Hanukkah: Celebrating Light, Life, and Miracles in the Midst of War

Yael Eckstein  |  December 7, 2023

Hanukkah, Jerusalem, menorah, candles, light
(Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Just prior to Hanukkah, Yael visits one of the hardest-hit kibbutzim where unimaginable terror took place on October 7. And writing at Higher Ground, she shares her experience and reflects on how the message of Hanukkah is more important than ever—that God turns our darkness into light, even during wartime:

What do you think of when you think of Hanukkah? Maybe children receiving small gifts for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Or eating latkes and jelly donuts. Or lighting the menorah.

The menorah, of course, is the eight-branched candelabrum that we light during Hanukkah to symbolize one of the great miracles of the holiday: the eternal flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that stayed lit for eight days, despite there being only enough oil to keep it burning for one. It is perhaps the most familiar symbol of the holiday – and one that has recently taken on an even richer and more relevant meaning for me.

Last week, I took a trip to southern Israel to survey the damage from Hamas’ savage attacks of October 7, and to assess the humanitarian needs that can be filled by my organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I found myself in a kibbutz called Be’eri, one of the places that was absolutely devastated by the terrorists – more than 10% of the population was either killed or kidnapped.

When I first arrived, I saw a man with tears in his eyes going through the ruins of a house. As I kneeled next to him, I asked him to share his story with me.

“This is the house of my in-laws, my wife’s parents,” he said. “They had their entire family over for Shabbat, their kids and grandkids. My father-in-law was killed, and eight others were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.” …