June 15, 2024 2:13 am

Germany’s Scholz lights first candle as Hanukkah celebrated around the world

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attended a candle-lighting ceremony at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to mark the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

The lighting of a giant Hanukkah menorah, also known as a Hanukkiah, has become an annual event in Berlin, but this is the first time a German chancellor has attended.

Chancellor Scholz’s attendance has been widely welcomed, as Germany’s renascent Jewish community has been shaken by a surge in antisemitic attacks since the start of the war between Israel and Gaza.

Speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, and wearing a kippah, Mr Scholz also urged the immediate release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

“I hope the light of this candelabra will shine across this square long beyond the eight days of the Hanukkah celebration,” Mr Scholz said.

“That is why I’m also happy to be here today,” he said, adding that he wanted to underscore that Jews were an “inextricable part” of German society. He said it was unacceptable for Jews in Germany “to have to be afraid to practise their religion, their culture”.

The ceremony, held under tight security, was attended by two family members of Itai Svirsky, a German-Israeli hostage held by Hamas in Gaza. They lit the torch that was handed to Mr Scholz to ignite the first candle.

The festival of Hanukkah, or Chanukah, symbolises the victory of light over darkness.

Jewish communities around the world have come together to mark the beginning of the festival.

zelensky lights a candle in KyivIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
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Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky lit a candle in Kyiv
budapestIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
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Members of Hungary’s Jewish community gathered in Budapest to light the first candle

Hanukkah marks the date over 2,000 years ago when, according to Jewish tradition, Jewish partisans in Jerusalem recaptured their desecrated Holy temple and rededicated it to Jewish worship.

When the temple was recovered, the Jews found there was not enough ritually pure oil to keep the menorah burning while they made more oil.

But according to tradition, by a miracle, the tiny amount of oil lasted for eight days – which is now symbolised by the eight candles that are lit, from right to left, over the eight days of the festival.

hostage famiies light candles in tel aviv, 7 decIMAGE SOURCE,EPA
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Relatives of hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza lit candles in Tel Aviv
An Israeli soldier lights the first candle at a position near the Gaza border, amid continuing battles between Israel and HamasIMAGE SOURCE,MENAHEM KAHANA
Image caption,

An Israeli soldier lights the first candle at a position near the Gaza border, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas

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