Lighting a Candle in the Desert

Stand for Israel  |  December 26, 2019

Presidential Visit
President Bush visiting American troops during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

As we at Stand for Israel so often remind our audience, the Jewish state is the only nation in the Middle East that supports freedom of religion…of all religions. And that was hammered home when we came across this #ThrowbackThursday Hanukkah-related article from 1990. That year, if you remember, the U.S. was in the middle of fighting one of the region’s most vile dictators, Saddam Hussein. And with so many American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, The Baltimore Sun looked at how Jewish soldiers would celebrate the Festival of Lights:

Her commanding officer had advised against it, first citing fire safety regulations, then Arab sensitivity.

“I insisted I had a right to practice my faith no matter what Saudi law says,” said the 22-year-old Navy corpswoman assigned to a mobile military hospital.

“As a Jew, I’ve already got some ambivalence about serving here. OK, I’m in Saudi Arabia, and I am willing to do the job the Navy pays me to do,” she said. “But I’m not going to deny my religion.”

Military regulations forbid open flames in tents. Saudi law strictly forbids the practice of any religion except Islam. But stubborn faith won this round.

In the tent she shares with seven other medics, the corpswoman, who requested anonymity, planned to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah Tuesday night by lighting a candle on the small menorah sent by her mother in Baltimore.

“I’m not a troublemaker, and I don’t want to offend Moslems or anyone else,” she said. “It just seems wrong to me that Americans who have come to defend the Arabs should be asked to sacrifice our traditions and beliefs…”

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