We just completed our first Chanuka in Israel, and I am on such a high. I can not be more thankful for the amazing week we had. I have not even had a chance to blog about our experience since we have been running from fun to more fun. Here are some of the highlights.
Every year we hang up the girls projects from years past. I love taking out the box of paper driedels and Chanuka signs with my childrens’ adorable photos from when they were younger. BH we have obtained quite a collection over the years. This time it was especially meaningful for me to hang the decorations. It symbolized our past traditions and memories being continued on in our new lives. We set up our menorahs by the window, just like we have done so many times before. As my daughter so eloquently explained to her friend about why we were not lighting outside like many people in Yerushalayim do, we are not that Israeli yet. Maybe next year.
Our first night of Chanuka was spent doing the traditional Chanuka things like playing dreidel, eating latkes and signing songs. The next night we planned to meet up with friends and go to a parade. I figured out the buses and timing and was ready to leave as soon as the kids got back from school. Then I was made aware of a security issue. To be honest, it hit me by surprise. I did not know how to react. Should we go anyway? After all, the security issue did not apply to our specific plans. Or should we stay home and take a more conservative approach this time. I spoke to a bunch of friends and family, and in the end I decided that if I was going to feel too on edge to enjoy the activity, it was not worth the hassle. Things happen for a reason, because it turned out that the parade was way shorter than expected and we would have traveled an hour by bus just to have missed the whole parade.
Our plan B turned out to be a real success. We took a walk around our street and counted how many chanukiyot we were able to find. We spotted 159 on our short 20 minute stroll around the block. We were all shocked and amazed! And guess what? Not one Christmas decoration in sight. We all marveled at how many frum Jews lived right near us. The miracles of Chanuka was clearly surrounding us.
On Tuesday we invited our “olim family,” as I like to call them, over for a Chanuka cookie baking party. There are three other families that made aliyah this year to Ramot with us, and I could not have gotten this far without them. They truly are a special family to us. We could not have celebrated our first Chanuka here without a party with our new family. All the children gathered around our dining room table and decorated cookies to their hearts’ content. We had a great time, and got to enjoy our hard work at the end with our freshly baked cookies.
By Wednesday evening, my parents arrived from America to celebrate with us. My sister and her family as well as my parents piled in to our cozy living room for a pizza party and, of course, presents. Thursday was a bit rainy and cold, but we did not let it stop our fun. We made homemade playdough and then made our way to my extended family’s Chanuka party. As I have said before, I loved being a part of my Israeli family’s gatherings. We spent shabbat Chanuka by my sister with my parents and had a really special time with them. I am still not over living so close to them and being able to spend so much time together. It is a real perk of making aliyah!
Sunday night was more partying. We took a bus to Ramat Beit Shemesh and enjoyed a yummy meal, some games and special face time appearances from some of our American family members. The Sunday before Chanuka was my American family’s Chanuka party. It was difficult for me to look at the photos of my nieces and nephews enjoying the party that we have attended for so many of the past years. This time the party went on without us. I missed our yearly grab bag and getting together with our family. My sister in law shared her Chanuka playlist with me so we could feel like we were part of her celebration and we listened to it all Chanuka long.
For our last day of vacation, we went to pack food for the needy. Each of the girls received a box and a list of food. They had to locate the food on the list and pack it into their box. We had fun and did a great chesed in the meantime.
Phew. That was a really busy Chanuka. I am exhausted just writing about it all. We had such a fun and exciting eight days. I read my children the post I wrote last Chanuka, Holiday of Lights, about how we were more focused on Christmas lights than on our own holiday, and I have to say, that was not even remotely true this year. This year was all about Chanuka and family time. I am so grateful to be able to live here and stay focused on our religion. This year, each night of Chanuka was truly lit up!