Herzog hosts first public event as US Ambassador

It was the first in-person event hosted by the Israeli Embassy since the beginning of COVID-19.

 Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog is seen at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli Embassy to the US in Washington, on November 29, 2021. (photo credit: SHMULIK ALMANY/ISRAELI EMBASSY IN THE US)
Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog is seen at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli Embassy to the US in Washington, on November 29, 2021.
(photo credit: SHMULIK ALMANY/ISRAELI EMBASSY IN THE US)

WASHINGTON – Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog hosted the traditional candle-lighting event at the Israeli Embassy on Monday. It was his first public event since assuming office earlier this month and the first in-person event hosted by the Embassy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I see it as a great honor to serve my country,” said Herzog. “When I light this candle, I dedicate it to our effort to spread hope as well as to our unbreakable bond with the United States, our best friend and ally.”

Speaking about the lessons learned from Hanukkah, the ambassador said “if our core identity and the values that define us are ever in danger, we as a nation must fight to maintain them and to be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices as our ancestors did.”

“Today, we have a state that is thriving and strong, capable of defending itself against aggressors and ill-wishers, yet Israel should be and is, in fact, focused on more than enhancing its ability to defend itself against any threat – and as we well know, there are still those out there who would like to eliminate Israel – we also strive to bring hope to our entire region and to pursue tikkun olam; It is our higher calling to improve the lives of people in our neighborhood and beyond,” Herzog added.

“Our embattled region is characterized by the struggle between forces seeking enlightenment and advancement and radical forces who resist any progress and wish to pull us back into the past,” he continued. “This is a struggle between light and darkness, and Israel offers genuine partnership, even leadership, for those in the region who want to see a brighter tomorrow.”

 Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog is seen at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli Embassy to the US in Washington, on November 29, 2021. (credit: SHMULIK ALMANY/ISRAELI EMBASSY IN THE US) Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog is seen at a Hanukkah event at the Israeli Embassy to the US in Washington, on November 29, 2021. (credit: SHMULIK ALMANY/ISRAELI EMBASSY IN THE US)

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) also attended the event, alongside representatives from the Jewish Agency, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, Chabad and more.

The gathering took place on the same day that the indirect Vienna negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action resumed. Cardin told The Jerusalem Post at the event: “We have to make it very clear that a nuclear Iran is a non-starter – will not happen, and we have to make it clear that there will be serious consequences unless Iran takes steps to deescalate.”

“Where Iran is today is not where they were when the United States left the JCPOA; it’s not where they were when we were negotiating the JCPOA; it’s a much more dangerous situation,” he told the Post. “So the first thing is Iran has got to be committed to backing off its nuclear program. And it has to take concrete steps. We need to have inspectors on the ground. We have to have full declarations of all of its programs. That’s a minimum in order to be able to have any confidence that any type of an agreement would be honored.”

He went on to say that “it’s going to take a lot to get there. Once we do that, we then need a lifetime commitment against nuclear weaponry, and we need to deal with their other non-nuclear activities because they’re all related. So it’s a long road forward, but it can’t begin unless Iran is committed to backing off [of] its program; we have seen no indication of that.”

Senator Cardin later said from the podium that “the Maccabees rescued Jerusalem, built the Second Temple – it showed that a small but mighty people can do wondrous things.”

“They were outnumbered, outgunned but they won – that’s the State of Israel. That’s what the State of Israel has been able to do in a part of the world where it’s a small nation, but a mighty nation and it’s guided by its values,” he added.

According to the Israeli embassy, the Menorah used for the candle-lighting ceremony was lent to the embassy by Kira Epstein-Begal and William Begal, is entitled A Festival of Lights and was the second of three menorahs created by sculptor Zachary Oxman for the Clinton White House.

Schumer said in his remarks: ”From the time of Moses, to the Maccabees, to the Nazis and today, so many have tried to annihilate the Jewish people and our spirit. All have failed. Pharaoh is gone. Antiochus is gone. Hitler is gone. But the Jewish people live on. In America and in the State of Israel.”