives There
You can almost hear the "Acra" in the more well-known word Acropolis, which is the upper fortified area of a Greek city. The discovery of the massive fortification places the Acra south of the Temple Mount, in the center of the City of David – Ancient Jerusalem, spreading its colossal self over the width of the whole southern hill. Its location severed the Temple Mount from the rest of the city as already described in ancient writings:
“...and when he had overthrown the city walls, he built a citadel [Greek: Acra] in the lower part of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians.”
— Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 12:252–253
“And they built the City of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein.
— 1 Maccabees 1:35–38
Two things stand out from these passages: Firstly, it was very high, so high that it towered over Temple Mount, and secondly, "a sinful nation lived there". Other writings describe the Acra as a thorn in the flesh of the Jewish inhabitants of the City of David, as Jews who joined the wicked ruler as Hellenists, mocked their fellow "narrow-minded" Jews for "suffering" from their outdated religious traditions. 

But then the Maccabees came. And through their burning passion for God and their clever guerilla war tactics, they ultimately overthrew the Greeks, freed the Temple from the despicable Grecian practices and rededicated it for holy service. The END! Not quite.
The Acra still stood, defiantly eclipsing Temple Mount. And the Hellenist inhabitants still carried on with their disgraceful ways for another 20 years. Shimon the Maccabee finally got the upper hand over the wicked stronghold after a long besiegement. It took him another three years to raze the Acra to the ground. 
Shimon, a Hasmonean and therefore a Cohen himself, could have just settled for returning to the Temple Service when it was his turn to serve. After all, a miracle was wrought, the war won.  Why go through all the effort of dismantling a stronghold brick by brick if one can just change ownership?
Out of Site, Out of Mind
Sight and vision play a significant role in Judaism. One should always be diligent to where one turns their gaze.  King David wrote: "I have set the LORD always before me" (Psalms 16:8). As part of the Shema we are constantly reminded, “and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray”. (Numbers 15:39) 
The Bible also says that Abraham called the name of the place where the Binding of Isaac took place, the very place where the Temple would later be built, "Hashem Yireh". The verse goes on: 'In the mount where the Lord is seen" Gen 22:14).
By razing the Acra, Shimon not only reestablished visual contact between the Jewish people and their meeting place with God, but insured that the Temple Mount once again took its rightful place as the crowning point of Jerusalem.    

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