The Maccabees and Their Place in Jewish History


On November 17, 1995 the following news item appeared in Time Magazine.

Long-lost cave reveals burial tombs of Maccabees

MODI'IN, Israel -- A tractor leveling ground for a new highway broke open a 2,000-year-old burial cave to reveal a tomb believed used by the Maccabees, a tribe of Jewish warriors whose revolt is celebrated in the festival of Hanukkah.

You can read the rest of the story here:

You can find the location of Modin (Modein) here:

You are a journalist employed by Time Warner. The editor has asked you to follow up the news item, “Long-lost cave reveals burial tombs of Maccabees” with an in depth feature for the weekend edition. He wants a two page spread with text and graphics entitled,
"The Life and Times of Judah Maccabee."

For Teachers


For Students

The Task

  • Your teacher will divide the class into teams of four.
  • It is the responsibility of each team to prepare a double page newspaper spread on the Maccabees and their place in Jewish history.
  • The feature will be a balance of text, graphics and captions.
  • It will be presented as a poster indicating the way it would look in its final form in the newspaper.
  • You will be expected to write and illustrate sections under the following headings:
  1. Historical Background
  2. The Fateful Event at Modin
  3. The Role of the Maccabees in Jewish History
  4. The Maccabees Remembered by the Jewish People Today
  • Responsibility for preparing the different sections can be shared among members of the team.


Preparation for the Task

Step 1
Increase your knowledge of the historical background to the Maccabees by reading “Return to the Promised Land.”

Look for answers to the following questions as you read, they will help you write the section “Historical Background,” one of the four of your newspaper articles.

  1. The way in which the Jewish people were governed changed when they returned from exile in Babylonia. What was this change?
  2. What changes did the Jews experience as a result of the expansion of Alexander’s new empire?
  3. Antiochus IV wanted to bring about changes in the Jewish way of life. What changes were these and how did he try to bring them about?
  4. How did the Jews regain control of their country?

You will also find information at the following web site:

Step 2
Read the short story "Judah Maccabee" You might like to do this with the other members of your team.

When writing a newspaper article you have to be particularly aware of “point of view.” Most events are seen quite differently by the people involved. Each person, or group of people, will see an event from his/her own perspective.

Brush up your skill of being able to recognize point of view with the following activity.
Work with the members of your team to select three quotations from the story that are written from the perspective of the Hasidim.

Here is one to get you started:
“These men made the decision to stand against Antiochus and the oppression of the Jewish people.”

Discuss the words in your selected quotations that direct you to the writer's point of view. In this sentence the words to discuss would be “stand against” and “the oppression.”

Brush up your skill of being able to write from a point of view with the following activity.
Read again the account of the event in the village of Modin prior to the fleeing of the Maccabees from their home. This event would have been recorded differently by the people involved, depending on their point of view.

Look at the event through the eyes of the Hasidim, then the Hellenists and, finally, the soldiers of Antiochus. Record the event from each group's perspective. Each member of the team may want to select one viewpoint and read that account to the other members of the team. Make sure that each group is represented.

Use the worksheet "Different Perspectives Worksheet" to record each group's viewpoint.

Step 3
Carry out the assignments in the "Guided Reading" These will help you build up vocabulary and gather ideas for the final task of writing the newspaper articles.

Step 4
Work on the section "Festivals and Holidays" This assignment will help you prepare for the newspaper article, “The Maccabees Remembered By The Jewish People Today.”

This assignment will not only help you to write about the festival in which the Jewish people remember this period of their history, but also why they celebrate it and the greater role it plays in their lives.

Step 5

Completing the Task

Drawing upon all the preparatory work you have done, work with your team to complete a double page newspaper spread on a poster. The title is:

“The Life and Times of Judah Maccabee.”


Write the four articles.
Each member of the group takes responsibility for one article.

  • Historical Background
  • The Fateful Event at Modin
  • The Role of the Maccabees in Jewish History
  • The Maccabees remembered by the Jewish people of today
  1. Make an outline of what you want to write about in your assigned article.
  2. Use your outline to write 3 or 4 paragraphs about the particular topic.
  3. Read through your writing and make sure it is clear and easy to read.
  4. When each member of your team has completed these steps, have a writing conference to edit your writing.
  5. With your group discuss each article for the newspaper feature.
  6. Decide if the articles provide a comprehensive account of the Maccabee's place in Jewish history and make any changes that would improve the articles.
  7. Prepare your articles for the final presentation on your poster. Input your articles into the computer remember to run a spell check to correct any spelling/typing errors. Print them and trim them to the size you will need for the poster.

Present the four articles.

  1. Prepare your articles for the final presentation on your poster.
  2. Type your articles and remember to run a spell check to correct any spelling/typing errors.
  3. Print them and trim to the size you will need for the poster.


  1. Plan and create your illustrations. These should depict events from history, and the festival, Hanukkah that is celebrated today.
  2. In addition to creating your own illustrations you might want to print some clip art. The following URL will help you:
  3. Add captions to your illustrations.
  4. Arrange all the items on a poster and spend time discussing the final layout before completing the task.

Learning Advice for Students

It is important that you:

  1. complete the preparatory tasks, as these will give you the knowledge and skills to create a successful newspaper feature;

  2. work as a team on this assignment, as the final newspaper feature will only be successful if you all contribute your individual strengths.


    Display all the completed posters and view each team’s work.


    By studying this period of history what have we learned about the Ancient Hebrews of that day, and also the Jewish people of today?

    Consider some of the events you learned about in this section of Jewish history.
    Have the Jewish people experienced similar events in their later history?

    What did you learn from this assignment about the importance of festivals to all societies?

    How well did your group work together? Could you suggest ways of improving this?

    Extension Activity

    You might want to extend the activity in, “Festivals and Holidays” and apply the roles that are listed to a festival of your choice. This may be from your own culture or from another culture.

Resources / Return to the Promised Land / Judah Maccabee / Different Perspectives Festivals and Holidays /Guided Reading / Evaluation Rubrics / Teacher Notes /