World Leaders Join with Israel in Lighting the First Candle of Chanukah

World Leaders Join with Israel in Lighting the First Candle of Chanukah
zelensky lighting menorah

‘Hanukkah is all about the resilience of the Jewish people. It’s about the victory of light over darkness.’

By The Algemeiner

World leaders on Thursday observed the first night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, expressing solidarity with their Jewish communities amid a global surge in antisemitism since Hamas’ mass slaughter of Jews during its Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel.

Olaf Scholz became the first German chancellor to light the massive menorah in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.

“I wish that the candle of Hanukkah will shine far beyond this square and much longer than just for the eight days of Hanukkah,” Scholz, wearing a kippa, said in the center of Germany’s capital.

Hanukkah, also known as the Jewish festival of lights, marks the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE, after a small group of Jewish fighters liberated the land from oppressive foreign forces.

“It stands for hope and optimism,” Scholz said of Hanukkah. “We especially need both in these days after the Hamas terror attack on Israel.”

Germany has registered at least 29 antisemitic incidents per day since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel — a four-fold increase on the previous year, according to data published late last month by Rias, a federally-funded body monitoring antisemitic incidents. Rias counted a total of 994 antisemitic incidents since the Hamas onslaught. Germany is home to a Jewish community of approximately 118,000.

“I am happy that many citizens are supporting the Jewish community in word and deed and showing compassion and solidarity with our Jewish neighbors, friends and colleagues,” the German chancellor said. “That is why I’m also happy to be here today.”

Scholz added that Jews were an “inextricable part” of German society and called it “unacceptable” that they “have to be afraid to practice their religion, their culture.”

Outside of Germany, antisemitism has also spiked to record levels around the world, including in the US, since Palestinian terrorists led by Hamas murdered 1,200 people on Oct. 7 and kidnapped 240 others. Copious documentation of the terrorists’ brutality, including torture and rampant sexual violence, has shocked the world.

The terror attacks and the Israel-Hamas war that they launched in Gaza have led to an eruption of antisemitic incidents worldwide — from arson attacks on synagogues in Armenia to mobs hunting Jews in Dagestan, Russia. Calls for Israel’s destruction and the intimidation and harassment of Jews have also become increasingly common across the West.

In such an environment, several world leaders took the first night of Hanukkah to show support for Jewish communities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, held a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony with a group of rabbis. He shared video of the gathering on his social media accounts.

“The sacred Hanukkah lights, lit these days, remind us once again that light always prevails over evil. And of the value of life, which is worth fighting for,” Zelensky wrote on X/Twitter. “My best wishes to the Jewish community on Hanukkah!”

In Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese extended greetings to the Jewish community.

“May you find comfort and hope as you honor the traditions that have sustained you for generations, and may the lights of Chanukah shine brightly through darkness,” he wrote on X.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted on social media the “incredibly difficult” last two months for Jewish people, since the Oct. 7 massacre, and the “disturbing rise in antisemitism” that ensued.

“I want to make it clear: our government stands with you. We will never accept any form of antisemitism or hatred and we will always speak up for Israel’s right to exist, and right to defend itself,” he said. “I hope that the lessons of Hanukkah and the glowing light of the menorah bring you hope during this difficult time.”

“The story of Hanukkah is a reminder that light shines brighter than darkness, and right always prevails over wrong,” the Canadian premier added. “It’s always a reminder of the resilience of the Jewish people, who’ve persevered through periods of unfathomable difficulty before, and Canada will continue to stand with Israel and Jewish communities around the world as we persevere through this as well.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in a social media message that the miracle of Hanukkah — when the Jews who rededicated the Holy Temple only had a one-day supply of oil to light the menorah and it somehow lasted for eight days — “reminds us that nothing is impossible.”

“This is especially important at a time when there is so much hatred, cruelty, and growing antisemitism in the world,” she said. “I truly believe that the miracle of Hanukkah, faith, and wisdom will help us to overcome all obstacles.”

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave his “warmest greetings to our Jewish friends in India and around the world on the occasion of Hanukkah.” In his social media post, he also tagged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while writing, “May this festival bring peace, hope, and brightness in everybody’s lives.”

While the White House and US President Joe Biden have yet to post a Hanukkah message as of this writing, newly minted US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew posted that he spent the first night of the festival with families of the hostages seized by Hamas on Oct. 7.

“On this first night of Hanukkah, I joined the families of the hostages and together we lit a candle for each of the [remaining] 138 hostages,” he wrote. “Amid this tragic war, we are reminded that light in the end triumphs over darkness. We will not stop working until all hostages are back home.”

The official X/Twitter account for the state of Israel also posted a message marking the start of the Festival of Lights.

“Hanukkah is all about the resilience of the Jewish people. It’s about the victory of light over darkness,” the post read. “This Hanukkah is a difficult one, but Jewish history has taught us one thing. We will prevail. As we light the first candle tonight, we pray for the return of our hostages and the safety of our men and women in uniform.”

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