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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Seventh Hanukkah Candle to Be Lit in Seven Nations Simultaneously

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Immigrants to Israel from seven countries will light Hanukkah candles Tuesday night simultaneously with Jews in seven other countries in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The candle lighting in Israel will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where 300 young olim  from France, Ethiopia, the United States, Yemen, Latvia, Latin America, and the Bnei Menashe community of India will be joined by Jews lighting at the same time in Paris, London, Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent and Budapest.

The event will be broadcast live  here at 3:30 p.m. Israel time (8:30 a.m. EST).

Netanyahu Lights Hanukkah Candles in Rome’s Main Synagogue

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Rome’s main synagogue Sunday night and lit Hanukkah candles with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta before he arrived at the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis.

Speaking to the Jewish community and the media at Sunday’s ceremony, Netanyahu reiterated his warnings that the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program was a “historic error.”

Letta, saying he “knew Israel’s positions, doubts and fears,” turned to relations with Jews in Italy and stated that the current economic and social crisis fed “extremism, hate and intolerance,” and he pledged to resist the “racism, intolerance and xenophobia” that were growing in Italy “in a worrying manner.”

The two prime ministers held bilateral talks on Monday.

Chanukah Lighting on the Mount of Olives

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Living on the Mount of Olives has its perks. Sure, we have crazy traffic every Monday and Thursday mornings because of Kotel Bar Mitzvas, and no, we don’t have any nearby grocery stores so we have to stock up on big weekly shopping trips.

But there is nothing like lighting the Chanukia right across from the Temple Mount.

When I prepare my oil candles, I look over to the place that the first and second Temples stood, and I remember the fight which the Maccabees fought against the Syrian Greeks, and the Hebrew military/cultural victory which was broadcast when the Menorah was lit in purity once again. I also remember how almost three-hundred years later the Romans would sack the Temple overcoming the Great Revolt. And I remember how Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva fomented yet another revolution against mighty Rome only 60 years later, and took back Jerusalem for three more years before the final destruction of the Second Commonwealth.

From my window, the jewel Temple Mount is adorned by a golden crown. To the west, I see the Beit Knesset HaChurva, twice destroyed by Arabs – the second time being blown up with dynamite by the Jordanians in 1948. Now, once again, the great dome of the Churva stands tall and glorious atop the Old City. Even more to the west, I see the walls of ancient Jerusalem as rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent about 500 years ago. I even see the Leonardo Plaza hotel reminding me that there is a modern western Jerusalem as well.

To the east of the Temple Mount I see the continuation of my mountain – the Mount of Olives – the mountain of Jewish History. The voices of the massive cemetery answer ‘Amen’ as I light the Chanukia. Voices like the Prophet Zecharia who foresaw the rebuilding of the Third Temple, voices like Israel’s youngest fallen soldier: ten year old, private Nissim Gini, who is buried in a mass grave along with 47 other defenders of the Old City as it fell to the Jordanian legion in 1948. Voices like Rav Kook, Rav Goren, and even Eliezer Ben Yehuda who dedicated their lives to the birth of the Third Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel. They all answer ‘Amen’ as I light the Chanukia with my wife and children in the construction site know as Jerusalem.

Yet there are other voices, loud voices, that I hear, or am forced to hear, as I light the oil candles. These are the voices of the Fatah club right underneath my balcony. “Allah HuAkbar” is not a friendly invitation to serve God in the Holy City. No, the meaning behind that call is that in the name of God, Jewish sovereignty is to be snuffed out, and if I and my children are in the way, then we are to be snuffed out as well. The chant is meant to energize the adherents and strike fear into victims. But as I look unto the Fatah club through the light of Chankiah, I am filled with the determination of the Maccabees that we shall prevail over these forces of darkness.

And then there is the Temple Mount itself. In the misty night, the well placed lights illuminate the Golden Dome. On the one hand I am happy that at least the Temple Mount is respected with a memorable edifice. On the other hand, that very structure appears in every anti-Israel Jihadist propaganda. Indeed, as my friend Alex pointed out to me, our holiest place is the seed of greatest hate against us. Ironic.

