On each night of Chanukah, we shared a thought from a different member of the FZY team. We have put them all together for you to read whenever you like. Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year!
First Night: Leo Yaffe – Northern Fieldworker
When I look back at my time on FZY Year Course, it can sometimes be difficult to pick out certain memories because there are so many experiences that that have truly stuck with me and will stay with me forever. One of those special memories was the first night Chanukah, strange maybe that this is one of my highlights but it is something I remember so clearly. We were close to the end of our first semester in Jerusalem, the cold was creeping in and special bonds were being made with the people around me and the country I was living in. I was in an apartment with 7 other boys, we had the smallest kitchen known to man with a window and a ledge underneath. A perfect spot we thought to light our Menorah. But there was a problem, we didn’t have a Menorah. For some reason none of us had gone out and brought one back for the apartment so we decided to be creative and make our own from a couple of pizza boxes which we covered in tin foil. It perhaps wasn’t the best idea we ever had, as the whole thing almost went up in flames, but to know we used a makeshift Menorah and celebrated Chanukah in our own way made it even more meaningful. We stood there, stared into the candle light, said the blessings, sung and ate doughnuts. The reason this night sticks in my memory is because I felt a real connection to Israel and an even stronger connection to Judaism and the meaning of the Festival of Lights.
Second Night: Nimrod Samoray Levi – Shin Shin
This year is very significant for me, it’s my first year away from home, without my family, in a new country. Living a life of a grown up and not of a high school student. As well as contributing and representing Israel this year is a very interesting anthropological experience. I see the culture differences everywhere I go. In this time of the year it’s hard not to notice that It’s my first year in a Christmas celebrating country. It’s even more special since This year, Hanukkah and Christmas are being celebrated in the same time. I celebrate Hanukkah inside the the Jewish places I work for, go out to the streets and see Christmas everywhere . As I’m charmed by the festive atmosphere I thought- hey, it’s not that different from what I know.
The 21st of December is the shortest day of the year. On that day, the number of light hours is at its minimum (not that it is very high on any other day ). Especially for this dark time of the year, religions and cultures all over the world created light holidays. Instead of giving up and live in the dark, the candles on the chanukiah and the Christmas lights light up the whole country. Both holidays celebrate the light .This victory of light over dark is also a metaphor for the good over the bad.
So this year, when you light up your candles, think about how you can help the victory of good over bad. Think about how can you except others, let the enlightenment beat the racism and the ignorance. Think about how you can light up dark places, how to be a good person.
Third Night: Charlie B – Tour Coordinator and Southern Fieldworker
This week Jewish people all over the world celebrate Chanukah. As a second year movement worker at FZY I feel more connected than ever to the Jewish world around me, and it got me thinking- How do Jewish people around the world celebrate Chanukah?I have never celebrated Chanukah outside of the UK and I decided this is a great time to
For instance- did you know that the custom of eating latkes comes from east Eastern European countries which takes advantage of the availability of potatoes in this part of the world, which means that it was actually Jewish immigrants then brought the custom to Israel, Britain, and North America?!
A few other interesting traditions: Indians of Jewish heritage light their menorahs with wicks are have been dipped in coconut oil rather than candles, a different way to honour the miracle of the oil. Italian Jews share recipes for a lightly sweetened, olive oil infused, honey-covered treat called precipizi, which originated in Turin. Among Yemenite Jews, the seventh night of Hanukkah is set aside as a women’s holiday, to commemorate Hannah, whose story is told in the Book of Maccabees.
I think it goes to show exactly what FZY is all about- We are all different and yet we are all the same. Where ever you are – when you light the Chanukah candle tonight, think about how many people around the world are doing the (almost) exact same thing! That is where our power, as a Jewish Nation, comes from!
Fourth Night: Dagan Livni – Central Shlicha
As a little girl, my favorite holiday was always Chanukah. Chanukah in Israel has this incredibly special atmosphere as it’s the only winter holiday in Israel. You get a week off of school, you get to eat doughnuts, and most importantly- you get to play with fire!
Like many others, I was always fascinated with fire. It’s frightening and yet you cannot stop looking at it. It’s so beautiful and yet so dangerous. It has a great power to it – in the old ages fire was used for seeing, hunting, cooking. Ultimately, it was meant for living! But this power can also be destructive.
Only a month ago we witnessed the terrifying power of fire, when the fire in Israel destroyed hundreds of houses and left thousands of people homeless (Ironically, the fire lasted 8 days!). And now, a month later, we are celebrating the festival of lights, praising the symbolism of fire. Fire has always been a part of the Jewish tradition. We light candles every Shabbat- beginning and end. We light candles every day for 8 days on Chanukah, remembering the miracle, and remembering that we are the light of the nations.
