Chanukah-time approaches; a time Americans have succeeded in transforming into a gift-giving season. In classic old-person fashion, i am unable to restrain myself from noting that When We Were Kids, Chanukah “gifts” consisted of a gold-foil-wrapped piece of milk chocolate with a Jewish star or the Israeli flag stamped into it. This was received every night for eight nights, along with, on either the first or last nights, or on “rich” years both the first AND last nights, a plastic dreidle with several pieces of candy inside it. Plus, Gram always made latkes, yummy with either sour cream OR apple sauce. Now comes –quarterly — The Source for Everything Jewish, a catalog of gift-stuff. And in the current edition, they’re offering at least a dozen examples of hamsas.
Yes, HAMSAS. i’ve been to Israel just once, and that was 30 years ago, but i recall seeing ZERO hamsas on Jewish people’s doors, hanging in their windows, or around their throats or wrists. i DID see some in windows and on doors in Muslim neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in Bethlehem. When did the hamsa become a “folk tradition,” used to ward off the “evil eye,” among JEWS?! i have a sneakin’ suspicion that this “tradtion” was cooked up in, like, 1983, by Hamakor Judaica (publisher of The Source for Everything Jewish), with an assist from their pal Mammon.
It just seems very UN-Jewish to be walkin’ around swinging your Evil-Eye-Warder-Offer, doesn’t it? Plus, they’re corny-lookin’. One of the little descriptions in the catalog says the things are “intended to bring health and promote healing…” and points out that there’s even a little “protective eye” decoration on it .
YIKES! Isn’t G-d our protection? And what’s with the way the hand is always portrayed in these hamsas? Middle three fingers down and together, thumb and pinky splayed outward; G-d is throwing gang signs, now?
Plus, how Jewish could it be? It starts with a “ham!”
So, for Chanukah, give me a chocolate coin, spin me a dreidle, fry me a latke, but, please, hold the hamsas.