Thursday, May 23, 2024

In Tel Aviv, Israelis gathered once again on Thursday evening in the square where protesters have been calling for the release of hostages in Gaza for two months. However, this time they came together to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.

Attendees held signs with the faces of the 138 people still held hostage and wore T-shirts, necklaces, and yellow bracelets that demanded “bring them home now.” They expressed that this year’s Hanukkah was not a holiday to stay home, but one to unite and support each other.

Julia Ferment said, “Perhaps there’s something in the power of getting together. Perhaps some of this energy, this strength, gets to them.”

Relatives of hostages, groups of friends, and soldiers huddled quietly close to a long table with 138 candles, one for each missing loved one. Family members and friends were invited to light the yellow candles and were embraced by the crowd afterward.

The Hanukkah blessings, which in Jewish tradition are repeated on eight nights, held a new meaning for the hundreds that sang along, some with tears in their eyes, some with their eyes sealed shut, hands on heart.

A few miles south in Ramla, another group of Israelis gathered to celebrate the beginning of the holiday at an army base. Reservists, many with families back home, enjoyed traditional Hanukkah pastries called sufganiyot during dinner.

Rabbi Arie Levin gathered the group around a table holding the doughnuts and a menorah and spoke about finding light in darkness before lighting a candle.

After lighting the menorah, the soldiers danced to a traditional Hanukkah song in Ramla, while in Tel Aviv, the crowd chanted “Now, now, now, now” as the candles were aflame.

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