How many bites
will Uncle Sam
take this year?
My Love For Israel
Understanding the Jewish
people in this way comes
his Chanukah will be
from being in our homeland,
my first Chanukah in
as opposed to experiencing
life as an American Jew.
For the past six
The experiences I have had
months, I have been studying
both in and out of the class-
Hebrew in an ulpan, taking
room in Israel have elevated
classes in Jewish and Israeli
me to a new spirituality. I
studies and touring the coun-
haven't thought about the
try. I am participating in the
mechanics of Judaism more
World Union of Jewish
than twice since I arrived in
International Center for
When I arrived in Arad, a
Hebrew and Jewish Studies in
small, well-planned and successful
Arad (to learn more about WUJS, log
development town in the Judean desert,
on to wvvvv.wujs-arad.org).
the people on my program surprised
If I were still living in Atlanta, I
me. Many had a deep emotional con-
would be preparing to teach the ses-
nection to the land and her people, but
sion on Chanukah to my students at
not to the Jewish religion. I knew that
the Florence Melton Adult Mini-
most people in Israel are not "religious"
School through the local Jewish
Jews. But I didn't expect diaspora Jews
Community Center. When we talk
to have a connection to the land that
about Chanukah in a class of adults,
was not rooted in our religious tradi-
we come to realize that Chanukah is
not only about a military victory, but
In America, I felt my connection to
also about the struggle for the charac-
other Jews through our shared reli-
ter of the Jewish people. The battle
was a clash between the "modern"
Greek ways and the ancient traditions
of the Jewish people.
In Israel, the struggle between the
21st century and our Jewish traditions
is something we face every day. This
year, rather than thinking about how
Beit Hillel (the House of Hillel) and
Beit Shammai (the House of
Shammai) had different opinions on
how we should light the menorah or
discussing other points of religious
gion, no matter the movement. In
practice, my mind-has been struggling
Israel, my connection to others and to
with other questions.
God comes from the land and the
I want to understand the conflict
dynamic struggles among the people.
between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews.
Because of this, I don't expect the holi-
I want to know how the non-Jewish
day of Chanukah to bring me a special
Russians are integrating into Israeli
sense of spirituality.
society and what the impact will be on
Instead, I feel a spiritual connection
intermarriage and future generations. I
every day, to the land and the people. I
want to know how the Ethiopian
feel more spiritual because Israel is a
teenagers in the Mercaz Kelita (absorp-
beautiful, but small, country. I have
tion center) pick up the Hebrew so
swum in its seas, lake and streams. I
well. I want to know why Israelis are
such terrible drivers! And of course, like have walked in its wadis, canyons,
deserts, hills, heights and mountains. I
you, I want to know how the conflict
have walked on the walls surrounding
with the Palestinians will work out.
the Old City of Jerusalem and on the
Rather than contemplating the
hallowed battlefields of Tel-Facher in
Judaism of our sacred texts, I am con-
the Golan Heights. I have explored the
templating our sacred land, Israel and
ruins of Masada and the ancient city of
Since I have been in Israel, the idea
This year, it won't be the candles of
that we are a people with a land and
the chanukiah that inspire me, but the
therefore a nation, rather than reli-
special glow of the lights reflected in
gious faith, has invaded my mind.
the Jewish faces from Ethiopia, North
Nancy Lipsey is a former resident of
and South America, Russia, France
Southfield and Atlanta, Ga. She is in
and hundreds of other countries
Israel for a year of study.
around the world celebrating together
in our homeland — Israel. 111
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