Daniel Gethner, IEC/Hillel Israel Intern
Northern Illinois University
I am very thankful for all that I have in my life; my family, friends, roof over my head, clothes on my back and that I never miss a meal. I feel truly lucky. But why am I so special to have all of these wonderful opportunities? I attribute much of this to my family who has always been there for me. They are the building blocks of my life, providing me with a warm loving home and the freedom to explore life to the fullest.
During all the major holidays my family gathers to spend time together- and of course there is always food. The holidays are one of the few times a year I get to see my family which is why they hold special meaning for me.
The concept of going home to family is very much the same as how Jewish people feel about the return to Israel. The story does not end there- every homecoming is like the celebration of when a child comes back to their parents' house. Even today this celebration happens when thousands of young Jews from around the world travel to Israel through Birthright and other programs which have made young people, such as me, feel welcomed there.
As I return home to my family this week to celebrate Hanukkah, I've reflected on the story behind this holiday, how at the heart of the story we celebrate the miracle that a small amount of oil lasted not one day but eight in the land that we love and cherish.
This story is very much tied to the miracle of Israel today and why we cherish her so much. Thousands of years after this took place, we are determined to return to our land and hold on to our traditions apart from ridicule and threat. In many ways Israel is our oil- the small glimmer of hope that we needed to thrive. How is it that a small nation of 8,552 square miles that is under constant siege is still growing? It is due to the same kind of faith, courage and commitment to an idea that all Jewish people hold dearly- the idea to live in freedom. This is a true inspiration.
No one and nothing can take this kind of spirit away. The same spirit that endured thousands of years ago during this time still prevails to this day. I am moved by this story as I have recently traveled to Israel and experienced the daily lives of many Israelis. Israelis are not very different from Americans in the respect that they provide a land of freedom and protection to those who stand beside her.
I believe the holidays have the same meaning for all of us whether or not you're in Israel or America. As we spend time with our loved ones and look out for each other- I shall not take my life or the ones I love this holiday season for granted.