And Chanukah, O' Chanukah. The candy-filled dreidle, the latke hat, the crayoned cruse of oil, and the magnicent wood and bottle-capped menorah.
Every visit to my children's ganim (preschools) at holiday time was a lesson for me in Jewish life in Israel. As I watched my little ones singing the songs I never knew, and dancing the dances of a new land, I was so grateful that my children would grow up with an even deeper attachments to the holidays than I.
Today I attended my four-year-old granddaughter Rivka's Chanukah party. The girls spun like dreidels, wiggled like latkes slipping on the oil, and popped up every time one of their candle flames was lit. They decorated dreidels, colored the story of Mrs. Keresh (the potato cutting board), and painted their own Chanukiot (menorahs). Each of the mothers brought another treat. My daughter-in-law baked souvganiot (donuts) and added loads of powdered sugar.
To end a perfect morning, the ganenet (preschool teacher) had the girls whack a giant dreidel piniata, and catch all the candy and prizes to be shared amongst the entire class.
Not all olim (immigrants) are lucky enough to come when their children are small, and not all have grandchildren in the Land. So I thought perhaps that when a family without a preschooler moves to Israel, before every holiday, they can rent a preschooler, or make arrangements with the teacher to attend holiday parties, even if they have no kids in the class.
The day we made Aliyah 17 years ago, my friend Kaye was on the same flight. I settled into life in Israel with my tiny children, but her girls were older already, and so she didn't have that preschool cultural influence in her home.
You know what she did? She contacted one of the local preschool teachers and asked if she could volunteer in gan for a year. The teacher was thrilled, receiving a much needed extra pair of hands. And Kaye experienced the excitement of preschool every day. She learned all the traditional gan songs, read "Mitz Petel" (one of Israeli preschool's most beloved books), memorized all the hand motions of children's games, recited the Hebrew names of all the parts of the body, and learned the history behind every holiday.
Kaye didn't rent a preschooler that year. She rented twenty, and her Aliyah experience was richer than just about anyone I knew. Smart lady.