The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Hanukah miracle from the 11th floor?

Leaving Israel for a family trip (post to follow) definitely generated mixed emotions. On one hand, its great to see other great cities in the world. On the other hand, to leave Jerusalem is difficult to do, especially during a holiday. Sure enough, before we left some of the streets of Jerusalem had displays of lights in blue and red hung from lampposts for Hanukah. Sufganiot have been available every where- including bagel shops and pizza places- since October.

What we would be missing would be the remarkable sight, we had been told, of endless blocks in Jerusalem were each window (or gate and doorway as is more common in Jerusalem) would have its own chanukiah. The whole city, it seemed, would be awash in the amber glow of Chanukah lights. We would only have one evening to see this after our trip; Thursday we would be free to wander, but the Friday after our return would see us at home with guests.

Thursday saw our exit from Machne Yehudah, the market to which Jerusalemites flock (for great produce, cheap wine, fresh baked breads and numerous treasures, edible and not) into the surrounding streets. We discovered some blocks where glass cases just outside the doorway held an array of oil lamps, one for each member of the family. These spaces were idyllic, small sections where the night was warmed by Chanukah lights, and no home was lacking.

Of course, the reality is that there are non-practicing Jews in Jerusalem, and many homes were dark, or lit solely with the actinic flash of the television to the exclusion of these ancient Hanukah lamps. Even in the areas with observant residents, there is variation among those who light. Who, when, where the lamps are placed; these things are not uniform.

So there was no great revelation in Jerusalem for Hanukah. We did not see the city unified with dancing flames shimmering in every window and doorway. We ourselves lit different sets of lights, some just for pirsumei nissah, the proclamation of the miracle of Hanukah. We lit ours up here on the 11th floor, facing another building, where it could be seen.

Thursday saw us lighting our small candelabra and enjoying the view, but then moving on to latkes and sufganiot and songs. But Friday night smuggled in a miracle right under our noses . Since on Friday nights, Hanukah lights must be kindled right before Shabbat, we looked out to see that the building down the way was dotted with lights at the same time we lit our own. In the shadowy time between day and night, when shadows fade but the sky is not yet dark, candle light shone out so clearly from those nearby windows. Those who did light a chanukiah in that building were lighting at the same time.

Then we looked down the block. Was that a street light? No, the hue was more amber than orange. More lamps of oil or paraffin. Two, three, four windows in that building- and was that one more chanukiah at the doorway? The next building had more. On the horizon- those other buildings- yes, their windows were full of tiny candle lights. Our view of the city was dappled and dazzled with the warm glow of olive oil and candles. It was impossible for us to find a building where there was no Chanukah lights. At dusk, the city was chanting blessings and lighting lights; you could almost hear the gentle murmur of these blessings washing over Jerusalem at that moment, rich with nostalgia. We really could see block after block, window after window, house after house lit with amber beacons to commemorate the freedom bought at so dear a price by those glorious brothers from Modin.

Traditionally the miracle of Hanukah is that the light lasted for eight days; but after this Hanukah, it seems somewhat erroneous. Apparently, the light of Hanukah has lasted for far longer, because we saw that light shining in unity in a myriad of windows just before Shabbat. How’s that for a Hanukah miracle?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was the best one yet.
From the tubeshvat baby

2:20 AM  
Blogger Berzerkomandor said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:11 AM  

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