Chanukah drama

by Steve Maltz

This should take about 20-30 minutes and is suitable for a mixed audience (Jew/Gentile, adults/kids). There’s drama, comedy and action.

King Antiochus – complete madman
Herald’s assistant (non speaking)
General Al
Soldier (non speaking)
Mattatias (adult) – sensible person
Judas (child) – main speaking part
Simon (child)
Jonathan (child)
Eleazar (child)
John (child)
Jew (with greasy hair)
Appolonius (non speaking)
Greek soldier (non speaking)

ADULTS: 4 major speaking parts (Narrator, Herald, King, Al), 2 minor speaking parts (Mattathias, Jew), 4 non speaking parts

KIDS: 1 major speaking part (Judas), 4 minor speaking parts (Simon, Jonathan, Eleazar, John)

PROPS (apart from costumes and scenery)
Scene 1: Trumpet (or similar instrument), Scroll, Hebrew dictionary
Scene 2: Scroll, comb, swords (5 of them)
Scene 3: none
Scene 4: rocks, swords (as scene 2)
Scene 5: curtains, table, menorah, rubbish, small bottle, matches

SCENE ONE: Royal Palace:

Herald is standing to attention, with his assistant next to him.

Narrator: The year is 175 BC. The whole Middle East had been conquered by Alexander the Greek nearly 200 years earlier. After his death a whole succession of rulers fought over the area. The latest was King Antiochus the Fourth. He preferred to be known by the name ‘Epiphanes’, meaning ‘God manifest’ – he had a very high opinion of himself. He was also quite mad.

Assistant lifts up a trumpet and plays a short fanfare. Herald opens scroll and reads out the following:

Herald: All hail Antiochus, conqueror of the world, master of the mediterranean, king of the castle, most fairest in the land, magnificent …

Antiochus sweeps in and interrupts herald

King: Alright already, just God will do. Now bow in my presence

Herald bows head and makes a submissive gesture

King: So, herald, what do they call me?

Herald: God manifest

King: Again!

Herald: (louder) God manifest

King: What do they call me in … Egypt?

Herald: God among all gods, holy one

King: Mmm …. what do they call me in … Syria?

Herald: God greater than all gods, majestic one

King: Better … and what do they call me in … Judea?

Herald: (hesitant) Meshiginah …. (as an afterthought) .. splendiforous one

King: Meshiginah? (louder) MESHIGINAH? WHAT’S MESHIGINAH?

Herald: You are …. allegedly

King: No, you fool. What does it mean? Well, it’s not Greek is it?

Herald: I believe it’s Hebrew, magnificent one … or Yiddish

King: (interrupting the last word): Hebrew? Hebrew for what? What does it mean? Speak up man, or I’ll have your head!

Herald consults his assistant, who checks in a handy Hebrew dictionary. When it’s pointed out Herald suppresses a giggle.

Herald: (after a pause and obviously lying) God ….. even bigger than the biggest god!

King: (getting angrier) Ah that’s better …. mmmm … What’s with this Hebrew? Why aren’t they speaking in Greek? They should be speaking in Greek, like everyone else!

Herald: They’re a stubborn people

King: (craftily) Stubborn, eh?

Herald: And stiff-necked ….. it’s very breezy in Judea

King: (absently as if only half listening) What?

Herald: They’re a strange people, strange customs.

King: (absently as if only half listening) Breezy, eh? Stiff necked?

Herald: They eat weird food called kosher … and they mutilate their young

King: (immediate clarity on hearing the word ‘mutilate’ – with a sadistic tone) Mutilate their young? You mean with soldiers and a big sword?

Herald: No, just a rabbi with a little knife.

Pause while King winces and crosses legs

Herald: And they have a Temple in their capital, Jerusalem, where they offer sacrifices …. to their god (quieter)

King: I heard that. TO THEIR GOD? ……. (louder) I’M THEIR GOD!

Herald: They don’t seem to think so, sire

King: They don’t? …. That’s what THEY think! (pauses, then stands up and proclaims) Get the General … whats’is’name?

Herald: Do you mean General Roussos? Al-Demis Roussos, master?

King: Yes, yes, that’s the one. Just summon him into my majestic presence

Heralds assistant blows on his trumpet and Herald makes announcement

Herald: Call for General Al-Demis Roussos.

General walks in brusquely (Greek version of Groucho Marx)

General: Just call me Al

King: (gestures General to make a short bow, which he does) Roussos …. Al

General: Yes, your majesty?

King: Have you booked your holidays?

General: (suspicious) No

King: Two weeks in Judea for you. Take 1000 of your best soldiers. (evil cackle) Sort those Jews out, make good Greeks of them!

