Message of Rabbi Avi Tawil at EuroChanukah hosted by Fist Vice President Frans Timmermans in the European Commission.
Members of the European Parliament,
ladies and gentleman,
It is a great honour to be here with you today, not to talk about our rights nor to call for urgent political or security measures, but to celebrate.
When we think of Chanukah the first image that comes to mind is children at home in the warm, with lots of tasty treats and long awaited gifts under the glowing light of the candles.
That scene of celebration outlives all the empires and tyrants who fought to destroy it.. the fate of nations lies not in military victory but in the message transmitted to children at home in celebration. If they learn to celebrate love, life and freedom they will build a society of love, life and freedom.
Today we live in a democratic and united Europe, and unlike previous generations, we did not have to sacrifice too much for those rights. Today we are reaping the fruits of those who gave their lives in the, hope and belief that peace might, one day, be possible. A hope that Europe would not be destined to struggle through endless wars and persecution of minorities.
Just the fact that we are here celebrating Chanukah, an act that 75 years ago could have got you killed, is a mark of a drastic change.
But sometimes we take this for granted, today we are merely the guardians of this European project but it does not seem like a very heroic act.
Many voices among the young generation warn against our freedoms and values being devoid of substance and meaning, for them the status quo is not enough. They are thirsty for meaning and full of determination.
Today we must regain appreciation for our values. We choose democracy and freedom because they are the best foundations for a healthy society. We value life, all life, as sacred. We fight for the freedom of expression of those who disagree with us and for the freedom of religion of those whose religion or convictions are not the same as ours.
This should not be mistaken as an impartial and passive approach to life. It is more difficult to LIVE for an idea than to DIE for your ideas.
Living by these values requires that we reaffirm them every day, every minute and every second of our lives.
Chanukah, which comes from the word chinuch – Hebrew for education – is not just a holiday but to us it signifies a strategy for life.
If you are concerned by darkness, don’t waste too much of your time in reacting to and fighting against it. instead invest most of your time in light. And darkness will vanish automatically.
Many young students see the current education system almost as a primitive form of slavery.
They have to learn and memorize things, who knows for what reason… Sometimes they are told that if they want to prosper in their 30s and their 40s they have to accept this suffering today to get a job in the future so they shall not be marginalized in poverty.
On the other hand, radical voices all over the virtual and real world offer a very attractive alternative “to change the world and to be remembered” which indeed sounds very exotic.
Here is when the expression of our values have to be more vibrant.
When a child learns mathematics we tell him that this knowledge is a tool to broaden his natural senses. As Astrophysicist De Grass Tyson said, when you look to a moonless night sky in wonder, you are no longer limited to your eye sight. Using numbers you can reach the most remote corners of the universe. Through biology, physics and the sciences you can dominate and change the microscopic reality. With knowledge you can find the cure to deadly diseases, you may one day be able to eradicate poverty, you can influence the world to make wars, a thing of the past.
The purpose of education is to help to make a child’s dream, become a reality.
Every child has a dream. Our job is to shine the light of education to fuel their dreams so we become a society filled with ever more hope and responsibility for our world and for humanity.
When a child knows that his education is about nourishing his dreams, not merely to survive but to literally change the world, then the darkness of evil pales into insignificance.
Today more that ever we have to celebrate together and not to hide in fear. To be joyous for the happiness of others who celebrate in a different way.. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Mawlid al-Nabi, Thai Pongal, or any other commemoration you choose.
The term “Them and Us” has to be redefined.
We, the people of goodwill and respect for life freedom and liberty, have to stand together.
This will determine what kind of world we will leave to our children, and we are all stakeholders in this fight, this is not only the job of governments. The world is in our hands and we have a duty to shape it the way best way we can. So one day our children and grandchildren will be proud of the legacy we have left them.
Seasonal greetings to all of you,