David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, lit the menorah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the second night of Hanukkah.
Thousands attended the ceremony on Wednesday evening, one week after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“A great honor to light the Menorah at the Western Wall,” Friedman tweeted after the lighting ceremony. “Some 2,180 years ago, the Maccabees reclaimed this very site and restored Jewish ritual to the Second Temple. Awed to stand on the same hallowed ground. Happy Chanukah to all!!”
Friedman lit the candles accompanied by the Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch; Jerusalem’s chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar; and the minister of tourism, Yariv Levin.
In an address last Wednesday from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but criticized worldwide. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
Speaking last week after the announcement, Friedman said the move reflects the “best path for peace,” and those demonstrating against it failed to listen properly to the president’s speech.
Before lighting candles at the Western Wall, Friedman met with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, whose office said in a statement that the meeting was part of “the beginning of the process of moving the embassy to the capital,” and that they discussed “a shared future in Jerusalem.”