Tag Archives: Jewish

Why Presidents Celebrate Hanukkah Early… Or Do They?

Hanukkah

Hanukkah

According to an entry in Wikipedia, “the first official White House Hanukkah Party was held on December 10, 2001, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, using a 100-year-old Hanukkah menorah that the White House borrowed from the Jewish Museum of New York.”

While it’s true that previous U.S. Administrations have recognized the Jewish ‘Festival of Lights’ in some meaningful way, such as in 1996, 2004 and 2009, when the United States Postal Service issued Hanukkah themed postage stamps in honor of the holiday, it was President Bush who began the annual reception, held at The White House, commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

The name “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “חנך”, meaning “to dedicate”. On Hanukkah, the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and re-dedicated the Second Temple.

Today, Hanukkah is celebrated with a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday, some are family-based and others communal.

But what is Hanukkah really?

Well, according to Chabad, “when the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over [the Greeks], they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil… enough to light the menorah for a single day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days. On the following year, they established these [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving to G‑d.” — Talmud, Shabbat 21b

And it is true that there were many miracles that assisted in the liberation of Israel, as a nation, from Greek dominance and the reclaiming of the second Holy Temple, but there is one particular miracle, the miracle of the small earthenware pot of pure oil that burned for eight days that we Jews commemorate each year.

So now back to the story… Why do Presidents celebrate Hanukkah early… Or do they?

A friend of mine in Israel called me very early this morning and while we talked we eventually got to the subject of Hanukkah (as you do this time of year) and she asked, “Why do the Diaspora celebrate Hanukkah early?”. The news in Israel is naturally about President Trump following his recent decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and unsurprisingly, the fact that his Administration had marked Hanukkah five days early hadn’t escaped anyone’s notice. So I decided to look into this subject and discovered that since 2001 when this practice began, with the Bush White House, the ‘celebration’ has never begun on the first night of Hanukkah.

In 2001 President Bush spoke that the year had been a year of “much sadness” for America and for Israel – and that the people of both nations had grieved together.  President Bush said, “But as we watch the lighting of this second candle of Hanukkah, we are reminded of the ancient story of Israel’s courage, and of the power of faith to make the darkness bright”. He then went on to pray for a “better day” – “when this Festival of Freedom may be celebrated in a world free from terror”.

During the last 17 years The White House has marked the occasion early only 5 times, about 30 per cent of the time, and I suspect this had to do with scheduling the many other events held at The White House each year. President Bush held one event 19 days early and President Obama missed the mark three times, 7 days, 10 days and 13 days.

  • 2001 (December 10) Second night (Hanukkah began on December 9)
  • 2002 (December 4)  Fifth night (Hanukkah began on November 29)
  • 2003 (December 22) Fourth night (Hanukkah began on December 19)
  • 2004 (December 7) Fourth night (Hanukkah began on December 4)
  • 2005 (December 6) 19 days early (Hanukkah began on December 25)
  • 2006 (December 18) Fourth night (Hanukkah began on December 15)
  • 2007 (December 10) Seventh night (Hanukkah began on December 4)
  • 2008 (December 15) 7 days early (Hanukkah began on December 22)

But The White House Hanukkah reception in 2009 that took place on December 15, while timely (the Fifth night), was notable because President Barack Obama’s Administration sent out its invitations that made no specific mention of Hanukkah, instead inviting guests to a “holiday reception”. This would seem to me to be an intentional act and coming from the Obama Administration does not surprise me in the least.

  • 2010 (December 2) Second night (Hanukkah began on December 1)
  • 2011 (December 8) 13 days early (Hanukkah began on December 21)
  • 2012 (December 13) Sixth night (Hanukkah began on December 8)
  • 2013 (December 5) Eighth night (Hanukkah began on November 27)
  • 2014 (December 17) Second night (Hanukkah began on December 16)
  • 2015 (December 9) Fourth night (Hanukkah began on December 6)
  • 2016 (December 14) 10 days early (Hanukkah began on December 24)
  • 2017 (December 7) 5 days early (Hanukkah begins on December 12)

President Donald J. Trump’s Administration recently held the annual event (December 7) and as you would expect the lamestream media has been quick to point out that President Trump had previously lambasted President Obama for celebrating Hanukkah early and yet, they chided, he did the same in his first full year in the Office.

Well, I suspect that President Trump intentionally timed his Administration’s marking of the event with his decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, a miracle if you think about it and an act that took incredible Hutzpah (nerve, self-confidence) knowing, as he did, that he would be attacked by the media.

So why don’t some U.S. Presidents (e.g. President Obama) take more care when “respecting” our Jewish holidays? Well, perhaps it’s because they’re not Jewish, although more than a few Jews in the Diaspora (living outside Israel) would like to see the end of celebrating Hanukkah altogether…

From my perspective whether non-Jews mark this important Jewish holiday or not doesn’t really matter. Tomorrow evening is the first night of Hanukkah and each year we look for miracles during this time. My wish is that all Jews will remember our victories and the tremendous accomplishments that we have achieved throughout our history and that they try not to dwell, as so many people around the world do, on the unfortunate events that have happened as we work toward securing our freedom and our nation.

