President Barack Obama gave a Hanukkah blessing of freedom to Jews the world over in a statement released Wednesday, while his counterpart British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to calm Israeli concerns over a recent deal to scale back Iran’s nuclear program.
Obama began by noting the extreme rarity of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coinciding, as they do this year.
“For the first time since the late 1800s — and for the last time until some 70,000 years from now — the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving,” he said in a statement released by the White House. “It’s an event so rare some have even coined it ‘Thanksgivukkah.’ As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small.”
The president made a connection between the Jewish festival of lights and the US annual celebration of its founding history.
“Like the Pilgrims, the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story made tremendous sacrifices so they could practice their religion in peace,” he said. “In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, they reclaimed their historic homeland.”
“As the first Hanukkah candle is lit, we are reminded that our task is not only to secure the blessing of freedom, but to make the most of that blessing once it is secure,” Obama noted and wished the Jewish communities in the US, the State of Israel, and the world over, a “Hag Same’ah” — Hebrew for happy holiday.
Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister David Cameron held a festive reception at Downing Street during which he lit a traditional eight-branched menorah together with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. Along with other dignitaries, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak attended the event, the Jewish News reported on Wednesday.
Cameron addressed the recent Geneva agreement between world powers and Iran to roll back the latter’s nuclear program, seeking to reassure those alarmed by what they see as an inadequate outcome to the negotiations.
“I share your skepticism over the Iran deal,” he said. “An enemy of Israel’s is an enemy of mine… but in my judgment this is the right step to take.”
The deal left Israel concerned that the terms agreed had fallen short of the overall objective of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“I know there will be great skepticism, I know there will be great worry,” Cameron said. “All I will say to you tonight is that I share your skepticism, I share your worry. I don’t have any starry-eyed view about what this Iranian regime offers. We only got to where we are because of the very tough sanctions.”