Just weeks after terrorists murdered 130 people on the streets of Paris, an estimated 6,000 people gathered Sunday night at the Eiffel Tower to watch the lighting of a 30-foot-tall menorah on the first night of Chanukah.
The annual public menorah-lighting at the base of the iconic Eiffel Tower—a decades-old French tradition—is organized annually by Chabad-Lubavitch.
Before the event started, individuals milled about in the 50-degree weather—fairly mild for a European evening in December. Parents held young children, while others clapped along to the live music, waiting patiently as the crowd grew larger and the speakers became more animated. “Quelle joie extraordinaire!”—“What extraordinary joy!” rang out in the night air.
“Chanukah celebrates the freedom of expression, both individually and collectively. It demonstrates the superiority of light over darkness, of right over might, of hope over fear,” was the refrain heard over and over again. “Each mitzvah is a light.”
In addition to moving introductory speeches by officials, children recited the 12 pesukim with verve. Clips were also shown from Israel of the simultaneous outdoor menorah-lighting in Jerusalem, as well as the celebration and lighting in Netanya—just the tip of the iceberg in terms of exhuberant holiday-related programs around the world.
The first candle on the giant menorah was lit by Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia. In French, he said: “For more than 2,200 years, the Jewish people have kindled the lights with hope in mankind and an affirmation of their belief in God.”
After the lighting, he added: “You see beyond the Chanukah lights, the first light that ushers in the possible. Earlier, my friend reminded me that I am the spiritual adviser for a ground army, whose motto is: ‘Anything beyond the possible.’ ”
His words were followed by by a rousing rendition of “Maoz Tzur.”
In addition to the sizable crowd of local residents and guests, the event was attended by leaders of the French Jewish community, members of the Paris city council and representatives of the French government.
A guest appearance was also made by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who insisted that “good prevails over evil” and wished everyone a “Happy Chanukah!” He then proceeded to dance with the crowd.