Chanukah: a time to celebrate overcoming adversity

Chanukah took on particular poignancy for Keith Breslauer this year - he's just returned from an 85-mile paddle and 100-mile "yomp" across France

December 20, 2017 10:45

For Jewish people around the world, Chanukah is about remembrance and reflection: the candles remember how a small band of Jews defeated the mighty Greek armies before going on to conquer all the enemies in Israel lands to reunite the people. They reflect hope in difficult times and how the Maccabees’ faith, passion, determination and mental strength led to success in spite of physical barriers.

Chanukah has taken on a particular poignancy for me this year having just returned from an 85-mile paddle and a 100-mile "yomp" (or long-distance march) across France with around 30 serving and former Royal Marines and Royal Navy officers, including disabled war veterans. The challenge was part of a recreation of Operation Frankton, often described as the most courageous raid of World War II, to commemorate its 75th anniversary.

Frankton saw ten Royal Marines sent on what was effectively a suicide mission.They paddled 85 miles up the Gironde estuary in December 1942 to attack ships moored at the German-occupied French port of Bordeaux from their canoes before making the 100-mile journey on foot to rendezvous with the French Resistance in Ruffec.

The aim of the raid was to destroy blockade-running merchant ships with limpet mines. Six ships were seriously damaged but only two of the ten commandos survived, with the rest either succumbing to hypothermia in the freezing winter temperatures or executed by the Nazis. 

As the main sponsor and only civilian taking part in the recreation of this daring raid, I was honoured to join some truly inspirational individuals, including those who have sustained life-changing injuries in active service and who have conquered obstacles that would seem insurmountable to most of us.

Returning from this expedition on the first day of Chanukah, I was struck by the story’s wide-reaching relevance. Just as the survivors of the original mission - without the benefits of sophisticated water-resistant and insulated clothing or high-tech communication and navigational technology - overcame what seemed impossible back in 1942, it is a humbling experience to see how war veterans who have given so much to preserve our way of life are also using their mental and physical strength and in many cases faith to conquer what may at first seem insurmountable by overcoming often the life-changing injuries they have sustained. 

Whatever our personal struggles, the Chanukah lights remind us of hope in dark times and that, however hard our challenges may appear, with the right mental attitude and by working together, with the support of our faith anything is possible.

Keith Breslauer is Managing Director of Patron Capital, a Trustee of the Royal Marines Charity and the former chairman of St John’s Wood synagogue.


December 20, 2017 10:45

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