President Isaac Herzog has lit a candle for the first night of Hanukkah in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Speaking at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a shrine revered by Jews and Muslims as the final resting place of the biblical Abraham, Herzog says the Jewish connection to the city and the tomb are “beyond all controversy.”
“The historic connection of Jews to Hebron, to the tomb of the patriarch, to the heritage of the patriarchs and matriarchs is unquestionable. Recognition of this connection must be beyond all controversy.”
At the same time, he also appeals to the shared heritage between Jews and Muslims despite ever-present tensions in the city, which have been heightened around his heavily secured visit.
“You won’t agree about everything, but we need to remember that ‘we are all one man’s sons,'” he says according to a statement from his office, quoting from the Bible. “We all have shared roots from this cave. Alongside that we have to remember that our roots are not the only ones that go back to this cave. Especially today, and especially here, in this holy space dedicated to all sons of Abraham, we have to continue dreaming of peace, between all faiths and creeds in this land, and to condemn any type of hatred or violence.”
An official picture shows Herzog, a former head of the dovish Labor party, also praying at the tomb during his visit.
Nearby, dozens of Israeli left-wing activists protest against the visit, with signs in Hebrew and English accusing Israel of apartheid and calling to “banish the darkness,” referencing a famous Hanukkah children’s song.
The protest is held at the entrance to the adjacent settlement of Kiryat Arba after the military imposed an order banning left-wing activists from Hebron to prevent “disturbances,” Haaretz reports, citing organizers.
Protest right now outside Hebron, where Israeli President Herzog is attending a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the extremist settlement. @peacenowisrael @BtSIsrael @mehazkim pic.twitter.com/ba0tQo948m
— Ben Reiff (@bentreyf) November 28, 2021
Hebron is homes to several hundred Israeli settlers, who live under heavy guard surrounded by tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of the city.