Public Menorah Lit By Turkish Jews For First Time In Country’s History

yuuuuFor the first time in modern Turkey’s history, Jewish citizens held Sunday a public menorah lighting ceremony. The event was held in Istanbul’s Ortaköy district and was attended and endorsed by state officials.

The ceremony was organized by the local municipality and the district leader from the Republican People’s Party Murat Hazinedar wished for the Hanukkah candles to “enlighten the world,” before the menorah was lit. A number of other government officials and members of the Jewish population, including Turkey’s Jewish community leader Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, attended the event, which coincided with the eighth and final night of Hanukkah. Ibrahimzadeh gave a speech that called for national unity and offered “heartfelt thanks” to Turkey.

A swath of people from different religions stood in the square to celebrate the holiday known as the Festival of Lights, images from the ceremony showing a packed crowd watching the menorah be lit.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivered last week a Hanukkah message that called for continued acceptance of all religions and people, which he said was a reason Turkey had become an important nation in the region. “With these thoughts, I wish peace, happiness and welfare to all Jews, primarily Turkey’s Jewish citizens who are an inseparable part of our society, on the occasion of Hanukkah,” Erdogan said. “I wish a culture of peace and tolerance to dominate the world and an immediate end to violence and hatred.”