BERLIKUM, Netherlands — (JTA) — In a windswept parking lot near the North Sea shore, Klaas Zijlstra stands motionless as he admires his latest creation.
It’s the first time he is testing the 36-foot menorah he has spent weeks designing and building in the shape of a Star of David in his metal workshop in the northern tip of the Netherlands. Despite strong winds, the menorah holds, thanks in no small part to its 6-ton base.
This isn’t just any mega-menorah. For one thing, it may be the largest in all of Europe. For another, it’s the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor, paid for by Christian Zionists and meant to be a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people.
Oh, and it’s kosher for use on Hanukkah, too.
“It’s exactly like the rabbi wanted,” Zijlstra said.
The rabbi is Binyomin Jacobs of Chabad, who helped Zijlstra and a group called Christians for Israel design the nine-branch candelabrum so it could be used for the eight-day holiday.
On Wednesday evening, Hanukkah’s first night, Jacobs intends to mount a crane and light the first candle in front of hundreds of Christians and Jews during a public ceremony in Nijkerk, not far from Amsterdam.
Though commonplace in the United States and even in Russia, public Hanukkah events are a recent and revolutionary development in the Netherlands. Here they signify the growing self-confidence and openness of a Jewish community whose near annihilation in the Holocaust left a deeply entrenched tendency to keep a low profile.
“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Arjen Lont, the Christian Zionist businessman who donated $40,000 to build and transport the menorah. “It requires a lot of openness.”