Gallery: President attends first Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

President Kersti Kaljulaid attends first Hanukkah candle lighting.
President Kersti Kaljulaid attends first Hanukkah candle lighting. Source: Office of the President.

On Sunday President Kersti Kaljulaid attended the first candle lighting ceremony of Hanukkah at Tallinn's synagogue.

Kaljulaid gave a speech before the candle lighting and helped make bread.

After the ceremony, the president wrote on Facebook: "Today we lit the first Hanukkah candle with the Jewish community. We have an active and united Jewish community and, over the last thirty years, you have been able to restore much of what was destroyed by the German and Soviet occupations and to find new ways to advance the life of your community.

"We must stand together and be mutually supportive of freedom and against all injustice. This is what Hanukkah also tells us. A celebration of the victory of light and freedom, which reminds us that by staying true to ourselves and believing in freedom, even the worst of evil can be overcome.

"Your wisdom says that even a little light destroys much of the darkness. Then let the light come."

In Estonia there is only a small Jewish community of just under 2,000 people, compared to about 4,500 who lived in the country before the Holocaust, the director of the Estonian Jewish Museum in Tallinn, Amnon-Juzef Luvistsuk told ERR News in 2015.

In 2019 the eight-day festival of Hannukah starts at sundown on December 22 and ends on December 30. It involves lighting candles on a nine-branched candleholder known as the Hanukkiah or Hanukkah menorah

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean Revolt of 167-160BCE, in which a Jewish army rebelled against the ruling Hellenistic Seleucid Empire and won.

The Seleucids - who were culturally Greek - had outlawed Judaism and its practices, with King Antiochus attempting to make Jews pray and make sacrifices to Greek gods.

This prompted a small band of Jews to rebel against Antiochus in an effort to restore Judaism and remove the Selucids from Judea. After three years of war, this small army - known as the Maccabees - won, but their temple had been destroyed.

The Maccabees then proceeded to rebuild and cleanse the temple, and light flames to celebrate their victory. They only had enough kosher oil to burn for one day, but the flame miraculously stayed lit for eight days, giving them enough time to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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