The public Hanukkah candle lighting at Sydney’s Martin Place was canceled for the first time in 30 years following the terror attack that killed two Australians.
Chabad, which has erected a giant 33-foot Hanukkah menorah in downtown Sydney for the past three decades, issued a statement Thursday, saying: “Due to the very recent terror attack in Martin Place and with sensitivity towards the families of the victims of terror, the Hanukkah commemoration scheduled for this evening has regrettably been canceled.”
“The Jewish community of Australia expresses our deepest sympathy for the families of the Martin Place tragedy. May the lights of the festival of Hanukkah bring comfort and warmth to our nation,” the statement concluded.
The giant menorah was scheduled to be erected Monday night, but the 16-hour siege inside Lindt chocolate café, just yards away from where the menorah is normally erected, was still underway.
Two hostages, café manager Tori Johnson, 34, and barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, were killed around 2 a.m. Tuesday when special agents stormed the café and killed the lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, a self-styled Iranian cleric who had forced hostages to hold up a flag bearing the Shahada – the testament of the Islamic creed – in the window.
Instead of the public candle lighting, Johnson’s father Ken was greeted Thursday afternoon at the memorial site – a sea of tens of thousands of bouquets of flowers – by multi-faith leaders, including Levi Wolff and Zalman Kastel, both Chabad rabbis.
“We have people from all faiths coming together to show that we are a very strong united people and a strong country,” Rabbi Wolff said. “A small, little bit of light distills a tremendous amount of darkness.”
Rabbi Elimelech Levy, from Chabad Youth of New South Wales, told Haaretz earlier this week, “We haven’t cancelled it [and] we are waiting to hear back from authorities. We’d like it to go ahead, and to pay tribute to the victims of terror.”
And what about Christmas?
Sydney is toning down the public festivities for the holiday but not banning the lighting of trees. The usual colorful decorations and pictures of Santa will not be displayed, the London Telegraph reported, but two Christmas trees will be put up at the central train station.
Rabbi Levy said concerning the ban on the public lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, “If we cancel the event we are giving terrorist exactly what they want. We want to do it compassionately for the victims.”
The Chabad.org website wrote that after the siege of the Lindt coffee shop, the local Chabad rabbi placed a plaque affixed to the menorah that stated, “The Jewish Community of Australia expresses our deepest sympathy for the families of the Martin Place tragedy. May the light of the festival of Hanukkah bring comfort and warmth to our nation.”
A little bit of darkness dims the light.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sydney authorities ordered that the menorah not be lit.