Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

A Very Special Menorah

It is never convenient to have Milluim (reserve duty). The summons always comes at an inopportune moment.  There was the time I was called up over the Hannukah holiday.  Only after we arrived at the massive base “somewhere in the Negev” for our Milluim we were told that we would be going to a small isolated group of tents in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival at our million star accommodation the folks in our unit started asking if anyone had brought a Chanukia (aka Menorah). One guy strangely had brought candles, but no one had a Chanukia.

One of my lasting memories of the combat medics course I took during my regular service was the phrase, “a good medic knows how to improvise.” That day we had “live fire” exercises with a lot of different ordinance.   I collected nine 0.5 cases from the big Browning machine gun we were using and the links from the sand and reconnected them. I realised that the diameter was too big for the Chanukah candles. So at first I tried 5.56 from our M16’s but that went straight in the opening of the 0.5. I then tried 7.62 from the MAG light machine gun and “walla!” The rest is history.

Bullet Menorah
IDF Bullet Menorah. Photo (c) T. Book, 2022

I vividly remember that night lighting that Chanukia for my combat unit in the middle of the desert and singing together with my fellow IDF brothers-in-arms from all different ethnic and religious backgrounds the Al Hanissim (“for the miracles”) prayer of Hannukah and thinking of the significance of the words. “The few against the many…in those days and at this time.”

Lighting a Hannukiah during my IDF reserve service. Photo (c) T. Book, 2022

I recall standing on that very special Hannukah night, wearing the most meaningful suit of clothes I have ever had the honour to wear, the IDF uniform, under starlit sky of the Negev desert.  I heard the sounds of modern Jewish fighters singing about ancient military victories against seemingly insurmountable odds ringing in my ears. At that profound moment, as I sailed back over the seas of our history to the Hebrew warriors of the Hasmonean revolt I understood what it meant to be, in the words of Yonatan Netanyahu, “a link in the chain of Jewish continuity.” As Chaim Herzog noted:

 In Israel today, Hannukah has become a holiday that inspires the modern nation, as it commemorates the ancient struggle for independence. Today’s Israelis see themselves as successors to the Maccabees; the few who won their freedom and independence.

Band of IDF Brothers (From my unit). Photo (c) T. Book, 2022

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order:
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