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Hanukkah begins with a spark


 Poland^BENT^0027^EENT^s chief rabbi Michael Schudrich (center) lights the first candle celebrating the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, in Warsaw, Poland.
Alik Keplicz/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/9/2012

BY IAN DEITCH

Associated Press

JERUSALEM

--Jews around the world ushered in the eight-day Hanukkah festival Saturday evening, lighting the first candles of ceremonial lamps that symbolize triumph over oppression.

In Israel, families gathered after sundown for the lighting, eating traditional snacks of potato pancakes and doughnuts and exchanging gifts.

Local officials lit candles set up in public places, while families displayed the nine-candle lamps, called menorahs, in their windows or in special windproof glass boxes outside.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates the Jewish uprising in the second century B.C. against the Greek-Syrian kingdom, which had tried to impose its culture on Jews and adorn the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem with statues of Greek gods.

The holiday lasts eight days because according to tradition, when the Jews rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, a single vial of oil, enough for one day, burned miraculously for eight.

For many Jewish people, the holiday symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.

Observant Jews light a candle each night to mark the holiday.

Oily foods are eaten to commemorate the oil miracle, hence the ubiquitous fried doughnuts and potato pancakes, known as latkes.

In Israel, children play with four-sided spinning tops, or dreidels, decorated with the letters that form the acronym "A great miracle happened here." Outside of Israel, the saying is "A great miracle happened there." Israeli students get time off from school for the holiday, when families gather each night to light the candles, eat and exchange gifts.

Hanukkah--which means dedication--is one of the most popular holidays in Israel, and has a high rate of observance.

In Ohio, the first public candle lighting on Saturday will be by Holocaust survivor Abe Weinrib, who turns 100 next week. Weinrib, who will light the first candle on a 13-foot public menorah at Easton Town Center in Columbus, said his biggest triumph was surviving the Holocaust, the Nazi campaign to eliminate Jews in Europe.