On Sunday, I took my kids to join the local Chabad Menorah car-parade. With Chanukah so early this year, and nobody having migrated yet to the coast, we expected a healthy turnout. Sure enough, dozens of vehicles lined up, got decked with roof-top Menorahs and headed out onto Joburg's main streets.
Music blaring, with police escort, our Carnukkah procession revved up in a very Jewish neighbourhood. Passing drivers waved and cheered their support for Chanukah on the streets. Jews stuck at the intersections that we blocked smiled and kvelled at the procession.
Soon, we were out of the Jewish area, headed towards our destination at the iconic Sandton City mall. This should have been the doldrum stretch of the ride,with the only landsleit in sight being the drivers in our cavalcade. Our position in the entourage was right in front of the music truck, so, between that and the sirens of the escorting patrol cars, I wouldn't say that our drive was quiet.
As we passed pedestrians, they also waved and cheered us on. I'm talking about non-Jews; locals, most of whom had surely never heard of Chanukah before and had no idea of how to pronounce it. We were greeted with cheery happy-all-sorts-of-things greetings not vaguely associated with our holiday, but appreciated nonetheless.
It's really no surprise that bored bystanders waved, smiled and yodeled for us. This is Africa, where the locals are mostly friendly folks who love some rhythm and delight in unexpected street celebrations. This was free entertainment and they loved it.
But, when we snaked past the vibrant Melrose Arch and obstructed three car-fulls of new-money youngsters, I expected the mood to sour. Joburg drivers are notoriously impatient. The fancier the car, the more impatient the driver.
I waited for the glares, the revving engines, the grumbling.
Instead, all three cars whooped "Happy Chanukah" (they could even pronounce it)! They air-punched and thumbs-upped and clapped to the music, wide grins on their faces. Our inspiring parade was instantly more uplifting.
Right there, on Corlett Drive, the Chanukah story came alive again. Jews, the minority, standing proud for Judaism and the world around them feeling brighter for it.