Channukah is in the air. Stores are full of delicious-looking donuts, Channukah gelt, and menorahs. There’s always a reason to party - so the parties have already begun a week before Channukah. Israelis certainly know how to party!
The other day I needed to get something from the famous Jerusalem market - Machaneh Yehudah - and the chocoholic in me lost control, surrounded by all of the decadent donut choices. Yes, in Israel, all of the bakeries compete for your money. Eating delicious donuts is not an 8-day affair, but something we are tempted with for a whole month! One day we will discover that it’s all a secret plot that a weight loss company was behind this tactic.
As I walked on, I was intrigued by the Italian cheese Channukah pancake in the shuk. I discovered that in southern Italy during the Middle Ages, a tradition of eating dairy foods on Channukah developed because of the dramatic story of the biblical prophetess Judith, in which she becomes the heroine of Channukah.
Judith was a beautiful, clever, and righteous Jewish woman who saved her people by enticing the Assyrian leader Holofernes with gifts of wine and salty cheese, then beheading the enemy commander who threatens Jerusalem and its Temple, saving Israel from the Assyrians. Many attribute the tradition of eating cheese on Channukah to this story.
The next day after my run around the shuk, Gavin and I had a mini-getaway on his day off to Flam Winery outside of Jerusalem. It suddenly occurred to me that we were feasting on that very same seductive meal of wine and salty cheese with which Judith had lured Holofernes in order to save the Jewish people. As is often the case living here in Israel, I felt strongly connected to our history, putting me in the mood for the upcoming holiday.
Somehow all of the Jewish festivals seem to have the common theme of “Our enemies tried to kill us - we won, so let’s eat!”
Channukah Sameach & Shabbat Shalom