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Israel - Jerusalem Municipality Distributing X-Mas Trees

Published on: December 17, 2009 09:19 AM
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Israel - The municipality of the city of Jerusalem announced Tues­day that it will be distributing free Christmas trees to the city’s Christian population.

For a period of three hours next Wednesday morning, city officials will run a tree distribution center at the entrance to the Old City at the Jaffa Gate. The Jaffa Gate is the endpoint of Jaffa Road, one of Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares, and is among the more popular tourist destinations in the city.

According to the municipality, this gesture has been taking place yearly since the time of Teddy Kollek, who served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 until 1993, when he was unseated by Ehud Olmert.

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a Protestant Zionist organization, lauded the practice. A spokesman for the group called it “a lovely gesture.”

However, there is some controversy surrounding the city’s actions, which are funded by taxpayer money. The distribution of trees by a Jewish government is seen by some as an unacceptable promotion of religion.

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Jonathan Rosenblum, the director of Jewish Media Resources and a popular chareidi columnist for the Jerusalem Post, expressed his disappointment with the Jerusalem city government.

Rosenblum told the Five Towns Jewish Times that Israel is the only country in the world where Jews are not constantly reminded of their minority status and where the nature of the public square is Jewish.

The columnist stated that this initiative is “just another way of conveying the message to Jewish youth in Israel that there is nothing to take pride in, there is no reason to be jealous of the public square in any way,” and calling it “another blow to Jewish identity.”

While Rosenblum objects strongly to the measure, he was emphatic that the State of Israel “should not impede the Christians in Israel.”

However, he contends, for the city government to “simply make no distinction or go out of its way to make a public message to bring Christmas into equality…is a disaster.” Rosenblum claims that Jerusalem’s leaders “are in no way try[ing] to preserve the Jewish nature of the public square.”

“Interest will be among non-religious Jews,” Rosenblum warned.

The Municipality defended the practice, explaining that it engages in activities for the benefit of all three major monotheistic faiths.

A city spokesman explained that by distributing trees at one central location for free, the city has prevented Christians from opening disruptive Christmas tree markets.

Michael Ben-Ari, a freshman Knesset member from the right-wing National Union party disagrees strongly. Ben-Ari told the Five Towns Jewish Times that the municipality’s explanation is “stupid.”

The fiery legislator stated that “the city of Jerusalem is going out of its way to be cordial regarding the Christian holidays. The distribution of trees is an appropriate response to the religion of grace, which in the past, distributed hanging trees [to the Jews] and which brought Jews to the auto-da-fé.”

Religious opposition in this matter stems from the way in which Christianity as a religion is classified in traditional Jewish legal sources. Since Christianity believes that God is made up of a trinity of beings, rabbinical codifiers such as Maimonides have described the religion as avodah zarah, a Hebrew term whose nearest English equivalent is idol worship. Under Jewish law, it is forbidden to financially support such worship. As such, observant Jews are opposed to the use of their tax dollars for the purpose of aiding in the celebration of a Christian holiday.

The liberal and secular Meretz party, however, disagrees with the Orthodox position. The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.” The party is generally considered at the forefront of the battle for separation of church and state.

A Meretz spokesman explained that so long as the city of Jerusalem is supporting Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in the same way, the party has no objections to the practice of distributing Christmas trees.

She explained that such a view does not contradict the party’s platform regarding the mixture of church and state. The party’s main objection, she offered, is the power of the Israeli Rabbinate and the role of Jewish law in such matters as marriage and divorce.

According to the 2006 Israeli census, Christians make up only two percent of Jerusalem’s population. ♦



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Read Comments (24)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 17, 2009 at 09:32 AM Anonymous Says:

what a shame!

2

 Dec 17, 2009 at 09:33 AM 5T Resident Says:

Not only is this a proper thing to do, its a Kiddush Hashem. It shows the Christians that we Jews are better than they will ever be; instead of oppressing the Christian minority, as they did and still do to us elsewhere, we aid them in celebrating their religion. They are not forcing Jews to participate in avoda zarah but just making the trees available.

