Watch: Candle lighting on the outskirts of Arab town

Etzion Brigade commander and residents of Karmei Tzur light Hanukkah candles in ancient Beit Tzur.

Ido Ben Porat ,

Hanukkah at Beit Tzur
Hanukkah at Beit Tzur
Karmei Tzur spokesperson

Hundreds of men and women, residents of the community of Karmei Tzur in Gush Etzion, on Saturday evening lit the fifth candle of Hanukkah in ancient Beit Tzur, located on the outskirts of the Arab town of Halhul.

The candle lighting was held in coordination with the IDF, with the participation of the IDF Etzion Brigade commander Lt. Col Sharon Asman, and with the assistance of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

For 14 years, since the founding of Karmei Tzur, the residents would light Hanukkah candles at Beit Tzur and celebrate the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks at the site. This victory was the last in a series of battles which eventually led the Maccabees to Jerusalem where they purified the Holy Temple.

This tradition was stopped some 17 years ago, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. The IDF had prevented the candle lighting from being held due to fears of clashes with the hostile Arab population in the area. In the past two years, the residents of Karmei Tzur have renewed their annual tradition.

In the cold weather of Gush Etzion, the participants gathered warmth from the light of the candles, the sweetness of doughnuts and the heartfelt words of the Etzion Brigade commander, who said, "Hanukkah for me symbolizes unity, heroism, light and faith. Today's soldiers are the heroes and together with you, the residents, we have unity and light."

The community of Karmei Tzur said, "The existence of such a complex event from an operational perspective at this tense time is an important statement. We see this as a direct continuation of the daily intensive work of the IDF commanders and soldiers in the Gush Etzion region, who protect our security and the sovereignty of the State of Israel.”

"In light of the calls which come from various parties, we are responding here clearly: This is our land, and a little bit of light and spirit will clear the great darkness," they added.