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Olmertus Bans Celebration of Hanukah

By Tzvi Fishman
11/28/2007, 12:00 AM

Returning to Jerusalem from his triumphant appearance at the Annapolis Follies, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehudas Olmertus, pushed through an emergency Knesset bill outlawing the upcoming celebration of Hanukah.

The holiday of Hanukah celebrates the miraculous victory of Yehudah the Macabee and his band of settlers over the powerful Greek army and the Jewish Hellenists who joined them in their drive to de-Judenize Israel. Olmertus said the extraordinary measure was being taken to prevent the rise of nationalist fervor that the holiday traditionally triggers, and “To give a clear warning to the opponents of Annapolis that the Government of Israel will use all means necessary to prevent settler uprisings and to insure that the Annapolis roadmap isn’t sabotaged by extreme national fanatics.”

Olmertus said that the word Annapolis is the Greek term for a police state, “And if that is what it takes to make Israel a land of peace for all peoples, that is what we are ready to create.”

Reactions from Israel were swift in coming. Merchants were up in arms, claiming that the ban would leave them with millions of unsold candles on their shelves.

Avi Schwartz (pictured), who usually lights his Hanukah candles outside the entrance to his house to publicize the Hanukah miracle, says he will light his candles inside the house this year, even if it means going to jail.

Avi Schwartz - "Even if it means going to jail."

Israel Cabinet member, Avigdor Liebermann, a known hawk on settler issues, said that the measure was no big deal. “We lived without lighting Hanukah candles in Russia for decades,” he asserted. 

A spokesman for the religious Shas Party said that the Council of Torah Sages would meet to discuss the development, but since the celebration of Hanukah was an enactment of the Rabbis and not from the Torah, the surprise move probably would not cause Shas to leave the government coalition.

Opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the overnight legislation “a despicable, cowardly move that sends a clear signal to our enemies, but since the Knesset has approved the bill, I will call on my followers to abide by the law.”

“For the first time in 20 years, I am glad to be sitting in an American prison,” Jonathan Pollard exclaimed. “At least here I will be able to celebrate Hanukah.”

A background photo essay follows this article:

Olmertus Triumphantus met by followers upon his return


The Knesset
Israel's Cabinet
Israeli Police Evacuate Settlers
U.S. Secretary of State, Condoliza Rice
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