As Chanukah begins, Bulgarian President speaks out against hate speech

As Chanukah begins, Bulgarian President speaks out against hate speech

Sofia, December 17, 2014/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

Hate speech is often used, but should not be tolerated, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said at Sofia Synagogue, where the head of state was guest of honour at a candle-lighting ceremony marking the start of Chanukah.

In lighting the first candle on the Chanukiah, Plevneliev sent a message of peace and understanding, tolerance and humanism. For several years, it has been traditional for the Bulgarian Jewish community to invite the head of state to participate in the service opening Chanukah.

Chanukah, in the Jewish calendar from 25 Kislev to 2 Tevet 5775 (December 16 to 23 2014), is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids, who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated the Seleucids and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

Plevneliev, addressing the members of the Bulgarian Jewish community gathered at the Sofia Synagogue for the start of Chanukah, said that attempts to darken or even quench the light were in no shortage today.

Today, often “someone is trying to take away someone else’s freedom and dignity,” he said.

“In every society there is someone throwing a rock at the other, conveniently branded as foreign or as the enemy, and today that is even easier using the anonymity of digital technologies. They make it easy to hurt and to offend, to conveniently blame someone else for their own problems,” Plevneliev said. “Hatred and anonymity are not a good counsellor.”

He said that a prosperous country and a well-run society were due to those people who defended constructive causes and who had made the difficult choice to be active citizens, to uphold justice, the rule of law and human rights and freedoms.

Plevneliev pointed to a number of examples of noble causes, including the “Do Good” initiative by the Shalom organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria and Alexandrovska Hospital.

He said that the act of preventing the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Holocaust death camps run by the Nazi regime in World War 2 should always be remembered, as should the case of the Bulgarian firefighters who helped to control the disastrous fires in Israel in 2013.

“It is a matter of personal choice to fight for the light, because it is worth it and because those rare but important moments when we give a shining example of humanity and show willingness to defend humanism and freedom, remain in history,” Plevneliev said.