The spirit of the Chanukah holiday is noticeably palpable throughout Israel this week. Schoolchildren are on vacation, “Happy Chanukah Holiday!” messages are displayed on public buses as well as office buildings, and Chanukah menorahs adorn city light posts. One of the city’s notable sites where the Chanukah holiday has particular significance is Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
“Many people come to the Kotel to participate and also to remember that here is the location that is closest to where the Chanukah miracle of the oil flask occurred,” Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “The miracle of the oil flask happened in the Temple, and the Western Wall’s Chanukah menorah is the closest menorah to that place.”
The miracle of the oil flask occurred during the Temple’s rededication after the Jewish Maccabee forces defeated the Seleucid Greeks who had profaned the Temple. A small amount of pure oil was discovered that bore the seal of the High Priest and was to light the Temple’s menorah. Instead of the oil lasting for one day, it lasted for eight.
“As it is said in one of our Chanukah prayers, ‘they shall light the candles in your holy courtyards,’ and here is where our ‘holy courtyards’ are actually located,” Rabbi Rabinovitch noted.
Prominent Israeli figures customarily take part in the lighting of the Western Wall’s Chanukah Menorah on each night of the holiday.
“The candles are lit at the Western Wall on every night of Chanukah, and Rabbinical figures are coming here, along with public leaders, the Chief of Police, the State Comptroller, various Ministers, the Head of the Knesset Opposition, and the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem,” Rabinovitch told TPS. Prime Minister Netanyahu performed the candle lighting ceremony on the first night of the holiday.
The Western Wall rabbi also commented that it was just as important to light candles at home. “While it’s of course very nice to light candles at the Western Wall, every Jew is obligated to light Chanukah candles at home,” Rabinovitch said.
At the same time, there is also an obligation to light Chanukah candles at the Western Wall.
“The Sages instituted that synagogues should light Chanukah candles as well, and the Western Wall itself is a synagogue so we light the Chanukah candles here with all of the blessings,” explained Rabinovitch. “Since 1967, we have been lighting Chanukah candles here every year just like we would be doing in any other synagogue.” During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel took control of Jerusalem’s Old City and only then were Jews able to light the Chanukah Menorah at the Western Wall.
“Even though the Chanukah miracle happened 200 years before the destruction of the Second Temple, the holiday still has significance and is one that will remain forever,” Rabinovitch said to TPS.
“In the merit of that group who struggled for our faith and for the spirit of the Jewish people, we are here today. When we celebrate the Chanukah holiday, we should not forget them.”