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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’

New Jersey Businesswoman Launches ‘Give18’ for Victims of Terror

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

A New Jersey businesswoman has launched a new initiative to encourage her fellow entrepreneurs and their customers to donate funds to help Israeli victims of terror.

Ora Assayag says she decided to launch the “Give18” campaign after watching the latest flare up of violence in Israel on TV screens and reading daily reports about the latest attacks.

Customers can automatically donate 18 percent of the price of their purchases to Operation Embrace through the Give18 campaign. Assaya, who is the founder and CEO of Ora’s Amazing Herbal, has already started the campaign in her own business.

Operation Embrace is a non-organization that supports programs and projects that help victims of terror in Israel and the United States.

“We realize that little we do or say here in America can have a direct effect on ending terrorism and bringing safety and security to the citizens of Israel, but that does not mean that we can’t lend a helping hand to those who need it most,” said Assayag. “In Hebrew, the number 18 represents life.

“We hope this effort will be noticed and implemented by other local businesses so that we as a community can help even more,” she added.

With the holidays coming up, it’s the perfect way to make a difference and do our part in helping to right the terrible wrongs taking place in Israel.”

The Maccabeats’ Latest Chanukah Tune is a Real Sizzler! [video]

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Some Chanukah holiday music videos provide dynamic melodies, interesting lyrics and if you’re lucky, a few good visuals thrown in for good measure.

But how many can you honestly admit actually include a decent latke recipe?

The Maccabeats a capella all-male singing group has done it again, bringing together all the best elements of great Jewish holiday entertainment in one tidy little music video for Chanukah.

Chomp on!

Arabs Set Fire to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem, Pushed Back by PA Police

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Several hundred Palestinian Authority Arabs Thursday night set fire to parts of the Joseph’s Tomb compound in the site of biblical Shechem, using firebombs. Palestinian police removed the rioters and put out the fire.

The IDF is planning to renovate the compound to facilitate the entry of Jewish worshipers again.

A military spokesperson said the IDF strongly condemns any violation of holy sites, views the incident as extremely serious and is determined to locate and arrest the perpetrators. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said in a statement:

As a Jew, I must express deep shock at this terrible act. I believe that everyone in the free world will condemn this barbaric and criminal act, igniting one of the holiest places for the Jewish people, which is a historical relic for the entire world.

This is the barbarism of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, yet another act that proves we can’t trust this ‘partner.’ I call on the prime minister to immediately return the IDF forces to Joseph’s Tomb, since it’s obvious that otherwise there is no one to take care of this important relic for us. It is Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas’s responsibility, and he should be held accountable.

Joseph’s tomb has been venerated throughout the ages by Jews, Christians, and Samaritans. After Judea and Samaria were restored to Israel in 1967, the shrine was gradually turned into a Jewish prayer room. Friction and conflict from competing Jewish and Muslim claims over the tomb became frequent, and, eventually, the site fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Accords that specifically stated that Jews would have free access to the holy site.

In 2000, just after being handed over to the PA, Joseph’s Tomb was looted and razed by an Arab mob. Starting in 2002, Jewish groups returned to the site intermittently. Between 2009 and 2010 the structure was refurbished, including a new cupola, and regular visits by Jews have resumed.

On April 24, 2011, PA police opened fire on three cars of Israeli worshipers after they finished praying at Joseph’s Tomb, killing as Israeli citizen and wounding three others.

An IDF investigation concluded that the Palestinian Authority police officers had acted “maliciously” and with the intent to harm the Jewish worshipers. Then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz declared that the Arab policemen fired “without justification and with no immediate threat to their lives.”

On July 7, 2014, Arabs tried to burn down Joseph’s Tomb during a riot, but Palestinian Authority security forces were able to stop the rioters before they could level it.

On December 22, 2014, Jews who were visiting the tomb to light Chanukah candles discovered that the site had been vandalized. Lights were broken and electrical wiring had been cut.

A Kuwaiti Muslim’s Journey to Chanukah

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

When Mark Halawa lights his family’s menorah during Chanukah, it is not without recalling his unique journey as a Kuwaiti Muslim to Orthodox Judaism. The 38-year-old businessman, who lives today in Jerusalem with his wife and family, keeping Shabbat and kosher dietary laws, began his journey 12 years ago in Canada.

