Banu choshech legaresh

Ari, at his serendipitynow blog, points out this article at Haaretz on the naked bigotry the Muslims of Yaffo (Jaffa) recently endured at the hands of right wing Israeli extremists (of the national religious settler variety). Yaffo is a mixed ethnic Jewish and Arab town in Israel just south of Tel Aviv, a place that lives and breathes to the extent that tolerance and peace persists. On this holy Chanuka, some wicked zealots would destroy this peace, and in so doing they curse both the holiday and the religious identity that they ironically believe validates their ethnic and political aspirations.

Extremists spray-painted “Mohammed is a pig” and “Death to Arabs” early Sunday on the walls and doors of the Sea Mosque in Jaffa, sparking the fury of the Islamic Movement in the mixed Arab-Jewish city.The hate slogans also included “Kahane was right,” a reference to the slain Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement, and “No peace without the House of Peace,” alluding to the Hebron structure from which dozens of far-right activists were evicted earlier this month. Two Stars of David were painted on the entrance to the mosque. Worshippers discovered the graffiti when they arrived for early morning prayers on Sunday. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Ajweh, head of the Islamic Movement in Jaffa, condemned the acts. He blamed settlers for the graffiti, saying that similar offenses had been committed in the West Bank.

The activities of these criminals must be denounced, and they must be apprehended and punished. The irony of this sort of wickedness taking place on the holiday of Chanukah just boils my blood, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised since I know these people too well. They have been tolerated for way too long and peace, as usual, is the victim. As Ari exclaims, “It’s Chanukah. Banu choshech legaresh. We have come to chase off this darkness.” From the Chanukah song, Banu Choshech Legaresh (sung by the US Navy Band with the Hebrew Academy Choir of Greater Washington (1980)).

Lyrics (Hebrew, Transliteration)

Banu choshech legaresh
Beh yadeinu ohr va esh
(softly) Kol echad hu ohr katan
(loudly) Ve kulanu ohr eitan.
Sura choshech al ha schor
Sura, mi p’nei ha ohr.

Lyrics (Translation)

We come to chase the dark away
In our hands are light and fire
(softly) Each individual light is small
(loudly) But together the light is mighty.
Flee, darkness and night
Flee, before the light.

Every letter and word on which I obsess on the myths and beliefs of Jews in ancient Israel and Late Antiquity is constantly under threat by the cursed actions of these zealots who would willfully cast all of the humane Jewish values into a pit so long as their hegemony and romantic pride were appeased. Intolerance is a basic existential threat to our peoplehood and our culture. It makes a lie out of everything we hold to be relevant: being a positive example for other people and bringing healing tikkun to this suffering world. We have thrived all of these thousands of years because we have intelligently and with kindness lived as mensches side by side with our neighbors. To throw this all away, in twisted threats… it is just so deplorable. I will light the candle of the fourth night of Chanukah tomorrow with the intention that this light renew and enlighten our yearning for peace and goodwill. G!d help us and forgive us.

About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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