A month after terror attack, Jews light lamp of hope

December 24th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) Nearly a month after the terror assault on Mumbai, in which the Jewish outreach centre Nariman House was one of the main targets, Jews in the capital are trying to move on and celebrate Hannukah, the festival of lights which symbolizes hope and faith.An eight-day festival which began Sunday, Hannukah literally means dedication. Marked by the lighting of candles, cooking traditional delicacies, gifting each other and basically having a good time, the festival is eagerly looked forward to by the Jewish community.

“There was a special service in the synagogue on Sunday evening when Hannukah began and there will be another one Dec 28, next Sunday, when it will come to an end. It’s a special occasion in which people come together, pray and have a good time, remembering what the festival stands for - hope and faith,” Ezekiel Issac Malekar, honorary secretary and the rabbi at the Judah Hyam synagogue, the only one in Delhi, told IANS.

A small community - according to Malekar there are just around 5,000 Jews in India, 4,000 of whom live in Mumbai - Jews in the capital say that while the terror attack did leave them disturbed, they are trying to move on and let the spirit of Hannukah heal the wounds.

“The attack on Nariman House which killed Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka besides three others was very disturbing. The cries of baby Moshe were a shrill reminder of the callousness of the whole incident and was enough to melt anybody’s heart,” said Sarah Mark, who has been living in Delhi for the last 10 months.

“But, then again, an incident like this could have happened anywhere. That’s the bitter truth of life. Belief in God and moving on with hope is the only way to continue living and this is what Hannukah signifies,” Mark, a student, told IANS at Chabad House, a Jewish community centre in Paharganj, central Delhi.

The story behind Hannukah goes like this. More than 2,000 years ago, the temple of Jerusalem was overrun by Syrian King Epiphanes and worshipping of the Torah was forbidden.

A small group of Jewish Hasmoneans fought a valiant battle to win the temple back. In the temple, they found very little oil to light the ritual lamp even for a day. But, miraculously, the lamp kept burning for eight days without more oil being added. This is when the Jews’ suffering ended and the festival of lights Hanukkah originated.

Therefore even as the first month anniversary of the Nov 26 Mumbai terror assault approaches, smiles warm up the tiny Chabad House, which is abuzz with visitors, Israeli tourists and backpackers. As a part of the candle lighting ceremony, one candle is lit every night on a nine candle stand. The middle candle is always lit.

A typical Hannukah thing impossible to miss at this time in Chabad House is the smell of freshly baked Challah, a special Jewish bread.

“On Hannukah, tradition asks us to cook our food in oil. So we have the potato pancakes called latkes and jelly doughnuts. Challah is of course there as well,” said Esther, a back packer staying in Paharganj who had come to celebrate the festival in Chabad House.

Another Hannukah tradition is playing dreidel, which is like a gambling game.

“Playing games, enjoying the delicacies and praying, we are living the moment of Hannukah. There is no place for any negativity now,” Esther added with a smile.

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