A small, but distinguished group of guests - among them, Head of Missions for the UJC David Begin, former Israeli ambassador in Germany Michael Shilo, and manager of sales at Jerusalem's International Convention Center Ilan Brenner - gathered in the upstairs parlor of Beit Shalom in the posh Jerusalem neighborhood of Talbiyah on Sunday night to join members of the Keren Hayesod team in celebrating the third night of Hanukkah.
Broadcasting from under the Western Wall
CREDIT: Eitan Eliram
Keren Hayesod World Chairman Avi Pazner, Director General Gad Ben-Ari, and former speaker of the Knesset Shlomo Hillel were honored to light the menorah, after which time guests participated in a hearty round of Hanukkah holiday songs.
"It's the first time that we are inviting heads of non-profit organizations, NGOs, various foundations and people from the government departments, both in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem for a Hanukkah candle lighting and we hope to establish a tradition of it," said Ben-Ari.
Dually, the ceremony served to open guests to the possibility of using the facilities at Beit Shalom, a building that was donated to Keren Hayesod by the late attorney Shalom Horowitz, for the exclusive purpose of State and public events.
The third night of Hanukkah was also a significant one for the Jewish Agency, whose Kiryat Moriah-based Contact Center conducted a videoconference through its 'Smart Room' joining Israeli students to their counterparts in London, Miami and New York City.
Throughout the evening, 30 high school kids from Maccabee Youth gathered around the videoconferencing equipment set up in the tunnels beneath the Western Wall to share their Hanukkiah lighting experience with basketball great Doron Jamchi, with their peers abroad.
A joint educational program of Maccabee Youth and the Kotel Tunnels Heritage Foundation, the candle lighting ceremony centered around the theme of Jewish identity, with kids offering different discussion points from their respective communities.
"Each videoconference deals with a different interactive discussion on symbols," explained Jewish Agency Contact Center Manager Eitan Eliram, who offered the example of one session on the cultural development of the menorah, from its Hasmonean roots to its use as the symbol of the Israeli parliament.
"The overall purpose of the videoconference is to get students from abroad engaged with Israel," said Eliram, who explained that the Smart Room operates around 25 videoconferences (for ceremonies, lectures, fundraising, board meetings and professional development sessions) per month. "Also, when Israeli kids connect with Diaspora communities, they realize that they are part of a larger Jewish family."
In other Jewish Agency news, the third candle was lit in Caracas, Venezuela, one of eight Diaspora communities to partake in the 'Hanukkah Candle Lighting from around the World' project, for which the Jewish Agency has arranged special broadcasts on Galei Tzahal from each participating community, on each one's respective night of the holiday.
Tomorrow night, the broadcast will come from Istanbul, Turkey and will be followed on the fifth night by the Jewish community of Moscow, Russia, then Columbus, Ohio, then Slavonic, Greece and wind up on the eighth night in Kiev, Ukraine.