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22 December 2019 22:34

Hanukkah

Ukranian parliament celebrates Hanukkah

As Jewish people around the world celebrate Hanukkah this week, inspired by the ancient miracle that a sacred flame lasted for eight days although the oil supply was dangerously low, I'm pondering how the hell I'll keep experimenting with this technology without burning the metaphorical candle at both ends. Beyond just running the node, I used the Casa device to send invoices for a small product (a poetry book) to learn more about the challenges independent merchants might face. Precisely because I agree it is still very early, here are some lessons I've learned about money that fellow bitcoiners might want to keep in mind before evangelizing "to the moon" to the masses any time soon. Seasoned bitcoiners are generally able to find workarounds to overcome technical challenges (hardware wallet malfunction or incompatibility, incorrect updates, etc.). If you actually rely on bitcoin for business, many non-custodial products and services are so experimental that you need tech support to operate them reliably.

Herein lies the essential dilemma of bitcoin: It can't be money without payments, it is seen as too valuable to spend (unless you are facing censorship) and official payment systems require compliance. Some of the sharpest engineers I know in places like Iran still struggle to use bitcoin because there aren't enough people to transact with. In short, social networks still control liquidity, whether it's bitcoin or paper rupees. Like some bitcoiners in Venezuela who use cryptocurrency to get dollars today, foreigners turned to arbitrage during demonetization in India. My bitcoin experiments got easier when I started treating cryptocurrency like black market rupees.

Who could I trust to get me to the next step of my bitcoin experiment? Can bitcoin really connect people to the global economy, including but not limited to digital products? Can cryptocurrency be used in a self-sovereign way, with minimal personal risks, to connect people who don't already have access to safer, more robust financial products? Perhaps bitcoiners will be able to overcome the social challenges of money: Compliance, access, liquidity, usability. In 2020, hopefully more people will try to transact outside their established networks and see what challenges they face in deliberately applying trust, rather than eliminating it.

Can we trust in the bitcoin network? And yet, for over a decade bitcoin has already proven to be the experiment that flickers but never goes dark, almost like a candle. The Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) hosted a special candle-lighting ceremony Friday night in celebration of Hanukkah.The ceremony was the idea of Kiev's chief rabbi, Yonatan Markovich, and hosted over 200 guests, including high profile attendees such as Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Leon, Israel's honorary consul to Ukraine Oleg Vishnyakov, the group on inter-parliamentary relations with the State of Israel co-chairs Aleksander Kunitsky and Daniil Getmantsev and over 80 parliamentarians in the Ukranian government."As a Jew born in Ukraine during a dark time in Jewish history, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and the rabbi of Kiev, I am proud to stand here today in the country's parliament on behalf of Ukraine's Jewish community," said Rabbi Markovich."Hanukkah represents the victory of the Jewish people over a vast empire. Everyone has a different viewpoint, but we must always stay united, if we want to defeat our enemies."The event is the first of its kind to be held since the inauguration of the new Ukrainian government, under Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky "I warmly congratulate the Jewish community on Hanukkah, a holiday filled... "The light of the Hanukkah candles reminds us that strong faith and unwavering spirit help to overcome the most difficult of challenges."We will preserve our unity in the name of the future of Ukraine."Further events are expected to be held by Jews throughout Ukraine in the coming days, in Kiev, Odessa, Dnipro, Lviv and Kharkov.

My best friend at the time was involved with the burgeoning local Jewish community and invited me to join him for their activities. I joined my friend for celebrations of holidays whose names were alien and witnessed traditions that had likely not seen the light of day in seven decades of Soviet rule. My great-grandparents, she cautiously shared, were Jewish but had been forced to hide their identity while living under the Soviets. Even when I accompanied my father to China for a half-year for a work opportunity, I remained in touch with my extended Jewish network in Kiev on an almost daily basis to keep up that connection. Today, I work for my city's Jewish Community Center, called Halom – "dream" in Hebrew. It's here that every day I see a blossoming Jewish community in action. I see elderly people, who often had to suppress their Jewish identity in years past, rejoicing in the sounds and tastes of their childhood. I see Jewish young adults volunteering in droves to lead community celebrations and help the needy, teaching traditions to their parents, and uniting us in a shared identity. They are part of a growing network of young Jews throughout the former Soviet Union working locally and regionally to strengthen Jewish identity and put our values into action by helping those around us. It's among these young Jews that I have found my place, my home and the heart of my identity. Our thirst and desire to learn, share experiences, and preserve our Jewish traditions and culture is our great equalizer. When I light the menorah for eight nights beginning Sunday, I will do it together with millions of other Jews in the face of new challenges like rising anti-Semitism. We have unprecedented opportunities, like Jewish communities rising strong out of the ashes of history, with the simple knowledge that miracles are possible.