So tonight is the first night of Chanukkah! Let me take you back a few years...
When I was younger we were not allowed to own movies, or I guess my parents just refused to buy them for us. However there were 2 movies that my parents (I feel like this was my mom's doing, but I'm not entirely sure) allowed us to own, or decided that we should have around. One was the animated haggadah, a clay-mation passover story, and the other was the rechov sumsum (Israeli version of sesame street) Chanukkah video. As you can tell I was being "brainwashed" from a young age :-)
Needless to say I know those videos pretty well.
In the chanukkah video there is this one sketch that is this fake game show about chanukkah. There are three contestants, one of which is the Israeli version of big bird, who is a porcupine named Kippy ben-Kipod. So blah blah they are asking/answering questions and then we get to the final question which stumps all the contestants. This question is "The last letter of the Dreidel is different in Israel and in America, what are those 2 letters?" None of the contestants know, so what ends up happening is the person in the role of "Vanna White" gets pissed and tells everyone the answer (and then it gets confusing because she won the gameshow she words for).
(if you want to see the video, or relive a piece of your Jewish childhood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTAsXFvpD1o)
So yeah outside of Israel the letters on the dreidel are the first letter of the hebrew words that mean "a great miracle happened there" but here in Israel the last letter is different because instead of saying that it happened THERE it says it happened HERE (nes gadol haya PO). So while I have known this for a looooong time, I have never actually been in Israel on Chanukkah to be able to use the different dreidel. I am actually really excited about this. It is cool to be HERE and not there in some sense.
Another cool thing is that there are menorahs ALL over the place. In many intersections or in front of stores or on top of buildings there are large (electric) menorahs. It's really cool. There are also menorahs made of lights that are hung up on lots of the lamp posts on busy streets, like the one I live on. Part of the mitzvah of lighting the menorah is to show it in public in order to "publicize the miracle." At home we have an electric menorah that we put in our window and then light our other menorahs inside. Here I have started to see a bunch of menorahs (not electric) outside on people's porches. In order to keep the wind from blowing out the candles they all have these glass boxes they put over the menorah. I'd never seen that before, but it makes a lot of sense.
There are sufganiyot (Jelly doughnuts) everywhere. It's really nice. Also Chanukkah in America is totally overshadowed by the holiday season/christmas (which makes sense) so it's nice to be in a place where it gets ALL the attention and not in the same consumer-centric way that happens often in America.
I went to buy a cheap-o chanukkiyah today so I can light it tonight. They are selling them everywhere. I found some in a drug store. Ohhh Israel.
Happy happy Chanukkah! Eat lots of oily stuff.