Chanukah, Day 8

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


There are women associated with Chanukah. Their names are Hannah and Judith (Yehudit). That’s two women. Or maybe three. Or only one. I’ll explain.

Here’s a story about Hannah. It’s a story of sexual violation and hardly surprising, it seems to me, that it’s not told in kindergartens. But there is another story that’s told about Hannah.

Hannah witnessed all seven of her sons being tortured, one by one, and killed for refusing to bow down to an idol, or for refusing to eat pork – the story varies. Never did she beg any of them to comply with the commands in order to stay alive.

Is that the same Hannah or a different one? Then there’s Judith (Yehudit), who might also have been Hannah. She beheaded the Assyrian general, Holofernes.

Reading these stories makes me regard those ancient times as violent and dangerous. But are human beings really any better now?

We will continue to light candles and hope to bring light to a dark world.

Thank you for reading this series of posts. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2023. My plans for 2023 begin with republishing my uplit book, Cultivating a Fuji, through Ocelot Press. More about that soon.


Chanukah, Day 7

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


Festivals are not only about eating. There’s also singing. Of the many songs associated with Chanukah, here are some that I particularly like.

I’ll start with the two songs recited every evening with the lighting of the candles, but with tunes I prefer to the ones normally heard. Well, I would have done, but I couldn’t find my favourite tune for Hanerot Halalu at all on YouTube. I had to listen to numerous versions of Ma’oz Tzur until I found the one I wanted:

Of all the other songs for Chanukah, this is the one I like the best, just because of the tune:

Here’s a folk dance that’s associated with Chanukah, although it’s really about lighting candles in general. You can see the “candles” near the beginning and at the end.


Chanukah, Day 6

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


Salutations! On the day of this post, you’re either approaching the end of a holiday, or just starting one, or neither, but I expect most of my readers will be in the first two categories, probably the second.

How do I greet those? Well, I know most people say, “Merry Christmas,” but I’m a bit wary of that because I remember certain Christians are less keen on the word “merry” because of its association with alcohol which they don’t drink. So I tend to say, “Happy Christmas.”

Likewise, “Happy Chanukah” is fine and so is “Chag Sameach” which means “Happy Holiday” and fits all the festivals.

But on most years, Chanukah is over before Christmas begins, and people feel they need to wish me something in return to my greeting, so they wish me a happy holiday season or something of that nature. While that would work for Jews living in the diapora, who are caught up in the holiday atmosphere, it doesn’t really work in Israel where life continues as usual. A better answer would be, “Thank you.” Pretend I’m wishing you happy birthday.

This year, of course, there’s no problem. So, to most readers,



Chanukah, Day 5

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


They say that every Jewish festival can be summed up like this: They tried exterminate us; they failed; let’s eat. Chanukah follows the pattern.

Sufganiya (plural sufganiyot) is Hebrew for doughnut and shares its root with the word for sponge, due to its texture. Most are filled with jam. We prefer the ones with dulce de leche. Chocolate is also a popular filling. Some have exciting toppings.

Then there’s levivot (latkes) and other items from the various Jewish communities.

What all these foods have in common is that they’re fried in oil, linking them to the miracle, which I recounted on Day 2.

And yes, they’re all delicious and unhealthy. Fortunately, Chanukah lasts for only eight days!

Me, ten years ago

Chanukah, Day 3

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


What do you call that thing you stick the candles into?

In the UK, where I grew up, we always called it a menorah. But that name is wrong and should be reserved for the seven-branched candelabrum that stood in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple.

In modern-day Jerusalem there’s a menorah, created by Benno Elkan (1877-1960) that depicts “29 formative events, figures and concepts from the Old Testament and the history of the Jewish People.”

In Israel, we stick the candles into a chanukia. It has nine branches, one of which is set apart from the rest. The candle on that branch is called the shamash and is used to light all the other candles.


Chanukah, Day 2

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


Do you know the story of Chanukah?

The generally accepted (though disputed) story took place in the middle of the second century B.C.E (or B.C.) when the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem. The ruler of the Land of Israel at the time, Antiochus IV of Syria, led his soldiers to massacre thousands of Jews and desecrate the Temple. A rebellion was led by Mattityahu (Mattathias) and later his son, Yehuda (Judah) the Maccabee. The Jews drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem and set about cleansing the Temple.

The seven-branched candelabrum, representing knowledge and creation, was supposed to be kept burning every day, but there was only enough olive oil to burn for one day. By a miracle, the flames kept alight for eight days, leaving the people time to find a fresh supply of oil.

Jerusalem: a light show on the Old City walls.

The festival of Chanukah concentrates on the miracle and not on massacres. It’s a fun festival and also a minor one. In recent times, its proximity to Christmas (this year they coincide) has raised its status.


Chanukah, Day 1

To make up for my recent lack of attention to this blog, I’m posting thoughts about Chanukah for each day of the eight-day festival. Today, I’m talking about:


How do you spell it? I saw this list, today:

There are many more variants in Latin script. French speakers, for instance, tend to place an o before the u. Fortunately, there’s only one spelling in Hebrew:


Possibly, it’s significant that the topic of spelling comes up each year. The story of Chanukah involves a ‘spell’, which is called a miracle. I’ll write more about that on another day.

Whatever you’re celebrating at this season, enjoy it.

Vietnam, 2018
Everyday life Holidays Israel

Happy What?

