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Both authors had spent their youth in the young Jewish state.


Aaron is now a physician in the US,  and Yaniv a construction engineer in Israel.


Over recent years, in an effort to remember and savor the spirit of the Israel that nurtured him, each author has become a passionate collector of Hanukkah menorahs and other vintage Israeliana.


The authors offer this volume as an urgent gift to the people of Israel and to her supporters, and to brave people everywhere who light and protect the flames of freedom.  


 




FROM AARON  HA'TELL  2007 

 

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: We have been surprised by how differing people,  of various faiths, ages, or walks of life,  are drawn to the book. I relish watching people's delight as they discover the beauty and are amazed by the variety of these menorahs.  And reviewers are liking it too. It has become the 'catalog' for collectors and is selling well even after the holidays.


Q: WHY DID YOU WRITE IT?


A: We mainly want people to be wowed by the beauty of these menorahs -- so we packed the book with them. Even starting with the title page.


Q: WHY FREEDOM?


A: We think that, for most people, knowing where the menorahs come from will deepen their appreciation of their beauty. Hanukkah is about the struggle for freedom. Using photos of menorahs, Lighting the Way... tells an inspiring timeless story of persistent faith, courage, and hope in the pursuit of justice and freedom, from antiquity and in modern times...


Q: AND WHY PEN-NAMES? 


A: To keep the spotlight solely on the book, and not on us.  We are private people. We do not make personal appearances.  We do give interviews selectively, but the information released here covers the ground pretty well...


Q: SO WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT, REALLY?


A:  Obviously, the images of the menorahs. It is a great photo book. A reader can pick the book up and just flip through and enjoy the great photos over and over again...


But, in a way, you really cannot tell this book by its cover. It is not just a book about menorahs. 


The captions give a quick idea of the history behind a piece and, in turn, its place in history. We try to teach the reader how to 'see' menorahs.


Reading the first chapters will get the reader to know more about Hanukkah, freedom, and the early days of Israel. Also, the reader can learn a lot about menorahs and their makers. This book is the first attempt ever at documenting and appreciating the menorahs of this period.  It is great for collectors and Judaica lovers.


A thorough study, down to the end notes and surfing the Internet with the links on our site, can be a fascinating journey in the history of the Middle East that can make it easier to really grasp what is going and what the U.S. is doing there now.  


Q: O.K., THIS IS NOT ONLY A PRETTY PHOTO BOOK ABOUT MENORAHS.  AREN'T YOU BEING TOO SERIOUS, POLITICAL AND BIASED?


A: The struggle of a people for freedom is always political. So, of course, how can Hanukkah not be political? We do not believe in the moral relativism of symmetry and political correctness. As moral persons, we must take positions. Freedom is right and tyranny wrong.  That's our ideology. So -- without doubt --  in this way we are biased. We are unabashedly and definitely biased pro-freedom, and therefore, pro-American and pro-Israel. 


     But let's not forget -- Hanukkah is a celebration -- so we are light-hearted as well. The book is fun, and in places easily funny and even quirky.




 


How it all started


A few years ago, I was shopping for a Hanukkah menorah on eBay, finally bidding on an older 'vintage' hanukkiah from a merchant in Israel.  I ordered another, and another yet again, because each was different and quite interesting. 

It dawned on me slowly that I was having a feeling of familiarity and a connection to these objects, like meeting old friends whose faces I remember but cannot quite place. I had a sense that each menorah told a story of the people who had made it, lit it, worshipped and sang in front of it, and marveled at her lights...  maybe her flames sparkled in children's eyes... 


In a way, each menorah -- how it looks to the eye and feels to the hand (evocative like Proust's madeline?) -- seemed to contain or embody what had been happening all around me during my childhood.  Yet, as a kid growing up in Jewish Palestine and then a young Israel, I hadn't known that such beautiful things existed. In fact, I have discovered them only in the past few years.

I then happened to 'win' a menorah from Yaniv in Israel. There are five to ten or so very large collectors in Israel who collect this period. They all know and watch the others' collections. They share a love for these menorahs, but also compete to own them.  I have gotten to know many of them, and each has enriched my life. My forthcoming 2nd volume is pretty much my own effort with my daughter, and many Israeli dealers and collectors will be acknowledged.


 



The concept


The idea of a book came to us in the early 2000's.  All we wanted at first was a modest, small photo book of about 100 pretty pictures, simply to introduce these great menorahs to people for their enjoyment. 


