Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah began this past Wednesday after sundown it is an eight day holiday. However I only have one day off from school. When I asked about this I was told it was because Hanukkah is not a religious holiday. After doing a little research I discovered that this means it is a holiday that is not mentioned in the Bible. I would like to mention the differences in spelling of the word Hanukkah you will also see it spelled Chanukah both are correct. The reason for the difference is the letter that begins the word in Hebrew is an h sound made at the back of the throat its hard to transfer this kind of sound to English. The picture above is of a Menorah. You can have a menorah with candles or the traditional ones that burn oil. There are eight candles in a row and one candle above the others. The candle above the others is called the shamash ("attendant") candle. You use the attendant candle to light the other candles. First you light the attendant candle then you say some prayers from the prayer book. The brochure we have is only in Hebrew so I'm not sure what they say. Then you light the first candle one additional candle is lit every night until the eighth day when they are all lit. The candles must burn for at least thirty minutes. On Friday evening they must be lit for one and a half hours. The candles are lit from the right side first then moving towards the left.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the second Temple. The Temple had been desecrated by the Greeks. The Temple was recaptured by the Maccabees a rebel Jewish army. The Temple had a flame that was supposed to be lit eternally. But there was only enough purified olive oil to burn for one day. Miraculously the oil burned for eight days and nights, the time it takes to make more oil. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean dynasty. The Hasmoneans ruled for 103 years before they yielded to Herod the Great. But Herod the Great felt the need to legitimized himself so he married Mariamne a Hasmonean princess.

During Hanukkah foods fried in oil are traditionally eaten to celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days. These dounguhts are called sufganiyot. They are dome shaped on top and flat on the bottom. Inside they have strawberry jelly. I don't really like the jelly though it tastes like they melted a strawberry lollipop. I love the doughnut part even though it tastes very different from the doughnuts made in America. These doughnuts are all over the place right now.

This is from my fourth archaeology field trip. The third trip we went to the Israel Museum and they do not allow pictures so I can't show you anything from that trip. We are at a site called the shoulder of Hinnom. Here we have several burial caves from the first temple period. This site was the topic of my professor Dr. Barkay's thesis project back in the 70's. My professor is pictured here. The area where my professor is standing used to be an enclosed cave but later generations quarried away the stone leaving it open now. The chamber to the right of the picture is a burial chamber. There are three benches where the dead would be laid out along with burial gifts. The circular depressions on the side are carved stone headrests. The bodies would be left for a year to decompose then the bones and burial gifts would be deposited in the repository. The repository is a hole underneath the right side bench. This chamber with the headrests is very important. Inside the repository they found two small silver scrolls that contained verses from the Bible Numbers 6:24-26 and some from Deuteronomy 7. These are the oldest examples of Bible verses ever found. They predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by many centuries. These graves are from the 7th century B.C. the time of King Josiah and the Prophet Jeremiah! Look in the direction of my professors elbow there is another chamber. The benches in this chamber have a groove in them that also has a place for a lid. Dr. Barkay believes this room was used for chemical treatments of the bodies. Since dead bodies are very dangerous they would need to chemically treat them. We have evidence for chemical treatment of bodies in 2 Chronicles 16:14.

Questions from the last post:
Uncle Joe-Yes those are led lights on the model. The model is in a small museum. Normally tourists come into the room and a show starts with a voice narrating the story of the city and the lights turn on to help people follow the narrator. In our case the professor was explaining it to us but they still turned on the lights in the model. The peanut shaped one is the City of David and the buildings in the upper right of that section are the Temple and Solomon's palace. The small section below that is called the neighborhood between the walls. Around this area is the gate between the walls that King Zedekiah used to escape the city. The large square area is called the Western Hill it has no name in the Bible


  1. When I read the sentence, "Since dead bodies are very dangerous" my mind added "especially when they become zombies" to the sentence.

    Sounds like you'll be staying there for the holidays huh? For the first time Eric and I are not going back to the states for Christmas and its pretty tough. How's the winter weather there?

  2. I enjoyed reading about Hanukkah and the Menorah. What beautiful symbolism to represent the Jewish Faith. I haven't heard of the sufganiyot doughnuts or seen anything like it. What did you do to celebrate Thanksgiving? I bet people there would find this American holiday difficult to comprehend.

    Dr. Barkay's class in Biblical Archeology sounds so interesting. I know you are thrilled to get to see the actual places and artifacts from the Bible and the man who discovered some of the relics teaching the course is terrific.

    I've watched the news and know that Isreal has some wild fires raging north of you on the coast. Have you had any rain fall yet? I enjoy hearing about your every day routines and differences in the cultures. I know you are glad to have mid-terms over with. Enjoyed your blog.


  3. Ya know, AC, you just get better and better at this. Thanks for the detailed tell on the city model from the last post. I too heard the issue with rain there. I guess the rainy season passed with no rain at all? At least you've got plenty of cacti about so something should survive no matter what. I ran across some new knowledge myself. Got some hummus for cracker dipping. The brand name was "Sabra". I'd heard that it was a name for Israeli soldiers. Tripped over a Wiki page on it and found that it's actually the local name for that cactus you've got all over the place, what we'd call a prickly pear. By transference the Israelis refer to any Jew born in Israel as a "sabra" attributing the virtues of cacti onto themselves. At least so saith Wiki. Do they really call themselves the equivalent of "prickly pear cactus"? I guess it's sort of like New Zealanders being called "kiwis".

    Continue to enjoy life among the prickly people and keep us informed when you can.