Chanukah Holiday Thoughts

HanukkahToday I wanted to share with you a little bit of my holiday thoughts.

When coming to Houston from Israel, you see a lot of things that are different and new - the culture, the people, the architecture, the weather. But there is one thing I thought would barely change as a Jew from Israel and that’s practicing the religion. 

I expected to see some minor changes, maybe different tunes in the services or other kind of melodies, but I was wrong.

There are vast differences throughout! As a secular Jew from Haifa, Israel, there are a few dissimilarities reaching from the general Jewish life to synagogues, holidays and much more. 

I grew up in an secular environment, and like many Secular Israelis, took my religion for granted, as a given. In Israel, Judaism is a majority and that affects so many things. You don’t need to work hard to keep your "Jewishness;" everyone around you is Jewish. You don’t need to go Jewish events to find a Jewish wife, because all the women are Jewish, whereever you look.  

You don’t have to teach your kids about Chanukah because they learn about it in school, and there is no Christmas to confuse them. In Israeli schools, you get eight days off for Chanukah, (as the number of candles), but as Christmas doesn't exist in Israel, neither do the lights. You won’t see Chanukah decorations on houses and blue and white lights blinking on the window. We don’t have that tradition in Israel.

How did I celebrate Chanukah in Israel? Eat a lot of sufganiut (jelly doughnuts) and try to light a few candles. Not more than that as a secular young Jew. 

Most synagogues in Israel are not as active as in America where here they sometimes seem like the center of the Jewish life as they hold a very big place in the Jewish community, Today after three months, I know more synagogues in Houston than I know in Israel. It's sad but true. Going to services in Israel?! Maybe once a year in Yom Kippur at most. 

Secular Jews, a majority of the population in Israel, barely thinks or asks questions about their own Jewish identity, are less involved in their Judaism and especially in practicing it. 

So while in Israel the reform and mostly the conservative movements are extremely small, in America I have seen a vibrant and active Jewish life that can fit almost anyone at any time, and not only conservative and reform -  secular, orthodox...all making for a very wide range of differences and varieties of Jewish life in America.

Today, after a very short time here in Houston, I am slowly realizing the differences between Judaism in Israel and America - where Jews are a minority in the middle of all the jolly Christmas songs and beautiful Christmas lights. That’s not an easy task, especially for the younger crowd, but looking at it from an Israeli perspective, we Israelis have a few things to learn.