By the way, a tree has as much to do with the religious aspect of Christmas as a Hannukah bush has to do with Chanukah. Now, if the municipality were handing out creches or nativity scenes, that would be something else.

Jews must be a Light Unto the Nations and showing tolerance for others accomplishes just that.

3

 Dec 17, 2009 at 09:43 AM Babishka Says:

Christmas trees are actually a pagan custom from northern Europe. They have nothing to do with the customs of native Christians. I wouldn't mind if they gave out creches to the Christian population.

4

 Dec 17, 2009 at 09:49 AM Anonymous Says:

So we get to know more and more why they need so important a "jewish" state..

5

 Dec 17, 2009 at 09:56 AM Yankel Says:

How many Menorahs and how much oil or candles did they distribute?

6

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:17 AM Xmas Tree Origins Says:

Wikepedia: Origin

The fir tree has a long association with Christianity, it began in Germany almost 1,000 years ago when St Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and to his amazement a young fir tree sprung up from the roots of the oak tree. St Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith.

7

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:12 AM Moshe NYC Says:

I'm Charedi, but regard Rosenblum as narrow minded and dangerous. We are very pleased when the President makes a Chanukah party, and displays a menorah, and we're very displeased when a supermarket manager is forced to remove a menorah. We desire and enjoy receiving graciousness and cordiality from the majority Christian population. However, when we're in power, we display the same churlishness and bigotry as our Christian hosts displayed so predominantly throughout the ages. We should be teaching our children and displaying publicly the primacy of Judaism, especially in a (so called) Jewish state. However, we should go out of our way to be gracious and cordial to minorities among us. Distributing Xmas trees, is an inexpensive way to tell Christian residents of the State of Israel, "we respect your traditions, and support them. Our religion is the true one, and we pray and hope that one day you will recognize that. But until then, we want you to know that we acknowledge and encourage your belief in one G-d and your commitment to leading ethical lives." This has nothing to do with missionizing, which should be prosecuted vigorously (and if the law is deficient it must be changed).

8

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:02 AM Yaakov Halevi Says:

I think the notion that we should deliberately isolate christian goyim is ridiculous. It's a well known fact that we don't consider them ovdei avodah zarah, so theres no halachic problems in giving them trees, and its a good idea to have friendly relationships with goyim (darchei shalom). Why should Jonathan Rosenblum's inferiority complex about Jewish identity in secular communities in golus cause us to deny rights and increase prejudice against passive, non-terrorist goyisher groups in Israel? (In golus, we SHOULD be reminded that we don't belong and that we are a minority, because the minute we think otherwise is the minute that assimilation takes off) This is the ugly side of Zionist nationalism, where goyisher racism and jingoism is replaced with a nasty Jewish form of it that has no place in the Jewish nation.

10

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:31 AM a nelson Says:

he original Jewish xtians didn't have xmas trees, nor did they levantine xtians. trees are an alien nordic pagan custom that doesn't belong in Israel (outside of some german/british chuches-in that case they should get theier own)

11

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:50 AM Yehuda Says:

What other country (Christian or Moslem) distributes trees to it population. In the US, Canada, Britan, etc. if you want a tree you buy one. Should be the same here.

12

 Dec 17, 2009 at 10:50 AM Foolishless Says:

Take a close look at the end of the article

The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.”

Yet they agree with the government using TAXPAYER money for RELIGIOUS purposes. This proves yet again that Liberalism IS a Mental Disorder!

