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Candles lit as Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated around the world

President Rivlin lighting Hanukkah candles with ultra-orthodox soldiers, December 2, 2018
Mark Neiman (GPO)

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin lit the first candle of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah (also known as the Festival of Lights) on Sunday, commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Jewish revolt against the ancient Greek Seleucid Empire.

According to the Hanukkah tradition, Judah Maccabee and his brothers led a popular revolt against Seleucid and has since then symbolized the Jewish people's fight for liberty and freedom as a nation against overwhelming odds.

When Judah's men conquered the the Jewish Temple they only had one day’s worth of oil to light the menorah, or candelabra, but it burned for eight days required for new oil to be pressed.

Jews who observe the Hanukkah tradition around the world therefore light a new candle in the menorah for eight days straight.

“I look at you and see modern-day Hasmoneans – soldiers, warriors, righteous men who learn Torah. This is really a Chanukah miracle. I am also impressed by the diversity I see here Hassidim, Lithuanians and Sephardim. You represent all the strands of the ultra-orthodox community," Rivlin said after lighting the first candle with soldiers from the ultra-orthodox formations of Israel's Defense Forces (IDF). 

I want to express my deep appreciation for your contribution to the security of the State of Israel. Your contribution is wide-ranging. You are a bridge of unity. You have not broken out, you are breaking a new path,” the Israeli President added. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to light the first menorah candle on Sunday at an event for his Likud party, wished the citizens of Israel a happy Hanukkah in a statement after a cabinet meeting.

“This evening, the Jewish people will celebrate Hanukkah; the spirit of the Maccabees beats in us. It beats in the soldiers of the IDF and in us, the citizens of Israel. By it we have established a strong, prosperous and advanced state. A happy Hanukkah to the citizens of Israel."

Amos Ben-Gershom/ GPO

US President Donald Trump also greeted Jews around the world on the first night of Hanukkah in a statement on Sunday. 

 "For eight nights, Jewish families and friends will come together to engage in the lighting of the menorah. This special tradition started more than 2,000 years ago during the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which followed a trying period when Jews were persecuted for practicing their faith," Trump said.

Trump then addressed the shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October where 11 people were killed, vowing continued "love and support for the victims and their families."

"Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred and bigotry around the globe. We remember all those from the Three of Life whose lives were tragically taken in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this past October. As one Nation, we pledge our continued love and support for the victims, their families and the community, and we pray that the victims' families find some measure of peace and comfort during this holiday season," he added. 

On Monday, Rivlin will light the second candle of Hanukkah along with 50 Holocaust survivors from around the country at an event held together with the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.

Large menorahs around in cities such Berlin, New York and Moscow will also be lit in public squares on Hanukkah evening. 

Prime Minister of India Narenda Modi was one of the first world leaders to wish a happy Hanukkah to “the people of Israel” in a tweet on Sunday.

Since Hanukkah is not a legal holiday in Israel, offices, shops and public transportation will operate as usual but schools will be closed.

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