Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice – the day with the fewest hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the first night of Chanukah. In the spirit of adding a little light in the darkest time of the year, here’s some good news!
(As I typed that I realized that I was being hemisphere-ist. In the southern hemisphere, tomorrow is the day with the most daylight hours. Sorry, Southerners!)
We’ve got Christmas in Jerusalem!
“Jerusalem Santa” (Photo by Muammar Awad/Xinhua) SOURCE
This lovely guy brings Christmas cheer to the Old City by dressing up as Santa Claus and handing out Christmas trees provided for free by the municipality of Jerusalem.
The Christmas tree in St. James Convent in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter (Photo: Vince Photography) SOURCE
You can always count on a Christmas tree outside the YMCA, but this year, the Armenian Quarter in the Old City is dressing up for Christmas.
James Corden’s Chanukah song
Need I say more?
LadBaby wins Christmas #1 AGAIN
This is an utterly silly song, but the story is absolutely heartwarming and sweet. LadBaby is a social media family who make hilarious videos, have fun, make each other laugh with a lot of British-style teasing, and have lots of followers like me around the world.
Last Christmas, LadBaby did a novelty song – “We Built This City (on Sausage Rolls)” – won Christmas #1 in the UK, and donated all the profits to The Trussell Trust. They were able to provide 70,000 emergency food packages for people in need in the UK.
So this year, they decided to try again. And they won Christmas #1 AGAIN! All profits will go to The Tressell Trust to provide food for those in need. Well done, LadBaby! (*Bonus Fun Fact: The only other groups to have back to back Christmas #1s are The Beatles and the Spice Girls!)
So whether you are celebrating Chanukah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanza, the New Year, or all of the above
Man, if I was a Grinch last week, you don’t even want to know about this week. So annoyed! My ceiling is leaking and I’m camping in the living room. But there was one thing that made me feel better …
This is AMAZING!! I love a cappella to begin with and then bring in Queen, well, Chanukah doesn’t get better than that!
As an American and Israeli, I noticed that this was a great cultural mix.
Note the hard ch (Antiochus, Chanukah, Chai) but Mattathius.
Israeli Chanukah treats (sufganiot – filled donuts) and American Chanukah food (latkes – potato pancakes). If Israelis make latkes in Israel they are called levivot (hearts – I don’t know why) and are never served with applesauce (I know, right?). And sour cream? Fuggedaboutit. Maybe gvina levana.
Sevivon as well as dreidle and gelt (Israelis don’t actually know the rules to the dreidle game; they just know there’s a top and it spins).
Sevivon, sov, sov, sov, as well as a clay dreidle (you gotta know your Chanukah songs for this one).
Chanukiahs, but not a menorah to be found.
Aba, Ema, but Bubbe (surprisingly not many grandmas are called bubbe here).
Ah, but where was the miracle? Nes gadol haya po. It was here, not there (sham). We’re in Israel! (Even if Six13 are New York-based.)
So after singing this at the top of my lungs (many times), which hopefully bothers the neighbors whose fault it is that my ceiling is leaking, I’ve decided: Dammit all, I’m going to be a freaking light in the darkness.
My favorite James Dean movie is East of Eden. The story moved me so much that I decided to read the book by John Steinbeck. I had the pleasure of visiting the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA, where I learned that Steinbeck considered East of Eden the culmination of his life’s work. He struggled with it all his life because he wanted to truly understand the fundamental ability to choose light or darkness.
God said to Cain, “If you do well, shall you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) Steinbeck’s East of Eden tells us that no matter what happens, you always have a choice.
The power to choose
There’s so much awful news: Tel Aviv, Orlando, the Stanford rape case, a British MP gunned down, and plenty more that I don’t know about. In each case someone made a choice to do evil; they chose darkness.
Debates are raging right now about why these tragedies happened. I’m not qualified to give an opinion about changes that need to be made in society and I’m not going to try. This post is about the power to choose.
The family of a police officer saw someone running from the scene of the Tel Aviv terror attack. He was badly shaken and could hardly speak. They brought him in and gave him water. The officer ran to the scene and when he saw that the detained shooter was dressed exactly like the man in his house, he rushed back, fearing the worst. Indeed, the family had sheltered the second shooter. The officer arrested him in the living room.
This family chose to help someone who looked to be in shock. Without a doubt, the situation could have ended tragically, but instead we have an example of what compassion to one’s neighbors looks like.
At Stanford, two Swedish graduate students pulled the rapist off of his victim and held him down until police arrived. The victim was completely unconscious, could not defend herself, and likely would not have been able to remember the events of what happened in order to bring her attacker to justice.
Sometimes you can’t save the person in danger, but you can stand beside the mourners. Two stories I came across – and surely there are many more – remind us that it’s fine to “Je suis …” and change your profile pictures, but actions are so much more powerful.
This week also marked Shavuot in Israel. Shavuot is the fiftieth day after Passover and marks the date that the Israelites received the Ten Commandments at Sinai. It’s a pilgrimage holiday meaning that when the Temple stood, people came to offer sacrifices. Today, we aren’t offering sacrifices, but we still stand together, raise our voices in song, and choose life.
Here’s a video I took while watching the sunrise on Shavuot at the Western Wall
From a single candle, thousands can be lit
When I watch the sun rise over the people and hear them singing, I know that the world is going to be okay. Some people choose to do evil. This is a fact and we see plenty of evidence of it. But more people choose to do good. More people choose light. Sure, there may be moments .of regret, but every day we have a choice. We can choose light and keep choosing it until we break down the power of darkness.