il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

LEADERS Hanukkah in Rome

hanukkahBy Rachel Silvera

The Hanukkah party organized last Tuesday by the Israeli Embassy in Italy has become an annual tradition. This year however something changed to make it even more special.

On their arrival, the guests were welcomed into the warm rooms of the Jewish Museum of Rome, where they found dozens of dreidels on a large table and thus were immediately drawn into the typical atmosphere of Hanukkah.

“Welcome dear guests,” said Kobi Peretz on the behalf of the Embassy “now you can play with your dreidels, the typical Hanukkah spinning top, and the winner will get a trip to Israel offered by the Israeli airline El Al”. After the game, guests were able to visit the museum and learn a bit about the Jewish religion and the significance of the festival of Hanukkah. They could also visit the exposition, “First of all Italians”, dedicated to the role of the Roman Jews in the First World War.

The guests then moved into the Synagogue for the lighting of the seventh candle of the Menorah with the chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, the ambassador of Israel Naor Gilon and rabbi Alberto Funaro. Kobi Regev, the Defence and Armed Forces Attaché of Israeli Embassy explained to the public the end of the dark period which is commemorated during the festival of Hanukkah: “In 167 BCE, the Maccabees fought to reconquer the Temple, desecrated by the Greeks who, guided by Antioco Epiphanes, had filled the land of Israel with idols and pagan symbols. This festival gives us the opportunity to open our hearts and show the world our courage. We are still alive thanks to this bravery. I want you to know that I am proud to be a soldier of the State of Israel and that I will fight again for the Jewish people’s right to exist”.

The president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici also said, “Faced with the many guests who today are wearing their military uniforms, I have to remember the relationship of mutual solidarity that characterizes Italy and Israel. So many times we gathered together to mourn the death of our soldiers and our civilians. And I must remind you that in Jerusalem we planted a forest in memory of the fallen Italian soldiers in Nasiriya. I conclude by thanking the Italian police and army which did not abandon us and ensured the safety of our schools and our synagogues.”

The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Renzo Gattegna returned to the story of Hanukkah: “During the reign of the Seleucids, all the temples of Israel were desecrated; even the temple of Jerusalem was dedicated to Zeus. But the Jews were able to defeat the enemy and defend their identity. The event that we are celebrating today is therefore a symbol of the power of the spirit and light. Italy and Israel have always had a strong relationship and it is particularly interesting to think that both countries were created in 1948.
In 1948 Italy promulgated its Constitution. Since that time Italy has had an easier existence than Israel as Israel is still fighting for its’ survival. Today we must pray that the light shines over darkness again and that finally the peoples of the four corners of the Earth can live in peace.”

Ambassador Gilon highlighted the example of the story of the Maccabees, “Faced with the problems of life we have to do as our ancestors did; be strong and arm ourselves with hope.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, rabbi Riccardo Di Segni added: “You have already explained what this holiday means, but I will try to add something. The Hanukkah period also coincides with the birth of the Jewish Community of Rome because, in an attempt to seek an alliance with the bitter enemies of the Greeks and the Romans this was the first exchange between them and the Israelites.
It is also curious how the Book of Maccabees is canonical for Catholics but not for Jews. However this story is still celebrated by the Jewish people and not by others. But there is a reason for this: If the Maccabees had not fought for their freedom to worship, Judaism would no longer exist and would have not allowed Christianity to be created.”