Olaf Scholz lit the first candle on the first day of Hanukkah and told the crowd in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate that this year’s celebration was more important than ever.
“It is very important at this time,” Scholz told a crowd in Berlin on Thursday after lighting the first candle of the 10-meter (30-foot) menorah, adding that the fact that this event took place “in the heart in our capital.” a clear message that the Jewish citizens of Germany have a “fundamental right to be seen.”
He said it was “sad and scary” that members of Germany’s Jewish communities were once again living in fear. He called the celebration of Hanukkah “a symbol of hope and trust and a symbol of the inseparable connection of the Jewish faith and fellow Jewish citizens of this country.”
Several top-ranking politicians, including Bundestag President Bärbel Bas, Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner, and Israeli Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor were in attendance, as well as relatives of Itai Svirsky, a German-Israeli kidnapped by terrorists in Hamas.
‘More light, more joy, more Jewish knowledge’
Scholz spoke of the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7 and the number of antisemitic incidents in Germany since, which reportedly increased by more than 300%, to an average of 29 reported incidents a day. Police presence has increased at synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the country.
“Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel are also directed against the people themselves,” Scholz said.
Germany, like Israel, the United States and other countries, calls the militant Islamist group Hamas a terrorist organization.
“We will not accept it if our fellow Jews should be afraid to live their religion, their culture and their daily life openly, if they exercise their fundamental right to be seen – a right that the all people in our society have, without distinction, “added the chancellor.
The host of the event in Berlin, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, praised Germany and Scholz as beacons of democracy. The message of Hanukkah is “light over darkness, democracy over tyranny,” Teichtal said.
He called for “more light, more joy, more Jewish knowledge. That is our answer.”
Rising antisemitic incidents in Germany
DW’s Nina Haase said the annual event was more symbolic and poignant this year, given the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.
“This is a phenomenon that has been going on in Berlin since 2008,” Haase told DW TV. “It is a festival where the Jewish community in Germany celebrates its existence and highlights the fact that Jewish life is a part of the life of German society.
“This year the organizers say that the message that will come out of this year’s event is even more that Jewish life must be protected in Germany as well,” Haase said.
The eight-day Hanukkah festival runs this year from December 7 to 15, with a new candle lit each night at dusk.
mds/sms (AP, AFP, DPA, Reuters)
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