Chanukah comes not a moment too soon, a chance to light up the darkness of a difficult year for Israel and its supporters. The litany of woes included the 50-day war in Gaza during which the Israel Defense Forces prevailed militarily against Hamas but lost the image battle, accused of excessive military force. There was increasing anti-Semitism and political isolation for the Jewish state, as Europe and the United Nations move toward accepting a Palestinian state without direct negotiations with Jerusalem. And there were deteriorating relations between the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as personal animosity seeps into diplomatic policy.
As the calendar year draws to a close, Netanyahu has chosen to take a political gamble and force new elections only about halfway through his four-year term, seeking to solidify his position. But Labor’s Isaac Herzog and Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni, neither of whom represented a strong challenge to the prime minister individually, have joined forces. Together they may find their call for improved relations with the administration in Washington and Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah a welcome change for an electorate growing tired of the current confrontational dynamic.
In the meantime, Chanukah’s eternal message of faith in the future, and belief in the miracle of renewal has taken on a timely sheen. This week we read in the ancient texts, once again, of the cruse of oil in the Temple that somehow lasted eight days. And we also read news headlines this week about the potentially remarkable benefits of Tamar, the natural gas platform off the Israeli coast, seeking to provide energy service to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
For decades the joke was that only the Jews could wander through the desert for 40 years and settle on the only land that had no oil. But the recent discovery of an estimated 800 billion cubic meters of gas off the coast of Israel, said to be enough to supply the country for a century, has transformed the Jewish state from importer to exporter. And perhaps opened at least an economic path toward improved relations with its neighbors.
So the details are somewhat different but the message is the same — a miraculous supply of gas, or oil, can help us recall that miracles are always with us if we seek, find and appreciate them.