Michalya Schonwald Moss
Michalya Schonwald Moss

Lighting up in the South of Africa

Chanukah in the Southern hemisphere: along with Christmas trees melting on 34 degree Johannesburg sidewalks- sweating during candle lighting has been one of the more amusing adjustments for me on this side of the equator during the holiday season.

Last night we lit Chanukah candles at the home of good friends who recently had a serious health scare with one of their children. They were not sure he was going to come out of it and they prepared for the worst- but he defied the odds and is a living miracle. He ran around, playing with the other children, barefoot and laughing in the garden, his head held high. The smell of sufganiyot and night-blooming jasmine was heavy in the warm breeze.

While I grew up being taught that the lights of Chanukah were intended to illuminate the darkness of winter, down here in the Rainbow Nation the Festival of Lights brings a new lesson- that of Chanukah light illuminating the darkness in the heat of summer.

And boy is it getting hot in here.

South Africa at the end of 2015 is plagued with political and economic uncertainty, a severely weakened currency and many more jobs being lost than created. Civil society is up in arms about a broken education system, rising food prices and the lack of democratic decision making processes of government-and school is officially out for summer.

‘Silly season’, as it is referred to has begun, when those who are lucky enough to have jobs can switch out of work mode and into something else. Many business are closing this week for the next month and life as we know it is in the hands of an out of control El Niño.

We have been peering cautiously and with wide-eyes over our borders- to Kenya, Mali, Israel, the U.S and Europe and wondering when and if our unique ecosystem is going to be pulled into the larger whirlpool of darkness and chaos that is so rapidly spreading.

Uncertainties can create a profound fear of the unknown. But with each night of Chanukah we bring in a little more light. And with each light comes more certainty-yes there can be light, even in the darkest days of summer and yes, that light can be multiplied, sustained, harnessed.  And that miracles do happen, the odds can be defied, and that our lives, if we choose them to be, can be cultivated in that light.

About the Author
Michalya Schonwald Moss is the Director of Global Impact and Development for Cadena, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization, guided by the principles of Tikkun Olam.
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