| Celebrations Around the Globe Honoring Israel’s 50th Anniversary
December 23, 1997
World Leaders Light First Hanukkah Candle Honoring Israel’s 50th Anniversary
In one of the special projects undertaken by the Foreign Ministry to mark Israel’s 50th anniversary, some 33 leaders around the world marked the opening of festivities on Tuesday, December 23, 1997 with the lighting of the first Hanukkah candle, which coincided with the jubilee. Among the prominent figures were US President Bill Clinton, who lit a Hanukkah candle in the White House together with pupils from a Jewish school; the Prime Minister of Great Britain; the President of Germany; the Prime Minister of France; the Prime Minister of Austria; the Prime Minister of Thailand; President of Georgia; and the President of Italy, who lit the Hanukkah candle under the Arch of Titus, and many more. The full list is as follows:
Presidents: United States, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Costa Rica, Slovenia, Cyprus, Ireland, Georgia, Finland, Uruguay, Ecuador, Latvia, Moldova, Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic, and Macedonia.
Prime Ministers: Great Britain, Canada, France, Bulgaria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, the Netherlands, Romania, and Italy (in addition to the president).
Other leaders: New Zealand – the Maori Queen; Myanmar – foreign minister; Germany/Berlin – mayor (also the local prime minister); Uruguay – vice president, president of the house of representatives (in addition to the president); Romania – foreign minister, president of the senate (in addition to the prime minister); Austria – deputy chancellor, foreign minister; Bolivia – foreign minister (in addition to the president); Holy See – foreign minister and representative of the Pope; Czech Republic – chairman of the senate; Sweden – most senior minister; Philippines – foreign minister; Russia – minister of culture; Belarus – foreign minister; Italy – deputy prime minister, minister of culture; Korea – only woman minister, deputy foreign minister.
Following is a synopsis of the activities which launched the special celebrations honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.
Note: Listed alphabetically by city.
Atlanta, Georgia – The opening event took place in an impressive function in the Jewish Federation Building. Among the hundreds of guests present were the Mayor of Atlanta and senior officials. Representatives of Jewish organizations lit 50 candles and signed a huge banner of congratulations for Israel’s anniversary which will be presented at the Jewish Federation Congress in Jerusalem in 1998. Similar events were held in several cities in the vicinity: Nashville, Tennessee; Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; Gainsborough and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Boston, Massachusetts – Governor Cellucci lit the Hanukkah candle in the State House in the presence of the Speaker. Members of the House listened to the Governor’s remarks, and a special greeting from President Clinton, highlighting the significance of Hanukkah, was read to the audience.
A separate event was hosted by the Mayor of Boston in the Municipality in the presence of honored guests. The Mayor mentioned the symbolism of the holiday and the special significance this year due to Israel’s 50th anniversary.
Chicago, Illinois – A moving ceremony took place in the Jewish Federation building in the presence of the Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Chairman of the Jewish Federation read a blessing composed especially in honor of Israel’s 50th anniversary.
Columbus, Ohio – The Governor of Ohio Voinovich hosted a candle-lighting ceremony attended by representatives of the Jewish communities in Ohio. He expressed his satisfaction and endorsement of the strong bond between the State of Ohio and Israel.
Miami, Florida – Senator Gutman gave the opening remarks during the candle-lighting ceremony which took place at a pedestrian mall. Over 100 invitees were present including hundreds more from the general public. The President of the Jewish Federation held a separate ceremony in the Jewish Federation building in which many Jewish community leaders participated.
New York, New York – Mayor of New York Giuliani saluted Israel’s 50th Anniversary in City Hall with the lighting of the Hanukkah candle. NBC’s "Today Show" was broadcast from the street, interviewing members of the Israeli Scouts and Young Maccabee. A short marathon was held from the Jewish Heritage Museum to the World Trade Center, where a ceremony took place with the participation of the general public, including a performance by a children’s choir.
Ottawa, Canada – A special ceremony in the Parliament House, attended by over 900 people, was hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, the diplomatic corps, and representatives of the Jewish community. The Prime Minister spoke warmly about Israel’s achievements and mentioned the strong and friendly relations between the two countries.
Sacramento, California – Governor Pete Wilson was the guest of honor in a Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the state capital. Over 1000 guests were in attendance representing the Jewish community and senior officials.
San Francisco, California – This years unique annual candle-lighting ceremony was quite an attraction. A 30-meter tall Hanukkah menorah was the center of attraction in a lively pedestrian mall. The torches were lit in the presence of Mayor Brown who spoke about the symbolism of the holiday and the impressive achievments of the State of Israel.
