Every year the Israeli Prime Minister leads the official opening ceremony of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This year, on the evening of December 6th, Benjamin Netanyahu gave a stirring address, paying homage to Israel’s long history as the “light of the world.” Here are his full remarks:
“2,200 years ago, a handful of Jewish fighters arose and defeated what was then a global empire. This was before the rise of Rome. The Seleucid Greek empire was then very strong and – during the reign of Antiochus IV – very cruel. Indeed, the threat was to our unity and our greatness. The Maccabees fought, first of all to restore this [spiritual]independence but they were not satisfied with only that. Part of the people wanted them to suffice with that. But they were not so inclined; they fought to restore their political independence. They understood that without political independence there was no chance of ensuring spiritual independence.
This effort, which undoubtedly ensured the future of our people, also serves as a symbol and an example to peoples in general and to the strength of a people – to strength of spirit. They dispelled the darkness – and we are fighting a great darkness today. The struggle of Israel today, as it was then, in those days at this season, is – first of all – a struggle for our existence, independence and culture but also for all humanity.
Israel is a candle in the darkness. Around us is a great darkness and here in Jerusalem, in the State of Israel, we are lifting the banner of the independence and honor of man, for the right of the Jewish People to live free in its land and in its city, the same city that the Maccabees liberated.
This battle has continued into our generation. In every generation they have risen up to destroy us and in every generation the Holy One, Blessed be He, has saved us from them, on condition that we hold the banner and candle and also the sword of Israel. And here, we are doing just that. First of all, to defend ourselves but I say we are defending all of humanity, as well as the culture of all humanity, against the unbridled brutality that the world is today beginning to understand.
This struggle is appreciated by many peoples. I was just at an international conference and I saw this appreciation, the admiration that the leaders of the world have for the State of Israel and the fact that we are fighting the darkness of radical Islam, that we are fighting terrorism on a daily basis. They have great admiration for the State of Israel and for our soldiers. Here you are, doing this holy work on a daily basis and many times I am with the Public Security Minister and the Defense Minister in the field, and I see your actions, your sacrifice and your heroism.
We can raise soldiers’ salaries as we did today but your true salary is your contribution to the Glory of Israel, and the Glory of Israel does not lie. Here we are, standing near the Holy of Holies, not far from there. We can overcome any obstacle and any challenge and I believe that this is a symbol today, especially at his time, of the restoration of Israel and of the Glory of Israel.
With G-d’s help, very many around the world understand this more and more with the passing of time. I want to say the blessing over the first candle of Hanukkah. I want to wish the entire People of Israel a Happy Hanukkah.”