Hanukkah brightens up night
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
In the still of a beautiful Christmas night in Waikiki, Gov. Linda Lingle lit the shamash and one of eight lanterns on a menorah in a public ceremony, starting the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, or "festival of lights," in the state.
For the first time since 1959, millions of people around the world yesterday celebrated Hanukkah or Christmas on the same day.
Lingle, who said she is the only governor in the nation who is Jewish, lit the shamash, whose light will be used to light other lanterns through Jan. 1, and the first of eight lanterns which will be lighted on successive days on Chabad of Hawaii's 10-foot-tall menorah, a nine-branched golden candelabrum, which will be on display through New Year's Day at Waikiki Gateway Park.
When asked about the significance of major Judeo-Christian holidays being celebrated peacefully, Lingle said, "it shows how far we've come as a country. People say to me, 'Happy Hanukkah to you' and I say, 'Merry Christmas.' "
Hanukkah commemorates a miracle that occurred after Judah Maccabee and his four brothers formed an army that defeated the Syrians in 165 B.C. and reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees cleaned the temple of Greek symbols and statutes, and rededicated it on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. They wanted to light an eternal light but had only a tiny jug of oil, enough for one day. The oil lamp was lit and stayed lit not just for one day but for eight days.
The starting date of Hanukkah varies from year to year on the Western calendar, falling in November and December.
The ability to transform darkness to light, Lingle told last night's gathering at the park, represents, in part, "righteousness triumphing over oppression." Information about Hanukkah is being taught in some non-Jewish preschools in Hawai'i, she said.
"I don't know anything but it's nice," said 15-year-old Taraina Bono of Tahiti, who stopped with her brother Teriiniana, 9, and cousin Manarii Maitere, 11, to briefly watch the building of a second menorah at the park, this one with 5,000 Lego blocks.
Visitors Akio Hori, his wife, Noriko, and their children, Haruka and Yuya, ages 6 and 3, respectively, might not see menorahs in Tokyo, but they knew about Hanukkah. "I used to live in London," Akio Hori said, "and my landlord was Jewish."
Lian Litvan, a 27-year-old graphic designer from Israel who has been living in Manoa while her husband attends medical school at the University of Hawai'i, noted there's no reason why Christmas and Hanukkah cannot be celebrated on the same day. "Both can exist together because everybody is entitled to do what they want. For me, I miss my family and friends in Israel."
Ivor and Deborah Hershcovitch of Liverpool, England, always have celebrated Hanukkah by giving their three children, now adults, small gifts on each of the eight nights.
"We exchange gifts with our non-Jewish friends at Christmas but not with our Jewish friends and family," Ivor Hershcovitch said. "Hanukkah is a happy occasion and I think our children are now more observant than we are. We phoned home and celebrated the lighting because we can't leave (candle) lights on in our hotel room."
Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky of Chabad of Hawai'i, his wife, Pearl, and their children observe Hanukkah according to strict guidelines.
Pearl Krasnjansky prepared latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, to distribute to the crowd.
"There's a theory that malassadas, a Portuguese food, was eaten by Jews in hiding (during the Spanish Inquisition)," she said. Like latkes, malassadas are fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil lamp.
Reach Rod Ohira at firstname.lastname@example.org.