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As US Leaders Welcome Hanukkah, Sec of State Calls Holiday ‘Historic Victory for Religious Freedom’

December 2, 2018 News

Israeli PM Netanyahu lights the Hanukkiah candelabra at the Western Wall. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

From President Donald Trump to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, United States leaders sent their warm wishes to Jews celebrating Hanukkah ahead of the holiday’s start on Sunday night, and the importance of the holiday was not missed. President Trump, in a statement posted to the White House website, touched on Hanukkah’s symbolic importance in saying that “together, we reaffirm the truth that light will always break through the darkness.”

Pompeo even highlighted the holiday’s global significance for freedom, which marks Israel’s historic war for independence over Greek forces seeking to impose Greek culture and worship. “Tonight, the Jewish people will light the first #Hanukkah candle, beginning their celebration of the Festival of Lights. This holiday marks a historic victory for religious freedom. Chag Sameach to the Jewish community in the U.S., Israel, and around the world,” Pompeo posted to Twitter on Sunday.

US Vice President Mike Pence sounded a similar refrain in his own Twitter post, noting that the lightning of the traditional Hanukkah candelabra—or menorah in Hebrew—commemorates “the fight for freedom that began some 22 centuries ago.”

Trump, in his statement, underscored the tragedy that the fight of the Jewish people against hate and persecution is not over.

“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,” said Trump in his statement. “Unfortunately, Jews today continue to face many different forms of violence, hatred, and bigotry around the globe.”

The US president went on to remember the Jews murdered in the attack at the Tree of Life—Or L’Simcha Congregation in the US last 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,” said Trump.

The link between the past and future during Hanukkah is important for Israeli leaders as well. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, in comments released by his office, connected the ancient warriors that defeated the Greeks to the Israelis of today. “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,” said Netanyahu. “A happy Chanukah to the citizens of Israel.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met the Israeli military in person, lighting the first Hanukkah candle with ultra-orthodox religious soldiers in the IDF. In a statement from his office, Rivlin referenced the leaders of the ancient Israeli revolution by calling the IDF troops, “modern-day Hasmoneans—soldiers, warriors, righteous men who learn Torah. This is really a Hanukkah miracle.”

Said Rivlin, “You are an inspiration and prove to us all that we can find the balance between protecting the country and protecting our what is most important to us.”

(By Joshua Spurlcok, www.themideastudpate.com, December 2, 2018)

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