Tears come down as I ponder the history of the self-sacrifice that this place engenders in our people. But I am heartened that we are part of a long chain of history, and that long chain will eventually lead, as promised, to victory. That victory will not mean subjugation of people, or the abrogation of freedom. It will mean the subjugation of evil men, and the abrogation of tyranny. Isn’t that what Chanukah is all about?

It’s Hanukkah, Not Thanksgiving and Not Thanksgivukkah

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

I already have erased the first version of this article, which was preachy and snotty, when I realized I have lived in Israel too long to remember that I lived too long in America before moving to Israel.

All of the rah-rah Israel attitude than landed with me 30 years ago comes out like a tired preacher fed up with his flock of sinners and no longer able to lead them to the path of Truth and Beauty.

So for all of you still in the United States, and in Canada where I lived for eight years, the only way I know to get inside you is to write the news and views the way I see it, and not as the journalist I once was, when I had traded in Judaism for Journalism as The Way of Life.

My trip into idol worship – H. L. Mencken was one of my gods – ended in the news room at a major metropolitan daily in Canada, where I had the fancy title of Senior News Editor with a salary I have not seen again until this day.

That was in 1981, during what was known as the Peace for the Galilee campaign, usually referred to as the First War in Lebanon. I was ripping off UPI and AP copy, poring through the reports and deciding what our readers would read and what would go into the trash bin.

At that time, Judaism was a memory, and Zionism was an embryo, which I did not know existed.

Let’s go back a bit, but briefly. I grew up in a home where my parents of blessed memory became observant when I was almost too young to remember. Fast forward to 1960, when I was 16 and when they already were heavily involved in the Orthodox Union and Hadassah and took their first trip to Israel.

I was going to public high school but was very serious in my religious learning, which I continued at the “afternoon Hebrew school” well after my Bar Mitzvah. My favorite bedtime reading was the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch on Jewish laws.

Israel was never a part of my studies, except for stories about Jews in the days of “Palestine.”

When my parents returned with photographs of Israel, I refused to look at them. I blurted out instinctively, “Israel is not a religious state. I do not want to see pictures from a Jewish state that is not orthodox.”

If you have not gotten the point, I was far from a Zionist. As a cub reporter in a small hillbilly town in Virginia during the Six-Day War, I remember my managing editor calling out, “Hey, do you know what you guys are doing to the Arabs?

I did not know and could not have cared less. I was more interested in pounding the police beat.

But what happened in the news room in Canada during the war in Lebanon tore me up.

Journalism was my Truth, but something did not read right between the lines of the wire copy.

It said that Israeli soldiers were attacking “guerillas” inside Lebanese territory and then noted the “invasion” followed some rockets that had fallen on Israel, killing a few people here and there.

And you thought that the anti-Israel bias on the war against terror in Gaza, Judea and Samaria is something new? Every day, I read about Israel “invading” Lebanon and killing these “guerillas,” with the obvious bias that Israel was to blame for the violence that I could see between the lines was initiated in Lebanon.

I couldn’t take it anymore. My belief in Journalism was extinguished in a flash. I was devastated. After six weeks, I walked into the news room and said, “I quit.”

The bosses were astonished but did not ask for an explanation, and I do not know if I could have answered. Journalism had become  a lie, and there would be no sense telling the gods they have ears and cannot hear and have eyes and cannot see.

Two years later, I took my first trip to Israel – on a one-way ticket, intent to stay, which I did.

So dear, reader, I am trying not to preach to you. I can only let you know of one person’s path to The Truth.

Everyone has his or her own path, and I cannot communicate to you other than through the news and views.

You have your reasons – let’s be honest and call them excuses, in most cases – to remain outside of Israel. I am not referring to those with children. I  mean all of the singles and couples without children and without the financial responsibility that could be a question mark before moving to Israel. We can discuss that some other time.

I cannot persuade you or convince you other than to write through my eyes that see Israel with its warts and puts them in perspective of a Divine Presence that protects this country, and see the warts of American in the perspective of a fading empire whose Jews are living in their hope that there will always be a tomorrow.

All of this comes to mind on what is being called Thanksgivukkah, a name which says volumes.

