London cancels Chanukah celebration after days of anti-Israel protests

A council in London decided it would not allow a chanukiah, meant to commemorate the eight days of Chanukah, to be displayed outside its town hall over fears it might provoke tensions in local communities, Jewish News reports.

The decision was made by a leader of the Havering Council in East London in light of the increased hate crimes and anti-Israel protests the world has seen amid the war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.

A leaked email revealed that the council admitted making "the difficult decision to pause the planned installation of the Chanukah menorah outside Havering Town Hall this year."
 

"This is a hugely sensitive issue but in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East installing the candelabra now will not be without risk to the council, our partners, our staff and local residents," it added while warning about “possible vandalism or other action against the installation."

The council stated they are concerned because of "an increase in the number of hate crimes” in the area they preside over specifically “both towards the Jewish and Muslim community."

"After consulting with the leader of the council we believe it would be unwise to move forward with the installation which could risk further inflaming tensions," it concluded, also adding that the council did fly an Israeli flag in "solidarity" after the October 7 Hamas attack.

It also states it rejected claims of "antisemitism" from people it claims are "politicising" the decision.

Instead of the chanukiah, the council recommended "a temporary installation" and an "event to celebrate the beginning of Chanukah."

Local Romford MP Andrew Rosindell wrote to the council over his "grave concern" that it was halting the Chanukah celebration.

"Should this be true it would be a grave insult to Jewish communities in Romford," he stated.

He said in his letter sent last week that "this is a matter of religious freedom and has nothing to do with current affairs in the Middle East."

"It is imperative that we collectively show support for the British Jewish community." He concluded it would be "a grave disappointment" to see menorahs erected "all over Essex, Redbridge and North London with Havering being the outlier."

Rosindell stated to The Independent

“By not allowing the Jewish community to celebrate and practice their faith properly, we are capitulating to terrorism,” he told the Independent.

“The Jewish community are amongst the most patriotic people in Britain and so, it is our obligation to stand with them during their time of need. We cannot allow antisemitism to win in Britain.”

Other locals from the Jewish community have expressed outrage over the decision or have written to the council demanding they reverse the decision.

A Jewish Leadership Council spokeswoman told The Independent: “The Jewish community, alongside other ethnic and religious groups, deserve to be welcomed and have our traditions respected and celebrated. The display of cultural and religious symbols in public spaces symbolises our country’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Avoiding such displays amounts to capitulating to the intolerant elements within our society.

“The correct response is not to succumb to this hatred, nor should it be for others to decide to conceal or diminish our cultural identities out of fear of provoking antisemitic sentiments. Rather, this is a crucial moment for all to demonstrate their support for British Jews, reinforcing the message that our cultural and religious practices are a cherished and integral part of our national tapestry.”

Romford Rabbi Lee Sunderland told Havering Daily: “This is an opportunity to stand up to the hostility that would silence Judaism or any form of diversity and celebrate it to its fullest.

“This may be a Jewish festival but it is a lesson for the whole world and for every generation. Most especially, please let us celebrate this in public and begin to bring the citizens of Havering together now.”


Image: Title: Rosindell menorah
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