Herald: (concerned): But how will they get there?

King: (puts hand up to silence herald and turns to General, speaking in a ‘matey manner’) Give ’em ‘ell ….. Al (Comic timing essential here!)

Herald (muttering): El … Al? Must be a new kind of people carrier?

King: (waving them all away) Now be gone, be gone … all of you.

They leave the King alone

King: We’ll show them who’s God (followed by evil, mad laugh)

SCENE TWO: Modein town Centre, Judea

General Al is standing in the town centre with another soldier.

Narrator: The General followed his king’s instructions. Along with many other generals he went through the land of Judea. The aim was to erase Judaism forever and to turn all the Jews into Greeks. Laws were passed, punishable by death, for anyone practising Judaism, keeping the Sabbath or even found in possession of sacred scrolls. A pagan altar was constructed in the Temple in Jerusalem and, in every town and village, altars were set up to Greek gods and every Jew was expected to show loyalty to the King and to make sacrifices to these gods. The General has just arrived at the village of Modein, north west of Jerusalem.

The General reads from a scroll. Mattathias and his five sons are watching from a distance. A Jew stands facing the General.

General: Attention, attention! Jewish inhabitants of the village of Modein. Put down your prayer books, put away your salt beef sandwiches, leave your comfortable little homes and assemble here on the order of your King. We have something here to your advantage …. or, to put it another way … if you DON’T come here now … it’s curtains for you … and I’m NOT talking silk drapes.

Mattathias speaks to his five sons (Judas, Simon, Jonathan, John and Eleazar)

Mattathias: Beware Greeks bearing gifts, my sons

Judas: Especially ugly ones!

Mattathias: Nevertheless we must do what they say. After all, they’re in charge …

Judas: … for now!

General notices them and calls over to them

General: Ah, Mattathias and his five dwarves! As the leading family of this town be the first to come and give your pledge of allegiance to your beloved King, Antiochus. Do so and become one of the friends of the King and you’ll be honoured with gold … and silver … and onion platzels!

Mattathias and his sons walk forwards

Mattathias: I don’t care if the whole world is following your mad King, I and my sons will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. We pledge our allegiance to THE God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You can keep your Antiochus the Meshiginah, we only follow the ONE TRUE GOD

Stony silence, then the other Jew steps forwards, cockily.

Jew: (must have greasy hair) Well, if they won’t, let me be the first. I’m happy to be called a Greek …

(Judas lurches forwards but Mattathias pulls him back)

… we’ve got to look to the future. The future is Greece … (takes out a comb and combs hair as he offers himself)

Suddenly Mattathias produces a sword and pounces on the Jew and kills him. Judas also produces a sword and kills the soldier. The General runs away, with a parting remark

General: Just remembered, I’ve got another appointment. Must dash!

Mattathias and his sons stand over the prone bodies, swords aloft.

Mattathias: Let everyone who has any zeal for the Law and our Covenant come and follow me

All: Swords of the Lord!

They run off, triumphantly.

SCENE THREE: Royal Palace:

Narrator: Mattathias and his sons fled to the hills, where they gathered many followers from Jews who didn’t want to turn their back on Judaism and the God of their ancestors. Many flocked to their cause and the Maccabees – the hammerers – fought and defeated the Greeks around the hills of Jerusalem. The Greeks had underestimated them, as the King was about to find out.

Antiochus is in the middle of a chat with the Herald.

King: … so, Herald, what’s on at the colosseum?

Herald: ‘Carry on Conquering’, sire (NOTE: a peculiarly British film series)

King: Ah, camp comedy! Never goes out of fashion!

Herald: I’ll get your chariot ready.

Herald attempts to leave and is almost knocked over by the return of the General, who falls flat onto his face.

King: Get up, man. (to the Herald) I hate it when they go over the top … no actually I quite like it …. mmmm, second thoughts, get up!

General: I can’t!

Herald goes over to examine him

Herald: The poor man’s exhausted

Herald helps the General up.

King: I gather all is not well, general?

General: Yes, my excellency, we had a few setbacks. With the Jews … well, in fact, with one family, that of Mattathias. The son, Judas, he’s the real troublemaker. They call him the Maccabee – the hammerer.

King: (angry) Just ONE family? This Mattathias. What is he, a military commander?

General: (meekly) No .. he’s a priest

King: (angrier) A priest, against the might of the mighty Greek army! I will teach them …. (pauses for thought) .. I know, I’ll send my greatest battalion. Herald ….. send for the Grecian 2000!

