Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hanukah in Israel

Hanukah in Israel was quite different from what I am used to seeing in the United States. There weren't Christmas trees and Christmas lights everywhere. I had a final on Christmas day. Hanukah was the holiday of the time. Menorahs were lit all over the place. There was a daily menorah lighting in the student center by Chabad everyday at 4:00 p.m. I went to the menorah lighting there twice. The Rabbi's son sang Maoz Tzur and they gave out free sufganiyot. One day there could have easily been at least 150-200 people there. Before that candle lighting, there were four guys outside the student center dancing, juggling, playing the drums, and singing Al Hanisim - a popular Hanukah song.

We had a Hanukah party at my Jewish Identity professor's house. We discussed Hanukah and everyone lit candles. Our professor made latkes from scratch and his wife cooked a number of other things. It was really good and fun.

There were two Hanukah parties Wednesday night, before I left that the OSP was invited to. One was a Hillel/OSP party in the student center and the other was a party in the dorms. I stopped by the Hillel Hanukah party with a friend a little bit late. There wasn't a whole lot going on, but there were a few people there. Later, we went to the Hanukah party in the dorms and a bunch of other OSPers came as well. I couldn't stay too long though because I had to study for my Hebrew final in the morning.

The Hanukah party in the dorms was held in the big dorm bomb shelter which is kind of cool. A lot of students came for the candle lighting (and free sufganiyot), but not as much the dancing that came afterward. It was kind of the opposite that you would expect in the United States where people ask when the religious part of events is over so that they can arrive after it. Hanukah seems to be a holiday even among the secular Jews in Israel. As we learned in one of my classes, it has been used to further Zionism and as a show of Jewish strength. I saw a lot of students wearing kippot who usually do not and a lot of students covering their heads with their hands when saying the blessings for lighting candles.


Sidenote: Sufganiyot - Jelly Donuts

Eating oily foods on Hanukah has become a tradition of the holiday. In the U.S. this is most often latkes, but in Israel it seems to be jelly donuts - sufganiyot. They are everywhere in Israel before/during Hanukah! They are basically all dough with a little dab of jelly and covered in powdered sugar. They aren't the best donuts I've ever had, but they are good. I saw online that the average Israeli eats 3-5 sufganiyot during Hanukah (I met that amount) and the country spends 54+ million shekels on sufganiyot each year.

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