European Jewish Press
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hosted the annual EuroChanukah ceremony in the European Commission on Wednesday, the first of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.
It came a day after reaching an agreement with Israel on the controversial settlement guidelines which will enable Israeli participation in a major EU research and innovation program.
“It is a great honor and privilege to be able to host this important celebration. It is one of my favorite celebrations. I have the best of memories of my children visiting friends who would each day invite us to watch the lighting of the candles,” Ashton told attendees at the event in the Berlaymont building, seat of the European Commission in Brussels.
She was joined by Princess Lea of Belgium, French writer and promoter of peace and interfaith tolerance Marek Halter, diplomats and members of the Jewish community.
The celebration at the European Commission is organized annually at the initiative of Rabbi Avi Tawil and his wife Nehama Tawil of the European Jewish Community Centre (EJCC) which promotes Jewish culture in the European Union and its institutions.
In her address, Ashton, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission, mentioned her phone conversation the day before with ”my friend” Israel’s Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni during which they had a lengthy talk on the agreement between the EU and Israel.
“Our thoughts are to the Jewish people everywhere and to the people in Israel, Happy Chanukah,” she said, before lighting the ‘shamash’ candle used to light the other candles on a traditional Menorah.
Ashton continued, “Chanukah is a moment to remember family, tradition and hope. The lighting of candles plays such an important part in shining the light of hope across the world. As millions of Jewish families begin their celebrations, we stand with them in a belief in freedom for all people to be who they are, to be of the faith they wish to be.”
“We stand for peace and security, knowing that they fit together. In order to have peace, we need security and in order to have security you need peace. The European Union is founded on the ashes of what happened during WWII. We have built a community of nations who stand together in real values and traditions for not just the people of Europe but to send the light across the world.”
She expressed the hope that in this generation ”those of us who have the privilege to serve the cause of the European Union can make common cause with all those who seek the light, peace, freedom and security.”
The Chanukah festival of light, which begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.
Assistance for the event was given by the European Jewish Association and the European Jewish Development Fund.