“If you would have told me just a few months ago that I would be lighting Chanukah candles with my friends from the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, I would have said impossible. But here we are,” said Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan.
Courtesy Israel Mission to the UN
For the first time, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan hosted UN ambassadors of Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in a public event on Thursday evening to mark the final night of Chanukah.
Ambassador Erdan and Morocco’s Ambassador Omar Hilale attended the event in person, jointly lighting the final candle and reciting Jewish blessings.
Addressing Ambassador Hilale, Erdan noted the historic nature of the event, coming one week after Israel and Morocco formally established ties: “The deep connection between Morocco and the Jewish people dates back thousands of years. Renewing these relations fulfills the dream of many Israelis of Moroccan heritage, who remain proud of their roots and have a great love for the country.”
Erdan continued. “If you would have told me just a few months ago that I would be lighting Chanukah candles with my friends from the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, I would have said impossible. But here we are, sending a message of hope to the young people of our region that anything is possible.”
The event, organized by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations and co-hosted by the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, also included the participation of UN ambassadors from the United States, Albania, the United Arab Emirates, India, Bahrain, Australia, Rwanda, Guatemala and Italy, with each representative lighting a candle of the Chanukah menorah from a remote location. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna of the Jewish Council of the Emirates was the moderator.
In his remarks, Ambassador Hilale described Chanukah as “the hope for tomorrow.”
“Chanukah is the hope for tomorrow. Chanukah is peace. Chanukah is existing together. Chanukah is loving each other.Chanukah is rejecting violence. Chanukah is combating terrorism. Chanukah is building bridges between people, civilization and culture,” Hilale continued.
“We are all the sons of Abraham, and at the end of the day, we must sit together to make peace together, to exist together and to make a better future together for the next generation.”
U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said: “Today, though we are not witnessing the miracle of one day’s lamp of oil lasting eight days, we are witnessing a transformation in lands of Abrahamic faith from the Holy Land in the Levant to the Arabian Peninsula and to Africa. The Abraham Accords have transformed 2020 into a year of peace.”
UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said: “The peace accords between the UAE and Israel was a highlight in an otherwise difficult year. We’ve seen other countries following suit and we can only hope these agreements usher a new era of shared vision for peace and prosperity for our region. Chanukah is a reminder that miracles do happen.”
Bahrain Ambassador Jamal al Rowaiei observed that “tonight’s event comes at a very special time. This peace accord between our nations give us an opportunity to enhance stability, prosperity and peace in our region. As we enter this season of celebration, I would like to wish all the Jewish people in Bahrain, Israel and around the world a very happy and safe Chanukah.”
The event was shared widely on Zoom, with over 150 dignitaries, members of Jewish organizations and the general public joining.