Letter: State-sponsored celebrations
On Friday night, I attended my first-ever Hanukkah service and I was moved by the joy — the singing, laughing and even a little dancing, from those who had more exuberance than they could contain. I listened to the history of latkes and of the miracle of the light. We sang a prayer for the dead and two young girls played a beautiful duet on the flute.
But then, about two-thirds of the way through, I finally noticed, standing behind the rabbi and the cantor and flanking each side of the ark, two large flags: that of the U.S. and that of Israel. For the rest of the service I could not let go of the fact that this celebration was brought to us under the aegis of two of the most advanced military powers in the world, that all of the talk of love and history and light and blessing is backed up by the barrel of a gun, the turret of a tank, the belly of a bomb.
And I thought back, years ago, to two bat mitzvahs I attended for two of my students. And I remembered with what pride and passion those two girls sang from the Torah, how they carried in their voices, so gracefully, the weight and honor of generations. And I thought what a disservice to those two girls, and to the beautiful people around me, on this night, years later, to have those flags standing there, and all the violence and oppression they represent, to desecrate the sacred with the profane, to dim the holy light in a time of such darkness.