During the eight days of Hanukah, a broad coalition of social change and religious organizations supported and sponsored by NIF/ SHATIL are holding a “Share the Light” series of events to counter the extremist "Price Tag" incidents that have outraged much of Israeli society.
Despite the cold and holiday thoughts of home, hundreds of people packed Paris Square in the heart of Jerusalem for a particularly moving Hanukah candle lighting last night. The ceremony was attended by representatives of NIF grantee and social change organizations across the spectrum of Israeli civil society.
The site of the event was highly significant: ten minutes away is a mosque that was torched last week, its walls defaced with obscene Islamophobic graffiti. Five minutes away stands the home of Hagit Ofran, a Peace Now activist who monitors settlement expansion, and whose apartment building has been repeatedly defaced by vile graffiti, complete with death threats alluding to Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.
In these and many other attacks, the assailants left their "Price Tag" signature, meaning the price radical extremists exact in response to any government attempt to close down new settlements. In response, the signature of the campaign in Hebrew means “Light Tag."
“Every day, in a different location inside Israel and in the West Bank where these violent radicals have struck, we will come with our response of light, tolerance and peace,” said Rachel Liel, NIF Israel Executive Director.
The message of the campaign – “Together against Terror” – was a daring one to bring to the middle of Jerusalem, as evidenced by the loud catcalling and whistling from the other side of the phalanx of police officers, police cars and barricades. However, the hecklers’ efforts boomeranged, provoking the speakers to raise their voices and the crowd to cheer with more defiant spirit.
Quoting Zionist visionary A.D. Gordon, Ofran told the crowd: “The meaning of Hanukah is the victory of light over darkness, and the way to defeat the darkness is to increase the light. Whenever ultra-nationalist outlaws torch mosques and vandalize Muslim cemeteries, whenever they burn Palestinian olive groves, whenever they assault peace activists or army officers,” she said, “we will be there to say, ‘This is forbidden. This will not pass.’”
The sites for the rest of the candle-lightings reflect that mission. Activists will light candles at mosques that were torched in Palestinian and Israeli Arab villages; at the home of the Israeli army’s chief prosecutor, which was defaced with graffiti; at Jaffa’s vandalized Muslim cemetery and at an Arab-owned restaurant that was destroyed by arson.
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Tonight, the second night of Hanukah, activists will gather in a show of solidarity at the home of Jamal Yussef in the West Bank village of Asira. The family home has been repeatedly vandalized and been the target of Molotov cocktails from terrorists in the neighboring Jewish settlement of Yizhar. Tonight’s visitors will bring a barbed wire fence and metal defenses to protect the home from future attacks.
On the last night of Hanukah, outgoing NIF president Naomi Chazan will be lighting the candle.
Gadi Gvaryahu, head of NIF grantee 12 Heshvan, an Orthodox group named for the Hebrew date of Rabin’s assassination, is the driving force behind the campaign. In addition to NIF/SHATIL, 29 NGOs are participating in the campaign ranging from the Reform, Conservative and secular Jewish movements to Yerushalom and Eretz Shalom, two West Bank settler groups dedicated to tolerance; the Orthodox Jewish kibbutz movement; Bina, founder of the world’s first secular yeshiva, and Kolech Religious Women's Forum, Israel’s first Orthodox Jewish feminist organization.
The light lit by the shamash and first candle of the menorah set up in Paris Square, the atmosphere warmed by the presence and spirit of hundreds of committed people, NIF executive board member Talia Sasson said: “Without freedom, equality and human rights, even 1,000 candles cannot light the darkness. But if we make our stand against the arsonists and vandals, against the enforcers of silence and hatred, then just one modest, small candle will be enough. Happy Hanukah.”