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Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah! (Afghanistan Edition)

Gee, I hope I spelled that right. Yesterday, I attended my first Hanukkah service, which was led by a very nice man, Jeff. There were two Mormons, a single Jew conducting the service, an agnostic (uh, that would be me), a Catholic, and an Air Force guy. We're tight.
We met in the "library" where I work in Afghanistan, and Jeff told us the story of the last Jew in the country. No kidding. There were two, and they didn't get along, so one left. Apparently a well-received play was written about it.
Then he told us the old story about "three jews, two synagogues", and relayed the description his children provided about Jewish Holidays. They wearily explain that on Jewish Holidays, "we gather to recall one of the times when we were almost wiped out, but then somehow, we weren't. Let's eat."
He read verses in Hebrew and in English, explaining bits of Hebrew along the way, and adding bits of information about Judaism and traditions old and new. Jeff also provided dredels for our, uh, education. We didn't have any candy there, and soon the thing degenerated into various competitions in spinning the things. We learned the meanings of the words represented by the Hebrew letters on the side, and the difference between what one might call in-country dredels and dredels abroad.
We stayed for some time to observe the burning of the candles, and learned how each candle has a chance to be the first lit. We debated whether spinning dredels pink-slip-wise ("Nun! You lose, hand over the dredel.") constituted gambling, and decided that at any rate, we should behave ourselves.
Finally, somebody blew out the candles which Jeff, of course, did not see, and we agreed that we should all do this again next year. Then it was pointed out that if we were all still together by this time next year, then we would really have been ill-treated, and would probably be at each other's throats. Of course, it just so happens that Jeff would be lighting candles again the very next day--I worked late and missed out not only on the second night of Hanukkah, but on my beloved Quiz-Waffles, about which I shall write sometime soon. I don't know if anybody went this evening, but I'll stop by tomorrow and enjoy some very good company.

From Afghanistan,
Happy Hanukkah!

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