I get pulled into these things mostly because I am here and they are here.

Menorahs in Orthodox neighbourhood
Hanukkiyahs in Orthodox neighbourhood

When I say here, I speak of Israel. I also speak of the holiday Hanukkah which is here and has been here for seven days. I am sure you have noticed this holiday where ever you might be. The Hanukkiyahs have gone up everywhere. Why we took a walk through an Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem the other night. We did this just to take in the majestic sight of all the Hanukkiyahs, lights burning bright. I wanted to sing:

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the people everywhere you see
Joy to you and me . . .

but then I remembered it was the wrong holiday.

Hanukkah is one of the cheerier holidays that Jews celebrate. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. It celebrates all of this by commemorating the recapture of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees from the Greeks and the subsequent re-dedication. The miracle of its purification.

The re-dedication required that the Temple be purified from the defiling it received at the hands of the Greeks. The purification of the Temple required the burning of ritual oil during the eight days that were required to make it pure. There was only enough ritual oil for one day. However, the one day supply of oil burned for eight days. It was declared a miracle.

To commemorate day seven of this holiday we’ve decided that we will participate in a candle lighting event organized by Rabbis for Human Rights. The Rabbis, as they are commonly referred to, are going to the village of Dirat in the South Hebron Hills to light the candles on the rubble of a demolished Palestinian home for day seven of Hanukkah. This will be the repeat of an event from 1997 some 773 candles and 32,000 homes later.

As we remember the story of the desecration of the Temple back then, I witness a different kind of desecration here.

Dirat is in “Area C” and is under the control of the military. The village of Dirat is also a party to a petition making its way through the Israeli court system, which like the current civil administration of “Area C” lacks any representation from the Palestinians. Until 1971, the Palestinians made up the planning committees that dealt with Palestinian development. In 1971 these committees were annulled by the Israel Defense Forces and replaced with the Civil Administration which solely consists of Jews.

Dirat candle lighting in rubble
Dirat candle lighting on the rubble

So the Rabbis and a handful of Jews traveled to Dirat to light the seventh candle amidst the rubble of yet another demolished Palestinian home. The home by way of mention belonged to the mother of a 60ish year old looking woman. This daughter came upon us from further down in the village to let us know that this house, the one whose rubble we chose to light the candle in had been her mother’s home. I saw my grandmother, the woman we stay with, and wondered where she had gotten to, the mother of this woman who saw fit to tell us whose house it was.

When we were walking home, I asked my wife how many home demolitions there were (she had just finished a paper on the topic).

“Military or administrative?”

“What’s the difference?”

[you can turn on  English subtitles in youtube]