As we (Sammy Platovsky K’18, Jesse Sivan K’18, and Ari Winton K’18) sit here writing from our dorms in Ramat Gan, Israel is currently preparing for the festivities and simcha of Chanukah. Although none of us are home this year for Chanukah, in a way, we all feel more at home than we have ever been.
All three of us chose to spend the year in Israel as a way to grow personally, spiritually, and religiously. This is a time for us to explore the beautiful country many Jews call home, connect to our roots, and immerse ourselves in the culture. Israel is an incredibly special place in that we are surrounded by many people we don’t know, yet share something in common: we are Jewish. There is a special feeling in knowing that this is the home of our people and we have the unique opportunity to be able to experience life in Israel for an entire year.
Whether it be lighting the chanukiyah, playing dreidel, eating jelly doughnuts, or flipping latkes, Chanukah is a time to spend with family and friends, to enjoy those around you, and to remember the Maccabees and how they overcame all odds to take down the much larger Greek-Syrian army. Although the world looks completely different from last Chanukah, we, as Jews, have found a way, just as the Maccabees did, to overcome all the obstacles that exist right now and continue celebrating every chag (holiday) in a unique way. So, even if there are no giant Chanukah concerts, large family gatherings, and festive Chanukah parties, there is still the pride that Jews feel during this holiday and nothing can take away from that. Here in Israel, that Chanukah ru’ach (spirit) seems different than it does back home: there is a strong sense of pride, festivity, and fulfillment that truly doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.
This Chanukah, remember the obstacles the Jews have overcome and continue to overcome every day. For the three of us, not celebrating Chanukah with family is very different, however, the community of Jews in Israel that we are with this Chanukah makes us feel right back at home. We are so grateful to be in Israel for Chanukah (and the rest of the year!) and look forward to meeting new people, learning new things, and growing as individuals.
With much love,
Sammy Platovsky, Jesse Sivan, and Ari Winton