The Message Of Hanukkah


This week, Jewish communities around the world are celebrating Hanukkah (pronounced kha-nu-kah). This eight-day festival of lights commemorates victory over a powerful empire.

In 164BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian Greeks, who tried to force the people of Israel to accept theirculture and beliefs. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove out the Greeks, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

Upon entering the temple, theMaccabees tried to light the Menorah – a candelabra with eight branches – and discovered that only one day’s supply of olive oil had been left uncontaminated by the Greeks. Miraculously, the oil burnt for eight days until new oil could be purified.

During the festival of Hanukkah, one candle of the Menorah is lit every night until all eight branches are kindled. This is typically accompanied by prayers and food prepared with olive oil.

Rabbi Cliff Cohen of Thanet District Reform Synagogue identifies that the key to peaceful coexistence is learning to respect each other’s traditions. ‘Hanukkah is a festival proclaiming the right to religious and cultural freedom. In today’s world, this cannot be restricted to Jews wanting to practice their Judaism. The events of 164BCE demand that we examine our attitudes to diversity and learn to welcome variety within our society.’

Rabbi Cohen describes how he and his family celebrates Hanukkah as part of the wider community: ‘This year, as usual, we shall take our Menorah to the home of some non-Jewish friends, and they will join us in the celebration of Hanukkah before we join them in their Christmas carol singing.’

As Rabbi Cohen explains, this kind of exchange is crucial to building understanding and mutual respect: ‘For my family, the Hanukkah message is very clear – whenever we demand that others think or feel as we do, we open the door to prejudice, division and damage. We cannot believe that intolerance is what God wants from us.’

At a time of heightened intolerance and unrest, it is important that we educate ourselves about the diverse traditions that exist within our community so that we can live together without fear or prejudice.

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt is the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for South Thanet.



Thanet resident Jason Tipple explains why he thinks they shouldn’t close the stroke unit in  Margate hospital. There’s a march to save the stroke unit on Sat 24 February assembling at 12 noon at the main entrance to the hospital in Ramsgate Rd. The march is organised by the Save Our NHS in Kent group.


SAT 3 FEB: People gather outside Margate’s QEQM hospital to protest against cuts in the NHS. Proposals have been made which will mean the closure of the stroke unit in Margate forcing stroke patients to travel to Ashford well over an hour away and over the distance judged safe for their survival. Today’s protest was called by the Save Our NHS in Kent group who are now planning a march from Margate hospital on Saturday 24 February.


REBECCA GORDON-NESBITT reports from the Defend The NHS conference in Broadstairs, held on Saturday 27 January.  Hundreds of people from across east Kent came to the conference to listen to doctors and politicians explain the crisis in the NHS and highlight the need for urgent action. Rebecca is a parliamentary researcher and writer based in Ramsgate.