I didn’t write earlier about the weirdness of seeing Chanukah things in the shops here. (Hmmm. I said I was going to run this journal with a Chicago Manual of Style until I got back from the US but I don’t have it with me. For now I’m sticking with the Australian spelling of Chanukah and not the US spelling of Hanukkah or whatever because I have no idea how many Ns or Ks it’s supposed to have. Or Hs for that matter.)
In Australia, I think there are both proportionally and (obviously) numerically fewer Jews. To get fancy things like menorahs and Jewish table cloths, you go to a Jewish store. In America, you walk into a Bed, Bath and Beyond, where the Halloween pot holders are being phased out as the Chanukah pot holders are being phased in. Thanksgiving ones are nearby and the Christmas ones will be out soon. But in the meantime, you can buy a $99 Waterford crystal dreidl. But of course. No longer just a children’s toy, now the dreidl can be the tacky gift for the princess who has everything. We even went into a regular pharmacy tonight in New York that had Chanukah themed pot holders and gloves and placemats ready for the holiday.
I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I am. I’ve spent so much of my life as part of a cultural minority that this mainstream recognition is quite shocking. As was walking into the B&H camera store with Doug this evening (huge store) and seeing every second staff member wearing yarmulkas and 80 per cent of those with full curls and tallises beneath their shirts.
Meanwhile, I hear on NPR that talks in the Middle East have once again stalled because Israel insists the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish state and the Palestinians say no other country has a religion so tied in with its statehood, so why should we? I am so frustrated with the childishness I see in the Israeli position. Who cares what they call it? Will Jews be allowed to live there? Yes? Good. Can you come to an agreement about perpetual rights of return for both groups of displaced people? Maybe. Drop the labels already. They are divisive and unhelpful and make me ashamed of my heritage, when it should be a proud history of ethical treatment for the stranger at my door.