My kids have no idea that Christmas is in three days. No idea. Come to think of it, I’m not sure they even know what Christmas is! Why do I say this with glee? Because growing up in a minority culture and religion, we, as Jews in America, are inundated with Christian holidays and Christmas spirit our entire lives. The moment that Thanksgiving ends (or maybe Halloween?) you can’t get to a mall without hearing Christmas music and seeing Santa Claus. And Chanukah becomes a holiday that competes with Christmas. We are told that we don’t need to celebrate Christmas – not because we have our own amazingly unique and rich culture and heritage – but because we’ve also got a holiday with presents. So, don’t worry little kids because you won’t be left out.
The beauty of living in Israel, as I see it, is that my kids are never left out! Rather than be the minority – they are IT. They are the main attraction. Chanukah is THE holiday – not the holiday that comes around Christmas time and allows Jewish kids to feel like they aren’t missing out.
And so, this year, I relished in enjoying Chanukah with hundreds of our fellow Jews in Eilat. Eilat is the place do go to in the winter, since the weather is so mild. We delighted in celebrating together on a speed boat, a banana boat, at the aquarium, at the waterfront, and more. And, we loved being accompanied by Josh’s parents for all of our adventures! (Yes, they are still recovering from our rambunctious children with their never-ending energy levels…not to mention from the lack of one sleep machine that took a beating from my darling children).
One evening, when I went to retrieve our pizza from the front of the hotel, I was completely struck by the Chanukah atmosphere. The hotel was all on one level, with large open areas outside of each room. With Chanukah candles, you are supposed to light them to project out into the world to publicize the miracle. As I walked down the open, outdoor corridor, there were Chanukiot lining the walkways and large groups of people hanging out around their Chanukiot and chatting.
Through the ages, Jews have hidden their Chanukiot and faced persecution for trying to light them; even in modern times, we hear an isolated story here and there each year about a family that endured taunting when they placed their Chanukia in a public location. What a beautiful and powerful display to be in a public hotel – and to see Chanukiot everywhere and people enjoy their chag together in peace and freedom! Here’s to another great holiday in Israel!