Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi were among a host of global leaders and nations that sent Hanukkah greetings to the Jewish people Sunday to mark the start of the eight-day festival.
Erdogan used to occasion to speak out against antisemitism and Islamophobia, saying the unity demonstrated by Turkish society sets an example against xenophobia.
“On the occasion of Hanukkah, I wholeheartedly congratulate our citizens of Jewish faith,” Erdogan said in an English-language statement.
“Our Jewish citizens, with whom we live together in a strong sense of unity, solidarity and belonging, are an inseparable part of our society, as has been the case in the past,” he said.
“While antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia threaten social peace today in many countries as well as global peace, the unity and solidarity, all our citizens display in our country with mutual respect, love and understanding without any discrimination, sets an exceptional example to the entire world,” he wrote.
Ties between Ankara and Jerusalem have warmed in recent months after over a decade of mistrust.
India’s Modi, who over the years struck up a personal friendship with presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted his message in Hebrew.
“Happy Hanukkah to my friend Netanyahu, to friends in Israel, and those celebrating this festival of lights around the world,” he wrote.
חג חנוכה שמח לידידי @netanyahu , לחברים בישראל, ולכל מי שמציין את חג
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 18, 2022
In a video blessing to Jews in Ukraine and around the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky presented the Hanukkah story as inspiration for his country’s fight against the Russian invasion. “The few defeated the many, light defeated darkness,” he said. “Thus it will also be this time.”
“Happy Hanukkah,” Zelensky said in Hebrew, before closing with his country’s rallying cry, “Glory to Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a happy Hanukkah “to all Jewish communities celebrating today in Ukraine and around the world.”
“May light and peace always prevail over darkness and aggression,” wrote Kuleba whose country is battling to repel a Russian invasion launched in February.
A giant menorah was lit in Kyiv on Sunday evening in a ceremony in which a Jewish leader also drew parallels between the story of Hanukkah and the ongoing conflict, saying both were a “war between darkness and light.”
There were more Hanukkah messages from other countries.
The United Arab Emirates embassy in Israel, also tweeting in Hebrew, offered its “warmest wishes to the people of Israel on the occasion of Hanukkah and wishes everyone a holiday of light and fellowship.”
שגרירות איחוד האמירויות הערביות בתל אביב שולחת את איחוליה החמים ביותר לעם ישראל לרגל חג החנוכה ומאחלת לכולם חג של אור ואחווה pic.twitter.com/WfBalNq1BB
— UAE Embassy in Israel (@UAEinIsrael) December 18, 2022
The European Union’s mission in Israel also tweeted in Hebrew but kept its message to a succinct “Happy holiday.”
The British Foreign Office, in an example of the varied opinions on how to spell the festival’s name in English, tweeted “Happy Chanukah to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world! Chag Sameach!”
From Washington, the US State Department wrote “Happy Hanukkah to all of you who celebrate. May your candles burn bright and your season be full of peace and happiness.”
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, see celebrants light an eight-branched candelabra, starting with one on the eve of the first day and increasing in number until eight for the last day.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.