Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek won’t be attending this year’s annual menorah lighting, a ceremony that marks the beginning of Hanukkah, because she says the event has deeply divided residents.
In a statement released Wednesday, Gondek said she originally accepted the invitation to speak at the event weeks ago and was looking forward to it, but says it “has been repositioned as an event to support Israel.”
“This last minute change goes against the original intention and has left me feeling let down by leadership,” she wrote in a letter posted on X.
“I am saddened that this change makes it impossible for me to attend tomorrow’s event. And I am incredibly concerned that people wishing to celebrate Hanukkah will have their good intentions compromised.”
Gondek added that while her responsibility as mayor includes supporting organizers of diverse and inclusive events, when celebrations are transformed into something “political,” it puts her into a difficult situation.
“The changed nature of tomorrow’s event creates a divide and forces people to choose a side,” Gondek said.
“There are no sides to choose when terrorists incite violence by murdering innocent Israelis, knowing retaliation will follow and lead to the murder of innocent Palestinians.
“The killing must stop in Gaza, because it is spreading division and hatred, far and wide.”
In the most recent developments in Gaza, Israeli forces struck the town of Rafah twice overnight.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting in and around Khan Younis, in the southern part of Gaza, has forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes.
The United Nations says some 1.87 million people – over 80 per cent of the population of 2.3 million – have already fled their homes, many of them displaced multiple times.
(With files from the Associated Press)