Sunday, December 25, 2011

Haifa's Multi-Cultural Holiday Lessons

Shalom Girls and Boys:

It's December 25th all over the world. It's the fifth day of Hanukkah.  It's also Christmas day.  I think it's important that we respect each other and I wanted to get some good tips on how to do it. So I just surfed the net, and you wouldn't believe!  I found the coolest way to be ecumenical (ask your parents or your teachers what that means) and it happened last year in Israel!

I'm going to take you back to the terrible Carmel Forest fire last December. A forest is a source for Christmas trees. The Carmel Forest is right next door to the Israeli city of Haifa -- a city where not only Jews live, but also Christians and Muslims.

Bet you didn't know that. In fact, I bet you don't know that Christians make up 2% of Israel's population.  Think about it. It makes sense. The story of Christmas did take place here, in The Holy Land.

But back to Haifa. Every year it wants its Christian residents to feel at home, so it puts up a huge Christmas tree. Last year's fire burned out all hopes for a tree, so a clever Israeli artist came up with the idea of creating a tree out of recycled plastic bottles like this one.

Haifa's Jews, Muslims and Christians contributed bottles.  It was a real joint effort and a great example of ecumenism (remember, I told you to find out what that word means). It attracted a lot of attention all over the world, and a British newspaper interviewed the artist and made a video clip all about it.

This year Haifa has a real tree. It's also holding its 18th annual Holiday of Holidays Festival. Eighteen -- that's Chai (life in Hebrew), and I hope this festival has a long life because it's all about religious tolerance. Remember I said Haifa's population is mostly Jewish but that it also has Muslims and Christians living in it? Well, each of these religions is celebrating a special holiday this month. Hanukkah and Christmas, plus the Muslim holiday, Eid Al-Adha, which has a connection with Abraham. Do you realize that he wasn't only the father of our people? We are descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac, but remember Abraham's other son Ishmael?  The Muslims are his descendants. That means we're cousins, which means we should at least be tolerant of each other. But I don't want to get into that. I'm more interested in something else that unites us --- FOOD. If this Holiday of Holidays Festival is celebrating three different holidays, that means three different types of food. So tell me, what am I doing shmoozing with you like this when I could be eating????

Gotta fly...Zvuvi

Photo Credit

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Judah Maccabee Slept Here

Shalom Girls & Boys:

Today I'm going to be your flyguide and take you to the city of Modiin.

Once upon a time Judah Maccabee slept here, and so did his father Mattathias and all of his brothers.  They began their revolt against the Greek rulers in this city.  I don't have to tell you the story of Hanukkah. I bet you're learning it right now. But because Hanukkah is also called the Holiday of Lights, I want to show you how beautiful Modiin looks when it's lit up at night.

Modiin is the miracle city in the middle of Israel -- right between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Over 74,000 people live there.  Many new olim (immigrants) from the United States move here. Most are young families. The mayor and his staff work here, in this modern City Hall.

Even though Modiin is a cool, 21st century city, it is still VERY respectful of its past. That's why men, women and children enjoy participating in archaeological digs during vacation time.
They are proud of what professional archaeologists have dug up. Take a look at the synagogue floor archaeologists found dating all the way back to the time of Judah Maccabee.
And signs of Judah Maccabee himself? Sorry, I can't show you exactly where he slept, but how about where he is buried?
Are these the REAL graves of the Maccabees? Some say YES, but many archaeologists say NO...and that's the mystery we're working on now.
Maybe I'll have the answer for you next year. For now, Happy Hanukkah from the city where the story of Hanukkah began, and thank you Modiin city for the pictures on your website. Special thanks to Modiin Councilman Alex Weinreb for his photos of the Maccabee graves, ancient synagogue floor, and this photo of a rainbow over Modiin. (I don't get it. Did Noah land his ark in Modiin???? Gota check that out!)