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President George Bush Hosts Hanukkah Reception


Grand Foyer
State Floor

President Bush Hosts Hanukkah Reception

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good evening. Laura and I welcome you to the White House. Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here. Secretary Chertoff, and family. Hanukkah is a time of joy and festivity in the Jewish religion. We're honored to gather with members of the Jewish community to celebrate this holiday.

During Hanukkah, we remember an ancient struggle for freedom. More than two thousand years ago, a cruel tyrant ruled Judea -- and forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion. A band of brothers came together to fight this oppression. And against incredible odds, they liberated the capital city of Jerusalem. As they set about rededicating the holy temple, they witnessed a great miracle: That purified oil that was supposed to last for one day burned for eight.

Jewish families commemorate this miracle by lighting the menorah for the eight nights of Hanukkah. The Talmud instructs families to place the menorah in public view -- so the entire world can see its light. The flames remind us that light triumphs over darkness, faith conquers despair, and the desire for freedom burns inside every man, woman and child.

As we light the Hanukkah candles this year, we pray for those who still live under the shadow of tyranny. This afternoon, I met with a group of Jewish immigrants to mark International Human Rights Day. Many of these men and women fled from religious oppression in countries like Iran and Syria and the Soviet Union. They came to America because our nation is a beacon of freedom. And they see a day of hope on the horizon when people all across the world will worship in freedom. The forces of intolerance can suppress the menorah -- but they can never extinguish its light.

The menorah we light tonight has special meaning. It once belonged to Chayim Pearl -- who was the great-grandfather of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl. While reporting in Pakistan in 2002, Daniel was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists. His only crime was being a Jewish American -- something Daniel Pearl would never deny. In his final moments, Daniel told his captors about a street in Israel named for his great-grandfather. He looked into their camera and he said, "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, and I'm Jewish." These words have become a source of inspiration for Americans of all faiths. They show the courage of a man who refused to bow before terror -- and the strength of a spirit that could not be broken.

Daniel's memory remains close to our hearts. Those who knew him best remember a gifted writer who loved the violin, and made friends wherever he went. We're honored that Daniel's parents -- Ruth and Judea -- have joined us today. We thank them for their work on behalf of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. The foundation helps bring people from different cultures together through journalism and music. It's a fitting tribute to Daniel's lifelong pursuit of truth and tolerance. By honoring Daniel, we are given the opportunity to bring forth hope from the darkness of tragedy -- and that is a miracle worth celebrating during the Festival of Lights.

Laura and I wish people of Jewish faith around the world a happy Hanukkah. May God bless you all. Tonight, we will hear a wonderful performance by the Zamir Chorale. But first I ask Ruth and Judea to light the Pearl family menorah, and lead the blessings.

ENDS

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