An Open Letter to Theresa May: Don't Ignore and Celebrate Hanukkah

UK PM Theresa May (Image credit: Jim Mattis (170511-D-GY869-0152) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

UK PM Theresa May (Image credit: Jim Mattis (170511-D-GY869-0152) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Dear Prime Minister Theresa May,

In 2015 you stood in for UK Prime Minister David Cameron at the Downing Street Hanukkah party, lighting the menorah alongside Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. This year on December 6, US President Donald Trump announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and stated “Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem — the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times.” However, in your statement earlier that day you wrote: “Our position on the status of Jerusalem is clear and long-standing: it should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states. In line with relevant Security Council Resolutions, we regard East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories." Perhaps you would care to elucidate where else cities have been shared as capitals of countries and for how long did the situation last?

Some six days were to elapse before you then sent a Hanukkah message to “the Jewish community in the UK and around the world,” in which you emphasized “Hanukkah recalls a time, over two millennia ago, when the Jewish people successfully resisted a vile attempt to wipe out their religion and culture.” But you deliberately failed in this message to openly acknowledge these events occurred both in Jerusalem and in the ancient Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria.

On the 7th night of Hanukkah in the UN Security Council, Her Majesty's Government voted for the draft Egyptian resolution “that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.” The text also called on all states “to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

It ill becomes politicians who participate in the public lighting of Hanukkah candles to subsequently issue statements simultaneously against a Jewish Jerusalem, whilst calling on Israel to give up land in Judea and Samaria - failing to recognize these geographical regions were the heartland of the Hasmonean dynasty and of the Jewish people in biblical times. You have ignored this at your peril.

Israel’s towns and villages were re-established in our day on barren land, deserted for centuries — in some cases, for as much as 2,000 years, since the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. I would recommend that you should consult Jewish sources regarding the historical significance of Hanukkah before taking part in the candle-lighting ceremony or issuing such naive Hanukkah messages, so that there is clearly no duplicity once again on the part of a British government.

You will be surprised to learn that the festival commemorates the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid kingdom of the Greek Syrians and the re-establishment of Jewish independence in the whole land of Israel with its capital in Jerusalem. This culminated in the purification and rededication of the Temple, on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, in the year 164 BCE, and the defeat of those who rose up to destroy the Jewish People; it is not a mere "Festival of Lights."

Yet, despite this, you and your administration, both past and present, still fail to recognize the place of the Temple Mount in the Jewish psyche, and it is only President Trump who has had the courage to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The United Kingdom is unwilling to establish its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem and, to add insult to injury, has closed down its consulate facilities in the city that used to operate in the grounds of St Andrew’s Church.

In such circumstances, I would be grateful if you could explain what was your objective in taking part in the Hanukkah ceremonial? Certainly it was not one that has the best interests of the Jewish people at heart, since we Jews have prayed for 2,000 years, three times a day, for the restoration of Jerusalem to Judaism - long before the Muslim conquest of the city in 634 CE.

It appears nothing has changed in UK Government policy since my similar letter some 20 years ago, which appeared on the pages of the London Jewish Chronicle regarding the actions of your predecessor, Tony Blair.

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