Herzog said that the “Jewish connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs is unquestionable,” sparking anger from the Palestinian Authority.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Herzog lit the first of the eight Hanukkah candles, in what marked the first time that an Israeli president has marked the holiday at the site.
“Even today, with all the [political] complexity, the Jewish connection to the Cave of the Patriarchs is unquestionable and recognition of this connection should be beyond dispute,” said Herzog during the ceremony.
“When we are united around the wonderful light of Hanukkah candles, it is important to…respect the Israeli state and its principles, listen more to each other, respect [our] differences, build bridges to preserve our togetherness, [while avoiding] hurting each individual and community, their opinions and beliefs.”
But Herzog’s relatively benign statements about the well-established historical connection between the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Jewish people appeared to rub some the wrong way.
In a statement on Monday morning, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry said the candle-lighting set a “dangerous precedent” and criticized Herzog for his “participation… in the Israelization and Judaization” an Islamic holy site.
Referring to the burial place of Jewish patriarch Abraham as the “Ibrahim Mosque,” the PA said that the “occupation authorities” were “attempting to establish [the site’s] Judaism.”
“Herzog did not go to light the first candle, he went to inflame Hebron,” raged Joint List chair Ayman Odeh on Twitter.
“Whoever celebrates with supporters of the killer [Baruch] Goldstein can not be the president of all the citizens of the country.”
The Yesha Council commended Herzog for his visit on Sunday evening.
“We congratulate the President of the State of Israel, Yitzhak Herzog, on his arrival in Hebron today. On the first candle of Hanukkah, President Herzog chose to miraculously elevate the long-standing historical connection of the people of Israel to this land,” the statement read.
“We thank him for this and see great importance in connecting with Israel to the glorious heritage in the land of the Bible and especially in Hebron, the city of the patriarchs.”