4:30 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. How are you? (Applause.) You know our great Vice President and Karen Pence, two spectacular people. And they wanted to be here with us and I wanted to have them.
Thank you all for coming to the White House. Melania and I are delighted to welcome you and to wish you a very happy Hanukkah. (Applause.) Happy Hanukkah.
This week, America is grieving the loss of President George H.W. Bush, who is being laid to rest today at his library in Texas.
Yesterday, Melania and I were honored to attend the state funeral at the National Cathedral and to pay our respects to the entire Bush family. The memorial was a beautiful tribute to President Bush’s extraordinary life and a noble legacy to public service. He was a wonderful man. We will always remember this great statesman and beloved American patriot. He really was very special. (Applause.) So thank you very much.
This afternoon, we have many wonderful guests in attendance to celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. I want to thank the students of the Y-Studs a capella group for their terrific performance. (Applause.) Where are they? Raise your hand. Good job, huh? I heard that beautiful sound without a lot of instruments. You don’t need instruments. You have — that’s your instrument right there.
We’re glad to be joined by Secretary Betsy DeVos. Where’s Betsy? (Applause.) Where is Betsy? Betsy, thank you. Thank you, Betsy.
Senator — a very good friend of mine, and a great, great patriot and senator — Senator Roy Blunt. Roy? Where is our Roy? (Applause.) Where’s our Roy? Yeah. Thank you, Roy. Great guy.
Representatives Ted Deutch, Josh Gottheimer — (applause) — where are you guys? Put your hands up. I don’t know. David Kustoff. Lee Zeldin. (Applause.) Terrific guy. Lee — is that Lee back there? Good. Good job, Lee. Congratulations. You had a great electoral victory.
Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis. Where is Jared? (Applause.) Where is he? Thank you. Congratulations. Great job.
And thank you as well to Jared Kushner — I’m sure none of you have ever heard that name — for being here. (Applause.)
Today, I am thrilled to commemorate the miracle of Hanukkah. More than 2,000 years ago, a band of Jewish patriots, led by Judah Maccabee, reclaimed their freedom from an oppressive dictator who had persecuted the Jewish people and ransacked the Holy Temple.
After their victory, they prepared to rededicate the Temple. They found only enough oil to light the lamp for a single night. You’ve all heard that before. But, despite this, the lamp burned brightly for eight nights, an everlasting symbol of Jewish perseverance. Incredible.
Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable repression and terrible violence. Yet, in the face of this hardship, the Jewish people have endured, overcome, and thrived. Thrived like few, that I can tell you. Thrived. (Applause.)
Five weeks ago, our nation mourned a horrific tragedy. Fourteen — eleven Jewish-Americans were brutally murdered in a sinister anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. And we went to see what had happened and to meet some of the people. And they were incredible people. And the way they stood up so bravely, so proudly, was just something very incredible to see. The rabbi was just a great person.
In the aftermath of that wicked assault, we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere it occurs. (Applause.) We must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.
We are joined for today’s ceremony by those who suffered through history’s darkest hour. Here with us this afternoon are eight survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. Sara Censor — where is Sara? Where is Sara? She’s here someplace. Hi, Sara. Oh, you look so young. (Laughter.)
MS. CENSOR: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: She said she’s not. She is. (Laughter.) Young at heart. Bertha Einhorn — Bertha. Where is Bertha? Hi, Bertha. Do you want to — come on up here, folks. Come on up here. Can you help them up? (Applause.) Ethel Flam. Gita Landau. Come on up. Come on up. That’s nice. (Applause.) Dolly Rabinowitz, Ruth Salamon, and Zahava Ungar. Come on up. Very nice. Very nice. Thank you all. That’s so good. Great. Thank you very much. Isn’t that nice? Beautiful. Beautiful. (Applause.) Where’s David Einhorn? David — get up here, David. Come on up here, David. Come on up here, David. That’s great. Thank you very much. Beautiful. Please.
You honor us, truly, with your presence, and you inspire us with your courage. Thank you very much for being here. Each of you has endured evil beyond description. Your treasured attendance at this ceremony calls to mind the words of Elie Wiesel: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Today and every day, we renew our solemn pledge: Never Again. Right? Never again. (Applause.)
From the depths of despair, the Jewish people built a mighty and majestic nation, a thriving democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and a light of hope to all of the world. My administration will always stand with our cherished friend and partner, the state of Israel. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Let’s hear it, everybody! Come on! Come on! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
We have left the horrible Iran nuclear deal and imposed — (applause) — it was a horrible, horrible deal, should have never been made — and imposed the toughest-ever sanctioned — we sanctioned Iran like, I guess, few have ever been sanctioned before.
We must never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon or a nuclear bomb. (Applause.) We cannot let the world’s leading sponsor of terror — a regime that chants “Death to America,” and threatens Israel all of the time with annihilation, and constantly screams out “Death to Israel” — to possess the deadliest weapon on Earth. We will not allow that to happen. (Applause.)
