11 December 2006

The Chanukah miracle in Sea-Tac

That header needs some explaining.

1. For all our non-Jewish readers. This is what Wiki has to say on the subject of the Chanukah (Hanukkah, Chanukkah, Hanuka, Channukah, Hanukka, you name it):

Hanukkah commemorates the Miracle of the Oil. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days - which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate new oil.
Being of a more practical persuasion, I prefer the second version Wiki offers:
However, non-Talmudic sources include no reference to the eight days of oil that has come to be a popular understanding and modern practice of Hanukkah. The Hebrew deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees record different reasons as the origin of the eight days of Hanukkah. 1 Maccabees reads that, "For eight days they celebrated the rededication of the altar. Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the rededication...should be observed...every year...for eight days. (1 Mac.4:56-59)"
This explanation is closer to my heart, somehow. So Maccabees, who were nothing if not practical and down-to-earth folks, had themselves a long and bloody war, they won and threw out the Antiochus with all them Seleucids (Greeks, in simple words). What is more natural than to have a wild eight day bash in Jerusalem? And, after the last night of it, with somewhat of a hangover, to issue a decree that this bash is to be repeated every year. Or else. Maybe the miracle part was that they did not wake up with a monster of a hangover as expected? Who knows?

In any case, this post is about another Chanukah miracle - of a modern variety - that occurred in the Sea-Tac airport recently.

2. For our Israeli readers who may not know: Sea-Tac is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington state (not to be confused with Washington DC). Nice area that Seattle-Tacoma spot. Lovely views and lovely people.

The miracle occurred in the airport even before Chanukah, so it goes to prove the supernatural powers of that holiday. Essentially what happened was that a Seattle rabbi caused all Christmas trees to disappear (miraculously) from the airport.
For more than 25 years, the airport has celebrated the holidays with Christmas trees over its entrances. But overnight, the Port of Seattle ordered all 15 trees removed. The Port allowed "holiday" decorations to remain but decided to take down all the Christmas trees after a Seattle rabbi complained they were offensive.

The Port of Seattle says it had little choice. It says the Seattle rabbi with the Central Organization for Jewish Learning hired a lawyer and threatened to sue if the airport did not erect an eight-foot menorah to balance the message of the Christmas trees.

KOMO-TV reported that upset airport workers have started a campaign urging people to call the Port of Seattle to complain.
Now - isn't it a miracle? So let's sing hosannas to our dear rabbi. Let's sing hosannas to the Central Organization for Jewish Learning too. After all, they have succeeded to harness the most potent goddess there is - the goddess of Political Correctness (the gender of the goddess is my personal opinion, not to be discussed here).

Yeah. But to what end? After all, there is no menorah in the airport now. So the potential Jewish travelers will not find that heartwarming sight of eight foot* menorah with its candles burning brightly between the Christmas trees.

So, the rabbi and the COFJL could console themselves (probably) by a lesser achievement, that of preventing the Christian travelers to warm their hearts at the sight of the 15 Christmas trees. Some achievement, that... No menorah, no Christmas trees, a lot of people bothered in the name of the false goddess. And all that to make lots of people angry?

I would recommend that the learned rabbi and the COFJL check their Torah, there definitely must be a mention of "Love your neighbor as yourself" (by Moses, I believe?) or, in simpler words: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man" (Hillel). Unless there was a new edition I am not aware of.

Not being a rabbi myself, I am sure these two would override "Behave like a dog in the manger" anytime, wouldn't they, dear rabbi?

(*) What's the deal with 8 foot menorah? Is there some standard in the Political Correctness book of rules that says something in the line of "my menorah is bigger than your X-mas tree"?

Just to clear a few purely theological points with the rabbi:
  • How, precisely, is the menorah supposed to "balance the message" of the Christmas tree? And, if we are into a perfect balance, wouldn't a crescent, a statue of Buddha and a hundred (or thousands) of other religious symbols be necessary as well?
  • What is the alleged message the menorah is supposed to balance?
  • How exactly is the Christmas tree (which is not a Christian symbol if its history is to be believed) offensive to the rabbi?
Update: Christmas trees are back.
Pat Davis, president of the Port of Seattle commission, which directs airport operations, said late Monday that maintenance staff would restore the 14 plastic holiday trees, festooned with red ribbons and bows, that were removed over the weekend because of a rabbi's complaint that holiday decor did not include a menorah.

Airport managers believed that if they allowed the addition of an 8-foot-tall (2.5-meter-tall) menorah to the display, as Seattle Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky had requested, they would also have to display symbols of other religions and cultures, which was not something airport workers had time for during the busiest travel season of the year, Airport Director Mark Reis said earlier Monday.

Davis added that the rabbi "never asked us to remove the trees; it was the port's decision based on what we knew at the time."
A side remark: I still cannot force myself to believe that the learned rabbi and, especially, his lawyer, did not predict the reaction of the airport authorities (removing the trees). After all, what other resort did they have under the threat of a lawsuit, and in the stifling atmosphere of political correctness?

Hat tip to BG.

Dedicated to all the lovely Ws who will pass through Sea-Tac soon.