Religion Magazine

Christmas Trees on Display in Israel

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
It started with a request/petition to put a Christmas tree in the courtyard of City Hall in the city of Rishon LeTzion.
Alon Balan, a 24 year old Jewish Israeli-born from immigrants from the Ukraine, made the request for the display of the Christmas tree. Balan claims there are many immigrants from the former Soviet Union that celebrate Christmas and he says just like elsewhere the tree and lights are displayed, they should be in Israel as well for those who celebrate..
Balan says he came up with the idea and made the request after the City marked the Ethiopian holiday of Sigd. Balan thinks such a display would attract many tourists and Russian immigrants to the city as well in order to celebrate in the festive atmosphere. Balan adds that while in some places it is a Christian holiday - Russia does not celebrate that. For Russians Christmas is a secular holiday celebrating the new year - no connection to religion. He says that just as he respects the Jewish holidays, others should respect what he wants to celebrate, especially as it has no connection to the gentile religions...
Christmas trees on display in IsraelObviously this initiative has drawn a lot of opposition, largely from religious and Haredi representatives and also from others unhappy with the idea of a Christmas display.
While Rishon Letzion is dealing with this issue, the administration of the BIG mall in Ashdod has now placed a Christmas tree and reindeer display next to a Hanukkah menora.
Obviously, this too is being met with opposition, as religious and Haredi representatives try to have it removed.
I have no problem with Baral, or anyone else, celebrating their preferred holiday, even if it is Christmas rather than, or in addition to, Hanukkah. He can decorate his house, put up a display with a tree or a full nativity scene. String colorful lights all over his home and yard (if he has one). That's his business. Nobody is stopping him or anyone else from celebrating his or her favorite holiday.
However, that is his private business. The city should not put up such displays. This is Israel, the Jewish country. We do not need to celebrate holidays like they do in Times Square or the way other countries do. Even if Baral or some other people consider it a secular holiday, Christmas in general is considered in many places a religious holiday and one coming from a different culture.
The case in Ashdod is different because it is on private property. The communities and people opposed to such a display should definitely let the administration of the mall know and they should put their monies where their mouths are and not patronize the mall until it is removed. If the people don't care, the administration won't remove it. If the people do care, they will too. They put it up thinking it will bring in more business - if they understand it will not, if they understand it will cause a decrease in business, they will remove it.
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