My first Hanukka as an Israeli

 Not to live up to my reputation of being dramatic, but I have to say it: this past week has been hell.

I really do love my life in Tel Aviv (minus the absence of good Thai food), but this week was especially challenging with Chanukah consuming every place and moment around me. You know what I’m talking about. The never-ending bakeries full of sufganyot in the windows. The giant Chabad menorahs in every square. The smell of latkes in every living room. They are all reminders that I am so incredibly lucky to live in a Jewish country, yet still so far from home.


I know it sounds pathetic, but even as a 23 year old, tackling Chanukah on my own and making it special seems nearly impossible. I need my family. And this year, once again, I wanted nothing more than to relive those childhood memories and be with my parents and siblings in California.


My younger sister, Madi, made Aliyah and joined the army after finishing a gap year on Young Judaea Year Course. At 19 years old and a year before me, she decided that life in Israel was pretty good. Without Madi here in Israel with me, I can’t imagine my Aliyah going nearly as smoothly. She is my only family here, my best friend, and the only one who appreciates High School Musical as much as I do.


As a lone soldier, Madi was able to go back to California for Chanukah this year and be with my parents and brother. Although I never said it or even alluded to it, this killed me inside. The four of them together, making latkes, eating sufganyot, lighting the candles, exchanging gifts- it was heart breaking knowing that not only did Madi get to be with them, but that I was in Tel Aviv, celebrating Chanukah as a new immigrant essentially alone.


After several days of sulking and binge eating trail mix, it dawned on me: I was being so dramatic! I wasn’t alone. I realized that my roommates, friends, co-workers, and American-Israeli community probably shared the same sentiment. And the fact that throughout Tel Aviv there were sufganyot in every window, giant menorahs on every corner, and Chanukah gifts being exchanged showed that I would never truly be alone in this country. It should make me rejoice that I am a part of the realest Jewish family possible.


As Israelis, our stories and traditions and emotional attachments to this holiday are shared. Our love for our families and memories of our childhoods are shared. And although Israelis are the most unique people in the world (not that I’m biased or anything), on this holiday, our identities are shared. This is what it means to be Israeli, and this is why I trust that my feelings of Chanukah-induced loneliness are illusionary. Yes, I am not with my parents and siblings to light the candles this year. But, I am amongst a community just as close.