Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lit the first candle of Hanukkah Tuesday night with soldiers from the Lotar (counter-terrorism and hostage rescue) and Oketz (canine special forces) units of the IDF.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also attended the event.
“I am proud to be here and light the first Hanukkah candle with you in the birthplace of the Maccabees. We then stood, the few against the many, and we won. We set light against the darkness and we were victorious. This battle is also taking place today. The battle for Israel’s revival is not over; it is taking place always,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister launched into some personal family history, recounting the story of how his grandfather came to Israel.
“I am here because my grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milkovsky Netanyahu, as a young person, studied in a yeshiva in Lithuania and one day he worked in a railway station with his younger brother Yehuda. He saw a group of anti-Semitic hooligans. They identified them as Jews, the yeshiva students, and they fell upon them. They ran toward them with clubs, shouting ‘Death to the Jews’. My grandfather told his younger brother Yehuda, ‘Run, I will stop them.’ He understood that he was going to sacrifice himself to save his younger brother. He was savagely beaten until he was almost dead. Sprawled in the mud and the snow, he told himself, ‘What a disgrace that the descendants of the Maccabees lay sprawled here in blood and dirt.’ Before he lost consciousness he vowed, ‘If I live, I will take my family and go to the Land of Israel in order to renew Jewish independence there and the Maccabees will rise again.'” said Netanyahu.
Decrying Islamic extremism around the world, he praised the IDF as the “most moral army in the world,” adding “you continue to watch over us and we will continue to watch over you.”
President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama spent the first evening of Hanukkah hosting a party for children with cancer at the President’s Residence.
“On Hanukkah, we shrug off the darkness and warm our homes and hearts. The Maccabees fought for so long to purify and bring light to the Temple. The Maccabees are heroes of Jewish history, you are the heroes of our present. Your fight against illness, is no less courageous than that of the Maccabees. Hope, determination and faith, can overcome the darkness, and lead us to victory,” Rivlin told his guests.
“Nechama, my wife, and I are excited and privileged to celebrate the holiday with you all, and we greatly enjoy the precious light you have brought into our home. We wish you all good health, joy, and hope,” he added
The event was attended by over 130 children, their parents and caregivers.