I am sure Americans have a lot to be thankful about, and I will let each one count his own blessings.

My “anti” stage has long passed; I am not anti-American nor anti-America. I was born there, grew up there, was educated there and worked there.

And I am thankful that Thanksgiving is so far behind me that I don’t have the burden of having to celebrate the Miracle of Lights and the Jewish victory over the Romans  in the home of the Jewish people along with the holiday that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

According to my prayer book, every day is a day of thanksgiving.

Geneva Lawmaker Wants to Ban Hanukkah

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

A city council member from Geneva, Switzerland, has warned his municipality against allowing a public Hanukkah event, which he said would violate Swiss law.

“I’m not afraid of being called anti-Semitic, because my request is not directed at a religious community [but at] the authorities, which do not comply with the law by issuing an authorization for this event,” council member Pierre Gauthier is quoted as telling the Tribune de Geneve daily newspaper this week.

In a letter to the mayor, Gauthier, who is the secretary of a not-for-profit called “Geneva Secular Coordination,” cited Switzerland’s Law of Foreign Worship, which states that “no celebration of worship, procession or any religious ceremony is allowed on public roads.”

He urged the mayor’s office to cancel a public candle-lighting event on Mollard Square scheduled for Dec. 3. The organizer of the event, Rabbi Mendel Pevzner of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, told the Tribune, “This is not a religious event but a moment of sharing, open to all faiths. Since 1991, we have never encountered a problem.”

On Tuesday, another council member from Geneva, Denis Menoud, wrote on Facebook that he was pleased with the signing of a deal between world powers and Iran on its alleged nuclear weapons program because, “The bottom line is that Israel is on the path of carbonization.” The deal was reached last week after talks in Geneva.

MCG President Roger Golay condemned Menoud’s words and said the party expected him to resign.

Johanne Gurfinkel of CICAD, a Swiss group that monitors anti-Semitism, called on Menoud to “publicly apologize for his statement.” Gurfinkel also asked Menoud’s rightist MCG party to take a stand against “this type of hateful comments.”

Menoud told the Tribute de Genève that the “sentence was taken out of context,” and that he only meant to say that this situation in the Middle East will create a new paradigm. “The loser is Israel, strategically and politically.”

Dutch Christians’ Mega-Menorah Helps Jews Come Out of their Shell

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Amsterdam’s Chabad Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs lit the candles on the first night Hanukkah Wednesday on a 36-foot menorah with a six-ton base that was made with donations by Christian Zionists.

Klaas Zijlstr designed and built the menorah, in the shape of a Star of David, in his metal workshop in the northern tip of the Netherlands. Possibly the largest in all of Europe, the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor is meant to be a sign of solidarity by Christian Zionists with the Jewish people.

“It’s exactly like the rabbi wanted,” Zijlstra said.

Rabbi Jacobs helped Zijlstra and a group called Christians for Israel design the nine-branch candelabrum so it could be used for the eight-day holiday, which began Wednesday night and which was lit in front of hundreds of Christians and Jews during a public ceremony in Nijkerk, not far from Amsterdam.

Though commonplace in the United States and even in Russia, public Hanukkah events are a recent and revolutionary development in the Netherlands. Here they signify the growing self-confidence and openness of a Jewish community whose near annihilation in the Holocaust left a deeply entrenched tendency to keep a low profile.

“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t‎‎ have been possible,” said Arjen Lont, the Christian Zionist businessman who donated $40,000 to build and transport the menorah. “It requires a lot of openness.”

Lont says the purpose of the giant menorah, which can be used either with electric bulbs or oil lamps, is to send a message.

“After unspeakable suffering, the horrors of the Holocaust and most recently the attacks on Israel, Jews may feel they are alone,” Lont told JTA. “This is our way of saying you are not alone; we are behind you.”

The first public Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the country was organized in 1989 in Buitenveldert, near Amsterdam, by the wife of a Chabad rabbi, according to Bart Wallet, a historian of Dutch Jewry at the University of Amsterdam.

Today, such events are held annually in 19 municipalities, from the northern city of Leeuwarden, near Berlikum, to the southern border city of Maastricht, according to Rabbi Jacobs.

