We’re definitely on our way to Chanukah 2017 in Tel Aviv! Every bakery in the city has a mountain of designer dressed donuts on display, each looking more delicious and calorific than the next! Spoilt for choice, persuasive for the palate but and fatal for the figure, I think I’ll pass on the “sufganiyot” as locally known until we reach the actual holiday. Otherwise, I may end up looking like a less than dainty sweet doughnut myself!
It seems there is no limit to the advanced preparations. As I wander through the store-lined streets Chanukah 2017 in Tel Aviv has come alive with a pyramid of holiday paraphernalia and truly outdone itself this year! There are wooden painted or paper mache dreidels (spinning tops) in abundance. Contemporary Menorot Chanukah (the festivals nine-branched candelabra) are window displayed in a variety of metals, glass or pottery. Boxes of enticing candles in colors from neon to neutral. All to ensure that your Chanukah burns bright with the most significant light! We may love our blue & white but this Chanukah 2017 in Tel Aviv will be full of celebratory colors! We will welcome in this festival with sweetness and style both here in Israel and, with the Jewish nation across the globe.
Aside from the gorgeous gourmet donuts, the delightful crispy fried potato cakes (latkes) and the candy parcels for the craving kids, what is Chanukah? What does this festival represent? Why is it each year we light the eight candles on the Menorah? All these rituals for Chanukah, are to commemorate our devotion and re-commitment to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It is not only a festive period but a time that we remember the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is the time we happily recall the triumph of light over darkness.
At the time of the 2nd Temple, the ruling Greek dynasty accepted the Jewish Torah as a book of wisdom. Unfortunately, they refused to acknowledge it’s significance to the actual Jewish faith. The Greeks decreed that learning the Torah was forbidden and seized all Jewish property and possessions. A further abuse of their power and disrespect for the Jews was to place idols of worship at the Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash). The Jewish people without homes or hope were afraid to stand up against this tyranny. One brave man Mattityahu and his sons, the Maccabees were not. Against all odds, the Maccabees fought back and drove the cruel oppressor from the Holy Land.
During their occupation, the Greeks had defiled the Temple and made the oil impure. Fortunately, the Maccabees uncovered one jar that had been overlooked but, which contained sufficient oil for one day only. Their unwavering faith again gave them courage, so they lit this last jar and released another miracle. The oil burned for eight days! This was cause for great happiness and with daily life restored and the Temple cleansed, the Jewish faith became even stronger.
Chanukah 2017 in Tel Aviv will be observed for eight nights and days commencing on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. This occurs on the secular dates of 12th until 21st December 2017. During this period we are constantly reminded of the miracles of Chanukah. Cafes, restaurants, stores, and shopping malls decorate their establishments in fitting tribute to the festival. We are encouraged to recall the small band of heroic Jews against the great Greek army and the one jar of simple oil lasting for eight days. We remember that it is because of these extraordinary events we celebrate our freedom from the darkness to the light.
We the Jewish people, honor Chanukah by kindling the lights (candles) of the Menorah, one for each evening throughout the holiday until we reach the final night. Each of the eight candles is lit with the ninth, known as the ‘Shamash’ (he who attends) and is placed either in the center of the menorah or in a distinct location to separate it from the rest. Then we do what we’re really great at, we eat, we drink, we sing, we party and play with dreidels!
Happy Chanukah 2017 and may the Festival of Lights be with you!