The beautiful warm ambience of Shabbat candles and soon the Chanukah candles, the children playing dreydel , potatoe latkes frying in oil and the cozy ambience of a snug home as the backdrop out the window is freezing rain and stormy. That is Chanukah- a story of the light in a cold dark and difficult time in Eretz Yisrael, the light of home. We commemorate the Maccabbes, who were fighting for Hashem’s home and the only way to do that was to leave their comfort of home and “take to the hills” in a life of complete self –sacrifice, of being the few in the hands of the many. It took over twenty five years to defeat the Greek armies that prohibited Jews from practicing Judaism. Those enemies of Torah and Israel burned synagogues, homes, produce, wheat, livestock and murdered thousands upon thousands of Jews. And during that time Hellenism flourished. Many Jews turned away from the path of their forefathers and actually joined into Greek culture and way of life, thinking if they melted into that system their lives would be spared. They were also ready to give up sovereignty. The battle of Judah HaMacabee and his army was essential to our survival as a Torah nation in a spiritual and practical climax of our history. Chanukah is about being the underdog but with much faith – becoming the front runner.
Fast forward many, many generations and miraculously the Jewish people returned to those very hills in Israel, to where the scenes of the Chanukah struggle took place. The spirit of contention, and not letting Jews live and practice Judaism still pervaded there though even after all of those years. After the Six Day War in 1967, when all the lands that were attacked by the surrounding Arab countries were finally redeemed by Israel despite it being won legally in a battle of defense, it took almost an entire decade for Jewish people to have the legal right to settle it again. Countless times small groups of people came to make a pitch for reclamation but were scraped off and the land remained black and barren. They were underdogs and the mainstream came against them including Israel’s media, army, government and even majority.
Gush Emunim, an organization of early settlers of the first nucleus of pioneers seeking to settle Eretz Yisrael Hashelaymah (Judea-Samaria) came to Sebastia, an ancient city- once the capital of Samaria, on Chanukah Eve November 30, 1975 with candles that shone unto the windswept barren cold and wet empty terrain all around. Finally after many attempts to return to our ancient inheritance in the mission of building homes but being rejected by Israeli Authorities, permission was finally granted to stay for the whole week of Chanukah. The conditions there were far from the comfort of home at that time- but they did it and made that sacrifice for this critical and impacting event for the future of Israel returning to her biblical identity. When Chanukah ended that year, permission was then granted to move into the nearby army base, Kadum which later became Kedumim-one of the first Israeli settlement in Samaria. No less than a NEYSS CHANUKAH (miracle of Chanukah)- the candles that flickered that night in Sebastia generated into hundreds upon thousands of lights shining again in the window panes through-out Judea and Samaria today. Today we stand at half a million.
A little oil goes a long away in our Chanuka story throughout the generations. A little light turns into much light. It’s about your soul flickering and yearning for truth, peace, joy and holiness. It’s about overcoming the “other side” – the side that has doubt, sadness and says you’re the underdog. The miracle of Chanukah is the small small part in you called WILL- the will to overcome- represented by the little jug of pure oil, the lucid part of us that says there are things we have to push for and not obliterate our inner selves for that- and that’s for truth, for who we are and for our future. It’s about starting with a tiny little light that can really only be seen on a black stage setting. It begins with a courageous you.
As we come to the end of the fiscal year, Friends of Itamar would like to bless each and every one of you for standing with us. Your love and care has made the heart of Israel grow in leaps and bounds. You are indeed part of prophecy coming true as it happens right here right now.
Shabbat Shalom! Chanukah Sameyach!