I received an email from Afghanistan in late October; actually from one of our local guys from New Hyde Park who is currently stationed there.
He serves in what is uniquely known as one of the Navy’s “Force Reintegration Cells.” It’s not what you might think, though. His unit actually distributes small grants and community funding for local projects, most of the time using the former insurgent fighters as laborers on the projects. Each leaves the fight “honorably” and each represents one less fighter or suicide bomber for the Taliban. As he notes in his message:
John Lennon once sang, “A very Merry Christmast/And a Happy New Year/Let’s hope it’s a good one” in his perennial Christmas standard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and given the turmoil that has defined 2012, this closing out of the current 12 month cycle couldn’t come at a better time. Hurricane Sandy, a contentious presidential election, the ever-present struggle with school budgets, the decamping of the Islander to Brooklyn or more recently, the depravity and horror surrounding the events in Newtown, CT—-for many this calendar year couldn’t end fast enough. But as is the case ever year, we all get to start out with a clean slate and the optimism that things will get better. So in that spirit, the Illustrated News wishes everyone a Healthy and Happy New Year.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
The standard thing to do in this case would be start with “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, CT and their families,” only that would be dishonest because I don’t pray. That’s not an anti-religious statement; I respect the kind of intellectual puzzle that prayer can present, that simultaneous desire for both total humility and divine attention, but it’s never been something that I do personally.
All I can do is participate in the dialogue everyone says we should be having on gun control. However, I tire of each side making a cartoon villain out of the other, and it’s especially bad this time around; after such a particularly senseless attack, targeting the most innocent possible victims, proponents of stricter gun control practically can’t help viewing advocates of gun ownership as evil monsters with children’s blood on their hands, while gun advocates, feeling cornered, are doubling down even more on their dogma of individual freedom as the bedrock of the American spirit. The severity of the event that necessitated that we address this issue now makes it especially unlikely that anyone involved will have a cool enough head to make the right decisions, but there’s no choice.
This is the time of year when you should be able to put any hardships from the past few months aside, at least temporarily, and focus on the love and family closeness that should be associated with this time of the year. Unfortunately, right on the heels of Hurricane Sandy comes last week’s horrific school shooting. Details will undoubtedly continue to come out over the next few weeks, making everyone, particularly parents, just a little more nauseous and frightened. As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn and while it’s hard to get to that place of peace and goodwill to your fellow man, it is exactly at times like this where faith turns out to be that one anchor we can cling to in order to get through horrible events like this. So grab your loved ones, hug ’em a little tighter than you normally would and try to find the spirit of the season that perseveres in the face of evil. Merry Christmas.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
In my last column, I mentioned It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m going to reference that movie one final time this holiday season. Even though the holiday season has not always brought me tidings of comfort and joy, I’d like to believe that there is still some magic to be found.
In the movie, Clarence shows George Bailey what the world would be like if George had never been born. It’s a much darker place. When George realizes how wonderful his life really was, he is magically transported back to that much better place. I’m kind of hoping that Clarence would be able to transport us to a happier world. I know that December is his busy season, but here’s hoping for that holiday magic again. Here’s what I’m hoping we’ll find in that place.
It was just a few short weeks ago that Superstorm Sandy was causing us nothing but panic and grief. It was one problem right after another making those few days feel like an eternity, but I think we can agree that it gave us new appreciation for simple pleasures like brewing a cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. As often happens in times of sacrifice, we grew in solidarity with our neighbors, pulling through with a sense that we were “all in this together.”
Then the lights came back on, the heat started working, gas stations came back online and we happily started to forget about Sandy. There were, of course, expensive and inconvenient repairs to be made, and donations to be sent, but for most of us on this part of the Island, life pretty much returned to “normal.”
This Saturday, Dec. 15, will mark the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. Traditionally, it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Upon the retaking of the temple, there was only enough olive oil sufficient to burn for only one day in the temple’s newly crafted menorah until new oil was made available. Through a miracle, the oil continued to burn for eight days. As families gather to light candles, consume latkes and bask in the symbolism of national liberation and religious freedom associated with the holiday, Anton Community Newspapers wishes a Happy Hanukkah to all.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
I don’t remember a time when I ever believed in Santa Claus, but I don’t think I specifically disbelieved in him either. I think, from the age of 4, my mindset on the subject could be summarized as “I am Jewish, therefore it is irrelevant whether Santa is real or not, because he’s not bringing me anything.” That may sound coldly analytical for a small child, but never underestimate the mercenary tendencies of a little girl who really wants a new Barbie doll. Apparently, if there was nothing in it for me, the mystifying existential state of the jolly man in a red suit could be happily left alone.
Come to think of it, I had a cynical view of the holidays in general from a very young age. I was painfully aware of the fact that Hanukkah is a big scam, and I actually mean no offense to Hanukkah: it’s a fun little holiday, and any excuse to eat potato pancakes fried in oil should be respected. The scam lies in trying to con children into believing that Hanukkah is just the Jewish flavor of Christmas, which I’m convinced every Jewish child knows deep down is a well-intentioned, yet somehow odious lie.
One of the more enduring traditions that the Village of New Hyde Park celebrates every year is the annual Christmas tree lighting. Valley National Bank has been the longstanding sponsor for the event and as such, does a bang-up job in helping to make it far more than a routine flipping of a switch to light up the tree. The magician Amore showed up to dazzle the crowd with his sleight of hand, the New Hyde Park Memorial High School band and choir made a joyous noise and Santa rode in on a New Hyde Park Fire Department truck, immediately putting a grin on the faces of children of all ages. The little ones got a further treat when they were surprised with gifts given out to them from the Little Treasures Nursery School. These small gestures may not seem like much, but in light of the destruction recently brought to the village by Hurricane Sandy, it all adds up to the kind of cherished, small-town custom and spiritual balm that goes a long ways towards making New Hyde Park a great place to live.
– Dave Gil de Rubio
The following New Hyde Park-Garden City Park students; Nicole Joseph, grade 6, Vishwajit Sharma, grade 6 Manor Oaks, and Saumya Sharma, grade 6, who graduated from Manor Oaks in June, were selected to participate in the Institute for Creative Problem Solving and were accepted into the SUNY Program. They competed on Dec. 1, in 20 problem-solving sessions at SUNY Old Westbury.
The holiday season throughout the world is rooted in traditions and celebrations. In the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District, students celebrate with a display of their talents at the Annual Christmas Concert and art display at each of our four schools. The community is reminded that the dates for these concerts are posted on the district website, and everyone is encouraged to attend, free of charge, for a great night out.
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