Ukraine Jews mark ‘Festival of Lights’ amid blackouts


War-weary Ukrainian Jews gathered on Sunday for prayer and candle-lighting ceremonies to kick off Hannukah, the so-called Festival of Lights, vowing to beat blackouts attributable to persistent Russian bombardment.

In the capital’s iconic Independence Square, generally known as the Maidan, worshippers huddled collectively for heat near what officers claimed was the most important Hannukah menorah — a nine-branched candelabrum — in Europe.

The annual, eight-night “Festival of Lights” commemorates the rebel of Maccabee Jews in opposition to formidable Greek-Syrian forces starting in 167 BC, an occasion that some believers say included quite a few miracles pointing to divine windfall.

The chief rabbi of Ukraine and Kyiv, Moshe Reuven Azman, instructed AFP the story behind the wintertime pageant held “valuable lessons” for Ukraine in its resistance to ongoing Russian assaults.

“We light one small candle, but if you light it in the darkest room a small candle will push [out] a lot of darkness,” he stated.

“I say to Ukrainian people every day, we are the light and we push [out] a lot of darkness.”

Sunday’s celebrations got here two days after Russia’s newest wave of assaults left a number of cities with out energy and compelled hundreds of thousands to endure sub-zero temperatures with out heating or working water.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated late Saturday that electrical energy had been restored to almost six million Ukrainians, however famous ongoing issues with warmth and water provides and “large-scale outages” in lots of areas.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko denounced the aerial assaults in remarks on Sunday.

“The enemy wanted to leave us two days ago without light, without water, without heating,” he stated, whereas dismissing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declare that Ukraine is led by fascists and Nazis.

“It’s a symbol for the Russians, because it does not make any sense for a fascist regime to put up the biggest menorah and celebrate Hannukah.”

– Menorah ‘miracles’ –

Before Russia invaded in February, Ukraine was home to roughly 300,000 Jews, 50,000 of them within the capital, Rabbi Azman stated.

To mark the start of Hannukah final yr, Azman welcomed a whole bunch of worshippers into his synagogue within the metropolis centre.

But this yr, with authorities discouraging giant gatherings amid the specter of missile assaults, he organised a humbler ceremony, lighting a menorah as eight males lined up behind him and joined him in prayer.

He instructed AFP he had frolicked earlier within the day delivering meals parcels and drugs, driving across the metropolis in a van stocked with energy banks and USB cables for these nonetheless with out electrical energy.

The Russians “send us ballistic rockets, so we will send them kabbalistic rockets”, he stated, in a joking reference to Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

In Independence Square, Volodymir Pankoff, a Ukrainian Jew who turned out for the menorah-lighting ceremony, stated it gave him hope for a Ukrainian victory.

“The menorah shows miracles in the past and it will show miracles in the future as well. I’m sure that it will show miracles in Ukraine,” stated the 55-year-old who has volunteered to make camouflage nets for the navy.

“We are volunteering, the guys are at the front, we are praying also — and we hope that the war will finish as soon as possible.”