U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands at the end of a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool photo by Aude Guerrucci/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama hosted Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and other Jewish leaders at two White House parties to celebrate Hanukkah.
Hundreds of celebrants gathered in the East Room of the White House to take part in the candle-lighting ceremony at the earlier party with Rivlin, who reminded the crowd of the Maccabees' battle for "liberty, for freedom of religion, for their traditions, for our traditions, for their ability to celebrate their own identity."
"Hanukkah is the holy day of spiritual activism. It is a holiday which represents the spirit of human being, created equally in the image of God," he said.
Obama compared the victory of the Maccabees over their oppressors to the upcoming Star Wars movie.
"All of us come together, along with Jews around the world, to celebrate a band of Maccabees who inspire us even today. They were outnumbered. They were out-armed. And yet they proved that freedom can prevail over tyranny. Hope can triumph over despair. Light can prevail over darkness. That sounds like a description of the new Star Wars movie," he said. "But this one happened a little earlier."
At the second party, the president and first lady Michelle Obama celebrated with Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who he noted is "also known as the 'Notorious RBG."
Earlier in the day, Obama and Rivlin met for the first time since Rivlin assumed the presidency. Before the meeting, Obama praised the "unprecedented" military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel. Rivlin said U.S. support has allowed Israel to "stand against threats of today and of tomorrow."
"Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America. That has been very clear, and I say that loud and clear," Rivlin said.