The Jerusalem Municipality was heavily criticized by Jerusalem residents and Rabbis from across the spectrum for upsetting the status quo and sponsoring interfaith Hanukkah parties.
In a forceful letter to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most influential decisors of Jewish law in the haredi community, the dean of the Netiv Aryeh Yeshiva and former Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Quarter, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, lambasted an interfaith candle-lighting event planned for Jerusalem's First Station on the seventh night of Hanukkah.
"I turn with great sorrow, heartbreak, and agitation now that I see what is published in the streets, because there is a serious trend which seeks to hold mixed Hanukkah parties with Jews, Arabs, and Christians under the auspices of the Jerusalem Municipality."
Rabbi Nebenzahl adds, "Unfortunately, this has not been stopped by those responsible for dealing with it on behalf of those who fear God and who acknowledge His name in the Knesset and in the city council."
Commentators have noted that while Judaism teaches love and respect for all people, such love at times must be expressed through rejection of unhealthy beliefs even for non-Jews, such as idol worship. "The inability of the Jerusalem municipality to withstand the subterfuge of foreign influences that challenge Israel as a whole today angers residents from the left and the right," said one resident.
The rabbi notes in his letter that the events began in Haifa and that after they received no response or protest they also reached Jerusalem.Rabbi Nebenzahl also emphasized that the event was sponsored by the municipality and funded by the station compound, "and they call it interfaith candle lighting and a Hanukkah party on the streets with rabbis, priests, and other bad influences. After all, the whole idea of Hanukkah was born of the Hasmonean wars against idolatry. How can one make a Hanukkah party out of idolatry?"
In response, Rabbi Nebenzahl urged Rav Kanievsky to "instruct the members of the Knesset, Rabbi Gafni and Rabbi Maklev, to cancel this disgrace and remove the wrath of God from our people even before this matter becomes a big phenomenon that will be much more difficult to stop afterwards".
The event and protest of Rabbi Nebenzahl were reported by haredi social activist Efraim Holtzberg.