December 13, 2012

MEDIA COMMENT: Our media’s view of Hanukka

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:46 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Our media’s view of Hanukka

By YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 12/12/2012
The Zionist concept of Hanukka, a celebration of Jewish independence, a memory of days which preceded the terrible diaspora, has eluded many parts of our media.
When you really think about it, Hanukka is a problem for progressive liberals,  whether religious or secular. The festival celebrates the victory of religious  zealots over Greek sympathizers.
It reaffirms every year the deep  connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount. The Hanukka song “Maoz Tzur” expresses the thanks of the Jewish People to the Almighty for his  help in restoring the sacrificial customs at the Temple Mount altar. It ends  with the outrageous request for the Almighty to take revenge for the Jewish  blood spilled and bring about the full redemption. Clearly this is not  politically correct, and yet Hanukka is celebrated in the vast majority of  Jewish homes. It is a week of vacation from school. And yes, even parts of our  media participate.
The Israel Broadcasting Authority, guided by Moria  Lapid who heads Jewish-related programming, invested much effort and funding in  creating a new Hanukka series devoted especially to various Jewish communities  in the Diaspora. The seven programs of the series, directed by Moshe Alafi,  bring every night a perspective of communities in Toronto, Boston, Odessa,  Buenos Aires, Oslo, Torino and Toulouse. Each program ends with the lighting of  the Hanukka candles.
For the first time in many years, the IBA brings  into our homes a view of the life of a Jewish community, its difficulties, its  relationship to Israel and Judaism. It brings home to the Israeli viewer the  immense responsibility which we have for the perpetuation of Jewish life also in  the Diaspora.
It also presents to the Israeli a different view of  Judaism, one that is much broader than that of Orthodox Jewry as it appears in  Israel. It shows how people who are secular in outlook can still identify with  their Jewish roots and even visit the synagogue or the mikve (ritual bath) from  time to time.
Especially moving was the scene from Torino where the son  of Primo Levi is interviewed. He described how his children caused his family to  reconnect to their Jewish roots. This in a community so small that the  local Jewish school is not limited solely to Jews. In fact, it highlights one  non-Jewish mother who explains that she sends her children to the Jewish school  since she knows that it is only there that they can be educated to values that  she believes in.
The IBA outdid all other broadcasters in the time it  spent on Hanukka.
Reshet Beth radio covered the candle lighting ceremony  every day. Even the music channel joined the party by broadcasting, for example,  the oratorio Judah Maccabi by Handel.
However, the difficulty and  challenge presented by Hanukka did not pass over the IBA completely. Consider  the song “The days of Hanukka.”
It has two versions; one talks about the  miracles that the Maccabees created, while the other version is about the  miracles the Almighty made for the Maccabees.
Only the first version is  broadcast on the IBA radio.
The Army Radio station had a big headline on  its website: “Lighting the Hanukka candles with Galatz during the festival at 7  p.m. – special Hanukka programs.” The 7 p.m.
“Hanukka” program was titled  An Israeli Story and was broadcast on four days this week. On Tuesday evening,  the story revolved around the “Pancake House,” an eatery open seven days a week  at a gas station.
Presumably the place was chosen due to the custom of  eating pancakes on Hanukka.
Jewish content? A real connection to Hanukka?  Forget it. Neither the Hebrew word for pancake, “leviva,” or the Yiddish latke  were used once during the 40-minute program. The program really had nothing to  do with Hanukka, but was rather a celebration of foreign culture. Some of the  other Hanukka programming on Army Radio was slightly more to the point.  Especially noteworthy was a celebration of the Hebrew language on Tuesday. But a  deep connection to Hanukka was not to be found.
One way to run away from  the questions posed in the beginning of this column is to pay attention only to  exterior aspects of the festival, such as food. Indeed, last Shavuot this was  also the case with the Educational TV station.
While Educational TV did  have some special programs for Hanukka this year, most of them were rehashed  material from previous years. To its credit, one should mention that in the some  of the children’s programming the station did not only deal with exterior issues  but actually gave the story of Hanukka.
Judging by the published  programming schedules of TV’ Channel 2 and Channel 10, Hanukka does not  exist.
While ignoring issues is one very good way of running away from a  difficult topic, perhaps the reason is more prosaic. Hanukka, in the minds of  the commercial stations, probably does not “sell.” No sex and no drugs, and the  only violence is that of a bunch of zealots who believed in Jewish independence  and religious customs.
The difficulty of dealing with Jewish and Israeli  values is not limited to Hanukka. Dr. Ron Breiman, who writes in Ynet, News1 and  other media outlets, has noted on more than one occasion that around Shavuot  time, our media no longer broadcasts the song “Our baskets are on our  shoulders,” a formerly quite popular song for adults as well as  children.
The song refers to the biblical commandment of bringing the  first fruits to the Temple Mount. Breiman notes that the words of the song are: “We have brought the first fruit from even the far parts of the country, from  the valley, the Galilee, Judea and Samaria.” He surmises that the song is not  broadcast due to the reference to Judea and Samaria as parts of  Israel.
Perhaps symptomatic of this atmosphere are two op-ed columns  published in Israel HaYom on Tuesday.
Chagit Ron-Rabinovitch explains how  she was born during the Hanukka period, how the Hanukka candles bring the family  together. In her words: “How I love Hanukka” because “that’s how it  is.”
The second column, authored by Hagai Uzan, revolved about the  stupidity of having such a long vacation at this time of year. Uzan complains  about how difficult it is to take care of the children who are not in  school.
“In other vacations,” he wrote, “there is some logic. On Succot  there are 700 festivals in the neighborhood… but during Hanukka,  everything is wet, cold or both together.”
The Zionist concept of  Hanukka, a celebration of Jewish independence, a memory of days which preceded  the terrible diaspora, a return to those days when Jews, despite their minority  status or numeric disadvantage, would not turn the other cheek but fight and be  proud of their beliefs, has eluded many parts of our media.
The authors  are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch  (www.imw.org.il)
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