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Chanukah in the Kibbutz

To end the year and the decade on a positive note, here are my recollections of how beautiful, how meaningful, how special celebrating Chanukah was in the kibbutz when I was growing up. As a ten-year-old kid, let’s say, we classmates we’ll be very excited all day ahead of lighting the first candle of the menorah. We’ll get ready for it in our class, which—you may or may not know—was at the common house where we all lived together. We did not live with our parents, but in our house where we studied, played, ate, and slept. On that day we would decorate the classroom with our holiday ‘artworks,’ and of course will study the story of the Maccabees, their heroic revolt against the Syrian-Greco army, the capture of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Second Temple, and the miracle of the oil that lit the menorah for eight straight days.

Later that afternoon all the kibbutz schoolkids will get together in one large hall, where we will sing all the Chanukah songs, light menorahs with the first candle, play games and eat latkes. The big deal would be that we actually would cook the latkes ourselves. Following that, we will walk to our parents’ home, which was called a ‘room,’ where we again would light the menorah, turn off the lights and sing the songs. We will wait anxiously, because along the main dirt-road of the kibbutz a tractor will pass with a cart, and volunteers will deliver carefully counted sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) to each home. We’ll devour them, as they were a real ‘expensive’ treat. We’ll then play the dreidel some, and leave our homes to a main gathering place. From there we will walk with flaming torches leading the way to the big swimming pool on the slope of the mountain. It was Mount Gilboa, the Biblical Mount where Saul and his sons fought the Philistines and where they died.

In later years, the flaming torch procession would include especially made water lanterns kids and adults created, with bright colors cellophane paper surrounding a lit candle. Upon arriving at the swimming pool these torches would be placed in the water, and float there majestically during the ceremony. There will be a choir singing, and readings about the glory of the Maccabees. Coincidingly, signs and a large menorah would be lit up on the mountain. I was lucky once to be on the mountain, in the dark and cold, waiting anxiously to put fire to one of these signs. Oh boy, it was the most beautiful sight: the fire and light, up on the dark mountain.

Following this ceremony we will go down to the bottom of the kibbutz, where the main asphalt road passed. By that time, eight o’clock already, there will be a torch race competition, involving runners from other kibbutzim and from different age groups. It will start somewhere far from the kibbutz, and runners will race along the road carrying a lit, fiery torch. The whole kibbutz will wait anxiously to see who will arrive first, carrying the torch. Obviously, if he would arrive and the torch is not lit, then it’s not a win. But again, it was a glorious sight waiting for runners to appear carrying the torches, as I myself did once or twice.

We will then go up to the outside basketball court, where the people of the kibbutz would gather with their kids. There will be all kinds of games and races involving the adults and kids. Looking back now, I believe our parents brought those type of games from Europe. We will jump inside empty potato sacks, for instance; men would carry children on their shoulders and will race from one end of the court to the other. Games like that, involving food too, were fun galore.

At this point there will be an announcement, probably some singing, to close the first day of Chanukah. Schoolkids will disperse to their houses, with or without their parents, depend on age. The parents might go home, or might go down to the common dining room for an adult only party. We kids could hardly sleep, of course, following all the fun we had in this long day of celebration, and the good food we ate.

The next day, whether it would be a regular school day or a holiday vacation, we kids will have the greatest pleasure of all. As I said in the beginning, I was a ten-year-old kid. And so, together with my friends we’ll go down to a bomb-shelter, located not far from our building. By that time we were already able to snatch away quite a number of Chanukah candles, and some matches too. We will light the candles and will collect the colorful burning wax in the palm of our hands. It was a test of bravery, of resisting pain. The trick was to see who could be the toughest of us boys, and be able to collect the most candlewax in hand and knead it into the biggest, most colorful ball of wax. We will hang on to these wax balls, for games and decoration, long after the holiday was already over.

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The Scoop: Why Trump & Netanyahu are Bent on Destroying our Democracies


Our democracies, both in America and in Israel, are facing a real and present danger. It’s no joke, my friends: so much so that lately in some “respectable” media outlets, commentators and politicians were discussing seriously—I repeat: seriously!—the possibility that should trump lose the 2020 Presidential Election, not only he won’t relinquish his hold on power willingly, peacefully and democratically, but will unleash on us a new Civil War. Laugh to your heart content, but one such esteemed politician urged viewers on Fox TV to start arming themselves.

