San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

First Hanukkah light glows in darkness of Mumbai attack

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah began last night, although one of the calendar´s most joyous holidays took on an overlay of sadness in Costa Rica and around the world this year.

The annual lighting of the five-meter-tall menorah at La Sabana Park on San José´s west this year is part of a worldwide campaign called Unite the Lights, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg, emissaries of the international Jewish Chabad Lubavitch movement. The Holtzbergs were among scores of people killed in last month´s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

The eight-candle menorah is Hanukkah´s most recognizable symbol, and commemorates the one-time candelabra at the temple in Jerusalem. Just a scant amount of clean oil was available to light the menorah at rededication ceremonies in 165 B.C., following the temple´s desecration by Greek invaders, but the lights burned for eight days.

“The way to fight darkness is with light, which is what Hanukkah is all about,” Chana Spalter, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch in Costa Rica, told The Tico Times. Unite the Lights encourages the public to incorporate a message of unity, light and goodness into their menorah lightings this year.

La Sabana´s menorah (Calle 42 at Paseo Colón, behind the statue of former President León Cortes) will be illuminated each night of Hanukkah, now through Dec. 28

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