Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Chanukah

The holiday of Chanukah can only be celebrated in its fullest in the land where the miracle actually took place.  That of course is in the State of Israel.  As we all know that the calendar in Hebrew is different than the one followed in most of the rest of the world. Chanukah is celebrated the same time every year according to Hebrew calendar that being the 25th day of Kislav. Sometimes it can fall out the same time as  Christmas does, and sometimes like this year it can fall out at the beginning of December. That is when all the stress begins. Families who celebrate Chanukah in the US check their calendars to see if the 2 holidays overlap each other making it easier to plan vacations and family celebrations. Schools and businesses in the states schedule vacation time from the 25th of December thru January 1st. That’s all fine and good when Chanukah falls out in the same period, but what does one do when they don't? Inevitably,  Chanukah  usually  takes a back seat to the other holiday. Even Jewish Day schools find themselves yielding to the holiday week of December 25th through the first of January.

     In Israel that is not the case. The only stress experienced with the timing of the holiday is whether we can find the correct gifts that our children are hoping for. There are no date conflicts, only celebration scheduling conflicts. The local municipalities don't concern themselves , as in the US, with being politically correct as to how much they decorate their public areas. They don't have to divide space between the major holiday of Christmas ,  Chanukah,  and even the new kid on the block , that festive holiday of Kawanza (no, I can't explain exactly what holiday that is). In Israel the lamp posts are decorated only with menorahs and driedles , the Chanuka spinning top. They don't have to count and divide the number of decorations designated for each holiday. In the US  the holiday season is  turned into a legal battle between those who want religious symbols on public grounds and those who believe it to be a civil rights violation if one person out of a million is offended by any show of holiday expression. The term happy and merry is also a problem. The safest term for the season is just "happy Holidays" with the hopes of keeping the lawyers at bay so that everyone can celebrate in their own way.

     Chanukah in Israel is celebrated in a most enjoyable way. The secular and religious alike can enjoy the holiday without any conflict. People from all walks of life, all levels of observance and backgrounds gather around each of the eight nights, lighting the menorah, singing songs, eating potato pancakes and jelly donuts (representing the oil that the holiday is about), spending time with family and friends. They don't have to look over their shoulder to see if they are offending any of their neighbors. Each of the Eight days and nights is another opportunity for celebration. The lighting of the Menorah is meant to show off the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days after the desecration of the holy temple. What a joy it is to see specially designed Menorahs displayed outside of people's homes for everyone to see and feel a sense of pride in this beautiful holiday tradition. We all know unfortunately this is not the case outside of Israel. In some countries there is even fear in displaying t he lights inside one's home let alone outside where the lights are truly a sight for all. Menorahs on display everywhere, candles flickering in the darkness of the night. As the holiday progresses there aren't any 50%off Christmas cards and decorations, but rather big discounts on menorahs and candles.

     This Chanukah in Israel has been a very difficult one as the State of Israel is experiencing their worst natural disaster in their modern history, the scorching of the Carmel Forrest.  Forty-one lives have been lost in this great tragedy but this great  tiny country(in land mass only) finds the place to both celebrate the Holiday while not forgetting those that have lost  love ones and the  many that have lost their homes and their livelihood. What a moving sight it was to see a member of a secular Kibbutz who was taking up shelter in another Kibbutz lighting the Chanukah Menorah and singing the blessings with other displaced members with a sense of pride and strength in the belief that they will rise above this difficult time in their lives and once again start over and rebuild and be able to celebrate the wonderful holiday of Chanukah with no one overlooking their shoulders whether it is politically correct or not.

Views from Jon's Place
12/5/2010 Chanukah Samayach