But several things gradually came together to broaden this initial intent from mostly esthetic to more personal and, at the same time, universal and political. So, it has turned out that often a menorah is not just a menorah.


We kept discovering more and more unique and great menorahs. (To defray our costs, we recently decided to offer for sale through our site, and occasionally on eBay, some extras we have discovered along the way.) 


Photographing them and refining the digital pictures got me to see the menorahs up close and personal, in the particular way photographers see things. Up close, these seemingly common household items are actually serious lovingly designed and crafted art objects. 

We realized that the wonderful images on the hanukkiahs, as well as the very fact of their creation itself, have rich additional meanings. They are not only religious artifacts, but also, at the same time, rich symbols of Jewish cultural and political continuity.  


These menorahs -- some still have old wax -- are records of the times of my parents' generation -- of the personal hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows, self concepts, and culture of the grown-ups of my childhood, now elderly and sadly passing away.


Many of the menorahs had been crafted by people who had fled Nazi tyranny and were eking out a living as artists and craftsmen in Jewish Palestine, then a Third World country. Their evolving art reflected an emerging modern Israel. We interviewed as many of the original menorah makers’ families as we could find. Yaniv contacted many in Israel. That also led us to see the book as a tribute to the very talented artists who created the menorahs and to their entire pioneer generation.


 



Remembering growing up in Jewish Palestine and young Israel


A good number of the menorahs remind us how everyone in those days was super aware of being caught up in powerful historical events. There was little complacency -- we were all history buffs and news junkies.


We grew up in a fragile, tiny, poor, and vulnerable democracy, surrounded by barbaric swarms of hating, backward Arabs, suffering in corrupt tyrannies, repeatedly trying to destroy us.  With impunity, some of their oil-rich governments and radical religious leaders still incite mobs with endless repetitions of the Big Lie and its variants, including Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitism has seamlessly morphed into anti-Zionism. These Arabs and their friends in the West have ceaselessly demonized Israel.


Israel is now an advanced and strong democracy, but the Jewish people has continued to live in a world largely still indifferent, sometimes hostile, and too often misled by viciously racist Arab propaganda. The simmering Jihadist cancer has only recently spread, in all its ugliness and evil, to threaten the entire Arab world and all democracies.  But growing up in Israel, we have always been thoroughly familiar with such threats to freedom.  


We were Israel's first baby boomers. And as children of the immediate post-Holocaust period, having just lost many family members to humankind's worst genocide, with our relatives and neighbors wearing the grotesque, freshly tattooed, blue death-camp numbers on their forearms, we grew up with a deep appreciation of the tyranny of extremism, and with the urgent personal sense that it was our destiny to carry Jewish history forward. 


So we have all felt a personal stake in assuring Israel's --  indeed the entire Jewish people's -- survival in freedom. The buck stops with us. Never Again. Maybe the passion we all have put into this book, its beauty, and its message comes from this commitment. Israel's case for freedom and justice must be constantly and clearly articulated to all who would listen, especially at a time when there is so much confusing information and historical revisionism.   


And yet, at the same time, almost paradoxically but very vividly -- and this is even more important -- each menorah also reminds us of growing up as the first post-genocide generation, as the hope of a reborn people hungry for life. The Jewish people in Israel took control over its destiny into their own hands -- defiantly asserting its identity -- vibrant, diverse, stubborn, proud and self-aware, discovering its diversity and striving for excellence; a people looking with confidence to the future, empowered and excited by its new-found independence and freedom. 


 



Astonishing recent events in America


One more crucial idea came together with these others.  These hanukkiah sculptures were forcing us to open our eyes and see more clearly the sweep of history that is defining our time...

Over the past decades, I have been struck by how much part of America's popular culture Hanukkah and the lighting of menorahs have become. 'Happy Hanukkah' is now a common greeting, and public hanukkiot partner with Christmas trees in many town squares. What a wonderful place, our America! Despite all her imperfections, America's noble efforts to accomplish her historic ideals have been rooted in her diversity, and have made her the most welcoming, inclusive, effective, and successful open society in the world.

But I have also been struck by something even more amazing that has been occurring recently, quietly and surprisingly little-noticed. In recent years, as they have led the world in a struggle with a growing Jihadist threat, Presidents Clinton and Bush have reached across the centuries to ancient events that antedate the birth of Christianity and Islam to find inspiration and confirmation for America's ideology. They have cited the story of the Maccabees and the Great Miracle of Hanukkah as a central narrative about the love of faith and freedom.


