It was a revelation to me when I got to Israel that part of Chanukah celebrations was the public display of the miracle of the holiday. I grew up in a Jewish home, one of very few, in an overwhelmingly Christian southern Maryland suburb, close to the border of Washington, D.C. We just didn’t do that.
Moreover, my parents were Holocaust survivors. We didn’t place our Chanukah menora in the wide bay window on the street-side. We lit our candles on the formica kitchen table and never thought twice about it. If I would have given it any pause at all, I would probably think it was for the same reason that we used the fireplace only occasionally – we didn’t want to go messing up the paint job with smoke. Drawing attention to our Jewishness was probably the last thing my parents would be interested in. And I get it. Now.
So it was something of a whole new world to observe my first Chanukah in Jerusalem, where lighting candles in the most street-facing window is the common practice. It is magniv (awesome) to see candles flickering in windows throughout the week wherever Jews live. But, I don’t take it for granted.
In my own neighborhood in the Jewish Quarter, we have throngs of groups that come to visit as soon as night descends to see the candles amongst the Jewish Quarter alleys, which I’ve written about here and here. It is a reminder to me how special it is to live where I do and that I did not always have this life.
My studio is in another one of Jerusalem’s many picturesque locations, Nachlaot. Very close to the thriving (and increasingly yuppified) outdoor market Mahane Yehuda, tour groups and individuals come from far and wide for the special charms of its own alleyways and eclectic residents. Here are some highlights from my wanderings during the last night of Chanukah a year ago in Nachlaot.
It also reminds me that miracles happened then and do in our times as well. So join me in this virtual walk through Nachlaot celebrating Chanukah. Chanukah Sameach.