Celebrating Hanukkah In The Holy Land

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

JERUSALEM (RNS) – Yael Horovitz, who immigrated to Israel from Australia, always loved the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, but the emphasis there on Christmas made her feel a little left out.

“In Australia, for two months out of the year I couldn’t escape Christmas carols,” said Horovitz, who is Jewish. “Being forced to listen to them in supermarkets, shopping centers, on the radio and TV bothered me.”

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the Maccabees’ victory over their Greek-Syrian oppressors in 167 B.C., as well as the re-dedication of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, was barely acknowledged by most Australians, Horovitz said.

But Hanukkah, which begins at sundown Tuesday, is an altogether different experience for her now.

Ten years ago Horovitz moved to Israel, where Jews comprise roughly 75% of the population. Here, the holiday season “feels so right,” she said. “This is my religion, these are my songs, my decorations, my kids being educated to love their heritage, and being embraced by it from all sides.”

Hanukkah in the Holy Land gives Horovitz and other Jews who have immigrated to Israel from Western countries a sense of belonging they don’t feel anywhere else. In Israel, though Hanukkah is not a national holiday, most of the nation celebrates it.

That’s a big contrast to the way many American Jews feel at Christmastime, said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.

“Christmas is the one day of the year when many American Jews experience a sense that they are outsiders in America” because Christmas, a religious holiday, is also a national holiday, Sarna said.

Although Hanukkah is a minor festival on the Jewish calendar, Sarna said, more than a century ago American Jews elevated the holiday “as a way to ensure that they were not left out of the holiday spirit.”

Their goal, Sarna said, was to ensure that Jewish children would be happy and proud of their own winter holiday and not want to celebrate the holiday of another religion.

Even so, if you live in the U.S., “it is impossible to avoid Santa and Christmas music and holiday lights. It’s the time of year when the differences between Jews and their neighbors seem most stark.”

That’s not the case in Israel, Sarna said, where Hanukkah and not Christmas is the dominant December holiday. Just 2.1 percent of Israelis are Christian; 17 percent are Muslim; 1.7 percent are Druze. The remaining 4 percent belong to other religious minorities or have no religion.

Although Hanukkah in Israel remains far less commercialized than it is in the U.S., with shopping malls hanging nary a holiday decoration, it has more recently taken on some of its American trappings.

This week, Osher Ad, a large Jerusalem supermarket, had two aisles’ worth of Hanukkah-related products, from elaborate faux-silver menorahs to imported paper Hanukkah plates and napkins and dreidel-shaped containers filled with chocolate candies.

And rather than sell only simple jelly doughnuts, a traditional Hanukkah treat, now bakeries around the country create fancy and expensive Western-style doughnuts.

Jewish children are on school break the week of Hanukkah, so movie theaters time their new releases to the vacation. Festigal, a live music and dance show for children, is an annual tradition.

Compared with the holiday season in the U.S., however, Hanukkah in Israel is low-key. Families gather to light the menorah – some have a separate one for each child – and eat doughnuts or potato pancakes fried in oil. (Oily foods are eaten on Hanukkah to commemorate the “miracle” of the holiday, when enough oil to light a lamp for just one night lasted for eight.)

Some parents give their children presents – though almost never more than a couple — or Hanukkah “gelt” – both money and chocolate coins.

Orthodox families like to light their menorahs outside, in glass containers, so everyone who passes can soak up their light.

Tsipi Amiri, whose family lived in the U.S. until she was 10, said she doesn’t miss the “commercialization” of the holiday season or the pressure to celebrate Hanukkah with lots of fanfare and gifts.

“There was this competition within the American Jewish community about who got what,” Amiri said. “Thankfully, I don’t see that here.”

More: When is Hanukkah and what does it celebrate?

Netanya Carmi said the first thing she noticed during her first Israeli Hanukkah 20 years ago was that many stores close early every night and evening classes at universities are canceled so all can go home and light candles with their families.

“Here in Israel, Hanukkah is all about tradition and family,” Carmi said.

Israel’s 6 Day War Of 1967 Is Proof That Land For Peace Doesn’t Work

 

In 1948 the United Nations recreated the State of Israel that was just a small sliver of its former God-given borders. The Jewish people had to fight for every inch of that ground as the people living there did not wish to be removed from the land and I don’t believe that they can be blamed for that. If the United States government decided to  give the state of New Mexico back to the native population I am rather sure that the people currently living there would fight to keep from being removed, wouldn’t you? In the 7th century A.D. when the creation of Islam occurred the land of the Middle-East was dominated by the Jewish and Christian people and their religions. The military forces of Islamic believing people took these people’s land and their lives taking all of their possessions as spoils of war. The people of Islam held this land until 1948  then they were removed by force. The Jewish/Hebrew people had possessed this land for about 2,100 years before losing it to the Arab/Islamic people and these people and their faith have ruled the Middle-East for about 1,400 years now.  It is easy to see why all the people of ‘The Holy Land’ claim the land as their own.

 

The first paragraph was a 200 word attempt at encapsulating about 3,500 years of human history of ‘The Holy Lands’. There is no way to give the people and the land a totally fair shake in this one short article but I am going to do my best to be honest and fair in what I write. The reason I side with Israel on the land issue is because I am a Christian who happens to believe that the Bible is the Holy Spirit inspired word of God, all of it. When Moses led the Hebrew people up out of Egypt in about the year 1,500 B.C. He (God) specified to Moses and his successor Joshua exactly what Israels boundaries were to be.  The Israel of 1948 and indeed the Israel of 1967 and the Israel of 2016 are only a sliver of the God-given boundaries.

 

In 1967 the Arab nations around Israel attacked the people of Israel from every direction in an attempt to remove Israel from the map but they failed completely. The 1967 war was called the 6 day war because Israel dominated their attackers and in the process Israel more than doubled their size via the land they captured from their neighbors during those 6 days. This is the land that the idiots at the U.N. and some in D.C. still refer to as “occupied land.” In 1972 Israel gave the whole Sinai back to Egypt when they signed a peace deal with their President Anwar Sadat from an agreement with President Carter of the U.S. which was called the Camp David Accord. This peace accord cost President Sadat his life at the hands of his own military. Ten years ago Israel gave up land for peace when they gave up the Gaza Strip and The West Bank to the PLO and their leader President Arafat and his Fatah military wing. I stated at that time that the Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon had made a horrible mistake in giving away what God himself had given and I was proven totally correct on this issue. About 4 months after this land give away Mr. Sharon suffered a massive stroke that he never woke up from, laying in a coma for almost exactly 8 years before he died in January of 2014.

 

I know that I am not the only person who knew that once the people who were now called ‘the Palestinians’ would only use this land they were given to stage more attacks on the people of Israel from a now closer range. Here in America when we elected our first Islamic Shiite President in Mr. Obama on his first official visit to Israel he without consulting the government or the people declared that Israel was going to revert back to the pre 1967 borders, as though he was some kind of King of the world. Mr. Obama has been mad at the leaders of Israel ever since they said no to his ‘decree’. Think about this issue for a moment, in 1967 prior to the Arab nations attack these same Arab nations and people were trying to end Israel as a nation. They did not and do not want there to be such a thing as a nation of Israel. If this current government of Israel did as King Obama wants there is no reason to believe that the people who believe that Allah is God would do anything other than continue to attack the Jewish nation in an attempt to do as they tried to do in 1967. When it comes to land for peace trades with Islamic believers there is no such thing as creating peace with them by giving them more of your land.