Gefen Bar-On Santor

Jyoti lights a candle: a fictional Hannukah miracle?

Source: iStock, Ketut Agus Suardika
Source: iStock, Ketut Agus Suardika

At a time when many Jewish people are losing sleep and peace of mind over rising societal acceptance for Jew hate, Jyoti Gondek, the Mayor of Calgary in the province of Alberta, Canada, has decided to break with the tradition of participating in the lighting of the Hannukah Menorah at City Hall.

The mayor explained her decision to check out in a December 6 letter, the first sentence of which reads as follows:

“It has come to my attention late in the day that tomorrow’s community menorah lighting at City Hall—something I have looked forward to attending over the years—has been repositioned as an event to support Israel.”  The rest of the letter is a word salad that you may read for yourself if you’d like (the letter is embedded in the following article. Spoiler alert: Israel is responsible for spreading “division and hatred”).

Luckily, there are eight nights in Hannukah, with an additional candle lit each night. As more candles burn bright, the light of understanding has an opportunity to grow.

Hannukah is a time of miracles, so one can only dream about a fictional press release such as the following one coming from Gondek’s office:

“[Fictional:] On behalf of Mayor Jyoti Gondek, the City of Calgary has decided to light Hannukah candles after all to show support for a sovereign nation under a horrifying and unprovoked attack. We stand in support of the Jewish community in our city and the people who have close ties to Israel.”

Little effort was required to write this fantasy announcement. It is mostly copied word from word from a February 24, 2022 announcement about Gondek’s decision to raise the flag of the Ukraine in Calgary:

“On behalf of Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Calgary City Council and in partnership with City Manager David Duckworth and City Administration, The City of Calgary has raised the flag of Ukraine at the Municipal Building to show support for a sovereign nation under a horrifying and unprovoked attack. We stand in support of the Ukrainian community in our city and the people who have close ties to their homeland.”

If Gondek needs a reminder of why many Jewish people stand with Israel, she might want to contemplate more deeply the abuse of the nineteen-year-old peace-loving and humanity-loving Naama Levy, one of the many victims of October 7 who had been active for peace—and who is still being held hostage in Gaza (it is possible that the Hamas refuses to release Naama and other women and men still in Gaza so that we would not hear from them about what they have endured).

Please take a few minutes to read what Naama’s mother, Ayelet, has shared with us during this time of unimaginable torment:

Gondek is likely unaware that by snubbing the menorah lighting in Calgary, she has just unknowingly done her small bit to increase the likelihood that there will be more people suffering Naama’s torturous fate in the future—and perhaps not only in Israel. Gondek’s rejection of Jewish people who stand with Israel emboldens those who wish to do harm.

October 7 happened on the holiday of Simchat Torah, in which the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah is concluded with joy. The next holiday in the Jewish calendar is Hanukkah—and Gondek has decided to use the holiday on this tragic year as an occasion to reject the Jewish people.

A person with no light of understanding to inform them of what is at stake will not be making a contribution to peace.

This video about Germany could serve as a reminder that lighting a Hanukkah candle is a privilege that cannot be taken for granted:

A mayor who has turned her back on the privilege to light a candle in solidarity with the victims of murder, rape, torture and kidnapping is a person who has made the choice to add darkness to the world.

About the Author
Gefen Bar-On Santor teaches English at the University of Ottawa, as well as adult-education literature courses at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She is an enthusiastic believer in life-long learning and in the relevance of fiction to our lives. She also writes at
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