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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Speech by the President of the Republic of Poland on the Occasion of Kindling the Hanukkah Lights

President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda

Your Excellency Most Esteemed Madam Ambassador,

Your Excellency Most Esteemed Rabbi,

Most Esteemed Professor,

Distinguished Presidents,

All Distinguished Gathered Guests,

Dear Youth,


Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you, thank you for accepting the invitation to the Presidential Palace at this important time. At the time of Hanukkah, the time of a grand and significant, a joyful but also a meaningful celebration for Jews, for the Chosen People. Hanukkah commemorates the time from more than 2 thousand years ago, from 164 BC, when Jewish People as if led by the Maccabees were fighting for their freedom. They were fighting for freedom and, to a certain extent, also for survival. Survival not so much in terms of biology, but rather for spiritual survival, which was an element of crucial importance. Attempts were made at hellenzing Jews, the Jewish state was ruled back then by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to impose his religion upon Jews, to deprive them of their customs, traditions, who prohibited the cultivation of religious rites of the Chosen People. And he was precisely the one against whom the Maccabees revolted and the Chosen People won. They won and took back their temple from which they could remove the statue of Zeus.  


This commemoration, this hanukkiah is an element of a story from that time, a story  about the last bowl of oil found in the Jerusalem temple. It seemed that there was no chance whatsoever for the  oil to last until, as prescribed, new amount could be produced to feed the temple lamp – the symbol of God`s presence in the temple. However that single small bowl of oil, which had been miraculously saved, was enough – the candle did not die down.  And it burned for 8 days, until it could be provided with freshly produced oil. And that is the miracle which is remembered, which went down in history of the Chosen People and lasts until today, reflected in the feast of joy, the feast of the family, but first and foremost, reflected as the great sign of survival.


Therefore, I am truly delighted with your presence here today, in the Presidential Palace. This, by the way, is not the first time we are meeting, because 11 months ago, in January 2017, we came together precisely on the occasion of Hanukkah. So, in a sense, our meeting today closes the circle of the whole year. But at the same time, this year is crucially important. I have already pointed out several times that I consider as open the year commemorating the centenary of Poland`s regaining independence.  


I will dare make this comparison, bearing in mind all I have just said: the great history of the Chosen People, their struggle for survival, their struggle for preserving the tradition, their struggle for preserving faith, their struggle for freedom. Given all that, one can say that there is a certain similarity between Jews and Poles. Poles also highly respect their tradition and faith. Poles too would never condone their faith being taken away from them. Having that in mind, there is no doubt that Poles and Jews are similar to each other in this respect, they have a kind of a corresponding perception of the world, and a similar internal need and conviction that one must always fight for freedom and that freedom must be preserved, no matter the cost.


This provides a very clear reason why also Polish Jews were fighting for Poland`s freedom, fighting to preserve its independence.  This is the reason why they were joining the Legions, fighting for Poland`s freedom in the wars 1920 and 1939, why great Rabbis, such as Professor Moses Schorr, prayed for Poland in the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie Street, prayed that the Lord would protect the Most Serene Republic of Poland.


And they keep praying for it today as well. And therefore I wish that this celebration – the centenary of regaining independence by the Republic of Poland  - be  a joint celebration.  Our celebration, of all of us together, of all those who hold Poland dear, an independent Republic of Poland.  A Republic which I refer to, and would always like to refer to, as the Republic of Friends, where we live side by side and which we can enjoy.  


Hence, let me thank you for your presence, which is symbolic to me also for one more reason. Today we have here the hanukkiah on the stone base, the very same one at which Madam Maria Kaczyńska was standing in 2009.  Some of you surely attended that meeting. I am pleased that this hanukkiah candlestick is back at the Presidential Palace, and that it is with us here today. I am grateful for your presence and would like to wish you all a luminous, good, wonderful and joyful Hanukkah. Thank you.


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