These presidents have actually been telling the Hanukkah story and hosting Hanukkah menorah lightings in the White House itself. The official state ceremonies have featured menorahs chosen for their historical and political significance in the struggle for freedom.


In 2001, right after 9-11, President Bush made the celebration an annual event -- hosted in the White House residence itself.  As Jewish children kindle Hanukkah lights and sing Hanukkah songs, the First Lady stands by and the President Bush makes official remarks that bind together American and Jewish traditions of love for freedom. 


Hanukkah -- a Jewish festival -- is now actually celebrated not only on her streets, but also in the very heart of the world's most powerful nation. Hanukkah's traditions and values are woven into our great nation's ideals and vision of her destiny.  Has anything like this ever happened in Judaism's long history of exclusion and persecution?  The tremendous importance of these events for the Jewish people cannot be overstated. 


And there is another aspect to this. These events are important to America too.

Over the years, I have come to deeply appreciate America as mankind's noblest striving for self-governance.  I have been awed by the grace, foresight, and wisdom -- the genius -- of our founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton, and all those those who have led America's emergence as the world's greatest democracy ever. I consider Israel and America as my parents, and I love them equally and deeply.

From a typical American's point of view, the kindling of Hanukkah flames in the streets and the White House are hardly remarkable or surprising. But in any other place in this world, these developments  --  if they could even ever occur -- would be extraordinary. Only in the U.S. are they so commonplace that they are so easily overlooked and dismissed as 'politics as usual.'


In their celebration of Hanukkah, our presidents remind us yet again how America's ever-growing greatness is practiced in her diversity and openness, affording us all the opportunity to affirm our values and enjoy our blessings, and showing the whole world how America leads the triumph of freedom. 


 



Putting it all together


All these ideas and happenings converged for us around the menorahs of the period. As we tried to make sense of it all, the book evolved into a thing bigger, richer, more beautiful, and more personal and universally significant than our original concept. 


First of all, the main point remained to show the menorahs as beautiful sculptures.


Then, to appreciate them as religious objects with a long history tied to the Jewish imperative of love of freedom.


Then, as reminders of our personal childhoods in a hopeful, young, besieged post-Holocaust Israel;

of the pioneer artists who created them and the generations of our parents that first lit them; and of Israel's brilliant evolution in the context of decades of Jihadist danger.


And now, also, as reminders of America's greatness and love for freedom.


I began researching, mostly online using Google. I added extensive end notes without cluttering the book to add depth and breadth, connect the reader to online resources (we list the URL's on our site for people to surf and learn,) and sometimes to make my own personal editorial comments.  We had some good people check our facts...  


We have been lucky to work with a fine co-publisher (found online) based both in the U.S. and Israel. His great team patiently extended deadline after deadline, as our thinking evolved, and as we kept discovering more and more menorahs. The publisher finally put his foot down so that we could launch this holiday season.  Some good people here and in Israel helped with designing and naming the book.


Most communication was through e-mails and the Internet.  The printer is in Israel, where color printing has become superb. The whole thing has been a still evolving organic process involving many people, bringing together art, history, tradition, and production and commerce -- and only made possible by today's (mostly American!) technology... 




The book itself and volume II


We want our book to delight and engage young and old, of all politics and all faiths, on whatever level works for them.   


In the first four chapters we give interested readers a real good grasp of how the menorahs came to be and their place in history. Throughout, images of the menorahs themselves illustrate the text. There are well over 500 in the book itself, and many more and growing not in the book.


We try to show as many of these beautiful menorahs as possible in all their glory and tell the story of each.


In Chapter 1, we begin with the Maccabees and the victory of freedom over tyranny and of light over darkness... We end up in the White House.


In Chapter 2, we tell the history that leads up through the Holocaust and the resurrection of the Jewish people in a thriving Israel. 


In Chapter 3, we describe the general history of Hanukkah menorahs.


In Chapter 4, we describe the pioneer artists who designed, sculpted and produced the menorahs, and we show never-before seen sketches and photos.


The rest of the chapters have many, many large and small images organized by general themes, like Traditional, Lions, Jerusalem, Temple menorahs, Hebrew words, Arches, and Macabbees, etc... 


Everybody who has worked on this book or seen it has been excited by it.



Volume II is a more modest effort, with beautiful small black and white images and captions similar to Volume I. In addition, we will include an erratum of Volume I. Lighting the Way... Volumes I and II are uniquely, all at the same time, informative, evocative, constructive, and, sadly to some, provocative. Most of all, we meant it to.

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