March 4, 2024 /
There is nothing quite like celebrating Chanukah in Israel. I still remember with great fondness walking the streets of Jerusalem for my first Chanukah there. Smelling all the various aromas of sufganiyot (special Chanukah doughnuts), tasting all the different specialty latkes, and of course, the brilliant light of chanukiyot in almost everyone’s window. There is no other place like it in the world (with perhaps the exception of parts of Brooklyn). Seeing the whole country celebrate the Chanukah as one gave it a special air of majesty in a very different way than celebrating Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur as a country.
I think one aspect of why I found it to be so powerful was that we were right where the story happened. To walk the streets that the Maccabees walked and fought on, to be in the land that the Maccabees fought for their independence in, to be in the Jewish State and to still see Chanukah happening all these years later was incredibly special.
As we get closer and closer to Chanukah, I am revisiting my days in Israel more and more frequently. This year, for me, Chanukah represents Jewish resilience. It serves as a reminder that many times before we have been on the brink of annihilation but have always survived. As I write this piece, Israel and Hamas just agreed to a 2-day extension of the cease fire in the hopes of exchanging more hostages. I pray that by the time you read this all the hostages are home and the threat against Israel has come to an end. But even if this isn’t the case, I still have hope. Chanukah is about finding hope even when things feel at their darkest.
As Jews, we are never to give up hope. Hope in the future, hope in peace, and hope in our being together as one people. May we all receive the hope we need this Chanukah and may we see in Israel all the missing families returned home and lighting their chanukiyot together – Amen.