Despite security concerns, the city of Paris celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with the annual lighting of a 30-foot menorah on Sunday, as the Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, lit the first candle. It was a spectacle indeed: 6,000 attendees chomped down on beignets, a Hasidic rock band supplied the tunes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger danced with a bunch of rabbis.
Schwarzenegger, who was in town for the COP21 climate conference, stopped by the event to make a few bold statements to the packed audience before hitting the dance floor. “It is very important that light prevails over darkness and good prevails over evil,” he said, reported The Daily Beast. “And I stand there with you!”
Echoing those sentiments, the Austrian muscleman later tweeted a picture from the event, showing the former governator with the radiant backdrop of a lit-up menorah and a glowing eiffel tower. He captioned it: “Happy Hannukah from Paris! Light will always overcome darkness.” (Here’s a video of Schwarzenegger dancing the hora in 2010 in California, during his governorship)
This menorah-lighting ceremony was just one of over 15,000 worldwide celebrations hosted by Chabad over the next eight days. Speculation last week suggested that about 30 lightings planned to take place across the city of Paris would be canceled. Rather, two venues located near the Bataclan theater, the deadliest site from last month’s Paris attacks, were not approved this year. A lighting in nearby Marseilles, which has seen several anti-Semitic attacks in recent months, will hold their lighting indoors at the request of public officials.
Of course, this event in particular was under maximum security, patrolled by armed guards, where every attendee was subject to a thorough body and bag search. And yet, despite the weight of the recent past, it was a Happy Hanukkah Day 1 in Paris.
Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.