The Festival of Lights is not just a name, but a reality in Israel.
Specifically in Jerusalem, the windows of apartment buildings line the streets with little flickering flames. You can even hear the families singing - children and adults alike - "Ma oz tzur yeshuati..." Commemorating the miracle of the Maccabees overcoming the immense army of the Syrian Greeks over 2000 years ago is popular among Jews across the board. The few against the many, the weak against the strong - the message of Hanukah is one of hope, strength and determination. At the darkest time of the year, we have the ability to see towards the dawn and a future that is much brighter.
Unfortunately, this Hanukah most Israelis can seriously relate to the Maccabees struggle. With the rise in terror, Israelis know what it means to be under attack and, yet, like their predecessors, they continue to stand strong. A rich history of the underdog overcoming the struggle provides the stage for yet another victory physically, spiritually and politically. Meanwhile, we pray for the wounded and send condolences to those that have lost friends and family.
During Hanukah, most children have off of school. A short winter vacation is the perfect time for family fun. Different cities throughout the country have events and activities for all ages. The Old City of Jerusalem has special Hanukah lights on the Old City walls and the golden menorah is ceremoniously lit every night at sunset. The Israel Museum as well as others have special Hanukah exhibits. Recently, archaeologists found an ancient oil press that has been opened to the public. Almost every bakery or shop is selling sufganiot, the traditional jelly doughnut. Many proprietors display their creativity by making different, fancy doughnuts: caramel, pistachio, cookies and cream, cheesecake...Hanukah is definitely not the time to wear a belt.
These eight wintry days and nights have a special warmth. May we all experience the light of happiness and hope and celebrate many good times.