21 December 2011
Light a Single Candle
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote that, for the Jews, the greatest of sins is despair. That's what I love about Hanukah. It is a tonic against despair, and, among other things, a parable about despair's polar opposite: hope. The real miracle of Hanukah, the rabbis teach, is not that the oil burned for 8 days. It's that Jews had enough faith and enough hope that something miraculous might occur, despite the odds, that they lit the oil in the first place. They lit it, even though logic told them it would not be enough, that it would only burn for one day.
To commemorate this hope, our tradition tells us to light candles at the moment when the night is longest. We light to illuminate the night, to push back against the darkness, to remember that despair is unacceptable, that hope is our birthright, that miracles are possible.
This Hanukah, we are lighting candles to push back against the darkness of a democratic recession that even some conservative Israeli leaders and others have said is "rising in Israel." Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this recession is the rise in violence that it has precipitated, a general atmosphere of lawlessness and undermining of democratic values. In particular, we deplore the "Price Tag" attacks by extremist settlers and their supporters that have targeted Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, peace activists and even the Israel Defense Forces in their campaign to deter the a crackdown on new settler outposts in the West Bank.
On each night of Hanukah, NIF is joining with 30 progressive organizations to bring Israelis from various backgrounds to public candle-lighting ceremonies at places where "Price Tag" attacks have occurred. On the first night, hundreds of Israelis gathered to light candles near the home of a peace activist whose life was threatened by right-wing extremists. On the second night, hundreds more will meet near a West Bank mosque that was torched last week.
The message these Israelis are sending is clear: we will not remain silent in the face of death threats, arson and vandalism. Such acts have no place in civil discourse. We will not stand idly by as darkness descends. Rather, we will stand up, speak out, and light candles against the dark.
This Hanukah, when so much is at stake in the Israel we love, stand with those brave Israelis lighting the way to a better Israel. Show them that they aren't alone. Light a candle for them, for democracy, and for the Israel that we believe in.