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President Bush Hosts Hanukkah Reception

Mrs. Laura Bush poses Monday, Dec. 15, 2008, in the White House kitchen with the rabbis who supervised the kitchen's koshering for the annual Hanukkah party. From left are Rabbi Mendel Minkowitz, Rabbi Binyomin Steinmetz and Rabbi Levi Shemtov. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

The story of Hanukkah recalls the miraculous victory of a small band of patriots against tyranny, and the oil that burned for eight nights. Through centuries of exile and persecution, Jews have lit the menorah. Each year, they behold its glow with faith in the power of God, and love for His greatest gift -- freedom.

This Hanukkah we celebrate another miraculous victory -- the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. When President Harry Truman led the world in recognizing Israel in May of 1948, many wondered whether the small nation could possibly survive. Yet from the first days of independence, the people of Israel defied dire predictions. With determination and hard work, they turned a rocky desert into fertile soil. They built a thriving democracy, a strong economy, and one of the mightiest military forces on earth. Like the Maccabees, Israel has defended itself bravely against enemies seeking its destruction. And today, Israel is a light unto the nations -- and one of America's closest friends.

This evening, we have the great privilege of celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary and Hanukkah in a very special way. Thanks to the generosity of the Truman Library, we are fortunate to light the menorah presented to President Truman in 1951 as a symbol of friendship by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

A decade after President Truman received this gift, he visited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion for one of the last times. As they parted, Ben-Gurion told the President that as a foreigner he could not judge President Truman's place in American history, but the President's courageous decision to recognize the new state of Israel gave him an immortal place in Jewish history. Those words filled the President's eyes with uncharacteristic tears. And later, Ben-Gurion would say he rarely had seen somebody so moved.

And so tonight I'm deeply moved to welcome the grandsons of these two great men -- Clifton Truman Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer -- to light the Truman menorah together.

Laura and I wish all the people of Jewish faith a happy Hanukkah and many joyous Hanukkahs in the years ahead. Thank you.

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