Israelis Celebrate Hanukkah's Cont'd Light of Victory

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Thousands of Israelis come to Jerusalem's Old City at Hanukkah each year to celebrate and see the lights.

For eight days, Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah, a holiday marking a great victory 2,000 years ago. Thursday is the last day of Hanukkah this year.

All over the world, Jews say special prayers thanking God for miracles -- past and present -- and light a special candelabra, or menorah, called a Hanukkiah, adding an additional candle for eight days. 

Also known as the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Old Testament but it is in the New Testament.

"Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon's porch."(John 10:22-23)

CBN News joined Old City resident Rebecca Spiro and her family for the Jewish celebration.

"This is a holiday about spirituality; this is a holiday about values: this is a holiday about connecting to God," Spiro told CBN News. "So many Israelis come here. Everybody's attracted to the light."

Spiro said it's her favorite holiday. 

"It's a holiday that celebrates religious freedom and our victory against oppression and our ability to rededicate the Temple," she said.

Her daughter, Adina, said she likes "the presents and the parties and the latkes [potato pancakes]."

Her son Ya'akov said he likes only having to go to school for half days.

"We have groups come and go all the time. And we can go on trips. It's fun. It's just fun," Ya'akov told CBN News.

In the second century B.C., the Jewish people in Judea revolted against the Syrian-Greek conquerors. The Seleucids tried to impose their culture forcing the Jews to eat pork and forbidding Sabbath observance, Torah reading and circumcision.

Worse still, the Seleucids defiled the Jewish temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the Greek God Zeus.

Led by a priestly family known as the Maccabees, the Jewish people retook Jerusalem and the Temple. But when they wanted to light the menorah there was only a tiny bit of sacred olive oil left.

"The miracle was that it [the oil] lasted for the eight days until they were able to get new holy oil," Spiro said. "And that's the holiday of Hanukkah.  We celebrate the eight days that the Menorah burned, which is a miracle. It was beyond nature and also the military victory that we were able, thank God, to achieve."

Eating fried foods like potato pancakes and jelly donuts is another Hanukkah tradition.

Spiro's family and neighbors also have their own tradition -- handing out free hot drinks to passersby.

"Every single year we bring out a table of drinks and thousands of people come to the Old City for Hanukkah to look around and see the menorahs and light. So we give out hot drinks to all the people that come," Ya'akov said.

"We decided about five years ago that we wanted to do something to build unity among the Jewish people," Spiro said. "It's grown and grown from a few hundred cups the first year -- last year we did 2,600 cups." 

Spiro said there's a message in the holiday for today.

"The world's coming up against Israel. The wolves are circling the sheep. This is nothing new and the message for Hanukkah is no matter what happens our candles burn bright and like civilizations have come and gone but the Jewish people are still here," she said.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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