JERUSALEM — The rabbi of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, will light a lamp tonight to begin Hanukkah, an eight-day festival celebrating the short-lived creation of a Jewish state in 160 BC.
Rabbi Yehuda Meir Getz will light the first of eight lamps at the wall at 6 p.m. to start Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. An additional candle will be lighted each day for the next seven days in a ceremony that will be duplicated in Jewish homes and synagogues throughout the world.
The holiday commemorates the victory by the Maccabees over the Syrians, Greeks and Romans in 160 BC to win short-lived freedom, the last time a Jewish state existed until 1948, when modern Israel was established.
Burned 8 Days
The eight lights symbolize a single flask of oil that, according to tradition, during the battle should have burned for only one day but instead burned for eight days.
A temple erected at the site was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. Now, only a small part of the foundation, known as the Western Wall--or Wailing Wall--remains.
About 80% of Israel's 4 million people are Jewish. A spokesman for the chief rabbinate said most of them will celebrate Hanukkah.
"It's a family or home festival," he said. "Not only the religious but most of the Jews will celebrate. It is very close to Christmas. Who (even among nominal Christians) are not doing a Christmas tree?"
'A Great Miracle'
During Hanukkah, Jewish families will eat doughnuts, or soufganiot, and potato pancakes, or levivot. Children will play with four-sided tops, or dreidels, marked by an acronym meaning "a great miracle happened here."
The Habad Hasidim, an ultra-Orthodox group, will distribute doughnuts and candles to the army and other institutions.