University of Haifa International School Student Blog
Happy (Late) Chanukah….or however you choose to spell it!
It is something special to be able to celebrate Chanukah while living in Israel. To be able to celebrate a history while living in the land the story came from is an indescribable feeling. Coming from the USA Chanukah is often overlooked by the public and all the attention is given to Christian Christmas. Unfortunately Christmas in the States has become more of a consumer holiday, than a religious holiday. After living through it for many years (including six years working in RETAIL during the Christmas season) I can faithfully say more people are concerned about getting the perfect gifts for people, rather than the sentiment of having that person in their life.
Celebrating Chanukah in Israel has showed me that you can keep the consumerism of gift giving and without losing the religious symbolism.
Here are my eight reasons why the eight days of light are worth celebrating with photos I’ve taken or my friends have taken here in Israel.
The history of the holiday is the triumph of the Jewish Maccabees over the Greeks and the miracle of holy oil lighting the menorah for eight days where there was only enough for one day. To continue to celebrate past victories of Jews by present Jews is a beautiful continuation of pride of the Jewish people for their history and their land. Seeing the displays of patriotism (such as this massive LED lighting on the highway) is inspiring regardless of where you are from.
The tradition of Chanukah is to get together to eat, talk, and relax with friends and family. Unlike more holidays where it is “one and done,” Chanukah encourages time with your loved ones for eight days straight.
Playing with dreidels seems so simple, yet the meaning is so rich. Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter on it. Outside of Israel it says, “A great miracle happened THERE.” This was my first year seeing and playing with a dreidel that says, “A great miracle happened HERE.” This is such a powerful message. As I mentioned before, you can give gifts (like dreidels to kids) that are not only fun, but describe the history of the Jewish people in only four letters. (Plus winning chocolate coins isn’t so bad either.)
In the words of my Arabic teacher “the goal is to make and eat foods that are fried with oil and especially if they are sweet…the more the better!” Being a native Southern American I hold this motto near and dear to my heart! Fried food makes the soul happy. It’s a fact! I don’t believe that anyone can eat well-made latkes (potato pancakes) and not be in a good mood.
Israelis really take the cake when it comes to innovating and inventing new ways to make a hanukia (the small menorahs). A Chanukah miracle happens where Jews become engineers over night as you see people making hanukias out of anything and placing them anywhere. This includes the children who make hanukias in school and proudly bring them home and light them for their families. After all, where else in the world can you catch a cab with a hanukia strapped to the roof?
This deserves its own spot because sufganiyot are the doughnuts specifically for Chanukah that are filled with jelly and topped with powdered sugar. They are amazing and you will find them everywhere. Literally everywhere! Here at the University of Haifa, the Student Union was passing them out to the students throughout the week. Of traditional holidays foods, this is definitely one of my favorites.
This one may be an obvious one, but celebrating light is not just literal because the Maccabees made oil last for eight days, but also symbolic of the Jewish past. Despite THOUSANDS of YEARS of adversaries, wars, and discrimination the light of Judaism still shines bright in the world and will not burn out. Am Yisrael Chai.
There is nothing more heart warming than seeing the room filled with friends and family gathered together sharing stories, eating food, and singing traditional Chanukah songs. I spent one of the last days of Chanukah with my boyfriend’s family and it was so special to see everyone lighting candles and singing songs in the celebration of Judaism.
As an international student I am so glad I was able to be here to experience Chanukah. I know many students are saddened about not being able to be home for the holidays (regardless of faith) but the collective celebration you see here in Israel makes the transition much easier. It taught me that holidays are not a time for gifts, but a time for friends and family and great food. This Chanukah I was able to celebrate all these things and it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So… On behalf of the International School at the University of Haifa I would like to say Happy Chanukah from Israel and I urge you to come here to experience it as well one day. I promise you wont regret it!