I read an article recently. I don’t have the link any more, but it was headed something like: I’m Jewish. Please wish me Merry Christmas. The article went on to explain that although in the author’s family Christmas wasn’t celebrated, the day was meaningful to him as a day off – a day when they, as a family, did joyful things together that were out or the ordinary.

I get it. I remember, all through my childhood, spending Christmas Day in the home of my aunt, uncle and cousins, eating different foods, doing different things. So when I changed schools at the age of eleven and was introduced to Christmas carols, drawing Christmas trees and exchanging Christmas cards, I joined in. In any case, my aim at school was always to fit in, even though I never succeeded.

The trend continued to university and work. Christmas was always a special time, so it seemed natural to exchange Christmas greetings with everyone.

Then I moved to Israel and, for the first time, Christmas didn’t exist, apart from a few cards I still sent to and received from friends abroad. Christmas Day was spent at work. That’s been the case for most of my time here. Recently, with social media and the ability to listen to BBC Radio 4, the prominence of Christmas has again increased, but it’s still not part of my life. That’s the difference between me and the author of that linkless article. He lives in the US while I live in Israel.  Like him, I’m not offended when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, but for me it’s meaningless.

“Yes, but even if you don’t celebrate it, you do something special on that day,” people say.

“Actually, no.”

However, this year, I will be celebrating Chanuka at the same time as Christmas, lighting candles and eating doughnuts at home and at folk dancing.

Celebrating the sixth night of Chanuka in 2012

But Chanuka isn’t time off, except for schoolchildren and teachers. And us, last year:

Chanuka and Christmas in Vietnam
David Drori celebrating the 7th night of Chanuka in Vietnam, 2018

Whatever you do, enjoy the next few days, the whole of 2020 and every other year. May whatever you wish for come to fruition.

Holidays Social anxiety

Giving Presents – Your Chance to be Creative

It’s that time of year (for some). The time when you have to think up presents for everyone. It’s hard.

But there’s one person who wouldn’t be a problem. You know exactly what you want to give that person. You know she’s quiet and locked inside herself. You know he’d benefit from reading

Social Anxiety Revealed

because you’ve read it yourself. You know it’s an easy-to-read, no-nonsense, comprehensive book.

However, there’s still a problem. You don’t want to embarrass that person. If he opened it in front of others, he wouldn’t thank you for giving it to him.

How can you give her the book, disguise what’s inside the package and make sure she opens it when she’s alone?

This is where your creative abilities come in. I’ve done my part. I wrote the book and I put the challenge to you!

Everyday life

My Christmas

What is Christmas for me, a Jew who lives in Israel and hails from the UK? What was it?

Up to age 11, I didn’t take a lot of notice of it. There were trees with lights behind lots of windows. Radio and TV were full of it. That was about all.

At age 11, I found myself suddenly immersed in a tradition I didn’t recognise. I soon learned the tunes of the carols we had to sing every day. I sent cards to friends because everyone did and my goal was always to fit in. And then there was that art lesson….

“Today, you can draw Christmas pictures.” The teacher (I think she was called Mrs Durell) seemed to think this would be fun for us. My heart sank. Fit in, said a voice from inside. “For the Jewish children, you can draw something from the festival you have at this time if you want, but I’m told there isn’t much to draw.” A general murmur of agreement arose. I kept quiet, although I knew this wasn’t true. We had drawn pictures of Chanuka at my old school. That’s how I learned to draw a cube.


Fit in, said the voice. But I don’t know what or how to draw for Christmas. Fit in. I looked over a girl’s shoulder and copied her tree.

At university, I remember singing carols, including one about beautiful feet.

Edit: I’ve been corrected by someone who remembers much more than I. I think I was confusing our “College Carol” with the aria from Handel’s Messiah. Here’s the right one. The only connection with feet is in the words stand forth on the floor, at which we would stamp our feet.

At work, there were drinks. There were always drinks. And the following conversation in the bar with one of the men:

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

“I’m going to a conference in Oxford.”

“That’s an unusual thing to do for Christmas. Most people spend it with their families.”

“Oh, we don’t celebrate Christmas. We’re Jewish.” It had taken three months for them to find out.

Then I moved to Israel and Christmas was reduced to watching the evening service from Bethlehem on TV. That’s really all I saw of it.

Nowadays, with social media, Christmas has become much more visible to me – at least the commercial aspect of it has. Also, due to Internet connection, I am able to listen to the BBC. The other day, on Women’s Hour, there was a discussion about stories behind children’s nativity plays. Within those stories, at least two girls had been told they couldn’t be Mary because they were Jewish and didn’t have blond hair. In the podcast, after the live programme, there was mention of the fact that Mary was Jewish and also that, since she lived in the Middle East, she probably didn’t have blond hair.

I am bemused by the assumption that, while I might not take any part in the religious aspects of Christmas, I will celebrate in some way because everyone does. No. Here, work and everything else carries on as usual, even on Christmas day. This year, though, will be slightly different due to the fact that it coincides exactly with the minor festival of Chanuka. As always, schools will be open on the first day of Chanuka, which is also Christmas Day this year (and also Sunday – the first day of the week here) and they close for the rest of the festival. Work continues as usual.

By the way, as I’ve mentioned in previous years, there are about fifty ways of writing Chanuka in Latin letters, but only one in Hebrew:


And here’s a comedy sketch I enjoyed. Comedian Elon Gold explains why Jews are better off without Christmas Trees.

Whatever festival you celebrate at this time, I hope it’s happy and enjoyable and all you wish for.