Happy Chanukah, from Old City Jerusalem

It’s been hard to write about Jerusalem lately, but last night we spent a lovely and peaceful evening in the Old City, and for the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful.

If you haven’t been following the news out of Jerusalem for the past few months, and perhaps even if you have been, you might not be aware of the deep divisions in the city as Palestinians and Israelis debate whether this wave of violence is in fact, a third intifada, whether individual acts of violence are protest or terrorism, and who, exactly, has the right to live free and secure lives in the West Bank.


After a long and tumultuous week at work, followed by an evening work event on a Friday (I can’t complain too much, I’m the one who chose the date), Bertrand and the kids met me at the Consulate, and we walked to the Old City.

Chanukah in Old City Jerusalem

After entering Jaffa Gate and meandering around the Armenian Quarter, we knew we’d finally arrived in the Jewish Quarter when we started seeing lit menorahs in every entranceway. The girls were fascinated, and amazed to see that every doorway held a menorah. We explained that the candles were like our Christmas lights, lit in celebration, then told them the Chanukah story.

Chanukah in Old City Jerusalem

One of the things I love most about living in Jerusalem is that we, a more-or-less Catholic family, are in the minority. Our daughters are learning that our way isn’t the only way, and that it’s perfectly normal not to celebrate Christmas, or know what Easter is, or even be familiar with the story of Christ. They’re learning that there are a million and one different ways to worship and celebrate the light of whatever you believe in (or don’t!). We can take part in the joy of everyone’s traditions, while finding ways to stay true to our own.

Chanukah in Old City Jerusalem
It’s a special sort of privilege, to be in a minority and still feel comfortable and secure in the world’s acceptance of who I am, but it’s also one that gives me hope for a pluralistic and diverse future, not just in Jerusalem, but back home too.

Happy Chanukah, everyone!

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