Toronto, Canada – Ontario’s Parliament Garden was the setting for the candle lighting ceremony in which the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General participated. The ceremony continued in the lobby of the building where 50 candles were lit by 50 central figures from the community. The audience was invited to a sing-along and to complimentary doughnuts in honor of the holiday. Over 5,000 people attended these impressive festivities.
the Arch of
left to right:
Dublin, Ireland – The newly inaugurated President Mary McAleese lit the candle inaugurating Israel’s 50th anniversary. The audience was composed of the diplomatic corps, Ministers, Parliament Members, Chief-of-Staff Gerald McMahon, senior businessmen, and Jewish community leaders. The President reminded the participants (over 400) of the symbolism of Hanukkah and the shared roots of Judaism and Christianity. She wished Israel continued success in its achievements, and peace for the whole region. The ceremony was followed by a prestigious classical concert and a toast to Israel’s continued prosperity.
Hague, Netherlands – An impressive ceremony took place in City Hall in the presence of Prime Minister Kok, the Mayor, Jewish community leaders, rabbis, head of the Catholic Church, representatives of the Christian communities, the diplomatic corps, and others. Over 700 watched as the huge 3-meter Hanukkah menorah was lit. Prime Minister Kok conveyed his hopes that cooperative efforts between the two countries will continue and will further encourage the enhanced relations of other countries in the region.
London, England – Prime Minister Tony Blair was among the first of the world leaders to light a Hanukkah candle commemorating Israel’s 50th anniversary in his home near Newcastle. The unique ceremony, in the presence of Blair’s family, was broadcast live over the BBC morning news program and international service. In the evening a reception was held for the Board of Deputies with the participation of over 200 guests, at which President Aldred Tabaznick delivered the opening remarks.
Munich, Germany – President Herzog had the honor of lighting the Hanukkah candle in a special ceremony in Munich. Over 500 attended the event including Mayor Ude and Jewish community leader Mr. Bubis.
Nicosia, Cyprus – A joyous ceremony was held at the Israeli Ambassador’s residence in the presence of President Clerides, the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, as well as the Ministers of Industry and Trade, Tourism, Agriculture, Education, Police and Justice and other leading figures. The guests enjoyed listening to the tunes of a Cypriot choir and an opera singer singing Hanukkah songs. President Clerides expressed his support for the strong relations between the two countries and congratulated Israel on its 50th anniversary.
Paris, France – Prime Minister Lionel Jospin led the ceremony for Israel’s 50th anniversary in the grand halls of the Prime Minister’s Office. The audience was composed of the 300 guests were eight ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, prominent figures of the Jewish community.
Rome, Italy – An impressive ceremony took place under the Arch of Titus with the participation of thousands of Rome’s residents and in the presence of the senior members of the Italian government. Prime Minister Prodi conveyed his good wishes for Israel on behalf of the government and for a lasting peace process. Also attending were Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Mayor of Rome, and Chief Rabbi of Rome Elio Toaff.
Holy See, Vatican – A most unique Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony was performed by Cardinal Cassidy in the gardens of the Vatican in the presence of Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran.
Stockholm, Sweden – The celebration took place in the main hall of the Jewish community with over 300 guests present. The Hanukkah candle was lit by Minister Tage G. Peterson and among the attendees were figures from across the political spectrum, municipality and activists in Jewish organizations.
Vienna, Austria – The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr. Wolfgang Schuessel was the guest of honor in the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony which took place in the Central Synagogue of Vienna. This event launched Israel’s 50th anniversary in the presence of the diplomatic corps and the Chief Rabbi.
Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan – Over 200 gathered in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate in the opening ceremony marking Israel’s 50th anniversary. The Minister of Culture had the honor of lighting the first candle of Hanukkah before representatives of the diplomatic corps and the Jewish community.
Baku, Azerbaijan – Prime Minister Artur Rasizade lit the candle in the festive ceremony launching Israel’s 50th anniversary which took place in a theatre which once functioned as a synagogue. Also present were Foreign Minister Hassan Hassanov and the Chairman of the Parliament.
Kiev, Ukraine – The National Theater of Kiev was the host of the opening festivities of Israel’s 50th anniversary. Over 700 guests enjoyed a formal candle lighting ceremony followed by the premiere of the Israeli play "Games in the Backyard" by Edna Mazya. After the performance, the audience was treated to traditional holiday doughnuts.
Prague, Czech Republic – A ceremony was held in the central synagogue to mark Israel’s 50th anniversary took place in the presence of the Minister of Industry and Trade, leaders of the Jewish community, members of the diplomatic corps, and the media.
Riga, Latvia – Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis lit the first Hanukkah candle at a special ceremony.
Skopje, F.Y.R.O.M. – Over 300 guests joined in the festivities to mark Israel’s 50th anniversary including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Ljubomir Frchkovski, Minister of Interior, Minister of Health and other officials. The President Kiro Gligorov had the honor of lighting the first candle of Hanukkah.
Sofia, Bulgaria – The Prime Minister of Bulgaria Mr. Ivan Kostov lit the first Hanukkah candle in the Sofia synagogue in a ceremony marking Israel’s 50th anniversary. Over 400 gathered, among them ministers, parliament members, representatives of the diplomatic corps, the Christian and Jewish communities.
Tbilisi, Georgia – In the lavish National Opera House of Tbilisi, the festivities took place in the presence of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. The hall was filled to capacity with over 1100 guests, including the First Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture, and others.
