(photo credit: NASA photo, graphics by Mall Mizrahi)
Over the past few years, Hanukka, Christmas and the Id al-Adha all seemed to coincide. That made Arabs, Jews and Israelis happy. They saw it as a sign of better things to come. People were singing “Kumbaya.”
They were mixing words and phrases from each religion to create new “words of peace,” like “holiday treats for peace.” And they were offering trades to kickstart the stalled peace process: felafel for matza.
Arabs and Jews even tried writing Middle East peace songs together, until each side discovered that wasn’t easy either. Promises made in some of the choruses had been changed. Important words had been replaced. Some of the lyrics required side notes to explain what the original intent of the song was.
Pretty soon, everyone was singing a different tune. Like Middle East peace, we all know what the melody is but we just can’t get the words right.
MAKING PEOPLE believe in miracles may have been good for everyone else, but it wasn’t good in the Israeli-occupied Hanania household, where marriage has achieved what negotiations and even proximity talks have failed to do in the Middle East. It may have coincided for everyone else. But for my family, the holidays collided.
That Hanukka and Christmas both overlapped was a big problem. My wife,
Alison, and I found ourselves in a cast iron battle over whose
settlements – I mean decorations – would get the best locations in and
around our house.
We fought over the front room coffee table. Do we put a menora or a
crèche (Nativity scene)? Who gets to hang something on the front door? A
Star of David or a picture of Jesus wrapped in a Palestinian flag?
I discovered that Hanukka lights are more Jewish than Christian lights.
The lights on her string decorations had shapes of dreidels, menorot,
Stars of David and images of Binyamin Netanyahu.
Mine were little bulbs called “Italian lights.” What have the Italians
ever done for peace anyway? She got to do something new every day with
our son Aaron. Lighting one extra candle every night for eight days. I
got to turn on a switch.
The lawn was a battleground too. I wanted to put up a big Santa Claus.
You know, that chubby guy with the long, white beard that needs to be
dyed, wearing an effeminate looking red suit with white fur. What does
he really have to do with Christmas, I wonder? Although Jesus had a
beard too, but it wasn’t bushy white.
She had a huge display of Jerusalem with a big sign quoting Ariel Sharon
“indivisible capital for all eternity” that she said she wanted to keep
there all year long. She got it free – after a small donation of $1,500
– from the Jewish United Fund.
Believe me, by the time we got through arguing over what went where, who
got what and who started the Gaza war, we were beat, so tired we could
barely enjoy the meal, the one moment when Arabs have an advantage over
After all, Arabs may know how to build settlements and walls, barriers
and murals, but Israelis can’t cook. They end up making our food and
while we Arabs complain that they stole our culinary style, our humous
and our Syrian – yes, Syrian – bread, the fact is deep down we prefer to
have them serve us something.
THANK GOODNESS all that “signs from heaven” stuff has stopped. This year, Hanukka comes first and Christmas comes after.
She puts her stuff up and then I get to take it down and put up my stuff.
I then get to celebrate secular New Year and, afterward Orthodox New Year. My stuff goes up last and never gets taken down.
No “Kumbaya.” No pretending there are going to be any miracles of peace.
No arguing over whose food is best or who owns what land.
One Christmas, Alison even stopped painting a green line through the
house to designate what part was hers and what part was mine. She always
said she would be fair in our marriage and we each get “half.” She gets
78 percent and I get 22.
But then I realized that her not painting the green line in our house
was just an Israeli trick to make me forget where the 1949 armistice
marriage agreement really was.
And I demanded that she paint it, but she still refuses till this day.
So this year, no fights over bells ringing or who gets to “deck” the
Halls – the Halls, our neighbors, always hated it when we decked them
when they came by, although the Halls are Jewish so I didn’t mind. No
sighs pretending like there is going to be peace.
Just a lot of mistletoe, zaide’s sandwiches of corned beef, pastrami and
chopped liver, and real happiness knowing we each get our turn. And I
go last.The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com