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Ear to the Ground

A War on Christmas in Israel

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Posted on Dec 26, 2012
55Laney69 (CC BY 2.0)

In Israeli cities such as Haifa and Nazareth, officials and religious authorities have tried to ban celebrations of non-Jewish holidays by forbidding decorations in public buildings and threatening to revoke kosher certificates from businesses.

Two years ago, Simon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern city, Jonathan Cook writes at CounterPunch.

“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.” The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, concurred. A Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth would be “offensive to Jewish eyes,” he said.

And as a recent article in the newspaper Haaretz reported:

“[H]otels—under threat of losing kashrut certificates—are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Jonathan Cook at CounterPunch:

In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.

… A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.

“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.

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