Exactly one year ago today, at my direction, the United States recognized the true capital of Israel and quickly moved — (applause) —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Come on, everybody! Come on!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Well, we quickly —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Six more years!
THE PRESIDENT: That is actually six more, but we won’t (inaudible). (Laughter.) Minor detail. I’ve actually never heard “four more years.” That’s an interesting one. We’ll go for six, and then we’ll all be in very good shape. (Applause.) We’re going to all be in very good shape.
And we quickly moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and we got it built. You know that story, right? It was going to cost billions of dollars — billions. And I said, “What do you mean, ‘billions’?” And David Friedman, who — I don’t know if David is here — your ambassador, who is great. (Applause.) He called me up and he said, “I think we can do it for a lot less.” I said, “We better do it for a lot less.”
They literally had me signing something — over a billion dollars — to build the embassy. And David said, “You know, we already own a site. It’s the best site in all of Jerusalem. The building is set back. We could renovate the building, and we could do it for less than $200,000.” (Laughter.) So I said, “So you got a billion and it will probably never get built or you got $200,000.”
Now what I said to David — I said — first time I’ve ever done this in my entire life — I said, “David, I never said this before, but $200,000 is too cheap.” (Laughter.) “You got to raise it. How about $400,000?” And we did it for right around $400,000, using all Jerusalem stone.
You know, Jerusalem stone is a very expensive stone that people bring to this country with — almost as a ceremony. It’s beautiful. But over there, you have a lot of Jerusalem stone. We use all Jerusalem stone and it’s so beautiful.
And we opened it four months later. Think of that, four months later. And — (applause) — and it’s built and it’s really beautiful. You have to go see it. It’s beautiful. Great location. Best location. You couldn’t get a better location.
And it’s all opened and it’s done and it’s finished. And that doesn’t mean we won’t build a bigger, better — but if you take a look at it — not going to get much better. It’s a beautiful job.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: As promised!
THE PRESIDENT: So we did something for $400,000 that —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: As promised!
THE PRESIDENT: — was supposed to cost a billion. Say it. What?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: As promised!
THE PRESIDENT: As promised. I kept my promise. That’s true. (Applause.) Even more than that — I said I was going to designate the site; we didn’t say we were going to build it so fast. (Laughter.) I didn’t know we’d build it so fast.
But we have it built and it’s a beautiful, beautiful embassy. And it’s an honor to do it for all of the people in the room. It’s an honor to do it for all of you, I have to say, because that’s really who we’re doing it for. So congratulations. (Applause.) Great honor.
Civilization is indebted to the Jewish people for their incredible contributions to art and science, history, culture, and society. Since the founding of America, Jewish communities have uplifted every aspect of our national life.
Today, we renew our gratitude for those amazing blessings and we reaffirm our unbreakable solidarity with the Jewish people. (Applause.)
I want to thank Vice President Mike Pence. A tremendous supporter — (applause) — a tremendous supporter of yours. And Karen. And they go there and they love your country. They love your country. And they love this country. That’s a good combination, right?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a good contribution. That’s really — hello, David. One of my fabulous lawyers right up here. Hello, David. He is a great lawyer, too.
So I want to thank everybody. I want to thank everybody in the room. Happy Hanukkah. (Applause.) And now — happy Hanukkah.
And now I’d like to ask Chaplain Shmuel Felzenberg to come up and say a blessing while we light the menorah. Thank you all. Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
CHAPLAIN FELZENBERG: Good afternoon, and happy Hanukkah. As we prepare to kindle the Hanukkah lights, we recall the story of the Maccabees, who, more than 2,000 years ago, fought against Hellenist oppression in the ancient land of Israel. They fought to restore the religious identity and dignity of both their land and their people.
As Jews around the world light the candles this evening, we pray for the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.
As we light, it is incumbent upon us to remember those American service members currently deployed in harm’s way, including my son, as they stand on the front edge of freedom for our stake. (Applause.)
There are two blessings we recite in Hebrew prior to the lighting, but allow me first to share with you their contents in English. “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.”
And second, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.”
(The blessings are recited in Hebrew.) (Applause.)
(The chaplain lights the menorah and a song is sung.)
THE PRESIDENT: Mike, I’d like to ask you to come up and say just a few words, and then we’re going to shake a few hands. And thank you all very much.
Vice President, Mike Pence. Mike. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. And it’s such a joy to be able to be here with our First Family. Karen and I are honored to be able to extend to you the warmest wishes to you and your family, people all across this country — wishes for a happy Hanukkah.
And it is the greatest honor of my life to serve as Vice President to the most pro-Israel President in American history. (Applause.) Happy Hanukkah to you all.
4:46 P.M. EST