After hunkering down in a “safe house” December 5, 2012 when Cairo became a war zone, I hightailed it to Israel just as Hanukkah was emerging.
Hanukkah has multiple meanings and metaphors. My Jewish teenage neighbor calls it, “The Jew’s feeble attempt at a bargain basement Christmas.” But the timing is mere coincidence, as the historical reference for this holiday occurred 165 years before Christ. The great warrior Judah Maccabee led a small band of Jews to overthrow a powerful and oppressive Greek army to recapture the second Temple in Jerusalem. At the Temple’s re-dedication, they had just one day’s worth of consecrated oil to light the Temple. But, it miraculously lasted the 8 days it took to produce more. Hence, Hanukkah lasts eight days with a candle being lit each day.
After the chaos in Cairo, I welcomed this “dedication” (Hebrew meaning of Hanukkah) and the convivial, family-orientation of this Festival of Lights…turning away from darkness toward an eternal flame. Ironic that the candle continues to burn and represent the Jewish state, as 100 years after the Maccabean revolution, the Romans took Jerusalem and it was another 2,000 year before the Jews had their independent state.
This improbable Jewish nation, with failing or dissident neighbors on all sides, has prospered against all odds. This illuminated menorah on a hillside in Ariel Sharon Park near Tel Aviv – what used to be a waste disposal landfill – is one of the visual highlights of an Israeli Hanukkah.