US President Donald Trump celebrated the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the White House, only one day after declaring Jerusalem (al-Quds) Israel’s capital and setting off criticism and clashes around the world.
Interjected during his speech by applause from a largely Jewish audience, Trump declared that “our world is more full of promise – because of the Jewish people, the state of Israel”.
Trump’s comments are expected to promote further anger and discontent to his decision around the world, and appear to reflect the US President’s disregard and defiance to the worldwide condemnations and opposition to his decision.
Date: 7 December, 2017
US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Well, I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room. (Applause.) Jerusalem.
Thank you. And Melania and I are thrilled to welcome you and so many wonderful friends to the White House. We wish you a very happy Hanukkah, and I think this one will go down as especially special. (Applause.)
I am also proud that my beautiful grandchildren – Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore – have joined us tonight – (applause) – right here as we celebrate with all of you the sacred traditions that they observe each year at home.
This evening we gather to celebrate the story that is told in Jewish homes across the country and all over the world, a story that began more than 2,000 years ago with a tyrant – made practicing the Jewish faith punishable by death. He desecrated the Jewish temple, including the ‘Holy of Holies’. But a small band of Jewish patriots rose up, defeated a mighty army, and soon reclaimed their freedom.
But the miracle of the Maccabees did not end there. As they prepared to rededicate the temple, they found only enough oil to light the lamp for a single night. Soon, all were stunned to find that for eight days, the lamp continued to burn brightly – a sign of God’s presence in his dwelling place and a symbol of the faith and resilience of the Jewish people. You do have faith and you do have resilience. (Applause.)
The miracle of Hanukkah is the miracle of Israel. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have endured unthinkable persecution and oppression.
But no force has ever crushed your spirit, and no evil has ever extinguished your faith. And that is why the Jewish people shine as a light to all nations. And right now I’m thinking about what’s going on and the love that’s all over Israel and all about Jerusalem. (Applause.)
On behalf of all Americans, I also want to say how grateful I am for Jewish congregations throughout our country. You cherish your families, support your communities, and uplift our beloved country.
Hanukkah is a time for Jewish families around the world to celebrate the miracles of the past and promises of the future. We are proud to stand with the people of Israel and to renew our enduring bond.
Today, we are honored to have with us the congregation’s 10th spiritual leader since the American Revolution, Rabbi Soloveichik. (Applause.) That wasn’t bad. You think that’s an easy one? It’s not. (Laughter.) Thank you, Rabbi, very much for being with us. Thank you, thank you for being with us. We’re also – but he’s so happy with yesterday, that he doesn’t care if I get it exact. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you, Rabbi.
We’re also deeply honoured that Louise Lawrence-Israëls is here to share this evening with us and to make a few remarks. Louise is a Holocaust survivor. The first three years of her life were spent in hiding in an attic out of Amsterdam, a row house in Amsterdam – amazing story and amazing situation to be in.
Her family could not light the candles that we’re about to light this evening, but they lit them in their hearts.
We thank God that a woman who was born into that nightmare of oppression now lives in this land of the free, and that she, along with everyone here tonight, can light the menorah for all the world to see. And the world is watching.
Today, our nation is stronger, and our world is more full of promise – because of the Jewish people, the state of Israel, and the faith that burns so brightly in your hearts.
May you all have — (applause) — thank you, thank you, thank you very much.
RABBI MEIR SOLOVEICHIK:
Jerusalem ofcourse, lies at the very heart and soul of every Jew and Judaism itself. We pray three times a day for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the light of Hanukkah represents not only the undying light of Judaism, but the light of Jerusalem itself, that burns in every Jewish soul. And so, now that we have received very joyous tidings, because, for the first time since the founding of the state of Israel, an American president has courageously declared what we have always proclaimed, which is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – (applause) – we therefore bless God, who has allowed us to live to see this joyous day, and so we say: