The Story of Hanukkah
Walking through the streets of the ancient city of Jerusalem, one might wonder why its name means “The City of Peace.” Ironically, Jerusalem has been the most fought-over city in the world over the last two thousand years. Every stone there has a long story to tell.
I was born and raised in Jerusalem and, although I left it, it’s always on my mind and in my heart. As a Hebrew school teacher in Santa Clarita, I teach my students about its history and how the first Holy Temple was built there by King Solomon 2500 years ago. It was a permanent home of the Ark of the Torah and the center of Jewish life for 400 years before it was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians. The Jews were forced from their land, but in time returned and rebuilt the second Holy Temple. Once again, it was a thriving center until Jerusalem was conquered by the Persian, Roman and the Greek empires.
In the year 165 B.C.E., King Antiochus decided to destroy the Jewish religion by putting Greek gods in the Holy Temple and forbidding Jews from studying the Torah or keeping the Sabbath. Anyone caught practicing Judaism was put to death. Amazingly, a small group of Jews called Maccabees defiantly fought and defeated the mighty Greek army. When the Jews cleansed the Temple of the Greek idols, they found oil to light the Menorah in the Temple. That little jar miraculously lasted for eight days! They rededicated the Temple to their one God. Therefore, Hanukkah means dedication.
These days, while we joyfully celebrate Hanukkah with gifts, fun, delicious food and the lighting of our own menorahs, I remind my children and students what Hanukkah means. It’s a celebration of religious freedom and our true essence. It’s taking pride in our roots and traditions without compromising them.
I’m proud of my Jerusalem, the eternal city, holy to all religions that prevailed through the years. I may have left, but my love for it never diminished. I visit Jerusalem often and, in between visits, I pour my yearnings and love to it through my art and poetry. The captivating beauty of the city, its towers, standing tall and proud, arches and many domes is like no other in the world.
My solo art show “Domes” will be in Newhall Library from January until May 2018.
Naomi Young is an Israeli artist and writer who has made Santa Clarita her home for the last 35 years. She teaches Judaica and has prepared hundreds of students for their bar/bat mitzvahs.
To reach Naomi, you can email: Naomiyoung7@yahoo.com or visit her website: www.naomiyoung.com.
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