Newsletter 62: Hanukkah today and yesterday
The new Mamila Mall is almost completely open. Walking to the ancient Jaffa Gate, through a street of modern shops faced with stones of the original Mamilla Str. from the 19th century you have beautiful views of the Old City and the Hinnom valley.
This project has taken nearly 30 years. I remember how shocked I was in 1979 when I heard that the historic old buildings of Mamilla Str., the first street to be built outside the walls of the Old City were going to be demolished to make way for a complex of modern apartments with a hotel, parking garages and a shopping center.
Being a supporter of the society for the protection of nature in Israel, I participated in one of my first demonstrations after I had arrived in Israel in 1976. Since then I've mostly participated in demonstrations to build a bicycle path around Jerusalem.
Now the street has been rebuilt in the new mall. Each stone was numbered when the buildings were demolished, now they’ve been put back into the original buildings only about 5 meters higher than the original street. Underneath is a parking garage which I find very convenient and use almost every time I have visitors to take on a walk in the old city.
I love the idea of walking through a modern mall, surrounded by these old stones making my way into the old city. It's a great way to start a tour of the old city.
There isn't a bicycle path in Jerusalem but cycling has become very popular in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. Tel Aviv has a short bicycle path and last night I even heard on the news that Rishon Letzion has decided to build a bicycle path.
At the time we didn't think that our demonstrations were successful. Now, seeing the new Mall and all the plans for bicycle paths I'm coming to think that after all its worthwhile demonstrating.
Yad Vashem keeps drawing my attention, so the other day, being "touristless" I decided to visit Yad Vashem on my own. I wasn't sure exactly what information I was looking for.
I only knew that I wanted to find more information on the "refugee" phenomenon, which I discussed in my last bulletin.
This visit led me to observe the way countries with open gates to refugees develop while countries that close their gates to refugees retrogress and become backward.
Germany fell from being a cultured, progressive society back into a dark age society when it started treating certain people in the population as outsiders and annulling their citizenship. Germany turned people like Einstein into refugees.
The holocaust is the inevitable end of this fall. It's the bottom of the pit. Any nation that becomes exclusivist and separates its population into worthy and unworthy people places itself in danger of ending up behaving like the Germans in the holocaust.
I had planned also to go to the Spielberg film centre but after a short time in the museum I found that all my emotional energy was completely depleted. I didn't feel capable of withstanding the emotional strain of witnessing more traumatic events of the holocaust than I had already witnessed. So I had a cup of coffee then started the walk along the beautiful, tranquil pine tree lined street leading through the Jerusalem forest, out of Yad Vashem, to the bus that would bring me to another bus to my home in French Hill. Bus travelers need to be patient people.
On my way home I couldn't resist the temptation, now that I'm back to eating meat, to devour a schwarma at the Central bus station. Schwarma is a cheap way to fill ones stomach with food. It even tastes delicious if you eat it only once in a while. I've never been able to figure out why it gets terribly monotonous eating it more than once a week or so.
The only "fly in my schwarma" was the memory of Ettie's warning as she left for work: "You have great food at home so don't go eating things like "burekas" or schwarma. I had delicious soup waiting for me at home, made by the best cook in town and here I was munching this "stuff".
Last Tuesday, in a Hanukkah lecture, Yoel Rapel, a popular historian and radio personality in Israel, pointed out that the celebration of Hanukkah only became popular since Theodore Herzl's creation of the Zionist Movement.
Rapel showed that Herzl, contrary to the rabbis of the Mishna interpreted Judah the Macabee's victory as a revival of Jewish Nationalism, while the rabbis saw the whole episode of Hanukka as a victory of Judaism over the Greek pagan culture that had taken hold of the Jewish People after the conquest of Alexander the Great. They did not celebrate the rise of Jewish Nationalism, they celebrated the victory of Godliness. This is the reason they didn't include the Book of Macabbees, which emphasizes the physical, nationalistic aspect of the Macabeen revolt, in the Jewish holy scriptures.
Herzl and other Zionists and Jewish leaders today have turned the spiritual victory of God over Paganism into a victory of a physical strength contest between Greeks and Jews. This idea is expressed in the establishment of sport societies known as Macabbee clubs. The international Jewish sport contest is called Macabbeah. The lighting of the candles as a sign of God's spiritual victory has been turned into a sign of human physical strength.
Wishing you a happy Hanukkah and a great No News Day