ON THIS SECOND NIGHT, we reflect on the miracle of aliyah and the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948. Traditionally, Chanukah recalls the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days and the rededication of the Temple. This year, let us recall the miracle of a century of aliyah, and the return of the Jewish People to our historic homeland.
Ida Nudel, Israeli activist
Ida Nudel chose to become a refusenik, a Soviet Jew denied permission to emigrate abroad to Israel. She decided to request an exit visa from the USSR in order to protest the rampant Soviet anti-Semitism. Once denied, she became an activist, organizing campaigns and hunger strikes for the cause of permitting Soviet Jews to make aliyah. She was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison in Siberia. Two years after finishing her sentence, she was visited by Jane Fonda, who worked to campaign for her release. Israeli President Chaim Herzog designated an empty chair at his Passover Seder in her honor. In October 1987, she was finally granted an exit permit. In Israel, Nudel continues as an activist for the betterment of society, and wrote an autobiography, “A Hand in the Darkness.”
Nudel is a Chanukah Hero because:
- She is not afraid to stand up for her rights, even against terrible odds and rampant anti-Semitism
- She exemplifies the miracle of aliyah, which allows olim from around the world a home safe from anti-Semitism. Olim strengthen the State of Israel, bringing their unique talents and passions
Adisu Massala, First Ethiopian Jew in the Knesset
Born in Ethiopia in 1961, Adisu Massala made aliyah in 1980 by plane after crossing the Ethiopia-Sudan border. In Israel, he became a social worker and chairman of the United Ethiopian Jewish Organization. The first Ethiopian Jew to be elected to the Knesset, Massala served from 1996-1999.
Massala is a Chanukah Hero because:
- His election exemplifies the Jewish and Zionist values of democracy and the integration of immigrants into Israeli society.
- Massala cares deeply about the issue of the education of Ethiopian Jewish children, working to decrease the school dropout rate and increase sensitivity in schools about learning needs of Ethiopian Jews. Furthering education is a Zionist value – which ensures the future of the Jewish people.
The Aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry
Ethiopians suffered from a devastating famine in the 1970’s. Following the principle kol Israel arevim ze la’zeh (all of Israel is responsible for one another), Israel evacuated approximately 7,000 Ethiopian Jews in a daring airlift from Sudan to Israel in 1985. Subsequent operations (codenamed Moses, Sheba and Joshua) brought an additional 10,000 olim chadashim (new immigrants).
Ethiopian Jews faced major challenges in becoming integrated into Israeli society. Coming from a subsistence society, they had to make major technological and cultural adjustments to their new lives in Israel.
Activity: Family Discussion
Who in your family was an immigrant from a different country to the United States? What challenges did they face in coming to begin life in a new land? If you had to move to a new country, how would you feel and what would be most difficult?