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‘We Do Not Forget Or Forgive’

Golda Meir

Golda Meir

A recent Daily Mail article reminds us all that a past forgotten or ignored is one to be repeated. While Jews around the world were preparing to remember the Holocaust, the Grosvenor Hotel in London played host to a group of Neo-Nazis, Nazi sympathisers and Holocaust deniers, who gathered in the Nation’s capital to share their hatred toward Jews.

The article finishes with the statement issued by hotel management that ‘the room booking was made online and hotel staff were unaware of the nature of the meeting,’ a comment reminiscent of the guards, military personnel and many of the German public who claimed not to know Hitler’s plans. I am reminded of the often repeated phrase of Sergeant Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes) – “I see nothing…” and while the programme was very humorous and while many of us may enjoy a laugh at Germany’s expense, the subject is anything but funny.

In my view it is a short, baby-step, from meeting to promote shared hatred targeting a group of people who have repeatedly suffered unconscionable attacks and actually carrying out those attacks. Let’s not forget that Britain’s King Henry II casually asked about Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Result: Becket was assassinated by someone currying favour of the King.

But what can we do to prevent this type of behaviour? Is there anything we can do to prevent the past from repeating?

Yes, there is an example is our recent past, where one of our leaders took the necessary action.

Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel on 17 March 1969. She was Israel’s first woman and the world’s fourth woman to hold such an office and often described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics years before the tag became associated with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In fact, Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir “the best man in the government“.

So it should be no surprise that in the autumn of 1972, following the attack during the ’72 Summer Olympics in Munich, Meir authorised Mossad to track down and kill those responsible for what became known as the Munich massacre.

Operation “Wrath of God” (Mivtza Za’am Ha’el) was a very successful covert plan to assassinate those involved in the massacre in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed. The operation continued for over twenty years.

In my opinion, that Operation should be restarted and it should divide its focus on two groups of people: first, those who are currently carrying out acts of terror against Jews should be assassinated, not in vengeance, but in order to prevent the repeat of terrorist attacks; and second, we should remove from our society those who would support these ideas one way or the other. I am perfectly happy to imprison those who would promote hatred and incite others to repeat the acts of the past.

A famous lawyer in Texas said ‘they hang horse thieves and let murders go free’. You see there are no horses in Texas that need stealing, but some people need to be killed.

Of course, Liberals around the world excuse such meetings, like the recent one in London, with the ‘free speech’ argument, but it is safe to say that King Henry’s reckless (but very likely intentional) speech resulted in the death of Thomas Becket. These meetings and the Daily Mail‘s article, unfortunately, have a tendency of drawing out and congealing those in our society who would support these despicable ideas and encouraging many who would commit the acts.

We cannot change the way these people think. We should not forget what they are capable of and we most certainly will never forgive what has been done to us.

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Footnote: Several hours before each assassination, each target’s family received flowers with a condolence card reading: “A reminder we do not forget or forgive.”

 

Originally published on LinkedIn

I Don’t Hate Arabs…

Dry Bones - Jewish State

Dry Bones – Jewish State

In the words of Rabbi Meir Kahane, “I don’t hate Arabs. I love Jews. And I wish the Arabs well, elsewhere.”

I feel as though Israelis collectively suffer from the ‘national amnesia’, Kahane warned us about many years ago. Some of us appear to have forgotten why this glorious State was founded. For far too long, these same people have listened to the Liberals among us and those other voices that are often loudest from outside our great country and they seem to have chosen a path of least resistance, one of pacification, one of acceptance bordering on resignation, which from any perspective has cost each of us dearly both in lives lost and some would say, our self-esteem as Jews.

Need I remind these same people that we are literally surrounded on three sides by a self-declared enemy of our people, who has sworn to destroy us?

The examples of terror against our people grows each day, but when children can be murdered in their beds at night and when lovers, couples, business men and women, each a member of our family can be executed while they enjoy a meal and while those on the Left offer apologies for the terrorists, attempting to justify these despicable actions on the basis of alleged personal hardship, I feel that we’ve lost our way, somehow.

I feel that a re-boot is needed.

I believe that we should step back and re-evaluate our integration policies as a nation.

We should remind ourselves that Israel is a Jewish state – the only safe harbor for Jews anywhere in the world – a home where each of us can return and flourish with our friends and family.

But one thing is for certain, continuing down the current political path will see Jews outnumbered by those who wish to harm us sooner rather than later. Granting non-Jews the right to vote, while progressive on paper is suicide in practice and akin to two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

Kahane’s methods were dramatic. He delighted in tapping the rage of poor Israelis-especially Jews from Middle Eastern backgrounds-against Arabs, but that’s no longer an effective plan.

Today we see anti-Semitic attacks on the rise. It isn’t only the poor that will understand that while Kahane’s methods were too radical then, something must be done now. Together we must encourage our leaders to rethink the current policies. In one voice we must demand the promise of a safe Jewish state.

Let the conversation begin here.