“I was born to a secular Muslim family in Kuwait,” Halawa told Tazpit News Agency in an exclusive interview. “We didn’t strictly follow Muslim traditions, but I would accompany my grandfather, who was religious, to the local mosque.”

Halawa spent a lot of time with his grandparents and knew early on that his maternal grandmother came from a Jewish family. “We knew that our grandmother’s family was Jewish but it never meant anything more,” said Halawa.

“I saw a siddur once in my grandma’s home and sometimes I would see her tearfully read from it when she was alone,” he recalls. “I once even found her birth certificate, which contained the last name, Mizrahi, and Hebrew, Arabic and English on the document’s header.”

At age 13, Halawa’s family left Kuwait following Sadaam Hussein’s takeover of the tiny Persian Gulf nation which had left his father’s business in ruins. The family immigrated to Canada but eventually returned to the Middle East. Mark, however, stayed behind to pursue studies at the University of Western Ontario.

It was during his time in Canada when the hateful stereotypes that Halawa grew up with against Jewish people and Israel began to fall apart. “In Kuwait, when I would go with my grandfather to the mosque, the imam always preached horrible things against Jews. The media, scouts, everything around me was against Israel and the Jewish nation.”

“It was always confusing to me because my grandmother, who is a very nice lady, came from a Jewish background.”

But the moment that marked Halawa’s official shift took place during a chance meeting with a Jewish rabbi at his university’s library in Ontario. “I was studying in the library one day and I saw a man dressed in Jewish Chassidic garb. “I went up to him, and asked him, are you Jewish?”

Halawa found himself telling the man, Dr. Yitzchok Block, a Harvard professor of philosophy and Chabad rabbi who taught at the University of Western Ontario, all about his family’s background.

Halawa’s Jewish grandmother was born in Jerusalem during the years of the British Mandate in the 1930s. She had married a Jordanian soldier, Muhammad al-Masri from Nablus, and converted to Islam. The couple moved to Zarqa, Jordan, where her husband was eventually stationed. When King Hussein expelled his army of Palestinians following the 1970 Black September uprising, the family moved to Kuwait, where Halawa’s mother met and married his father. “The rabbi told me that according to Jewish law, I am considered Jewish. And according to Muslim law, I am Muslim.”

“I was shocked to discover that I was Jewish,” Halawa told Tazpit. “But that was the point when my journey to Judaism began.”

Halawa joined a Jewish congregation in Toronto and in 2011, visited Israel for the first time and went to study at Jerusalem’s Aish HaTorah Yeshiva. “My family went through various levels of shock. At first, they were very skeptical and then angry. Today, I avoid talking about religion with my mom.”

“I’m just a human being like everyone else, striving for good and truth. I grew up hating Jews but today I find it an honor to belong to the Jewish nation – an honor worth all the family turmoil my journey has caused,” said Halawa, a married father, who lives today in Jerusalem.

Chanukah is for Scuba Diving

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

A father and son scuba dive in Eilat.

It turns out that Eilat is an incredibly popular destination for religious Israelis on Chanukah, and scuba diving is a very popular family activity.

Unlike how the situation was decades ago when you could barely find a kosher restaurant, there are now 3 or 4 Kosher L’Mehadrin restaurants along the Tayelet near the Marina, and another 3 Kosher L’Mehadrin restaurants in the ice skating shopping mall. It’s a completely different Eilat, and definitely religious-friendly (at least on Chanukah).

And if you’re looking to rent a sailboat, go to the Marina, and ask for Ziki.

Giant Chabad Menorah Lit Without Ceremony in Martin Place, Sydney

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

In Sydney, Australia, a public Hanukkah menorah still stands tall in the very same place it has stood in Martin Place for the last 30 years.

The 10 meter high menorah was not the center of festivities this year, however: instead, a message was prominently displayed for the public to read.

“The Jewish community of Australia expresses our deepest sympathy for the families of the Martin Place tragedy. May the Lights of the Festival of Chanukah bring comfort and warmth to our nation.”

