Trump celebrates Hanukkah, Jerusalem at White House

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner stands as President Donald Trump speaks during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump speaks during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump, waves as he departs as he reacts with Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik, during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday celebrated an "especially special" Hanukkah at the White House, a day after declaring Jerusalem Israel's capital and setting off criticism and clashes.

"Right now I'm thinking about what's going on and the love that's all over Israel and all about Jerusalem," Trump said in the White House East Room. The president was flanked by his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism when she married her husband, Jared Kushner, and their three children.

The president broke with decades of U.S. policy with the Jerusalem announcement, putting the United States at odds with most other countries. The European Union, Germany, Britain, France, the Pope and key Arab allies have denounced the move.

But inside the White House Thursday, Trump got only applause, cheers and thanks from the crowd, which included Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Holocaust survivor Louise Lawrence-Israels and Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik.

Israels spoke of standing up to hate. And Soloveichik recited a traditional prayer that he said has additional meaning this year.

"For the first time since the founding of the state of Israel, an American president has courageously declared what we have always proclaimed, which is that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," Soloveichik said.

Trump struggled with the pronunciation of Soloveichik's name. "He's so happy with yesterday, that he doesn't care if I get it exact," the president said.

He also remarked of the holiday, "I think this one will go down as especially special."

The Palestinians equally lay claim to Jerusalem and want the eastern part of the city as capital of a future state. In response to Trump's announcement, thousands of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank and demonstrators in the Gaza Strip burned U.S. flags and pictures of Trump.

The Old City in east Jerusalem is home to sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and its status is one of the most explosive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until Trump's decision, the U.S. — along with most other countries — has maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv, saying the status of Jerusalem should be resolved between the sides in negotiations.

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