He said that public menorah lightings in the country signify the Jewish community’s confidence in asserting its place in Dutch society.

“Nowadays it’s also saying we are here; we are also a part of the fabric of religious communities and society,” he explained.

Dutch Jewish reticence toward public displays of faith dates back at least to the 19th century, according to Wallet, when Dutch rabbis decreed that no Jewish rituals should be held in the public domain. At the time, Dutch Jews were keen on integrating into a democratic society as equal citizens, and they considered it counterproductive to showcase religious customs that set them apart from their compatriots.

The tendency was greatly reinforced after the Holocaust, when three-quarters of Holland’s population of 140,000 Jews perished — a higher percentage than anywhere else in occupied Western Europe. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in the Netherlands.

Wallet says things began to change in the 1970s, when Dutch Jews began displaying greater activism around anti-Semitism and Israel.

Even today, however, many Dutch Jews retain a sense of reticence when it comes to public displays of religion.

“There’s nothing wrong with these Hanukkah events, but to me they don’t seem familiar,” said Jaap Hartog, chairman of the umbrella group of Dutch Jewry, called the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK. “To me, Hanukkah is more a holiday that you celebrate at home with your family. The public candle lightings are more of an American thing.

“On a personal level, I’m not too keen on participating.”

Initially, Chabad rabbis organized candle lighting ceremonies as part of their efforts to reach lapsed Jews, but today the menorah lightings are not organized exclusively by Chabad. Nathan Bouscher, a Jewish activist who is not himself religious, has co-organized candle lightings at the Dam, Amsterdam’s best-known square.

“It’s a way to build bridges between Jews and the non-Jewish environment, but also within the community and between Dutch-born Jews and the thousands of Israelis who live here and the tourists from Israel,” Bouscher said.

Back at Zijlstra’s metal workshop, his menorah is attracting attention from neighbors. During the test run last week, a few of them stopped by to admire his handiwork and congratulate him.

US ‘Holiday Stamps’ Include Menorah Made by Vermont Blacksmith

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The U.S. Postal Service has created a new Hanukkah stamp this year featuring an iron menorah made by a Vermont blacksmith, but the omission of a stamp for Christmas has left a lot of people burning angry.

Pouring salt on their wounds, the Postal Service also issued two other stamps for the holiday, one marking the African American holiday Kwanzaa and a third showing a gingerbread house.

The Hanukkah stamp shows a menorah made by Steve Bronstein of Mansfield, Vermont. He told the Rutland Herald he did not even know his menorah was in the running to be represented on a stamp.

“When they called and said they wanted to make a stamp out of the menorah, I thought they meant a rubber stamp,” he told the local newspaper. “I didn’t know I was talking to the postal service. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s nice to get some acknowledgement every once in a while.”

Bronstein, armed with a degree in biology, moved from New York to Vermont with the idea of finding work at a medical school.

He said that since one of his hobbies is woodworking, he decided to make a chisel for one of his projects since he could not find the right in local hardware stores. His introduction into tool making piqued his interest, and he ended up working as a blacksmith.

He said when he made his first menorah in 1985, people thought he was off his dreidel.

“At the time, Hanukkah menorahs were brass and shiny and had more of a 1960s design aesthetic,” Bronstein explained. “I was doing something very different and it worked really well. I’ve sold a ton.”

He now sells around 100 menorahs a year and his works can be found in collections such as the Jewish Museum in New York.

While Bronstein is elated about the honor of his menorah being on envelopes across the nation, the Postal Service is on the receiving end of a lot of anger because of its omission of Christmas for this year’s “holiday stamps.”

After it advertised the stamps featuring the menorah, Kwanzaa and a gingerbread house, people started pouring on the criticism.

One tweet sarcastically stated,  “Don’t forget those three American holidays: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and…..gingerbread house. #USPS.”

The Postal Service apologized, saying no offense was intended.

“Our design included the most recent newly issued stamps. We did not look to offend or exclude any religion,” the postal service stated.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-holiday-stamps-include-menorah-made-by-vermont-blacksmith/2013/11/25/

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