This Chanukah, let’s reclaim the symbolism of fire as a symbol of power but in a good way. A symbol of peoplehood, togetherness and strength, and not destruction.
Fifth Night: Emma Nagli – Marketing and Enrolment Coordinator
This year marks my second Chanukah in Israel as an Olah Chadashah. For my first, I celebrated during a 5 month ulpan course, surrounded by 100+ Olim, sufganiyot free flowing, communal candle lighting each night and an organised ‘Secret Friend’ to get our Chanukah gift fix. This year, I hold my hands up and admit that I was pretty anxious on the lead up, knowing that a time that I would usually light each night with my family, I would in fact be lighting on my own. 4 days in and, before you get your tissues out, I have on occasions been surrounded by others! The most special night so far spent with my fellow FZYers! On Monday, my apartment in Tel Aviv saw an influx of FZY Olim, ranging in ages, filling the room with a great energy, continuous laughter, and of course oily, sweet-treat eating! Whilst Israel is filled with an abundance of Olim and new people to meet and greet, typical ‘family’ times can be tough… As cliché as it may sound, knowing that your FZY extended family are just around the corner is a wonderful thing, and something that no one should take advantage. Chag Chanukah Sameach everyone!
Sixth Night: Noah Levy – Mazkir
Where do our traditions and observances come from? Look no further than the Gemara (pretty much the Jewish encyclopaedia). It is a series of many books, filled with commentaries from hundreds of Rabbis who each give their perspective on explaining the Mishnah (Jewish laws). The Gemara (tractate Shabbat), discusses observance of Chanukah and a machloket (disagreement) becomes apparent. A law of Hanukkah is to light the menorah, but in which order should we light it. Should we start with eight candles and count down each night, or should we start with one and count up?
Both have justified reasons, but it is common for many of us to adopt the latter, which comes from Beit Hillels perspective that we should ‘ma’alin b’kodesh v’ain meridin’ which means ‘go up in holiness and not down’. This is the idea that rather than subtracting from ourselves, we should only ever be exploring and developing ourselves.
However, ‘holiness’ is hard to quantify and in the Torah we are told to ‘be holy’ by being like God, something that for many of us is befuddling. But Rabbi Sacks explains that being commanded to collectively be holy is a concept unique to the Jewish people and therefore togetherness, is the key to holiness.
The two ideas I’ve have mentioned, exploring and developing ourselves as individuals, and togetherness, are things that epitomise what it means to be part of FZY.
Channuka is a time that unites Jewish individuals based on shared values – just look at the story of the Maccabees! As you light your menorah this year, remember how you are a part of the Jewish story, and by adding a candle each night, like millions of Jews around the world, you can grow and elevate in holiness.
Seventh Night: Joel Jacobs – Executive Director
This time of year is a kids paradise with many Jewish children receiving gifts for eight nights in a row, filling their tummies with doughnuts and warming themselves around an array of candles. This is not the only time of year however when kids receive gifts, stuff themselves with junk food and sit in front of candles; once a year on their birthday this too happens. Though, on their birthdays when the candles are blown out many make a wish – a dream of their ideal future – on Chanukah we do the opposite. We don’t blow out the candles and make a wish, we light the candles as we are the beneficiaries of a wish coming true – the miracles of the Chanukah story.
On Shabbat this week we read from the sedra of Miketz, where we recall part of the story of Joseph. The story of Joseph outlines a variety of characters who have dreams (or subconscious desires?) and in this week’s parsha we focus specifically on the dreams of Pharaoh. It was Joseph’s ability to understand these dreams that led him to take a position of power within Egypt and the future of the Jewish people was changed forever more. This Chanukah, as we light the candles or listen to the story of Joseph being read in synagogue (or sing along to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation), we should remember that our hopes and dreams really have the ability to come true and impact our lives and the people around us – this we have learnt from both the Maccabees and Joseph. Maybe on Chanukah as we tuck into our doughnuts and open our presents we are living out the dreams of the most powerful believers amongst us – Chanukah: the festival of children’s dreams!
Eighth Night: Mor Sofer – Northern Shaliach
For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been under different threats, based on hate to our religion and people. The establishment of the State of Israel made, for the first time, a Jewish military forces: the Israel Defence Forces. From the moment of the establishment the people of Israel can say – we are now finally safe.
For me, the IDF soldiers are one of the most important light that the state of Israel has gotten. With youth (don’t forget, they are only 18-21 years old!) joy and happiness, and lot’s of responsibillity, the IDF soldiers are keeping the borders safe, while defending a country which based in a middle of a very tough area. Except for keeping Israel’s security, the IDF soliders are taking part in lots of social projects such as supporting holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, kids from difficult backround etc.
The 8th candle is for them.
Happy new year!