Hanukkah Begins Tonight; Celebrations Commence Worldwide

November 27, 2013  

Hanukkah has begun in Israel, as most of the Jewish people across the globe prepare to light the first candle Wednesday night.

Also known as the Festival of Light, the holiday commemorates the defeat of the Greek army by the Maccabees, a small group of Jews who were dedicated to preserving Jewish religion and autonomy in the Land of Israel, and the rededication of the Temple after it had been defiled by the Greeks. The Maccabean Revolt took place in the 2nd Century BCE.

According to the Talmud, one small flask of pure oil was enough to provide light for eight days, the time it took Temple priests to purify more oil for use in the Menorah in the war’s aftermath. 

Every night, Jews add one more candle to the hanukkiah, a lamp that symbolizes the Temple’s Menorah. The ritual serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining Jewish sovreignty, spirit, and tradition, among other things.  

Special prayers are also added to the daily services. Traditional foods during the holiday include latkes, potato pancakes, and sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts – oily food in honor of the oil of the Temple. Milk products are also sometimes served, in commemoration of the story of Judith, who assassinated the Greek commander after inducing him to sleep by serving him wine and milk – helping the Maccabees to a Jewish victory. 

Children also play the game of sevivon, or dreidel in Yiddish, which involves a spinning top labelled with Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, heh, and shin, standing for the words Nes Gadol Hayah Sham (lit. “a great miracle happened there”). In Israel, the shin is exchanged for a peh – and the letters stand for the words Nes Gadol Hayah Po (lit. “a great miracle happened here”).

According to one tradition, the dreidel served as a distraction when hostile authorities inspected Jewish homes to uphold decrees preventing Torah study. Once the officials left, these authorities say, the Jews were free to continue their learning. 

We at Arutz Sheva wish all of our readers a Happy Hanukkah. Below are some photos covering the celebrations locally – so you, too, can be a part of the Israeli Hannukah experience. 

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