Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Memories of an Egyptian Hanucah
With thanks: Moise
Tonight is the first night of Hanucah, which celebrates the victory of the Jews over the ancient Greeks. We light eight candles or oil lamps, to recall that the oil in the Temple in Jerusalem lasted a miraculous eight days.
Memories of how Hanucah was celebrated in Arab lands are fading fast, but for Moise Rahmani it was the highlight (literally) of the Jewish calendar.
Moise lived in the Heliopolis suburb of Cairo until his family was expelled in 1956. He recalls how every Hanucah his mother would drive to the outskirts of Heliopolis to collect the fine, white sand of the Egyptian desert.
She would arrange the sand in a tray and plant the first candle, which she would light with the shamash candle. Each night she would plant a candle of every hue in the sand. The wax would melt into the sand, leaving ever-growing heaps of sand coloured red, green blue, yellow, etc. in the tray.
Years later, now living in Belgium, Moise tried to re-create the magic of an Egyptian Hanucah for his own children. But the sand of the North Sea coast was not the same as the sand of the Egyptian desert, and Moise is obliged to keep his childhood Hanucah memories to himself.
Wishing all readers Hag Hanucah Sameah - and if you are celebrating Thanksgiving too - a very Happy Thanksgivukkah!