President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, were the guests of honor of US President Barack Obama for the White House Hanukka candle lighting ceremony on Wednesday evening.
At the opening of the ceremony, Obama mentioned that in a meeting prior to the ceremony, the leaders had discussed the importance of peace and re-affirmed the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.
"All of us come together along with Jews around the world to celebrate a band of Maccabees who inspire us even today," said Obama. "They were outnumbered, out armed yet proved freedom can prevail over tyranny, hope can triumph over despair, light can prevail over darkness. That sounds like a description of the new Star Wars movie but this one happened a little earlier," joked Obama, receiving a loud round of applause.
Obama praised the Jewish community stating that Jewish history continues to impact the action of the community today.
"The light from one day's worth of oil has lasted not just for 8 days but for more than 2000 years. The Maccabees sense of faith, and courage and righteousness continues to animate the Jewish community even now," Obama continued. "It is no accident that when we are called out to speak on behalf of refugees or against religious persecution, American Jews remember what it's like to be a stranger and are leading the way."
Obama invited President Rivlin to the stage to say a few words. Rivlin kept his comments brief and broad, lauding the timeless bond between Israel and the US, and praising Obama for his leadership.
In an homage to the holiday, Rivlin called Obama a shamash – a leader of others, like the candle on a hanukkia that lights the rest.
Rivlin presented his host with a replica of a gold coin dating back to the Byzantine period, which he had brought with him from Jerusalem.
The coin was discovered in the Ophel excavations just south of the Temple Mount and features a relief motif of a menorah plus other Jewish ritual objects.
Rivlin related some of the history of the festival, emphasizing the tale of the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days. He noted that eight is a significant number in Obama’s political career, in that he was elected for two terms totaling eight years.Greey Fay Cashman contributed to this report.