Morocco’s UN Ambassador, at Hannukah lighting, pledges peace with Israel

"Hanukkah is existing together. Hanukkah is loving each other. Hanukkah is building bridges between people and civilizations," Moroccan Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale said.

Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale lit the last candle of Hanukkah with Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan (photo credit: ISRAEL AT THE UN)
Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale lit the last candle of Hanukkah with Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan
(photo credit: ISRAEL AT THE UN)
Morocco’s Ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, pledged to build a bridge of peace with Israel as he lit the eighth candle of Hanukkah with his Israeli counterpart, Gilad Erdan, at a special ceremony in New York on Thursday.
“There is no alternative to peace. We are all the sons of Abraham – and the sons of Abraham, they always, at the end of the day, will sit together to make peace together and to build a future together for the next generation,” Hilale said at the ceremony.
A deep belief in peace, he said, is the reason he stood “today to light Hanukkah candles,” which are symbols of hope.
“Hanukkah is existing together. Hanukkah is loving each other. Hanukkah is rejecting violence. Hanukkah is building bridges between people and civilizations. This is the understanding we have in our hearts,” Hilale said.
He joined the Israeli mission’s celebrations in New York just one week after the announcement that his country had become the fourth Muslim nation to agree to a normalization deal with the Jewish state under the rubric of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
They celebrated both the holiday and the new geo-political reality for Israel as it heads into 2021. Also present were ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whose countries ratified deals with Israel under the Abraham Accords, Bhutan, which separately agreed to normalize ties earlier this month. Sudan, which had announced a normalization deal, was not present.
In his brief speech at the ceremony, Hilale underscored his country’s ties to the Jewish people.
The celebration of Hanukkah was not an extraordinary event for someone from his country, which has a long history of tolerance of the Jewish people, whose presence in the country dates back thousands of years, Hilale said.
“Hanukkah is not a strange tradition in my country… The Jewish people are part of our society, our religion, our people [and] our history,” he said, and Morocco is very proud of its long history of cooperation with the Jewish people.
He recalled that during the Holocaust, Morocco shielded its Jews from the Nazis and blocked their deportation to concentration camps.
“Europeans sent their Jewish citizens to concentration camps” but the former Moroccan King, Mohammed V, told the Vichy authorities that in his country, “they did not have Jewish or Muslim citizens, they had Moroccan citizens. And you will not take anyone,” Hilale said.
“This is the history of Morocco,” he added.
Morocco is proud that there is such a large community of almost a million Jews of Moroccan descent in Israel, he said.
Erdan said that the story of Hanukkah is one of religious freedom, where the ancient Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated when a single pot of oil miraculously lasted for eight days.
“The deep connection between Morocco and the Jewish people dates back thousands of years. Renewing this relationship fulfills the dream of many Israelis of Moroccan heritage, who remain proud of their roots and have a great love for the country,” he said.
“For many years, these Jews have served as a bridge between us. That bridge is now reinforced by the normalization of relations, which, I am sure, will lead to a warm and prosperous friendship: a friendship that will benefit not only Israel and Morocco but the entire region,” Erdan said.
“This year, religious tolerance has brought new light into the Middle East and beyond. The new relations between Israel and four countries are based on the value of coexistence and mutual respect,” he explained.
“By embracing our differences rather than viewing them as a threat, we have created new, incredible opportunities for the future,” Erdan continued.
“There has been a shift in the way we see each other. The descendants of Abraham have rekindled our connection, and we are spreading hope and promise throughout the entire world,” the ambassador said.
“As we light the last candle of Hanukkah, let us pray that the bright flames dispel the darkness that has crept into the world,” Erdan said.
UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said, “the peace accords between the UAE and Israel was a highlight in an otherwise difficult year. We’ve seen other countries following suit, and we can only hope these agreements usher in a new era of shared vision for peace and prosperity for our region. Hanukkah is a reminder that miracles do happen.”
Bahraini Ambassador Jamal al Rowaiei observed that “tonight’s event comes at a very special time. This peace accord between our nations gives us an opportunity to enhance stability, prosperity and peace in our region. As we enter this season of celebration, I would like to wish all the Jewish people in Bahrain, Israel and around the world a very happy and safe Hanukkah.”
Bhutan Ambassador Doma Tshering spoke of the shared values between the two countries that can bridge any divide between them. “The royal government looks forward to strengthening the bonds of friendship between Bhutan and Israel,” she added.

1/1 לכבוד הנר האחרון אירחתי את שגריר מרוקו באו״ם, עומאר הילאל, לטקס שהיה האירוע הרשמי המשותף הראשון באו״ם עם מרוקו! הדלקנו יחד חנוכיה, ושגרירים מכל העולם, כולל מהאמירויות ובחריין, בירכו והדליקו נרות. והשיא-למדתי לברך במרוקאית שבת שלום! 
pic.twitter.com/hZWCslbshl
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) December 18, 2020
 
US Ambassador Kelly Craft said, “Today, though we are not witnessing the miracle of one day’s lamp of oil lasting eight days, we are witnessing a transformation in lands of Abrahamic faith from the Holy Land in the Levant to the Arabian Peninsula and to Africa. The Abraham Accords have transformed 2020 into a year of peace.”