HANUKKA SPARKS OF HUMANITY
by Stewart Weiss, The Jerusalem Post
Dec. 12, 2004
Precisely when times are darkest, the Jewish soul shines its most brilliant light.  In moments of our deepest despair, we have
refused to give in to Gloom, instead exhibiting a remarkable resiliency, resourcefulness and spirit of renewal.

This was true in the throes of the Egyptian exile; it was true following the destruction of Jerusalem in Temple times;  it was true
in the aftermath of the Inquisition.

When it appeared that our flame had flickered for the last time, we sprang back and rebuilt ourselves, much to the amazement - or
chagrin - of the world at large.

One does not have to read ancient history to discern the irrespressible Jewish spirit.  We can see it reflected in the eyes of anyone
who lived through the Holocaust.

No one could have predicted that these tortured remnants of European Jewry would emerge from the ashes of Auschwitz to forge
new lives, let alone build a State of Israel and defend it against all odds.

Their heroism is the collective story of millions of individual acts of courage and hesed.

My mother-in-law, who survived Auschwitz, relates how the women in her barracks would greet new arrivals in the camp, some
of who had traveled more than 20 hours in cramped rail cars without food or water:

While German guards watched their every move, they would kiss the newcomers on the lips, transferring a mouthful of water they
had saved for them from their meager daily rations.

In the hopeless squalor of the ghetto, the Jews of the Shoah maintained schools, clinics and heders until the very last moment.

Parents insisted their children continue music lessons, and strangers were invited to share every centimeter of livable space.
In
the most hellish of circumstances, we never lost our hope, our dignity, our mentschlachkeit.

The law of the jungle never became our law.

But we don't even have to go back a half-century to see the light that has come pouring out of dark corners.

Just look at all the amazing expressions of spirit exhibited by victims of the Palestinian Terror War.  While some of the bereaved
families have understandably been immobilized by depression and sadness, the vast majority of victims have chosen to build,
create, and enlighten other lives in memory of their martyred loved ones.  A small sampling:

A suicide bomber in Tel Aviv blew up Yoni Jessner, a Scottish medical student studying in Israel, in September 2002.  In his memory, scholarships are given by his family to other medical students to spend a year here to study.

Young, beautiful, talented Malki Roth was murdered in the Sbarro massacre.  In response, the Roths created Karen Malki, pro-viding home care for seriously disabled children.

Koby Mandell was 13 in 2001, when his severely battered body was found in a cave in the Judean desert.  Camp Koby now hosts hundreds of terror victims each summer.

The Gideon family made aliya in 1988.  In the course of their perilous journey from Ethiopia to Israel, nine of their 12 children perished.  One of their only two remaining sons, Malato, joined the Nahal brigade's elite Palchan unit, and was killed in the 1997
helicopter disaster.

His family built a synagogue in his name in Lod, and is now dedicating a Torah scroll in his memory.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the efforts of my own wife, who directs the packaging and sending of food and gifts to IDF
soldiers in the field in memory of our son Ari, also a member of the Palchan unit, who was killed two years ago in a raid on Hamas
headquarters in Nablus.

Jews who have faced tragedy and death know better than anyone how precious life is, and how short time in this world can be.
And so an amazing percentage of those who have suffered most have decided to ease the sufferings of others and try to make this
world a better palce.

In spite of - no, because of - all we have endured, we desperately want to create new sparks of humanity where others were extinguished.

Not so our enemies, alas.  While our suffering breeds love, theirs generates hate.  Spurred on by cynical leaders, caught up in a culture of revenge, they revel in the violence and scream for more.

It is telling that the Palestinians, despite all the billions taken in during their intifada, have not built a single hospital in any of the
territories they control.  Hospitals prolong life, an item that has not been high on their leadership's agenda.

Ultimately, we will prevail in this battle of wills because, as Hanukka so clearly proclaims, even the smallest candle can dispel a
multitude of darkness.

The writer is director of the Ohel Ari Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana  jocmtv@netvision.net.il
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