Holocaust survivors gather at Western Wall for Hanukkah candle lighting

Hanukkah marks the triumph of light over the darkness, and so does the triumph of the Holocaust survivors over Nazi oppression.

Holocaust survivors at a Hanukkah candle lighting event, December 23, 2019.  (photo credit: COURTESY CLAIMS CONFERENCE)
Holocaust survivors at a Hanukkah candle lighting event, December 23, 2019.
Around 100 Holocaust survivors visited the Western Wall on Tuesday night to light a second Hanukkah candle, in an event that CEO of the Claims Conference said marked “the victory of the Jews over the evil Nazis.”
The survivors gathered at the magnificent hall at the Western Walls tunnels site, greeted by staff of the event’s sponsors, the Claims Conference and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, where they were treated to a virtual reality tour of the ancient temple followed by a light meal.
They were then addressed by Claims Conference CEO Shlomo Gur, who likened the victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks to that of the Holocaust survivors against the Nazis.
“During the Holocaust Jews made great efforts in ghettos and concentration camps to celebrate Hanukkah. We have all heard amazing stories from different places about how they managed to celebrate the holiday in the camps and made super human efforts to do it the best they could,” he said.
“Some have used tiny drops of margarine sparsely given to them as food, to form tiny candles in which threads taken from their crumbling clothes was used as a wick. This holiday gave Jews a lot of strength needed to get through the inferno they were in.”
He added: “This is the victory of the Jews over the evil Nazis. You are a living proof of this victory. It is your heroism and your victory and therefore there is nothing more appropriate than to celebrate Hanukkah right here.”
His speech was followed by a rendition of Jerusalem of Gold, followed by A Yiddishe Mame, bringing a tear to the eye of many in the crowd.
Chairperson of the Claims Committee, Ms. Colette Avital, told the assembled group that she, too, found the song moving. The triumph of Hanukkah was not only a military one, she said, but a “spiritual one – the victory of values.”
“We celebrate here the value of heroism – the heroism of the Jewish people throughout the generations: people who fought valiantly every day; We celebrate here the heroism of the last warriors in the Warsaw ghetto and the Jewish women fighters who guarded the family unit and cared for the children. We also celebrate the heroism of non-Jews who saved them while endangering their own lives.
“On this day, we must remember that there is good in humanity and that despite our hardships we are together. Today we will light the Hanukkah candles and say that we are eradicating the darkness and that is what we do every day. And so we will preserve the Jewish tradition, for those who survived and restarted their lives.”
Gratitude was also expressed for the State of Israel. Orit Weiss, the daughter of Holocaust survivor Rivka Weiss, said her mother had chosen to come to Israel after the war because “it is a Jewish state and we have nowhere else to be,” while education minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz said that to be standing “next to the Western Wall is always exciting, but to do this in a sovereign and independent State of Israel is a dream of generations that has come true.”
Following the speeches, the survivors sang the Israeli national anthem by the Western Wall, before singing together and dancing.
The ceremony in Jerusalem marked the third year the event has taken place. Similar events were also held globally under the banner of International Holocaust Survivors Night, with candle-lighting ceremonies taking place in Paris, New York, Munich and Moscow.