We start the month of December 2021 with the 8-day celebration of Hannukkah.
Why do we celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights?
The story is well known, at least in the broad outline: when the Greeks took over the Temple in Jerusalem, they defiled
the stores of oil for the Eternal Light of the sanctuary. When the Maccabees took it back, they searched high and low,
and only found enough un-defiled oil to light the light for one day. They chose to light the lamp anyway, and a miracle
occurred — that one small can of oil lasted for eight whole days, long enough to press new oil and continue maintaining
the Eternal Light. Our festival of Hanukkah therefore lasts for eight nights, in commemoration of that miracle.
When we hear that story, the natural response is to focus on the unexpected miracle. Wow! That wasn’t supposed to happen!
What a relief the Maccabees must have felt! And so we light our candles, not by starting with eight and decreasing night
by night as the oil must have decreased day by day, as the Talmud tells us was the practice of the logical Rabbi Shamai,
but adding one candle each night, as taught by Rabbi Hillel, to reflect the increasing miracle, that must have felt more
and more amazing with each passing day.
But what of the days before the miracle? What of the decision of the Maccabees to go ahead and light the lamp, even though
by their estimate, the oil would run out the next day? What leap of faith it must have been to take that risk and say —
this needs to be done. If we run out tomorrow, so be it. At least we did what we could, and brought light and holiness to
the world with the means that were available to us.
It seems to me, in this time of the darkness of the year, we can draw inspiration from the Maccabees. Not that we should
set out on a cross-country journey with only enough gas to get us to Worcester, of course! But that sometimes, when our
metaphorical tank seems close to empty, maybe there is more there than we might think. That it is worth bringing even a
small amount of light and goodness into the world, if that is all we think we have, because we just might experience a
miracle, and find that our contribution went farther than we thought possible.
My wish for us all, this Hanukkah season, is that we have the courage to bring even the smallest light to the world when
we can, and may all the lights we light be magnified eight-fold and more.
In 1882, Neve-Tzedek became the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walled city of
Jaffa and was the first Jewish community in the newly created city of Tel Aviv. It is considered to be one of the most
beautiful areas in Tel Aviv. The words “Neve Tzedek” in Hebrew translate literally into Abode of Justice but it is also
one of the names for God.
In 1830, about 100 Jews came to Jaffa. These were North African Jews, who had first gone to Jerusalem
but were not welcomed by the religious Jews living there. By 1900, the number of Jews in Jaffa had grown to 1,500. Sometime
around the start of the 20th century, some 30,000 Russian Jews came to Palestine in the First Aliyah to escape the pogroms
taking place in Russia. Severe crowding in Jaffa was a result. In 1887, Shimon Rokach from Jerusalem, with land provided by
Aharon Chelouche, began the movement of Jews outside the walls of Jaffa and established what is now Neve Zedek, 22 years
before the founding of Tel Aviv.
At the beginning of the 20th century Neve Tzedek was the home of many artists and writers. Most
notably, future Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon. But in more recent years, the area suffered from neglect with many
of the old houses and streets crumbling away. Only since the 1980's has Neve Zedek recaptured its former prestige. Since then,
it has become a stylish yuppie residence with many restaurants, galleries and designer shops. It is now a very expensive
neighborhood in Tel Aviv, second only to the sea shore district. There is considerable work going on in the neighborhood
to restore many of the old buildings.
The architecture of Neve Tzedek is one of its highlights. Many beautiful old houses have already
been restored to grandeur by modern architects and designers and others are currently being rehabilitated under rules
from Tel Aviv being designated a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Filled with a maze of narrow winding streets, this picturesque neighborhood is now considered one
of Tel Aviv’s major cultural areas where the Frederic Mann Auditorium, Helena Rubinstein Art Museum and Israel’s Habima Theater
are located. It’s a great area in which to go for a stroll. It’s the place where Tel Aviv started and to discover some of the
history of the first place outside of the walls of Jaffa. There are many places to have a coffee, ice cream, great meals or
just to walk and admire.
The very well-known and respected Maganda Restaurant is located in the Neve Tzedek section
of Tel Aviv. This is an excellent Yemenite kosher restaurant which has been operating for almost 50 years. The atmosphere in
the restaurant is warm and welcoming. The food is excellent - not too fancy, and not too spicy, and as usual, very
In 1927, the Habura family purchased land and built a house at 26 Rabbi Meir Street, where the
Maganda Restaurant is still located. In 1965, the restaurant opened its doors under the management of the Habura
brothers who named it after their youngest brother who resembled “Maganda”, the leading actor of an African movie playing at
the time and this brother was nicknamed Maganda. The dishes served in the restaurant haven’t changed since the 1965 opening.
The Maganda Restaurant is known for its active part in bringing food to Israeli soldiers in the field during periods
of national crises.
The Neve Tzedek neighborhood is charming and very different from the rest of the city. The buildings
are not tall and are very old. Many are restored with a touch of modernity in the project such as modern glass windows. There
are very nice stores and cafes all around. A lunch break followed by an afternoon stroll in Neve Tzedek is a great way to
spend time in Tel Aviv.
Neve Tzedek is characterized by low houses, narrow streets and a center for theater and dance. The
neighborhood has been undergoing a gentrification process that has produced some of the most handsome and sought-after
buildings in the city. The artists, architects and writers living in these new and renovated pastel homes are keeping the
creative and spiritual soul of the district alive, contributing their talents and resources to the neighborhood by opening
and patronizing unique galleries, shops and cafés.
Just south of Neve Tzedek is the old railway station which has been recently and very nicely
renovated. It has lots of small shops. It’s well worth the short stroll for a visit.