Carlos Menem with
Brasilia, Brazil – The traditional ceremony of the Hanukkah candle lighting took place in the Israeli Ambassador’s residence in the presence of local Jewish community leaders and friends. Over 200 hundred guests enjoyed the musical talent of local children singing Israeli songs and a greeting from President Ezer Weizman to the people of Brazil.
Sao Paulo, Brazil – In a public square in Sao Paulo, a beautiful church, Nossa Senhora Do Brasil, was decorated with Israeli and Brazilian flags. Over 300 guests from the local government, municipality, and representatives of the Jewish community signed the guest book. Mr. Salomao Schwartzman, a local TV anchor, hosted the lively ceremonies and artistic performance. The evening ended with an extravagant firework exhibition. The President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso sent his recorded message to the gathering via a wide screen.
Buenos Aires, Argentina– President Menem celebrated Israel’s 50th year by lighting the Hanukkah candle in his residence in Buenos Aires. For the general public, a large performance by Chava Alberstein, (Israel) and Fito Paez (Argentina) gave an impressive performance to a crowd over 5,000. The gala festivity ended with a spectacular firework exhibition.
La Paz, Bolivia – The impressive event took place in the Central Bank in the presence of President Suarez. Among the 550 guests were the Foreign Minister, senators, senior army figures, and members of the diplomatic corps.
Montevideo, Uruguay – The ceremony which took place in the House of Parliament, included President Dr. Julio Maria Sanguinetti, Vice President Dr. Hugo Batalla, Minister of Interior Dr. Didier Opertti, Minister of Defense Raul Iturria, Minister of Education Samuel Lichtensztein, and representatives of the army and international organizations.
Quito, Ecuador – The candle lighting ceremony took place in the presence of President Dr. Fabian Alarcon in a prestigious hall in the capital. Among the 400 honored guests were the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Jose Ayala Lasso, President of the Supreme Court, the diplomatic corps, senior army representatives, congressmen, and members of the Jewish community. The President spoke warmly of the relations between the two countries.
San Jose, Costa Rica – The ceremony took place at the Israeli Ambassador’s residence in the presence of President Jose Maria Figueres Olsen, President of the Legislative Assembly Weisleder, Minister of Health Wolfowiez, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Jimenez, representatives of the diplomatic corps, and leaders of the Jewish community. The President blessed the Hanukkah candle both in Hebrew and in Spanish to the surprise of the 200 gathered.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – The festivities took place in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs with over 300 guests in attendance. The Foreign Minister emphasized the friendly relations which have existed between the two countries since the founding of the State of Israel.
Asmara, Eritrea – A festive reception was held at the Israeli Embassy in Asmara to mark Israel’s 50th anniversary. The honored guest to light the candle was the Minister of Foreign Affairs Haile Woldensae. Also present among the 250 guests were the Ministers of Justice, Energy, Finance, Industry and Trade, as well as the Head of the Catholic Church, academics, representatives of the diplomatic corps and other top officials. The guests enjoyed the tunes of Israeli music and the flavors of Israeli dishes.
Harare, Zimbabwe – The guest of honor of the festivities to mark Israel’s 50th was Mayor of Harare Tabengwa. Over 250 guests were present in the ceremony which included the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Christian communities, and former participants in the MASHAV training courses. Similar modest ceremonies took place in the Jewish communities throughout Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.
Tunis, Tunisia – For the first time in Tunis, a joyous event observing Israel 50th anniversary integrated with a Hanukkah candle-lighting took place. Over 200 guests attended the reception, including prominent members of the diplomatic corps, members of the Jewish community and the Archbishop of Tunis. The symbolism of Hanukkah was conveyed to those gathered and best wishes for Christmas and Ramadan were exchanged. The audience then enjoyed a contemporary Israeli singer whose family originated from Tunis.
the Maori Queen
Bangkok, Thailand – Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai was the guest of honor in the ceremony which set off the festivities in Bangkok. He was accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce Supachai, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Surin Pitsuwan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Paribatra and others. The Prime Minister wished continued prosperity for Israel and peace to the region.
Canberra, Australia – The festivities took place in the Jewish Community Center in the presence of Chief Minister Kate Carnel.
Manila, Philippines – The Minister of Foreign Affairs joined in the celebration which marked Israel’s 50th anniversary. The guest list was comprised of members of the diplomatic corps, the local Jewish community, academics and local businesspeople. In his speech, the Foreign Minister congratulated Israel on its achievements and wished for a lasting peace in the region.
Melbourne, Australia – A most colorful event took place in the central park for thousands of guests.
Sidney, Australia – The festive event took place in the Jewish museum in the presence of Prime Minister Howard who had the privilege of lighting the Hannukah candle.
Wellington, New Zealand – In an exceptional event, the Maori Queen presided as guest of honor to light the first candle of Hanukkah. Over 250 guests gathered in the Central Hall of the Parliament Building to celebrate the occasion, including mayors, Parliament members, members of the diplomatic corps and leaders of the Jewish community.