Today the Jewish world marks Hanukkah’s first day, a holiday celebrating Jewish rebellion and resilience, determination and triumph of spirit.
The story of the Maccabees takes us back to the year 164 B.C.E when the Maccabean rededicated the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the revolt against the Seleucid Empire.
In order to light the menorah, the Temple’s lamp that illuminated the entire city of Jerusalem, the Maccabees needed pure olive oil; however, they could only find one untouched jug of this valuable liquid—only enough to light the lamp for one day. Instead, it lasted for eight days and ever since has served as the symbol of the holiday. We not only stood against the Greek oppressors, but also were able to miraculously restore our ceremonies and traditions thanks to great determination and belief. The long-lasting nature of the one tiny jug resembles the endurance of our people, small, yet strong.
Based on the story’s facts alone, our nation should not have survived the mighty oppressor. Yet once again, we not only survived but did so with great pride. This is our eternal story, the story of the Jewish people throughout history, and into the present—in Israel, Pittsburgh and worldwide.
Today I took part, along with my colleagues of the JCC Israel Center, in a first-of-its-kind march. We joined “Together—Marching with World Jewry,” winding our way through the streets of Jerusalem in support of Jewish communities worldwide in support of unity.
In the past year, the city of Jerusalem with its holy symbols, became a cause of concern to many Jews around the world, concerns that stained and darkened what Jerusalem really means. Today, together with thousands of Israelis from across the country, representing all walks of life and affiliations, we wiped that stain away, pushed out the dark and allowed Jerusalem’s gold to shine—to spread the light of unity, acceptance and strength. The light of Hanukkah.
Today’s march—led by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, along with dozens of Jewish and Zionist organizations—follows the Israeli government’s investment of considerable resources aimed at strengthening the ties of mutual responsibility and support that link the State of Israel and its citizens with the Jewish people, wherever they may live.
The parade, one of the largest and most impressive events ever held in Israel’s capital, will be in the spirit of the legendary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, with one of the producers being on hand to assist in setup.
The Temple’s menorah may not physically be spreading its great light over the city of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, today a great light has brightened our skies beyond the borders of our Jewish capital. It has crossed oceans and seas and has reached the Jewish people around the world, wherever they are. Sharing the light of unity.
Our Hanukkah flames may differ in colors, size and brightness. Some will dance and other will stand steady.
But the brightness of those combined flames across the Jewish world should remind us that although we may differ, we are, miraculously, still here. We will shine together through one eternal flame, a light unto the nations, and more importantly—to ourselves.
Vice President, Director, JCC Israel Center