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President to light candle for 1st night of Hanukkah in Hebron, angering Meretz

Herzog will participate in ceremony at Cave of the Patriarchs holy site; lawmakers for dovish coalition party blast event in West Bank: ‘President should be unifying figure’

President Isaac Herzog speaks at the Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, on November 9, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog speaks at the Haaretz Democracy Conference in Jaffa, on November 9, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog will light a menorah for the first night of Hanukkah on Sunday at a shrine in the West Bank city of Hebron, angering the left-wing Meretz party, a member of the governing coalition.

Herzog’s office announced the event at the Cave of the Patriarchs site on Wednesday.

Meretz lawmakers Mossi Raz, Gaby Lasky and Michal Rozin said in a statement, “The president needs to be a unifying figure. Control of Hebron, and the occupied territories in particular is in sharp political dispute. Out of all the settlements, the settlement in Hebron at the Cave of the Patriarchs is the most outrageous.”

The site is considered holy to both Jews and Muslims and is used for prayers by worshipers of both faiths, but has been a major flashpoint for violence.

The site of the cave, considered the second holiest in Judaism, is believed to have been used as a burial plot by the Biblical patriarch Abraham.

Hebron, in the southern West Bank, is the largest city in the West Bank and home to about 1,000 settlers who live under heavy military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.

The city is mostly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, but the area of the cave and adjacent areas are controlled by Israel.

View of the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, on December 30, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Meretz is a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition, an unwieldy amalgam that includes the dovish party led by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, the Islamist Ra’am faction, the centrist Yesh Atid, Labor and Blue and White parties, and the right-wing Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope parties.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is frequented by Jews during Shabbat and holidays and often under military protection. It, and the nearby area, have been the site of numerous attacks and attempted attacks against Israelis.

It is also the site of one of the worst incidents of settler violence against Palestinians, the 1994 massacre carried out by far-right extremist Baruch Goldstein, who opened fire during prayers, killing 29 people and wounding more than 100.

Herzog, formerly the head of the Jewish Agency, previously served in the Knesset as a leading center-left politician and opposition leader.

He assumed the mostly ceremonial presidency in July, and has taken an active approach to the role, including by lobbying UK leaders to take a hard line against Iran in meetings in London this week.

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