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Looking Toward 2015 in Israel: "We've Come to Fight the Dark"

Looking Toward 2015 in Israel: "We've Come to Fight the Dark"

I have spent all day today running errands in Jerusalem. I went in and out of shops. In and out of offices. And the inescapable conclusion is that the Jewish state is completely enthralled with Hanukkah.

There is a Hanukkah menorah in McDonald's, there is one in the butcher shop. There are public menorah lightings in every conceivable setting. Children walk around with a little crown topped by a cardboard candle. The Hanukkah jelly doughnut is sold in varieties that defy imagination. I had one with kiwi filling, covered with green cream and a green cherry on top (Roladin Bakery, eight shekels a piece).

Here in Israel, children's all-time favorite Hanukkah song was and remains "Banu Chosech Legaresh," "We've Come to Fight the Dark." The song's theme is that every one of us is a small candle, but together we are "or eitan - a mighty light." The drama of a small light increasing in number and strength is now happening in our own living rooms every night, eight nights in a row.

It becomes magical at sundown when menorahs are being lit by families and the shivering lights sparkle from windows all around. But look further and you'll see that there is some more magic lighting up the darkness in Israel these days:

In the past week, hundreds of women have been organizing Hanukkah lighting ceremonies, reclaiming their public visibility and defying religious extremism in Beit Shemesh, at the Kotel, and in other places our work has touched this past year. Last week, police finally arrested leaders of the extremist Lehava movement on suspicion of racist incitement and assault, after we at the Israel Religious Action Center lodged more than 40 complaints with the attorney general against this organization. And on the last night of Hanukkah, IRAC and its supporters will light a menorah at Zion Square, the scene of many recent hate crimes, to call for shared Jewish-Arab existence in Jerusalem.

Like Jedi knights, I am very aware of the "dark side" and that we must be aware of its presence in order to "feel the force." It's easy to see the dark side in Israel today, but this is the time to light a candle, not the time to curse the darkness. As Hanukkah and 2014 come to a close, I ask you to stand with progressive Jews in Israel as we create a mighty light. 2015 will be a pivotal year for Israel. Will you help us stand strong in Israel's courts and on the ground?

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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