British city council members canceled plans to display a Hanukkah menorah over an “increase” in hate crimes committed against both the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The Havering Council pointed out that installing the menorah could “risk further inflaming tensions” between both the Jewish and Muslim communities, due to the ongoing war in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, LBC reported.
A Hanukkah menorah is used to light candles and has nine branches that are lit for eight nights. The holiday celebrates the redidication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of one day’s oil lasting for eight days.
“The Council has taken the difficult decision to pause the planned installation of the Chanukah Menorah outside Havering Town Hall this year,” a spokesperson for the city council said in a statement.
Officials in the London borough of Havering have cancelled the planned installation of a Hanukkah menorah outside the local town hall due to the risk of “inflaming tensions”https://t.co/0gyLU9rVie— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) November 30, 2023
“We appreciate this is a hugely sensitive issue but in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East, installing the candelabra now will not be without risk to the Council, our partners, staff and local residents,” the spokesperson added.
The council was also worried that there may be “vandalism or other action” taken against the menorah if installed.
In place of the menorah, a temporary decoration will be installed during an event to celebrate the start of Hanukkah. After the event, the unnamed decoration would be “taken down” as the city council seeks to find a “longer-term installation” for next year’s celebration.
“Due to an increase in the number of hate crimes in Havering, both towards the Jewish and Muslim community, and after consulting with the Leader of the Council, we believe it would be unwise to move forward with the installation which could risk further inflaming tensions within our communities,” the statement continued.
The Havering council’s decision was met with a wave of criticism from people labeling it as “offensive” and an “insult.”
“We are incredibly concerned at reports of Havering Council cancelling a planned lighting of a Hanukkah Menorah,” the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This decision is offensive to our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
MAB added that “no one should be afraid to practice, celebrate or express their faith in our country.”
“A menorah celebrating a Jewish festival will not inflame tensions and cause offense. Havering Council should reconsider their decision and not help feed hate and antisemitism in Britain.”
We are incredibly concerned at reports of Havering Council cancelling a planned lighting of a Hanukkah Menorah.— Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) (@MABOnline1) November 30, 2023
We stand ready to offer our support to our Jewish brother and sisters who feel threatened and afraid.
Read our full statement below ? pic.twitter.com/B9reMnK2Vp
Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell issued a letter to Council leader Ray Morgon labeling the decision as a “grave insult” to the Jewish community.
“Fundamentally this is a matter of religious freedom, and has nothing to do with current affairs in the Middle East,” Rosindell said, pointing out that the Havering council had allowed celebrations such as Diwali.