France Controversy and criticism of Macron for hosting a Jewish holiday at the Elysée

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, sparked controversy on Friday by hosting the start of the Jewish festival of Luminaries or Hanukkah at the Elysee Palace, the seat of the presidency, despite the fact that France is a secular state

France Controversy and criticism of Macron for hosting a Jewish holiday at the Elysée

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, sparked controversy on Friday by hosting the start of the Jewish festival of Luminaries or Hanukkah at the Elysee Palace, the seat of the presidency, despite the fact that France is a secular state.

Macron received the Lord Jakovits award from the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) on Thursday night for his fight against anti-Semitism and, for the occasion, the chief rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia, lit the first candle of the Hanukkah candelabra in the Elysée.

The video of the event, which went viral on social networks, provoked a wave of criticism on Friday, including from the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), the most important of the French Jewish community.

"It is not traditionally the responsibility of a public authority to host a religious festival," said CRIF president Yonathan Arfi, who said he was "surprised" and considered it a "mistake" in statements to Sud Radio.

The different opposition parties, from the radical left to the extreme right, criticized this act, as did some pro-government deputies such as Pierre Henriet for whom this "breaks with the neutrality of the State."

During a visit to the reconstruction works of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Macron rejected criticism this Friday, ensuring that he did not participate in the celebration, and defended that "secularism is not eliminating religions." This principle means "requesting that, regardless of one's religion, citizens respect the laws," he added.

The controversy comes at a time of increasing anti-Semitic acts in France, where the largest Jewish community in Europe lives, since the outbreak of war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

The Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, justified this Friday in this sense the celebration of Hanukkah in the Elysée, as a "sign" of "support" for the Jewish community in the face of the "increase in anti-Semitism."

However, the opposition questioned this objective, especially when the president refused to participate in a massive march against anti-Semitism on November 12 when defending his role as defender of the "unity" of the country. Macron was already criticized in September for attending Pope Francis' mass in Marseille, in the southeast of France.