13

 Dec 17, 2009 at 11:28 AM Jimmy37 Says:

Reply to #7  
Moshe NYC Says:

I'm Charedi, but regard Rosenblum as narrow minded and dangerous. We are very pleased when the President makes a Chanukah party, and displays a menorah, and we're very displeased when a supermarket manager is forced to remove a menorah. We desire and enjoy receiving graciousness and cordiality from the majority Christian population. However, when we're in power, we display the same churlishness and bigotry as our Christian hosts displayed so predominantly throughout the ages. We should be teaching our children and displaying publicly the primacy of Judaism, especially in a (so called) Jewish state. However, we should go out of our way to be gracious and cordial to minorities among us. Distributing Xmas trees, is an inexpensive way to tell Christian residents of the State of Israel, "we respect your traditions, and support them. Our religion is the true one, and we pray and hope that one day you will recognize that. But until then, we want you to know that we acknowledge and encourage your belief in one G-d and your commitment to leading ethical lives." This has nothing to do with missionizing, which should be prosecuted vigorously (and if the law is deficient it must be changed).

People don't understand the difference between tolerance, acceptance, and encouragement.

Letting non-Jews practice their religion in Israel without harassment is tolerance. Telling non-Jews their religion is equal to Judaism is acceptance. Enabling non-Jews to practice their religion is encouragement. Israel should not be accepting or enabling any other religion. Period.

Giving out Christmas trees is enabling. It tells non-Jews their religion is worthy of Jewish support, which it is not. A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas and discussing how it got started is irrelevant.

14

 Dec 17, 2009 at 11:32 AM Tzvi Bar David Says:

If the city wants to avoid disruptive holiday tree markets then it should just ban them. Or the city could set aside this area where tree sellers can sell the trees and charge them a fee for doing so on public land. Further, the dead fir tree is just a dead tree without the ugly goyishe decorations of lights and tinsel...is the city going to give away that dreck, too, so the goyim can have a real holiday tree? Finally, where are these trees coming from? Israel has so much available land that it can be wasted on growing fir trees? I think not.

15

 Dec 17, 2009 at 12:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
5T Resident Says:

Not only is this a proper thing to do, its a Kiddush Hashem. It shows the Christians that we Jews are better than they will ever be; instead of oppressing the Christian minority, as they did and still do to us elsewhere, we aid them in celebrating their religion. They are not forcing Jews to participate in avoda zarah but just making the trees available.

By the way, a tree has as much to do with the religious aspect of Christmas as a Hannukah bush has to do with Chanukah. Now, if the municipality were handing out creches or nativity scenes, that would be something else.

Jews must be a Light Unto the Nations and showing tolerance for others accomplishes just that.

In the same breath you mention showing tolerance for others, you say Jews are better than Christians will ever be. You don't see anything wrong with that statement? It is that deep seated hatred that makes people not like you at all, it is your attitude that everyone hates,not who you worship. I hope all the posters who see this can see this as a prime example....it is not anti-semitism that you always cry....it is people like this with this attitude, that force people to dislike you. It has nothing to do with your religion, its all about the chip on your shoulder. You should be mortified.

16

 Dec 17, 2009 at 12:52 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Jimmy37 Says:

People don't understand the difference between tolerance, acceptance, and encouragement.

Letting non-Jews practice their religion in Israel without harassment is tolerance. Telling non-Jews their religion is equal to Judaism is acceptance. Enabling non-Jews to practice their religion is encouragement. Israel should not be accepting or enabling any other religion. Period.

Giving out Christmas trees is enabling. It tells non-Jews their religion is worthy of Jewish support, which it is not. A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas and discussing how it got started is irrelevant.

So then by all means, sinch the Jews are a small minority in the USA, and we have been encouraging their holidays, In USA we should only allow Jews to practice their traditions quietly (yeah right) and can speak out against them? OK, just let me print this so I can show your info to the ACLU when there are protests and such, and say this is what they want!!!

17

 Dec 17, 2009 at 01:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
Tzvi Bar David Says:

If the city wants to avoid disruptive holiday tree markets then it should just ban them. Or the city could set aside this area where tree sellers can sell the trees and charge them a fee for doing so on public land. Further, the dead fir tree is just a dead tree without the ugly goyishe decorations of lights and tinsel...is the city going to give away that dreck, too, so the goyim can have a real holiday tree? Finally, where are these trees coming from? Israel has so much available land that it can be wasted on growing fir trees? I think not.

