We've been striving to keep our religion for thousands of years. Way back more than 2,000 years ago, Judea was being fought over by the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, two rivals. The Seleucids won in 198 BCE. The leader, Antiochus III, defeated the Egyptians and took over Judea. When he was defeated by the Romans, he forced Jews into the Greek's paganistic practices. He even tried to put idols into the temples. This was like "the last straw."
His son, Antiochus IV, came into power in 176 BCE and continued his father's goals. A Greek official tried to make a Jewish priest, Mattathius, sacrifice to one of the pagan gods. Of course Mattathius rebelled and refused. He fled to his home, told his story to his family, and his 5 sons joined him in rebellion along with all their relatives and friends. This brave group became a guerilla force of fighters known as the Hammerers, as they fought with hammer like thrusts, and actually overcame the official army.
The first thing they did was clean out the temple of idols and they wanted to relight the eternal light that was to be there, but found the hanging lamp was out of oil. They sent a runner-no cars in those days-to the nearest town to bring back oil and wanted it as quickly as possible. He came back with just enough, probably couldn't run and carry a heavy pottery jar, to light the lamp for one night, planning on going back later for more. Much to everyone's surprise, it stayed lit for 8 days and nights, enough time to bring back lots of the needed olive oil.
This is why we remember the miracle. We light oil lamps or candles for 8 nights and remember the miracle of this olive oil in other ways, too. We eat potato latkas because of frying them in oil. We eat donuts (sufganiot) that are also fried in oil. We ladies have been thinking of starting a new tradition; eating salad with olive oil, but we always do that, so I find that our traditions are special and only for Chanukah.
A word to the wise. Many people have tried to take over Israel's land but they have never been able to hold it. Somehow the land always vomits them out. The only people who have ever brought forth life in Israel has been the Jews. Before their return to the land in the 1800's, it had become barren, swampy, full of sand from the desert, and was producing nothing. Only the love of the Jewish population has created a Utopia, and again, there are those that covet it, willing to destroy it in their frenzied attacks. Instead of building up land they have already taken, such as Gaza and the so called "West Bank", which is Judea and Samaria, they remain intent on what has already sprung forth in Israel. Israel and Jews are meshed together in a symbiotic union. We cannot let go. We must not let go. For, as the land has improved, so have we.
Our people have gone through fire and all sorts of dangers in their zeal not to throw out their religion. Most Jews do not take their religion lightly. Something inside us is a reminder of the oath our forefathers swore to uphold our beliefs. We're not about to toss this knowledge aside and accept idols and the glitter that has been offered to us throughout the ages. There comes a time in every generation that someone has taken the reigns of leadership and has called out "Enough", Dayenu, a word also familiar to us during Passover. Mattathius lives on to remind us that every man should be able to worship as he wishes. Political rulers should never force a religion upon their populace.
Reference: Pamela Geller-Atlas Shrugs