Reviving a feminist tradition at Hanucah

Hag Habanot (Eid al-banat) is a holiday celebrated by Mizrahi communities on Rosh Hodesh of the Jewish month of Tevet. The festival takes place on Hanucah to honour the story of the Jewish heroine Judith and the important role of women in Jewish life. It is customary to sing, dance, and light the night’s menorah candle in honour of women. (See event being organised byJIMENA); suggested blessings for theHag)

 JTA — As a child growing up in Tunisia, Peggy Cidor and her sister would count the days to Hanukkah.

But the traditional lighting of the menorah and the eating of fried foods was only part of the excitement. 

The other part was Rosh Chodesh el Benat, or “head of the month of daughters,” a holiday that North African Jews would celebrate on the sixth day of Hanukkah, the first day of the Hebrew month of Tevet.

Sometimes called by its Arabic name Aid al Benat, the holiday celebrates daughters, who would be gifted exquisite pastries and expensive gifts by their families.

 In Cidor’s case, the gifts came from her father’s jewelry shop in the capital, Tunis.fter her family immigrated to Israel when Cidor was 10, the holiday was mostly abandoned, as it was by many North African Jewish families after they immigrated to Israel. But in recent years, Cidor has made an effort to bring it back.

“We do it on and off for now,” said Cidor, 69, a journalist and mother of three who lives in Jerusalem. 

“But we finally have a granddaughter in the family and it’s coming back.”

Cidor is not alone in seeking to revive a tradition that is scarcely observed anymore even among Jews living in Tunisia, its country of origin. The World Federation of Tunisian Jewry in Israel has celebrated the day for the past 15 years, producing a festive event for about 200 participants that culminates with an homage to prominent female members of the community.


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