Herald: But sire, your hair is so young and vital and natural

King: (interrupting) What? Talk sense, man! ….. (puts hand through hair) … Call for Appolonius and the Grecian 2000. Send them against that accursed priest and his family. Tell him to wipe them from the face of the earth (evil cackle)

SCENE FOUR: In Judean countryside

Narrator: The Greeks stepped up their campaign against the Maccabees. Meanwhile, Mattathias was an old man and had died, so Judas Maccabee assumed the role of leader of this army of rebellion. We now see Governor Apollonius, with his army of soldiers and mercenaries, marching through the hill country on the way to Jerusalem.

In foreground Greek army is marching, with Appolonius, General Al and 3 other soldiers. One is the soldier killed in Scene 2 – he should carry a sign “It was my twin brother, Stavros, who was killed in Scene 2”.

They should have a comedy marching routine, perhaps singing a Marching song.

“We’re Greek soldiers and we don’t care (call and response)
We’ve got flat feet and greasy hair (call and response)
We love to march, we love to sing (call and response)
We don’t know much about anything (call and response)”

Sound off (call and response) – alpha – beta (call and response)
Sound off (call and response) – how’s your father? (call and response)”

Hidden in background and spread out are Judas, Simon, Jonathan, John and Eleazar.

Soldiers stop, confused as they hear voices in background. The 5 sons are calling out the code word, Shalom, to each other. In the style of the Budweiser ‘Wassup’ advert, if possible.

Judas/Simon/Jonathan/John/Eleazar: Shalom!

Then, suddenly rocks are lobbed at the soldiers (papier mache), who fall over or are stunned. The 5 sons appear and fall on the Greeks and beat them up and grab their swords. They lift the swords in the air together with a chant

Judas/Simon/Jonathan/John/Eleazar: Swords of the Lord!

Judas: Today we’ve become gorillas

The other 4 start prancing around like monkeys

Judas: No, no, no! I said GUERRILLAS … warriors, freedom fighters. Oy Vay!

They stop.

Judas: We are soldiers of the Lord and ours is a holy mission. Our Temple in Jerusalem has been defiled. There is a statue of the cursed King in the Sanctuary. Let us move on to Jerusalem to reclaim our city, our Temple, for Our God.

Simon: Onwards, Swords of the Lord

All: Swords of the Lord!


They arrive at Temple. Stand in front of a huge curtain. Lots of rubbish around

Narrator: It was the 25th day in the month of Chislev. Judas and his brothers had arrived at the Temple in Jerusalem. The sanctuary was deserted, the altar desecrated, the gates burned down, with vegetation growing in the courtyards.

Judas: Well done my brothers, we have reached God’s holy place

Simon and Jonathan draw the curtain to reveal a very lifelike statue of the King (actually it’s the king himself, standing very still – WRITERS NOTE: Poetic license used here as, historically, it was a statue of Zeus)

Eleazar: And we can get rid of that for a start

John: It’s so ugly, but so lifelike

They prod him a few times and he topples over.

Jonathan: Now we must clear the place up

Simon: Let’s get to it!

They clear up the place. They find the menorah hidden away and put it on a table. in full view.

Judas: It is time to light the Menorah. Has anyone found the oil?

Eleazar shows a small bottle he has found

Eleazar: I’ve found this small bottle

John: There’s only enough there for one day

Judas: It will have to do …. perhaps there will be a …. miracle?

They light the Menorah.

Judas: The dedication is complete …. now let us sleep

Someone turns the lights out in the hall. Hear voices of the 5 sons (in the same style as ‘Shalom’ in Scene 4)

Judas/Simon/Jonathan/John/Eleazar: Happy Chanukah!

Pause then narrator speaks (still in darkness for effect)

Narrator: The miracle that Judas had hoped for, came about and the oil in the lamp lasted for a full 8 days, just enough time for a fresh supply of oil to arrive. It was a miracle from God. The light of the menorah never went out and we celebrate that fact at the holiday of Chanukah, the festival of dedication.

Now we stay in the Temple and move ahead 160 years. By now the Greeks have gone, their place taken by Romans. The land is held in a tight grip by these new invaders and Jews everywhere are praying for a new leader, perhaps another Maccabee, to gain them freedom from the oppressor. An old priest was standing by the altar. He is rigid with shock as an angel had appeared before him. The man’s name was Zechariah and the angel, Gabriel, spoke these words. “Your wife will bear you a son and you are to give him the name John. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to God. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord”. Who is this Lord that the angel speaks of? Six months later we get an answer as the same angel appeared again, this time to Mary, a young Jewess, in Nazareth. He spoke to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end”.

A new leader was coming, not a military leader, a Maccabee, but a Messiah, one who would be their Lord and Saviour for ever. Amen

Light on – all cast are standing there and take a bow