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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Fifth Candle: Evoking Candlelight

"Hanukkah, Festival of Lights" woodcut from Minhoginbukh (The Book of Customs), Amsterdam, 1727 (Library of Congress)
Tonight we have a convergence of the celebration of Chanukah with Christmas Eve. They coincide when the Jewish holiday, which follows the lunar calendar, happens to overlap with the Christian holiday, dated according to the solar calendar. In North America this coincidence has turned into a convenient secular and commercial "holiday season."

Visitors to Jerusalem are usually struck by  the lack of commercialization of these celebrations. Yes, there are festive events and the city is decorated with bright lights, but it is a holiday atmosphere that is less about the material. The municipality of Jerusalem, for many years, distributes cut pine trees for Christians as a city service. During the day today, there were church bells pealing in the background and a light drizzle started at dusk, turning now into a steady strong rain, much needed in this arid country.

In art,  the images relating to these holidays provide an opportunity to depict light. Here are some of the images relating to Channukah from a variety of times.

"Chanukah" etching by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882)

Hanukkah, 18th century, artist unkown, 35 cm X 41.5 cm

Here is a detail from the Ades synagogue in Nachlaot,  where the walls are covered with menora symbols.

"Ades Synagogue"  2010 by Heddy Abramowitz

It was painted by Yaackov Stark,  a teacher at the original Bezalel School, during 1911-1912.

And below,  a photograph of holiday lights in the alleyway of the Armenian Quarter:

"Bus and Passers-by, Armenian Quarter" 2010 c. by Heddy Abramowitz 

Best wishes for days that continue to spread light.

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