Chanukah in the Jewish state

Jonathan Hadad (Israel, AC 09-11)


The celebration of Chanukah does not originate in the old testament but was added later to the Jewish tradition. Chanukah celebrates one of the times in history when someone tried to destroy Judaism and failed. Like Christmas, it is celebrated in the beginning of winter and one of the main themes is light, symbolizing everything that is righteous, just, and “Disney good”. In Israel, secular Jews enjoy eating doughnuts, and shopping with festive discounts. Though the shopping season in Israel during Chanukah never reaches the consuming hysteria in Cardiff, capital of Wales, a month before Christmas. Every day for eight days, after lighting another candle on the Hanukkiya, each child gets a present and everyone sings songs. Most of them are normal cheery songs about dreidels (or spinning top), candles and doughnuts. Others are about the wars between light and darkness. A part of the lyrics of one popular Chanukah song called “Maoz Tzur” is “bring genocide upon our dog-like enemies”. The lyrics of this song are not in Modern Hebrew so most people and mainly children do not understand what they mean.

Religious Jews in Israel light the Chanukah candles every day for eight days as well. The rest of the religious customs are honestly not known to me. Religious Jews and secular Jews in Israel study in separate schools and live in separate neighborhoods, so describing their Chanukah would be as fake and distant as describing Eid al-Adha for Muslims living is Israel, for the same reasons.

I used  the words “secular Jewish” and “religious Jewish” only to describe general traditions of the mainstream population in Israel, who consider themselves as such. However, There are very many different, contradicting definitions for “secular”, “religious” and “Jewish”. The definition of the Jewish state of Israel is endlessly disputed within the country because of these difficulties. This is the main reason why Israel still doesn’t have a constitution.

Religious political parties argue that the old testament should be the constitution of Israel. This can’t be completely discouraged because there isn’t separation between state and church in Israel anyway. Recently the justice minister of Israel announced that step by step he will work toward making Israel a Jewish theocracy. This plan will obviously not be realized any time soon and the Israeli form of democracy is still strong, nevertheless it is very disturbing. There have been many attempts over the years to write a constitution but it hasn’t worked yet. For now there are “basic laws” which defend basic human rights. For example, the basic law for human dignity and liberty, which was only enacted in 1992, can be erased in voting by a normal majority in the parliament.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that the word “Jewish” is used to describe a religion and a culture which both became enough versatile over thousands of years and around the world to have no actual meaning today. In other words, saying someone is Jewish would indicate the same amount of information about a person as saying someone is alive. In more recent history, “Jewish” became a nationality, to which I still can’t figure out who belongs to and who doesn’t. Hitler would most likely disagree.

– United World College Student Magazine –

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