Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

IDF Soliders lighting a Chanukiyah Thursday night

Happy Chanukah everyone! I hope you're enjoying your Festival of Lights. We've been busy as ever here, trying both to keep up with out studies and to make some time to celebrate this special part of the year.

Chanukah is not a "big" holiday in Israel, at least not in comparison to the High Holy Days and Sukkot. You don't see banners everywhere wishing people a Happy Chanukah, and people don't scurry around trying to find gifts for their children and friends. However, you can tell that it's a holiday; people wish each other Chag Sameach (happy holiday) or Chag Orim Sameach (Happy Holiday of Lights.) There are jelly donuts, called sufganiyot, in every bakery and grocery store. You can smell the potato latkes frying in people's apartments. Perhaps my favorite part of Chanukah in Israel thus far is looking at the Chanukiyot (Menorahs) on people's balconies as I walk down the street. I love seeing the lights twinkle and knowing that all of these families just sang the same blessings that I sang, and that they're celebrating the same miracle I celebrate every year.

It's been a busy week for me; there have been a lot of Chanukah festivities that have accompanied my already jam-packed schedule. On Tuesday, the first night of Chanukah, my community choir had it's first concert. The concert began with Eli lighting the candles and singing the blessings for the Menorah. To many of the students in the choir, this was a little sad, as we wanted to be with our families to light the candles. Nevertheless, it was beautiful, and we managed to put on a halfway decent concert for our small audience.

Wednesday night, I was invited to my friends Sara and Andrea's apartment for Chanukah dinner. Sara and Andrea are from a small town outside of Pisa, Italy, so they showed us what an Italian Chanukah dinner is like. In Italy, they don't eat potato latkes (can you imagine?) but rather, fried chicken with lemon followed by bits of fried dough with a carmelized sugar syrup on top for dessert. It was an oily, delicious feast, and the company was wonderful as well. Sadly, we all had work to do, so it wasn't a long evening, but a great time was had by all.

Thursday night, our friends Erin and Batya were kind enough to invite us to dinner at the home one of their friends who is in HUC's Israeli Rabbinic program. There were a ton of people there, including about 10 children, and we had an amazing time eating latkes (for the first time this year!) and playing with the kids. Everyone who had children brought little gifts for the other children, so we were able to watch the kids open and play with their new toys. It brought back so many memories of my own childhood, when my family would get together and all of the kids received a Chanukah present (a tradition that carries on in my family until this day...we are all still kids, after all...) It was exactly the way I wanted to spend Chanukah in Israel.

We came home Thursday night to begin preparing the feast for the Chanukah dinner WE hosted on Friday night. Steph's friend Molly is in town, and to celebrate her arrival, Chanukah, and Shabbat we hosted a dinner for 5 of our friends. We prepared a TON of latkes, both regular and sweet potato, and the smell of latkes is still permeating our apartment. I grated most of the potatoes and onions myself, by hand (with some help from Steph), and I am proud to say that I only have one battle scar from the grater on my left pointer finger! But, it was worth it; Steph and I had fun mixing and frying up the latkes, and trying to remove all of the bits of potato from our kitchen counters and floors. I also made homemade applesauce and baked chicken with sage and lemon, and Steph and Molly bought sufganiyot from the shuk for dessert. Friends brought roasted vegetables, a delicious spinach salad, special baked califlower and sweet potatoes, and drinks. We ate and ate and ate, played fun games, and watched Grey's Anatomy until we couldn't stay awake anymore.

This morning I participated in Shabbat services, singing/leading 5 pieces. It was a fun and festive service, and afterwards Nicole came over to help us polish off some of our leftovers from last night. After lunch, Steph, Molly and I all took a shabbat menucha (nap) and while they are visiting the Kotel right now, I am here, procrastinating on the tons of work I have to do. It's getting tougher and tougher to stay focused, especially because it's cold and there is no heat in my apartment; all I really want to be doing most of the time is cuddling with my blankets and a good movie or book. Anyways, enough complaining---Happy Chanukah to everyone, and I hope you are enjoying the holiday season in the States.

I leave you with a few of my Chanukah Haikus, written for Nicole's collection. Enjoy, and please comment and add your own!

Chanukah is fun
Lighting the colored candles
Ruach all around

Latkes in the pan
Whole apartment smells like oil
Want to come and eat?

Winter in Israel
My apartment needs some heat
I love slipper socks

(I told you guys I was procrastinating...)

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