Hanukkah, beginning on 25 Kislev (usually in December), commemorates the triumph of the Jews, under the Maccabees, over the Greek rulers (164 BCE) -- both the physical victory of the small Jewish nation against mighty Greece and the spiritual victory of the Jewish faith against the Hellenism of the Greeks. Its sanctity derives from this spiritual aspect of the victory, and the miracle of the flask of oil, when a portion of sacramental olive oil meant to keep the Temple candelabrum lit for one day lasted for eight days, the time it took for the Temple to be rededicated.
Hanukkah is observed in Israel, as in the Diaspora, for eight days. The central feature of this holiday is the lighting of candles each evening -- one on the first night, two on the second, and so on -- in commemoration of the miracle at the Temple. The Hanukkah message in Israel focuses strongly on aspects of restored sovereignty; customs widely practiced in the Diaspora, such as giftgiving and the dreidl (spinning top -- sevivon in Hebrew), are also in evidence. The dreid sides are marked with Hebrew initials representing the message great miracle occurred here in the Diaspora, the initials stand for great miracle occurred there.Schools are closed during this week; workplaces are not.