Some 800 menorahs decorated by children from children evacuated from communities in the Gaza border area and the north were delivered to IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip in recent days, in an effort to raise morale.
Combat soldiers from the Southern Command used the menorahs to light candles for Hanukkah, buoyed by messages of encouragement from the children, in a project coordinated with the IDF Personnel Directorate’s Education and Youth Corps.
The IDF said that the menorahs were packed up and sent along with sweet treats and letters from the home front, to remind troops that the nation stands with them and is waiting for their safe return.
The initiative was part of a “host of efforts to bolster the spirit of the soldiers on the frontlines and the morale of communities on the home front,” Education and Youth Corps commander Lt. Col Einat Albalek said in an IDF statement.
“The soldiers carry the children’s’ thoughts with them, along with a feeling of connection and responsibility for the Gaza envelope residents, and the whole country,” Major Mor Issachar from the IDF Southern Command added in the statement. “We’re happy to take a meaningful role in strengthening morale among our troops.”
The soldiers are fighting in Israel’s war against Hamas, which erupted on October 7 when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.
A total of 98 IDF soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas.
On the home front too, Israelis around the country held bittersweet candle-lighting ceremonies to mark the Jewish holiday.
On Thursday, the families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas held a ceremony on the first night of Hanukkah during a rally in Tel Aviv calling for the release of their loved ones.
The ceremony in Tel Aviv was held in an area called Hostages Square, where relatives and friends of those abducted in the Hamas-led onslaught on October 7 lit Hanukkah candles. The display included at an empty table set for the festival that featured menorahs with photos of hostages.
About 137 hostages remain captive in Gaza following the release of 105 civilian abductees, mainly women and children, in late November as part of a Qatar-brokered deal to free groups of hostages in exchange for a multi-day pause in fighting, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and a boost in aid supplies to Gaza. The truce ended when the terms of the agreement were violated by Hamas.