In Israel, meanwhile, the situation is somewhat different (though not as different as one might think). The notion and possibility of “Wars of the Jews” have been circulated in the open for a long time. Now though, the acuteness of such a possibility in becoming a reality has been upgraded by the approaching elections. And, if not a threat of civil war yet, at least a real danger to the survival of Israel’s democracy.

Now, you may challenge me on the validity of the word “scoop” in the title, but I challenge you to wait until you read the article to its end. Then judge its accuracy. Also, take in consideration the larger definition of the word scoop. I mean not only as a piece of breaking news nobody else broke before, but examining also the new take on the old news in the larger sense. And on that I truly believe I have something new to tell you, regarding the cause of the real danger to our democracies.

To begin with: Politicians and commentators alike are referring to Trump’s fight for survival, and especially to Netanyahu’s fight for survival, as though they were fighting for their “political lives.” Numerous articles have been written about that. But not so, I say: They are fighting for their “lives!” Pure and simple. Let me explain, starting with trump, simply because my concern today is more with Netanyahu, so I’ll dispose of the Trump argument as quick as possible.

It is well known and extensively documented that Trump’s legal challenges and difficulties have not started after he was elected president, but long before. According to an entry in Wikipedia, “… an analysis by ‘USA Today’ published in June 2016 found that over the previous three decades United States president Donald Trump and his businesses have been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court, an unprecedented number for a U.S. presidential candidate.”

Add to that the legal issues, maybe crimes even, we still don’t know about, like what might be found in his tax returns. I personally believe that the reason he’d decided to run and become president is in fact to protect himself from his mounting legal problems. He was corrupted much before, throughout his business life; it wasn’t that power has corrupted him while he’s in office. Just look at all his cronies that had surrounded him for a long time, and are now going to jail. Simply put: He decided to be the president in order to stay out of jail.

As for Netanyahu, the situation is somewhat different, yet still the same at the end. I don’t believe he was corrupted, certainly not in any legal sense, before he was elected Prime Minister, which is now more than 10 years on. His is really a case of power corrupts. As to his mounting legal challenges, and his expected indictment by Israel’s attorney general on three charges of “fraud and breach of trust,” including one on bribery, I won’t go into it now because so much has been written about it already, and because I will be speaking about it soon at congregation Bet Haverim in Davis, April 3rd 7pm. My talk would be centered on the coming Israeli elections and Israel’s fight for democracy.

In Netanyahu’s case, as many observers have pointed out, he’s clearly fighting for his political life. And now, supposedly, he’s facing his gravest challenge yet. Not so, I say. First, as for his political life, he’s been Prime Minister for a long time. Almost as long as David Ben-Gurion. The way I see it, he’s fighting for his life! You see, if he loses this elections—it’s now seemed a possibility, at least—he not only will lose his political power, and might resign finally as the leader of the Likud Party, but he’s sure going on trial for the above mentioned 3 indictments. The likelihood of him, as recent history in Israel had surely taught him, ending up in prison is very real. Destroying not only his legacy, but his life.

His only way of avoiding this, of surviving this, is winning the elections. And if not by winning outright, then still forming the next government. Which is a possibility. Should that to have happened, the first business on his agenda—which he would make clear to all the parties joining his coalition before forming the government–would be to pass in the Israeli Knesset these 3 laws: 1. A Prime Minister cannot be indicted and go on trial while he’s in office. 2. A Prime Minister cannot be investigated on crimes he may have committed while in office. 3. It will apply retroactively to him. Passing these laws, should he succeed, would secure his leadership and immunity from prosecution forever,

It will also mean that he will be forever above the low. So as long as he’s Prime Minister, he will be able to continue to commit crimes at will. And that, my friends, is the definition of a dictator. Which also means, in the broader sense, the end of democracy in Israel. These two leaders try to cover up their crimes and protect their lives, even if in the process they will destroy our way of life and our democracies.

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