Hanukkah celebrations begin in Fresno amid war, Palestinian flag to be raised

Brianna Willis Image
Saturday, December 9, 2023
Hanukkah celebrated in Fresno amid war, Palestinian flag to be raised
It's been 61 days since the death and destruction started in the Middle East.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It has been 61 days since the death and destruction started in the Middle East, and one of the communities feeling the impacts of that war is gathering to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah amid the chaos and rise in antisemitism.

Thursday night, members of Temple Beth Israel gathered on Zoom to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

"This is really about being able to live our lives freely the way we want," said Rabbi Rick Winer with Temple Beth Israel.

Rabbi Winer says the eight-day festival of lights comes at a difficult time when the Israel-Hamas war continues to rage on.

There's also been a rise in antisemitism across the United States.

"Clearly, with all of the challenge going on for Israel and the Jewish community throughout the world, it's good to connect, it's just really good to connect," said Rabbi Winer.

"For me, it's community, its family, the members of the temple, it's my family," said Kirk Brown with Temple Beth Israel.

Meanwhile, local Palestinian Americans are planning to gather Friday afternoon for a city-sponsored Palestine flag raising.

"It's getting our voices heard, it's making us feel better about reaching more people, and more people are realizing and seeing what's happening with our people back home," said Yasir Amireh with the Palestine Freedom Project.

It's happening at Eaton Plaza, the same place the city sponsored an Israeli flag-raising in October.

RELATED: Palestinian community holds protest as Israeli flag raised in Fresno

"If it was supportive to raise the Israeli flag, then I have to believe that we can and should support the local Palestinian community," said Rabbi Winer.

"I have no compassion for the Hamas people, but certainly for the Palestinian people always have and always will," said Phyllis Farrow with Temple Beth Israel.

Layla Darwish with the Palestine Freedom Project says her people back home will not be able to celebrate the holidays this season because of the fighting.

But she supports everyone coming out to the flag raising Friday -- to pray for peace.

"Show up and show your solidarity. That's enough. There's a lot of people that say, we don't know what to do to help you. Showing up and your presence is everything," said Darwish.

Those with the Palestine freedom project also say the timing of the event was not planned. They just wanted support for their people as soon as possible.

That flag raising is taking place at Eaton Plaza at 2:30 on Friday afternoon.

For news updates, follow Brianna Willis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.