A Somber Hanukkah-Christmas Reminder
It is sadly fitting that, for the first time since 1978, this year the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle coincides with Christmas Eve. Though the two holidays have nothing in common, they are often lumped together. This is partly due to their proximity on the Gregorian calendar. It is also a period when both Jewish and Christian students in the West are let out of school for what is now called “winter vacation,” with a lot of gift-giving and overeating taking place.
But this year, Jews and Christians would do well to embrace a deeper similarity, and say a prayer for one another – some while drinking egg nog at the foot of lavishly decorated trees, and others as they feast on jelly donuts while lighting candles.
Last December 24, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attended mass at St. Mark’s Orthodox Coptic Church in Cairo, to show that things in his country were going to be different now that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi was no longer at the helm. This gesture, like el-Sisi’s strengthening ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was particularly significant in a region ravaged by full-fledged genocidal war and horrific low-resolution conflicts. The message he was trying to convey was that Egypt under his rule would treat its Christian minority with respect. In the months since then, he has also made moves to embrace his country’s treaty with the Jewish state, with which he shares the goal of fending off terrorists in Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps mystically, the last time Hanukkah and Christmas Eve fell on the same night occurred three months after the signing of the Camp David Accords, the precursor to that treaty.
El-Sisi’s efforts haven’t paid off too well on either front. For example, though his government warned judoka Islam El Shehaby – pressured by fans on social media not to “shame Islam” by fighting Israeli contender Or Sassan at the Olympic Games in Rio in August — that if he did not compete, he would be stripped of his Egyptian citizenship, fellow countrymen from all walks of life denounced his sharing of the mat with a Jew.
And in the year that has passed since el-Sisi went to church, Islamist terrorists have continued, as before, to commit heinous acts of violence against the Copts. Earlier this month, for instance, during Sunday prayers at the very cathedral that el-Sisi visited in 2015, two dozen worshipers were killed and many more wounded when a bomb went off in the packed premises. Though there is still some confusion as to whether the mass murder was carried out by suicide bomber or a terrorist who lay the explosives near a pew, the Islamic State organization took happy credit for the snuffing out of the lives of innocent Christians, mostly women and children, and vowed to continue its annihilation of “apostates” everywhere.
El-Sisi announced that the suspected perpetrator was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who had established ties with a Sinai-based IS affiliate. But it doesn’t really matter which branch or sect he or she swore allegiance to. What is and should be of concern is that the Judeo-Christian world – and worldview — is under perpetual assault. As Netanyahu pointed out in his annual Christmas message, which he delivered from the courtyard of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, Jews and Christians are both threatened by the “forces of intolerance” and “barbarism.”
These forces are not only armed with bombs, guns, knives and other deadly weapons, however. What they have at their disposal is a slew of both active and unwitting fellow travelers outside the Middle East, who enable the permeation into democratic societies of a sick mindset. Though much is being written and debated about “open border” policies, which have led to the infiltration of hostile elements into Western countries, just as much needs to be said about the way in which the phenomenon of radical Islam is eating away at the fabric of Judeo-Christian societies, without firing a single shot.
They do this with the help of a popular culture that is already infected with political correctness. Indeed, without shedding a drop of anyone’s blood, they are able to intimidate good people into feeling that their entire value system is defective at best, if not outright immoral. They gnaw away at norms born of tradition and common sense to such an extent that “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by “Happy Holidays,” so as to avoid offending those who do not celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since no Jew has ever been the least bit put off by such a greeting, it is clear which population’s affront is being taken into account.
Jews and Christians who are stabbed, rammed with trucks or who witness loved ones being blown to bits are smacked into seeing what is happening around them. Those who are complacent need to be reminded that they are frogs sharing a pot on a low flame, lulled into passivity before being boiled to death.
It is a somber note on which to end a Hanukkah-Christmas blessing, but a necessary one.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.