The Palestinian who Enlightened our Day by Rafaela Barkay, Brasil


The Jewish tradition tells us that when Moses came back from Mount Sinai after seeing God for the first time, he had to cover his face with a veil because the people couldn’t bear to look at him, so strong was the light that emanated from him.

I write this blog in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Chanukkah. Some say the real meaning of it is purely military, but I prefer to accept the version that says that it is about the miracle of light: after reconquering the Temple of Jerusalem from the Sadducees, the only olive oil found that could be used to light the candelabrum in the temple was enough for only one day, and it would take eight days to make new oil. They took the risk, lit it anyway, and the light lasted eight days. To remember this miracle, Jews celebrate the holiday of Chanukkah by lighting a nine-branch candlestick each evening for 8 days, increasing the number of candles until the last day when all candles are lit. The highest branch, the shammash, is the most important of all. It’s the first to be lit and it works as a lighter, sharing its flame with the other candles. As a source of light, it tells us that when we share light, we multiply it, instead of dividing it.

The custom is to light the candles by the window to spread the light. I decided to take pictures of my candles every evening and post them on Facebook. And here begins the story of our personal online miracle. Many friends with different backgrounds started to ask me about the holiday. On the second night, a dear friend from Gaza wanted to understand the meaning of the holiday before wishing a good festival of lights to his Jewish friends that he had met online. I explained to him the above story. He then asked me to wait a few minutes. After a sometime he came back online with a picture of the candles he had lit – “can I do it?” – he asked me. I had no doubt that he could and I asked him if I could post the picture in a closed women’s Facebook group I manage. He agreed and I then shared his light with other friends.

A shared light and a shared love that became brighter and brighter on Facebook. The women in the group started to answer him, sending him love back. At some point, someone asked me to make a poster for an important and popular peace page read by hundreds of thousands of people all around the world. And more people started to answer him: Jews who had never heard loving words from a Gazan before were so moved by the picture of those candles lit in Gaza that a flame of hope started to shine into their hearts.
My Gazan friend was so excited by the messages that he continued to write and a two-way channel of love was established. Among smiles, tears and beautiful words people who had never communicated before could perform the real miracle of Chanukkah.

May this little movement teach us that, more than an enemy, on the other side of the wall, another human being is waiting for the occasion to be heard. Despite all the pain, we can light our candles and look at the other’s face without hiding.

Rafaela Barkay,

YaLa Young Leaders

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