I've spent the last several Hanukkahs away from my family for one reason or another, but that didn't make them any less special (well, ok, maybe a little...). I still made latkes and opened presents that my family mailed me (wrapped and everything, my family really is the best), and ate greasy food. But this year something is definitely different. I mean, I know its Hanukkah, I checked the calendar and everything but... it really doesn't feel much like it in the streets of Tel Aviv. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is going on as usual, as far as I can tell.
I mean, sure, there are Hanukiah's at the shuk (open air market)... but there are always Hanukiah's at the shuk and yes, there are jelly donuts in every cafe... but, come to think of it, I've been tempted by those same jelly donuts for the entire time I've been here. Is it possible that Hanukkah only really exists when Christmas is around to be its counter weight? Is Hanukkah the tree falling in the Christmas woods? If there is no Christmas music to rebel against will anyone care if they have a Hanukkah song to sing?
My experience so far in Tel Aviv tells me, no. In fact, it kind of feels as if Hanukkah doesn't even exist without Christmas around. Maybe I travel in the wrong circles. Maybe if I was in elementary school here or had a lot of family here or listened to local radio stations instead of NPR I would notice a change. Maybe the waitress smiling at me is the result of the Hanukkah spirit in the air and not my improving hebrew... its possible... right?
At any rate Happy Hanukkah to all those of you out there who feel that something special in the air that means its time to eat latkes and start building your gift opening strategy (watch out for the fuzzy socks and new jammies... those are never a surprise). As for me I'll be sitting in a cafe on the beach contemplating studying for my finals and thinking "...Next year in Los Angeles..." even if it’s just for a little over a week at some point in December.