Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is set to begin soon. Celebrated by Jews, the Messianic community and also many Christians, it traditionally includes skits with a touch of humor and even irony. This year the light-hearted aspects are juxtaposed against the dark backdrop of Hamas and its current war against Israel.
That stark contrast is the theme of The Hamas of Hanukkah at Or HaOlam Messianic Synagogue in Overland Park, Kan. The synagogue’s annual Hanukkah is a celebration – and it will continue to be this year for children. However, for adults and optionally for teens, the December 10, 2023, event will stare down the gun barrel of the Middle East currently – and historically – at war.
The word “Hanukkah” means “dedication” and is the observance of the Jewish victory, against all odds, over the Greek-Syrian genocide and assimilation in the second century BCE/BC. Through the centuries the names of the enemies of the Jews have changes, but the hate and terror against them have remained the same.
The word “Hamas” is an acronym in Arabic for “the Islamic Resistance Movement.” However, coincidentally, “Hamas” means “violence, murder, complete moral destruction” in Hebrew. This translation can specifically be found in Genesis 6:11 – “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” (King James Version). Genesis 6 is the chapter on Noah and precedes the flood that destroyed the earth and all living things.
Or HaOlam will present a play titled The Hamas of Hanukkah. The actors argue about how to tell the Hanukkah story with the current Hamas-Israel war. They serve as a metaphor for internal disputes over the historical narrative’s understanding, yet centuries of Jewish resilience in adversity. The play will also feature a short original movie about the Gaza massacre on October 7. The short is intense enough that parents can decide if they want their teens present. Children will have an alternate celebration.
“We stand in solidarity with Israel, a sovereign country repeatedly attacked by the terrorist group Hamas,” explains Shmuel Wolkenfeld, rabbi and leader of Or HaOlam Messianic Synagogue. “During the October 7 attack, more than 1,200 Israelis were murdered, which is the highest daily death toll of Jews since the Holocaust. While thousands of voices are calling for death to Israel, Or HaOlam states ‘Am Israel Khi’ which means ‘The people of Israel live.’ We stand to speak life, support, love and prayers to Israel and Jews worldwide and our 2023 Hanukkah event will reflect this stance.”
Antisemitic incidents have increased, including in Kansas and Missouri, according to Anti-Defamation League, which includes as its mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people.” The organization’s H.E.A.T. Map (Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, Terrorism) shows antisemitic incidents in 2022 in Kansas totaled 54 and, in Missouri, 197. Compared to 2021 the number of incidents in Kansas increased from 36 and, in Missouri, alarmingly doubled from 98. This year, many of the incidents are being fueled by pro-Hamas sentiments.
The Hanukkah event features joyful celebration for all ages. It will begin at 1:30 pm with shopping at the shuk (marketplace) with local vendors. Crafts for children will begin at 2:30 pm. Starting at 4 pm, there will be a group Hanukkiah lighting (bring yours to light), followed by a performance by the children’s choir. Children will then be excused for a Hanukkah cookie decorating and donut-eating contest. Adults and, optionally teens, will watch the serious presentation The Hamas of Hanukkah. We will close with a meal of victory, by faith, of shared latkes and finger foods. The event is free and open to the public. A love offering will be accepted with gratitude.
The serious nature of The Hamas of Hanukkah as well as the entire Hanukkah event at Or HaOlam will reflect the saying “Yet is it far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness,” attributed to a 1907 sermon by William L. Watkinson. The annual lighting of the Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiah) defies the darkness of hate-fueled antisemitism.
Or HaOlam Messianic Synagogue is a congregation of Jews and Gentiles who celebrate God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel and all nations. They believe the Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus’ name in Hebrew) and has come to fulfill the biblical prophecies and is the Light of the World, as their name means in Hebrew. Their website is orhaolam.com.
Or HaOlam is located at 9898 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan.