Hanukkah antisemitism highlights fear among Diaspora Jews - opinion

We are not faced with the dilemma of whether or not to put our candles in the window for all to see, risking an antisemitic attack.

A YOUNG woman carries a tray of sufganiyot in the center of Jerusalem. Here in Israel, we celebrated Hanukkah openly, unashamedly and without fear. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
A YOUNG woman carries a tray of sufganiyot in the center of Jerusalem. Here in Israel, we celebrated Hanukkah openly, unashamedly and without fear.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Last week we celebrated Hanukkah.

Here in Israel, we did so openly, unashamedly and without fear.

Shops were filled with doughnuts from the minute Sukkot was over, rather like Easter eggs appearing in the stores across the UK as soon as the Christmas trees have come down. 

The run up to the Festival of Lights is simply a joy. 

Huge hanukkiot pop up on street corners as the holiday nears and everyone gets into the spirit, dusting down their own hanukkiot, wrapping presents and buying doughnuts. 

 Images of Hanukkah are splashed on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Images of Hanukkah are splashed on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Gatherings, both large and small are arranged, as schools close and many take time off work to be with their families.

For us, the most pressing issues surrounding this lovely festival comprise whether to buy or make your own doughnuts and how to cook your latkes.

We are free to light the candles and display our hanukkiot wherever we please. 

We can do so in the open with the rest of the community or at home with family and friends. 

Happily, we are not faced with the dilemma of whether or not to put our candles in the window for all to see, knowing that such a public display could lead to an antisemitic attack, nor do we have to worry about whether or not the public candle lighting ceremony in the town center is safe to attend.

Sadly, many living outside of Israel are forced to do just this. They are forced to make tough choices in a bid to keep themselves, their families and the wider community safe. Safety is uppermost on everyone’s minds when Hanukkah parties are arranged in schools, shuls and community centers.

For this reason, the majority of such gatherings are held behind closed doors with details only being shared upon request. 

As antisemitic attacks across the globe are on the rise, so too are the safety measures that are implemented at many Jewish events, making it increasingly difficult for people to celebrate openly.

This was brought into sharp focus by a frightening, yet some would say not so shocking, incident, which occurred in London last week.

While young families in Poleg, Netanya, set up trestle tables in the local park, adorned with hanukkiot, doughnuts and other wonderful treats for all to see and enjoy, a group of Jewish boys in London were attacked as they got off a bus to dance and sing Hanukkah songs in the street.

This attack served to demonstrate the sad fact that even in a multicultural, major capital city such as London, Jews are coming under attack, simply for being Jewish, thus creating an underlying fear in many communities.

It is that underlying fear that generally blights the everyday lives of so many Jews living outside of Israel, albeit in small, yet significant ways. It doesn’t cause mass hysteria or panic, but instead, casts a shadow, leading many to celebrate the Festival of Lights in the safety of their own homes, rather than in public, unashamedly and without fear, with their candles shining brightly for all to see.

The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Netanya, where she spends most of her time writing and enjoying her new life in Israel.