Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

December in Israel

Israel is the only country in the world with a Jewish majority culture. To be a Jew in Israel during a religious or national holiday is an awesome experience. I remember vividly my first Purim in Israel many years ago when I noticed that the bus driver was wearing a Purim costume and I remember thinking, “wow, even the bus drivers are Jewish!”

Growing up in western countries I keenly felt my minority status during the Christian holidays, specifically at the end of the year. It is still strange to be in a country where the 25th of December is just another day. Even after all of these years in Israel I am still in awe at the success of the Zionist enterprise, “the hope of two thousand years to be a free people in our own land.” As the secular year draws to a close I would like to jot down some of my personal observations from the past week in Israel:

You know you are in Israel when…

  • When one lands in Israel with ELAL and people on the plane clap.
  • They play the Arik Einstein song, “How good that you have come home.”
  • The captain says “Chag Sameach!”
  • People still literally kiss the ground out of gratitude.
  • There is Chanukah music on the radio.
  • People show their gratitude by driving to IDF checkpoints and giving treats to the Modern Maccabees defending our state.
  • Zionist youth movement members hike to Masada and other historically important sites and places of natural beauty during the school holidays.

DSC_0474Masada.  Photo (c) 2014, T. Book

  • IAF F16’s symbolically fly by the ancient desert fortress of Masada.
  • There are Chanukiot (Menorahs) lighting up public spaces as well as all houses – religious and secular, as the nation celebrates this national/religious holiday.
  • The Western Wall on Mondays and Thursdays is a seething mass of Jews of all denominations celebrating Bnei Mitzvah.
  • The daily newspapers have the secular and Hebrew dates as well as a picture of a Chanukiah on the front page with the correct amount of candles for that day.
  • There are Sufganiyot (doughnuts) everywhere, malls, work, train/bus stations…everywhere!
  • The city of Modiin is not just the location of a story in an ancient book; it is a modern thriving city demonstrating in the words of the “al hanisim” prayer recited on Chanukah, “In those days and in this time.”
  • The sevivon (dreidle) in Israel has the Hebrew letter “Peh” on, standing for the Hebrew word “po” (here), as in, “the miracle happened here” as opposed to the letter “shin” written on the dreidels in the diaspora standing for “sham” (there).
chanuka poster modiin 2012
Modiin, Photo (c) T. Book, 2014

With all of the many external and internal issues Israel is wrestling and grappling with, ranging from security to social to environmental, when one takes a step back, one realises that we can justifiably be proud of having accomplished so much. From reviving our land, our language and ability to be in charge of our own destiny, we really can state that with the help of hard work, gritty determination and belief in our right to be in this land, “A miracle happened here.”

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 is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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