The Ambassador of Israel to the United States, Michael Herzog, on Monday night hosted the Embassy of Israel’s annual candle-lighting ceremony to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah. The celebration was the first event that Ambassador Herzog hosted since his new posting. It was also the first in-person event hosted by the Embassy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Herzog welcomed the guests and said, “Here with us are many friends from a diverse array of backgrounds, histories, entities, and perspectives. It is with intention and purpose that I embrace that diversity, because it is part of our strength. Our doors and hearts are open to each and all of you.”
Among the guests were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Israel’s Minister of Agriculture Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), who is visiting Washington to meet with his American counterparts.
The Menorah used for the candle-lighting, 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 Zachary Oxman for the Clinton White House. The first candle was lit by Ambassador Herzog and Minister Forer and the second candle was lit by Majority Leader Schumer and Senator Cardin.
Senate Majority Leader 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 Eretz Israel. Am Israel Chai.”
Senator Cardin said, “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. And that’s why this special relationship between the United States and Israel has only grown stronger over time and we’re all proud to say that we are here to make sure that that partnership continues generation to generation and that we grow stronger, both countries, through that relationship.”
In his remarks, Ambassador Herzog talked about the struggle between light and darkness in the Middle East and Israel’s role to improve the lives of people in the region and around the world. “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.”
The Ambassador also 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. 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.”