The decision to cancel the annual Lighting Ceremony of the Hanukkah Menorah in Martin Place, scheduled for Thursday Dec. 18, the third night of the holiday, was made “after lengthy discussions and consultation with the authorities and communal leaders,” explained Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Elimelech Levy, Director of Chabad NSW and coordinator of the annual “Chanukah in the City” celebration.

“While the event was canceled, the presence of the Giant Menorah sends a powerful message that light will always overcome darkness,” Levy said.

“As we mourn the loss of life and the atrocity that has taken place, people of goodwill will continue to shine the light of freedom and communal harmony, which is what the Chanukah Menorah is all about,” he added.

According to Chabad officials at the movement’s World Lubavitch Headquarters at “770” Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY, the Martin Place Giant Menorah was indeed lit and cast its Light upon the area as it does each year. However, in deference to the memory of the victims, no public ceremony was held to mark the occasion.

The manager of the Lindt cafe and a local barrister were killed last Tuesday after being held hostage together with at least 15 others by a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis. The victims were shot as special agents stormed the cafe in an attempt to free the hostages. The self-styled Iranian cleric had forced his captives to hold up a flag bearing the Shahada — the Islamic creed, written in Arabic — in the window, for hours.

An earlier article about the Menorah contained an error about the lighting ceremony due to a misunderstanding which has since been clarified.

The Diapora’s Dilemma in Sydney

Friday, December 19th, 2014

The cancellation of the tradition public lighting of the Chabad menorah in Sydney this week epitomizes the excruciating neurosis of Jews in the Diaspora, torn between living freely as Jews and having to co-exist with the somewhat tolerant if not ignorant ruling powers.

I do not pre-judge the cancellation of the public lighting on the public area very near the scene of this week’s siege of the Lindt’s Café, in which another Islamic loony held hostages for 16 hours before police stormed the store. Two of the hostages were killed.

It would be too easy and wrong to write smugly from Israel that the Jewish community caved into pressure to cancel the public lighting. It may even have been the Jewish leaders’ own initiative to do so “out of respect” to the families of the victims.

If the victims had been Jewish, God forbid, they might have made the same decision that is politically correct but fundamentally wrong. Beneath the surface lies the eternal contradiction of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

The need to be socially and culturally acceptable among the non-Jewish hosts in a foreign country – foreign meaning outside the Jewish home of Israel – clashes with the individual need to live Judaism fully.

The non-Jews cannot be expected to understand Judaism’s inner meaning and spirituality, but it is a tragedy that Jews’ understanding is tainted by their living in the Diaspora.

Hanukkah is universally recognized by lighting the Menorah, the Dreidel, the sickening sufganiyot –those unhealthy fried donuts once filled with jelly and now stuffed with everything from peanut butter to bubble gum – and the Xmas-inspired gift-giving.

Of all of these symbols, the Menorah is the only one that touches on the real meaning of Hanukkah, two victory of truth over evil in the war against the Greek conquerors of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple and the miracle of pure olive oil that was found in the debris of the Temple and which burned for eight days even though it was thought to be enough to burn for only one day.

For the non-Jew, and unfortunately as well as for many Jews, lighting the menorah has about as much meaning as lighting a Xmas tree, which has nothing to do with the origins of the holiday.

Light is beautiful. It is uplifting. It is fun. Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights.

The light of Hanukkah represents the belief in God, the belief in good over evil, and it symbolizes the victory of the Jews over those who want to destroy the light, such as the mad Muslim of Lindt’s.

The Xmas tree’s decorations are nice and pretty but have no meaning other than one’s individual thoughts of God, the beauty of light and nature, and the cost of electricity. They have nothing to do with the meaning of the holiday (AFAIK).

For the families of the siege of Lindt’s Café, the public lighting of the Menorah nearby the scene of the crime indeed would seem disrespectful because they do not understand nor cannot be expected to understand the deep meaning of Hanukkah.

For the Jew who understands the meaning behind the Menorah, lighting it in public would seem exactly the message needed to show that terror and murder cannot and must not conquer.

But Jews in the Diaspora must behave as they are expected to behave.

If God forbid the siege had taken place in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, I dare say that more Menorahs would be lit than ever before. The expression of the belief in God and not in the fear of terrorist and murders would be omnipresent in public.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/first-person/the-diaporas-dilemma-in-sydney/2014/12/19/

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