Jews around the world are celebrating the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, an eight-day festival that commemorates the Seulecid Empire’s attempt under Antiochus IV to force the Jews to forfeit their religious heritage in favor of adopting the Hellenistic culture.

Jews light the menorah in order to remember the miracle of Chanukah. In the Holy Temple, after the Maccabean victory, oil that was enough for only one day lasted eight days and nights.

Jews traditionally eat oily foods such as latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly-doughnuts) and svinge (Moroccan friend fritters) in commemoration of the miracle of oil. Some also enjoy dairy couscous or cheese blintzes in remembrance of the bravery of Yehudit (Judith), a Chanukah heroine who bravely defeated an enemy of Israel. In Israel, children play with a four-sided spinning top called a dreidel with the acronym for the Hebrew words “a great miracle happened here” written on it. In the Jewish Diaspora, the dreidel has the acronym for the Hebrew words “a great miracle happened there.”

The Yedioth Achronot reported that in Ohio, “the first public candle lighting” was dedicated “by a Holocaust survivor” named “Abe Weinrib, who […] said his biggest triumph was surviving the Holocaust, the Nazi campaign to eliminate Jews in Europe.” Weinrib asserted that he was arrested while working in Polish factories when he was in his 20s and spent six years imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz death camp. In New York City, Yedioth Achronot claimed that “Jews celebrated the holiday’s start with the ceremonial lighting of a 32-foot-tall menorah,” which happened to weigh 4,000 pounds, “at the edge of Central Park.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu lit a menorah and wished every member of the “House of Israel” a Happy Hanukah. Netanyahu declared, “Confronting those who wish to extinguish the great light that the Jewish people are kindling, the State of Israel stands strong and will continue to be the source of a steadfast light for the Jewish people in all generations.” In Israel, local officials also lit Hanukkah menorahs in public places, while private Jewish homes displayed the menorahs prominently by the windows of their houses.

According to the Jerusalem Post, festivities are planned for Jewish families across Israel. The Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv is presenting Looking for the Shamash for children aged five and above and their parents, which starts out with a story and evolves into an escapade. From December 9-16, the Bialik Museum is offering special walking tours and menorah making workshops. In Modiin, where the Hanukkah story actually took place, the In the Footsteps of the Maccabees Festival has free guided tours to places such as the Maccabees Graves. The tour also includes an exciting performance titled The Last of the Rebels, which incorporates ancient texts with acrobatics, music and humor.

Evidently, Hanukkah this year corresponds with the 64th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Bnei Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant, when Human Rights Day falls on Hanukkah, “when the Jewish people celebrates the triumph of freedom of religion and expression and the liberation of its ancient homeland; whether it is Jewish communities in Eastern Europe or Christians in the Middle East, the threat to human rights and human dignity is intolerable.” Indeed, the story of Hanukkah is not just a story of national liberation and freedom, but also speaks of a struggle for human rights and the dignity of man.

Reported by Rachel Avraham for United With Israel