We are in the midst of the Jewish Festival of Chanukah. The word means “dedication” in the Hebrew language.
It is an eight-day celebration that finishes at sunset Thursday, December 9th.
The festival commemorates both the 164 BC rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the ruling Seleucid Kingdom, and the re-establishment of religious expression for the Jewish people after the popular revolt led by Judah Maccabee.
The revolt, which began in 165 BC, happened largely in response to the Temple in Jerusalem being defiled and dedicated to the Greek god Zeus two years before.
Judah's forces liberated Jerusalem in the winter of 164 BC, and at that time, according to rabbinic tradition, when Judah's men sought to relight the Temple menorah, or candelabra, only one day's worth of pure, undefiled olive oil was found.
This limited quantity of oil miraculously burned for the eight days required for new oil to be pressed.
Thus, the main element of Chanukah observance is the lighting of the eight-branched menorah (or chanukkiah).
Here in Israel, Chanukah is marked by numerous large menorahs lit in public places.
In the Old City of Jerusalem, each evening, groups of Jews tour the winding streets and see these menorahs set out at the doorways to homes – and, if they time their visit right, join the families in reciting prayers – one of which praises God “who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this season.”
Middle East Correspondent