This time last year my husband was heading to Canada for something or other. Someone he knows there got wind of his trip and asked him to please bring her some Chanuka decorations from Israel. In typical fashion, my husband sent me on the shopping mission to find said decorations. I probably went to at least a half a dozen stores where I did not find the decorations in question. Other than a few holiday colouring books and many do-it-yourself chanukiot, there was nothing. In other words, no home decorations for the sophisticated diaspora Chanuka celebrator age eight and up.
The reason there was no decorations was not immediately apparent to me -- many of you probably figured it out faster than I did. However, after a minute or two, it dawned on me: Chanuka decorations are the diaspora Jews ridiculous attempt to fit in at Christmas time. If all those Christians are going to have their conifer trees and lights galore, not to mention those fancy tree decorations, then the ever-uncomfortable-in-their-own-skin Jews of North America (I cannot comment on Europe), want decorations for their winter holiday too.
In Israel, Jews are Jews whether they actively participate in Judaism or not. There's no one to compete with and heaven knows there is no other religion or culture in the region that we want to emulate. In other words, we don't give a hoot what others are doing at this time of the year. Whether observant or not, there are very few, if any, Israeli Jewish children who do not know the story of Judah Maccabee and his brothers, and their bravery in the face of their Greek enemies. Chanuka is not only about the miracle of the oil but it also about how a little rebel Jewish army reasserted Jewish religion by challenging the mighty Greeks.
Ironically, in North America, it is the exact opposite. Modern day Jews are doing everything they can to be more like the Christians at Christmas. On one hand, I don't blame them, it is truly a wonderful time of the year; everyone is in a good mood, everyone is dressing up and going to parties, holiday jingle musak is playing in the background everywhere you go and for a few weeks, shopping becomes a national sport. What's not to like?
But on the other hand, there is a sad message buried in all of this: Jews want to be Christians, at least partly. Here's a headline in today's Washington Post: "Jews Grapple With How To Celebrate Hanukkah During Christmas". What the hell is there to grapple with? Chanuka is Chanuka and Christmas is Christmas. And here's another doozer, from Bloomberg: "Menorah Tree Salesman Wants to Make Hannuka More Like Christmas.
First, I think it is interesting to note that no one in North America can spell Chanuka. How important can a holiday be if no one can spell it correctly? In Israel, we don't have that problem.....חנוכה. Chet, nun, vav, kaf, heh. There's nothing to discuss. It's important enough that no one screws around with the spelling.
Second, I keep seeing comments from North American Jews explaining Chanuka as the Jewish Christmas. Let's just nip that in the bud now -- Chanuka is definitely NOT the Jewish Christmas. Never was. Never will be. We have Judah Maccabee -- our brave and totally human hero. Christmas has the fake birthday of its messiah, which ultimately led to the creation of a religion based on post-fabricated nonsense, focused on hating the ancestral people of its man/god. Where are the similarities? I guess you could play the Jewish card but that really upsets the Christians so let's leave that alone.
And finally, this whole wannabe rationalization demonstrates yet again, why Jews outside of Israel are doomed. I am sure they don't see it that way and I am sure they don't care. To the, it is just another example of how disconnected diaspora Jews are from Israeli Jews. Of course, I doubt they spend even five seconds pondering this. They are all home busy decorating their Menorah trees.