Maayan Schoen’s Chanukah Message for 2023

Maayan Schoen’s Chanukah Message for 2023

For our annual Chanukah issue, we asked members of our community to share their responses.

Maayan Schoen is a senior at Atlanta Jewish Academy.

Mayaan Schoen
Mayaan Schoen

As Jews, we all know that history repeats itself, and this is something we feel acutely as we celebrate a holiday that commemorates our eventual triumph over the campaign of one nation to destroy us in the midst of another such campaign. But as the last 75 years of return to Israel have shown us, history is not stale repetition, but a spiral forward. We encounter similar themes each revolution around the sun, each circle around the spiral, but we are ever moving forward toward the point of light, toward a redemptive final outcome. This is what I believe.

The Torah tells of what will happen to us throughout history — the exiles, the inquisitions, and the return. We have seen much of it actualized. It can be tempting, now that the bad has played out once again, to wait patiently (or freeze in fear) with the hope that the good is to come. But we are not people of a passive fate, rather we are a people of action who fights for our destiny. Jews around the world have clearly understood this and have jumped into action in support of Israel throughout the war.

In his visions of the redemption, Isaiah foresees, לֹא־יִשָּׁמַ֨ע ע֤וֹד חָמָס֙ בְּאַרְצֵ֔ךְ שֹׁ֥ד וָשֶׁ֖בֶר בִּגְבוּלָ֑יִךְ וְקָרָ֤את יְשׁוּעָה֙ חוֹמֹתַ֔יִךְ וּשְׁעָרַ֖יִךְ תְּהִלָּֽה (60:18). ““The cry ‘Hamas’,” (meaning “violence”), “shall no more be heard in your land, nor ‘Wrack and ruin!’ within your borders. And you shall name your walls ‘Victory’ and your gates ‘Renown.’”

For long enough we have had to cry “Hamas.” The IDF is fighting to actualize our destiny to live safely as an independent Jewish nation by protecting our walls and eliminating Hamas from within our borders and the borders of Gaza. Those who sacrificed their lives for our victory, such as Atlanta’s own Rose Lubin, are our renown. (She died guarding the Western Wall at the Damascus Gate.)

Though I am one small member of the Jewish nation, I know that my life is bound up with the great project of the Jewish state and that my destiny is inextricable from Jewish destiny. When I came to Jerusalem this year, it was with the intent to plant roots for making Aliyah in the future, whether at the end of this year or later, but I wanted to take my time to decide about if I would return to the US for graduate school before I made the move official. The war moved me to make my commitment official now, come what may, as a stand — as if to say to Hamas you are trying to scare us out of our home, but you will not succeed; as a display of solidarity with a lonely Israel; and as part of my role in taking an active approach to personal and national destiny.

What is a Jewish prophet? Our seers were not simple oracles who revealed the future, making known an inescapable reality. They were reluctant, sometimes defiant Warners of what might come to be in a contingent history of human action and divine providence. They prophesied the worst of what was to come, as well as the comfort that would follow.

The worst of what was to come: We saw that on October 7th as never before. We were captured. We were uprooted. We were raped and slaughtered. I have been to the border and seen the destruction with my own eyes; it is everything Auschwitz was and more. There is scant comfort these days until every hostage is able to be embraced by their family.

But they did prophesy the comfort: “I will restore the captives of my people Israel,” promised G-d. “They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine; They shall till gardens and eat their fruits. And I will plant them upon their soil, nevermore to be uprooted from their land” (Amos 9, 14-15).

We pray and petition for the return of our captives, but it is actually in our hands to restore ourselves to the land. Aliyah can be difficult, and everyone should return to Israel on the timeline that is right for them. But let us pursue this destiny, and let us be comforted:

Come build, come inhabit. Come plant, come drink. Come till, come feast. Come ensure that, as is our destiny, we will never more be uprooted.

Maayan Schoen studied in the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for Women in Israel and recently graduated from Yale University. She now lives in Jerusalem and is chief of staff for Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and Special Envoy for Innovation Fleur Hassan-Nahoum.


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