Families of hostages light Hanukkah candles
Families of hostages light Hanukkah candlesIlan Ben Oudiz

The families of the hostages lit on Thursday night the “Hostages' Menorah” with 138 candles, representing all the hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza. The event took place with the participation of US Ambassador to Israel Jacob Lew, who arrived to support the families and joined the call for the immediate return of the hostages.

Released hostage Amit Shani and young women from hard-hit Kfar Aza also attended, pleading for the release of those still held in Gaza.

Shani said, "I am excited and happy to stand here tonight on the first candle-lighting night of Hanukkah, here on Israeli soil. I want to thank everyone who worked towards my release and the release of the other hostages. We must keep fighting until the last hostage returns."

Raz Itamari and Shani Kaner, young women from Kfar Aza whose friends are held captive in Gaza, said, "We cry out and plead - return all the hostages home now, as soon as possible. You all know what happened on October 7th, you heard the horror stories in the news and read countless posts on social media. We in Kfar Aza have been living a nightmare for 62 days. We lost 63 residents who were brutally murdered, alongside dozens who were kidnapped to Gaza. To our great joy, 11 kidnapped residents have recently returned to us. Along with warm embraces and many tears of joy, they recount in choked-up voices the horrors they endured. We care for their wellbeing. People speak with us of rehabilitation, but we cannot recover without all hostages returning home."

Ambassador Lew said, "Within this tragic war, we are reminding here tonight that light will always ultimately triumph over darkness. The United States stands by Israel now and always. We are committed to building here a future of lasting peace and security. We will not cease action until all 138 hostages return home."

Rabbi Michael Melchior, President of Meitarim Network and Chief Rabbi of Norway, added, "This place has become holy due to your struggle. Our soldiers fighting on the frontlines operate relentlessly towards bringing the hostages back. Meanwhile, Jewish communities across the world are lighting Hanukkah candles for the hostages alongside us. Not only during wartime do I believe that only together – religious, secular, and traditional – will we succeed. We are one people with one song. On the Hanukkah holiday, I plead in this holy place before the Creator that there will be a miracle and all 138 hostages will return home in peace."