U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser

It’s official: The holidays are here. This week, families will gather to share in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Christmas, along with the hustle and bustle of decorations, gifts, and holiday parties.

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DoD photo

I always felt particularly lonely and isolated as a Jew deployed to the Middle East during Hanukkah, the week-long Jewish festival of lights. The holiday celebrates miracles and triumph in the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem following a successful revolt of the Maccabees against the Syrian empire. Like many Jewish holidays, the overall theme of the holiday is to celebrate being alive. While Christmas is a big deal for most service members, and usually celebrated as a large group, the small number of Jews in any unit means Hanukkah can be a lonelier time. One deployment, I lit candles on a menorah, the traditional candelabrum of the holiday, on top of my foot locker alone in my containerized housing unit.

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