17.01.2011 Alessandro Di Maio

Hanukkah and Christmas in Jerusalem

Thousands of Jewish people celebrated Zot Hanukkah, the last day of Hanukkah last week. In front of the Wailing Wall in East Jerusalem, kids were running and playing, adults praying. With the end of Hanukkah Jerusalem prepares for Christmas.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festivity that usually falls around December. It's an eight-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt in 200 BCE.

Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights and it is observed by Jewish people all over the world - in particular in Israel - kindling the lights of the Menorah, the unique nine-branched Jewish candelabrum, praying and singing religious songs.

Especially for Zot Hanukkah, the Jewish quarter of the walled city of Jerusalem has been illuminated for all day by artificial coloured lights. Hundreds of families had the possibility to meet, sharing dinner and praying together.

Moreover, rabbis coming from different synagogues have been dislocated in different point of the city to lead the prayer and lighting the nine candles of the Menorah.

A big Menorah has been positioned also in front of the Wailing Wall and used by participants as background for group and family photos. Kids and teenagers were playing and running all over the Kotel, the square in front of the Wall, while adults - divided between men and women as requested by the Jewish religious tradition - were praying and singing.

At 9 p.m., after the lighting of the candles, an old white-haired orthodox Rabbi blessed a few people. Daniel, a 29-years-old Australian Jew, was one of those. “I am really happy to be here, finally I know the meaning of being a Jew. I always ignored my religion and my roots, but here I discovered a new identity”, he said.

Like thousands of other Jewish people living abroad, Daniel came to Israeli for his first time especially for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, the lights of hope for a better future. With the end of Hanukkah the city of Jerusalem - in particular the Christian sector - is ready for another most important festivity, Christmas.

Article published by Digital Journal on December 22, 2010.