On Sunday night, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett lit the eighth candle of Hanukkah at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron accompanied by IDF soldiers.
Hebron spokesman Noam Arnon set great significance to the act, saying, “There is a direct line from the Patriarchs to King David to the Hasmoneans and now to the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel”
He explained his intention to Breaking Israel News.
“5,000 years of Jewish history that began here in Hebron is one unbroken line,” Arnon said. “When an official of the Jewish government lights a Hanukkah candle in Hebron, this creates another point in this line of history, renewing our presence in the city and in the land. It is one moment but in this place, it becomes part of Jewish history, connecting everything.”
“Naftali Bennett is one man, a politician, but he is a symbol of Jewish independence in the land of Israel. This has been renewed after 2,000 years. The last time that a Jewish leader of a Jewish army lit Hanukkah candles like this was in the days of the Hasmoneans.”
“There are many expectations and many disappointments along the way but the disappointments do not cancel out the greatness of what is taking place here,” Arnon concluded.
Bennett was also moved by the event.
“I cannot think of a better place to light the last candle of Hanukkah,” Bennett said. “Anyone who chooses to live here is a hero to me. Hebron is like the heart — and without the heart, the whole body won’t survive.”
Bennett clearly connects with the Biblical city. Earlier this month, he approved the construction of a new neighborhood for Jews in an area known as the Wholesale Market. The buildings were purchased by Jews in 1807 and the deed, written under the Ottoman Empire, is still on display in Hebron. The Jews were forced to flee in the wake of the Arab pogroms of 1929 and again in 1936. Jordan illegally annexed the city in 1948. In 1960, the Jordanians built up the neighborhood into an open-air market. Israel reconquered the city in the 1967 Six-Day War but, Jews were prevented from returning. Jewish properties, including the Market, were leased to Jordan by the Israeli government.
In 2001, a Palestinian sniper killed ten-month-old Shalhevet Pass as her father walked through the market. The Jewish community responded by expressing their rights as owners to the market and eight families took up residence in the market, converting the stalls into living quarters.
The Arabs demanded that the Jews be evicted but the Israeli courts were left at an impasse. The Attorney-General’s office notified the Supreme Court that the Arabs no longer had any legal rights to the market but decided that Israeli “trespassers” would be evicted from the site.
With a personal history of being a commando in the IDF and later as a software entrepreneur, Bennett combines both in his new job defending Israel. Last Wednesday, he signed an order to seize payments totaling hundreds of thousands of shekels the Palestinian Authority is making to the families of eight Arab Israelis convicted of terror.
Bennett has already brought his religious observance to his office. While still very new to the job, he ended an IDF Chief of Staff meeting in November by reciting a special blessing for Israel.
Israel Defense Minister @naftalibennett lights the Eighth Candle at the Tomb of the Forefathers and Mothers in #Hebron. Spokesman Noam Arnon: “There is a direct line from the Patriarchs to King David to the Hasmoneans and now to the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel” pic.twitter.com/tem3VtMQJO
— Yishai Fleisher 🕎 ישי פליישר (@YishaiFleisher) December 30, 2019