Israel was plunged into darkness this week as a massive power failure knocked out electricity across most of the country. The blackout, which affected major cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was caused by a rare incident at two major power stations. With the whole country suddenly without power on the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, many Israelis turned to the symbolic light of candles to get through the outage.
The power failure occurred around noon on Monday, December 19th and cut electricity to homes, businesses, hospitals, airports and traffic lights. The blackout was traced back to malfunctions at power stations in the southern and coastal regions of Israel. With two major sources of energy suddenly offline, the national grid struggled to compensate, causing outages across 85% of the country. Over 6 million people lost power at the peak of the failure.
The blackout paralyzed daily life in Israel. Public transportation like trains and the Tel Aviv metro ground to a halt. Ben Gurion Airport had to reroute incoming flights and use backup generators to keep operating. Traffic lights went dark, creating traffic jams on major highways and confusion at intersections. Hospitals switched to emergency generators to keep critical equipment running. With evening approaching, families prepared for a night without heat, refrigeration or light.
The outage could not have come at a more inopportune time. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, began on Sunday evening. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 164 BCE, when the Maccabees miraculously kept a menorah burning for eight days despite only having enough oil for one. On each night of Hanukkah, Jewish families light candles in a nine-branched menorah to remember the story.
So as homes went dark on the third night of the holiday, Israelis turned to the customary candles. Videos and photos surfaced of families lighting the menorah by candlelight, sometimes using the candles to illuminate dinner. The outage gave new meaning to the ancient tradition, with the candle flames providing light amid darkness.
Power was gradually restored overnight and into the next day. By Tuesday evening, electricity had returned to all parts of Israel. Investigations are still underway into what exactly caused the dual failures at the power stations. But the infrastructure held up well, minimizing the blackout’s duration.
While clearly an inconvenience, the outage was temporary. And the sea of candlelight that shone from windows and balconies served as a poignant reminder of Hanukkah’s message. Even a little light can dispel the darkness. The candles burned on, undefeated by the blackout, just as they had for the Maccabees so many years ago.