- mayor's office
Istanbul's Jewish community celebrated the first night of the eight-day Jewish religious day known as "the Hanukkah Festival" or the Jewish Festival of Lights at the event organized by the Beşiktaş Municipality and the Turkish Jewish Community at the Esma Sultan Mansion in Ortaköy, Beşiktaş.
Last year the Beşiktaş Municipality broke a new ground by celebrating the Hanukkah Festival in a public space for the first time in the history of the modern Turkish Republic. And this year it was celebrated again in Beşiktaş, which is the district of peace and tolerance, in association with the Turkish Jewish Community.
The ceremony took place on Saturday evening, which was the first night of the Festival, as guests lit hundreds of candles to mark the day for peace, brotherhood and respect among religions and also as a sign of the common life culture that has continued between the Turkish and Jewish communities for centuries.
The celebration was attended by the Chief Rabbi of the Turkish Jewish Community Rav İsak Haleva, the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, the Archbishop Aram Ateşyan who is the Vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, the Beşiktaş Mayor Atty. Murat Hazinedar, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak, Adnan Ertem who is the Director General of the General Directorate of Foundations, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ambassador Kaan Esener, Justice and Development Party (AKP) Istanbul Deputy Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, Istanbul Deputy Governor İsmail Gültekin as well as many citizens.
The ceremony was started by the Vice President of the Turkish Jewish Community Moris Levi telling the story of the Hanukkah. Then the Beşiktaş Mayor Atty. Murat Hazinedar made a speech touching on the freedom of religion and belief. Mayor Hazinedar said, "These lands have to be the lands of respect and love. High prices have been paid in this region throughout history. We will continue to pay them, but with love and respect we will continue our existence on these lands where we have been living together for more than 500 years" and finished his words saying ‘Hag Hanuka Sameah’ (Happy Hanukkah).
The President of the Turkish Jewish Community İshak İbrahimzadeh also gave a speech and said, “It is of great importance to keep our lights on in spite of our fears during these dark days”. Mr. İbrahimzadeh also wished a Merry Christmas to the Christian citizens.
Chief Rabbi İsak Haleva also spoke at the event, saying he could not forget the moment in Ortaköy “for a lifetime,” adding that he experienced the honor of being together with others for the first night of Hanukkah.
Speaking at the event, Deputy PM Kaynak said that Turkey does not consider Jewish community as just a minority, saying that the Jewish citizens are a part of the country as much as any other citizen.
After the speeches, the invitees lit the candles altogether. The Chief Rabbi said a prayer while the candles were being lit. The event, which received a great deal of attention from the national media, ended with the sings and prayers said altogether.
Hanukkah is celebrated by Jews worldwide for eight days and nights and falls on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November to late December on the secular calendar. In Hebrew, Hanukkah means "dedication," as the holiday celebrates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory against the Seleucid monarchy in 165 B.C. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional food, games and gifts.
Starting from the first day, Jews light candles arranged in a candelabrum known as "Hanukiah." The candelabrum holds nine candles, one for each night, plus a Shamash (servant) at a different height to light the other candles. Each night, another candle is added from right to left.
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