SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – The public Hanukkah candle lighting at Sydney’s Martin Place was canceled for the first time in nearly 30 years due to the deadly attack at a city cafe.
Chabad, which has erected a giant 33-foot Hanukkah menorah in downtown Sydney for the past three decades, issued a statement Thursday saying, “Due to the very recent terror attack in Martin Place and with sensitivity towards the families of the victims of terror, the Hanukkah commemoration scheduled for this evening has regrettably been canceled.
“The Jewish community of Australia expresses our deepest sympathy for the families of the Martin Place tragedy. May the lights of the festival of Hanukkah bring comfort and warmth to our nation,” the statement concluded.
The 16-hour siege inside the Lindt Chocolate Cafe was just yards away from where the menorah is normally erected.
Two hostages — cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, were killed early Tuesday morning when heavily armed special agents stormed the cafe and killed the lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, a self-styled Iranian cleric who had forced the hostages to hold up a flag bearing the Shahada – the testament of the Islamic creed – in the window.
Instead of the public candle lighting, Johnson’s father, Ken, was greeted Thursday afternoon at the memorial site – a sea of tens of thousands of bouquets of flowers – by multi-faith leaders, including Chabad rabbis Levi Wolff and Zalman Kastel.
“We have people from all faiths coming together to show that we are a very strong, united people and a strong country,” Wolff said. “A small, little bit of light distills a tremendous amount of darkness.”