The holiday of Hanukkah was approaching. At the time, I was the only Jew in the prison zone, but when I explained that Hanukkah was a holiday of national freedom, of returning to one’s own culture in the face of forced assimilation, my friends in our “kibbutz” decided to celebrate it with me.
They even made me a wooden menorah, decorated it, and found some candles.
In the evening I lit the first candle and recited a prayer that I had composed for this occasion. Tea was poured, and I began to describe the heroic struggle of the Maccabees to save their people from slavery. For each zek—the term for a prisoner in the Soviet Gulag—who was listening, this story had its own personal meaning. At one point the duty officer appeared in the barracks. He made a list of all those present, but did not interfere. … [more]
Natan Sharansky, an excerpt from Fear No Evil: One Man’s Triumph over a Police State, reprinted in the Tablet