On Monday morning (First Day Channukah) I walked into the arena to play hockey. Sitting next to our teams bench (technically the penalty box) was a large menorah. My first reaction was that it was really cool moment. The more I thought about it the more I realized that it would be weirder if they didn't have one. After all this is the venue for Channah's Bat Mitzvah.
As the week has gone on, Channukah can be seen everywhere. Bakeries are filled with Sufganiyot (Jelly Donuts). We went to meet up for breakfast with some friends at a hotel. Complimentary sufganityot were spread throughout the various concierge places throughout the hotel. Individual businesses set up their own menorahs. Around here some businesses close either early or for a couple of hours to allow employees to come home and light their candles with their families. Channah has been complaining that she wishes that she had 9 days off for Channukah as opposed to the 7 days she gets. She was shocked to discover that her first cousins in Montreal have school over Channukah.
A few weeks ago a friend had received some media attention over a book they received from a Jewish book club that included references to Christmas. They were so upset that they lodged a complaint to one of the large Jewish organizations that funds the books. This resulted in a huge dialogue both in favor and against the book clubs decision. On the one hand, the book represented the reality that they experienced as they balance their Jewishness with the Holiday Season around them. On the other, were those who felt that Christmas has nothing to do with Judaism and the books didn't belong in the mainstream community. After watching the discussion for a few days, I asked Channah if she knew when Christmas is. Not only did she not know but she was confused by the question.
There is one very noticeable difference between Channukah in Israel and Chul (the rest of the world). That difference can be seen in the dreidel. Around the world they have the letters Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin, standing for a Great Miracle Happened There. In Israel the Shin is replaced with a Pey, changing the meaning to a Great Miracle Happened Here.
This year has really driven home the point of how different Channukah is here. That point is perfectly captured in the difference between the two letters. In Chul the battle of Channukah is still playing out to this very day. How to balance the needs of the Jewish Spirituality with the overwhelming surrounding culture. For those in Chul the lights of the candles represent the power of a little light and it's ability to burn longer then could ever be expected and persevere through the dark days of winter.
For us in Israel the Great Miracle already happened here. While we still have spiritual battles they are both internal or amongst our own nation. We no longer have to battle the forces of the culture around us. We are still involved in a physical battle for our very survival. At times the losses are great we just want them to stop. We still have the candles to give us strength in the darkest of days.
Being so far away from family and friends has been a struggle. There are times that I wonder if it is a struggle I can overcome. I don't miss Canada. I miss my friends and family and the support they are able to provide. Distance makes those challenges harder. That Menorah in the hockey rink, reminded me just how much and why I love living here.