In my travels around the world I have had the opportunity to experience some memorable times set around food. I've had some good memories such as having cheese and wine in a small cafe in the shadows of the Eifel Tower and some unique experiences such as eating hot dogs with mustard for breakfast along with Bosnian coffee in an orphanage in central Bosnia. This week I had a new experience that ranks near the top. As the country of Israel takes this week to celebrate Chanukah, the nightly lighting of the Chanukah candles takes place everywhere. This week after a late night of classes I stopped by the student "watering hole" on campus with a Jewish friend.
During the course of our discussions about our classes, our faith, and American politics, we were interrupted as someone brought a large Chanukia (Chanukah Menorah) and placed it on the bar. He then made an announcement that he was lighting the candle and began singing the traditional song. It essentially is a song/ prayer giving thanks to the God and King of the Universe for sustaining the Jewish people. In a moments time, the entire place was singing and celebrating this moment. As the song ends with "Amen", the entire place errupted in applause. I felt for a moment that I was sitting in an English pub watching World Cup Soccer and singing pub songs. Perhaps this is what it was like as the writers of the "great hymns of the faith" sat in pubs and inserted Christian theology into the songs in the bars.
The song ended then someone came around and handed out traditional "jelly-filled" donuts. As I sat with my Jewish friend from Boston eating donuts to go with our Israeli brewed beverage, we both commented that this was a first for us. We finished our donuts and conversation as the candles burned brightly on the bar (and as the thump of the typical Israeli techno music echoed through the room). We thought that we may be missing the atmosphere of the American Holiday season, but this was a nice consolation prize.