I agree with everything you say except the last three sentences. Israel grows lots of fir trees, actually pines. That's what the JNF does. The holiday trees here aren't the gorgeous spruces you're used to in the US. They're actually rather scrawny and pathetic. It's good forestry to cull out the weaker trees every few years and re-seed.

18

 Dec 17, 2009 at 02:21 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #12  
Foolishless Says:

Take a close look at the end of the article

The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.”

Yet they agree with the government using TAXPAYER money for RELIGIOUS purposes. This proves yet again that Liberalism IS a Mental Disorder!

Did you read the article? It is not objecting to taxpayer funding of religions. Rather, Meretz is calling for Israel to treat all religions equally. We can object to that but to accuse them of mental disorders may itself be symptomatic of cognitive impairment.

19

 Dec 17, 2009 at 02:22 PM WHAT ABOUT US Says:

How wondelful to see the holiday spirit. Just want to know where the Menorah distriution took place; in fact was there a Menorah distribution? Any distribution for Chanukah!? Doughnut distribution!? Did any Non-Jewish municipality or organisation do ANY chanukah publicity, mind you Holiday need DISRIBUTION!?

20

 Dec 17, 2009 at 02:23 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #12  
Foolishless Says:

Take a close look at the end of the article

The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.”

Yet they agree with the government using TAXPAYER money for RELIGIOUS purposes. This proves yet again that Liberalism IS a Mental Disorder!

This is yet another article that distorts the "Orthodox position". Tosafot and Rama disagreed with Rambam on this issue and in practice we follow Rama.

21

 Dec 17, 2009 at 02:24 PM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #12  
Foolishless Says:

Take a close look at the end of the article

The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.”

Yet they agree with the government using TAXPAYER money for RELIGIOUS purposes. This proves yet again that Liberalism IS a Mental Disorder!

Worth mentioning is that Christmas trees are NOT an essential aspect of that holiday; they seem to have been unheard of in English speaking countries until the early 19th century.

Also worth mentioning is that Christmas itself is NOT essential to Christianity: In colonial New England, public observance of the holiday was prohibited. Even today, Jehovah's Witnesses do not observe it.

22

 Dec 17, 2009 at 02:38 PM eitza geber Says:

In response to number 2 and 7. Catering to Avodah Zarah religion is not a Kiddush Hashem. Perhaps it may not be forbidden. There still is a difference between the USA and Israel. Israel is a Jewish state. In the United States all religions are equal

23

 Dec 17, 2009 at 04:14 PM focus Says:

here we go again. what else can u expect from a mayor that ran on a platform to make the chareidim uncomfurtable in yerushalaim. it looks like he'll do anything possible to acheive his goal.

24

 Dec 17, 2009 at 04:09 PM KIDUSH HASHEM?not Says:

Kidush Hashem has nothing to do with a public relations campain.
If Kovod Hashem and Torah increases in the world - it is Kidush Hashem, if it decreases -Chilul Hashem. Regardles whether or not a given action is approved by goyim - the only criteria is Kovod Hashem.
Celebrating (and assisting to celabrate) a christian anti-Torah holiday is certanly not increasing Torah and Kovod Hashem.

25

 Dec 17, 2009 at 05:26 PM Authentic Londoner Says:

Reply to #12  
Foolishless Says:

Take a close look at the end of the article

The Meretz platform calls for “separation of religion from the state and separation of religious institutions from political institutions.”

Yet they agree with the government using TAXPAYER money for RELIGIOUS purposes. This proves yet again that Liberalism IS a Mental Disorder!

I doubt that by distributing these trees using public funds the authorities are establishing Christianity or supporting Christians. These trees are taken by secular Jews who like the idea of having a decorated tree in their house. They are aware that the roots of this custom may be Christian but they are not bothered by that. I worked with secular Jews in London who had trees in their homes but they reject Christianity as much as they reject Judaism. No doubt secular Jews in the US are as eager to have trees as those in Israel or the UK. The Israeli authorities are worried that if they did not give these trees away, opportunists seeing an easy way to make a buck, would damage forests to get stock to sell to eager secularists.

26

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