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World Leaders Mark Hanukkah as Antisemitism Spikes Worldwide Amid Gaza War

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, chairman of the Chabad Jewish Education Center, light a giant menorah to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah at Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

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.”

Historic event in Germany.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz just presided over the lighting of the giant Menorah — the largest in Europe — in front of Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate. #Hanukkah

— Jacob N. Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) December 7, 2023

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!”

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. My best wishes to the Jewish community on Hanukkah!

— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 7, 2023

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.”

To Jewish Canadians across the country: As you gather around the Hanukkiah for the first night of Hanukkah, I want you to know that we stand with you – and I hope you can find comfort and strength as you celebrate your traditions. Chag Hanukkah Sameach.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 7, 2023

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.”

On this first night of Hanukkah, I joined the families of the hostages and together we lit a candle for each of the 138 hostages. 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.

— Ambassador Jack Lew (@USAmbIsrael) December 7, 2023

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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Iran Unveils New Air Defense Weaponry

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani speaks at a press conference during the unveiling of a new surface-to-surface 4th generation Khorramshahr ballistic missile. Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency

i24 NewsIran demonstrated new weaponry on Saturday, including what it said was the locally made Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system, said the official IRNA news agency. Saturday’s unveiling ceremony of the two vehicle-mounted systems was held in the presence of Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.

“With the entry of new systems into the country’s defense network, the air defense capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran will increase significantly,” said IRNA.

Video of the new Azarakhsh SHORAD engaging a target drone

It’s radar has a detection range of 50km, with 25km for it’s EO/IR suite

— Iran Defense|نیروهای مسلح جمهوری اسلامی ایران (@IranDefense) February 17, 2024

The Arman missile system is said to be able to “simultaneously confront six targets at a distance of 120 to 180 km,” while the Azarakhsh missile system “can identify and destroy targets up to a range of 50 km with four ready-to-fire missiles.”

The announcement comes amid tensions across the Middle East, with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacking vessels linked to the United States, UK and Israel in the Red Sea in a show of solidarity with the Gaza Strip.

Iran unveils domestically-manufactured Arman anti-ballistic missile and Azarakhsh low-altitude air defense system

— Press TV (@PressTV) February 17, 2024

The U.S. and its allies in the Middle East are concerned with Iran’s growing role at the international global arms market, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday. The transformation of the industry, boosted by Russia’s “purchase of thousands of drones that altered the battlefield in Ukraine, has helped Tehran scale up its support of militia allies in Middle East conflicts,” read the report.

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‘Exceptional Opportunity’: Blinken Says ‘Virtually Every Arab Country’ Wants to Normalize Ties with Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on, as U.S. President Joe Biden (not pictured) speaks about the conflict in Israel, after Hamas launched its biggest attack in decades, while making a statement about the crisis, at the White House in Washington, U.S. October 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

i24 NewsU.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that the present moment represented an “exceptional opportunity” for Israel to normalize ties with Arab states.

“Virtually every Arab country now wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalize relations,” the official told the conference, according to Reuters.

Blinken also spoke of an “urgent” imperative to “proceed with a Palestinian state that would also ensure the security of Israel.” He said there was a regional effort underway to revive the Palestinian Authority, and turn it into a viable institution.

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Hamas Suspends Hostage Deal Talks and Demands Aid, Arab Media Reports

Palestinian group Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, gestures as he speaks during his visit at Ain el Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon September 6, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

i24 NewsIn a recent statement published on Telegram, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh pointed fingers at Israel for the lack of advancement in reaching a ceasefire agreement in Gaza, the terrorist group disclosed on Saturday.

Yet, Arab media later reported that Hamas suspended all negotiation and ceasefire talks due to a demand for aid.

Haniyeh emphasized Hamas’s consistent efforts to engage positively with mediators to halt aggression against the Palestinian people, end the unjust siege, and facilitate aid delivery, shelter, and reconstruction efforts.

Despite Hamas’s purported flexibility in negotiations, Haniyeh lamented Israel’s perceived maneuvers and delays, which, he claimed, exacerbate the plight of the Palestinian population.

Notably, one of the sticking points in the negotiations revolves around the release of prisoners held by Hamas, with the organization highlighting its previous concession of releasing hostages in exchange for security prisoners held in Israel for terrorism offenses.

However, Haniyeh asserted that Hamas remains steadfast in its demands for a comprehensive ceasefire, including the cessation of aggression, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, lifting of the siege, provision of safe shelter for displaced individuals, particularly in the northern Gaza Strip, and commitment to reconstruction efforts.

The Hamas leader emphasized the importance of addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ensuring the release of older prisoners and those serving long sentences as part of any potential prisoner exchange agreement.

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