Yediot: The War on Christmas, Jerusalem edition
This has probably already been in the news, and I am probably inadvertently plagiarizing someone else’s original sarcasm, but I couldn’t resist the temptation: Where is Bill O’Reilly when we need him?
On a more serious note, this type of behavior probably contributed to the State Department’s damning report on religious freedom in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, December 22 2009 [Hebrew original here]
A recommendation issued by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to hotels and restaurants has generated new tension between Israel and the Vatican [see this for another recently reported source of tension].
While hotels, restaurants and clubs put up fir trees, Santa Claus dolls and red hats for the Christmas celebration and New Year parties that will take place in the next two weeks, the chief rabbinate recommends not displaying symbols of the Christian holidays. Moreover, the rabbinical “Lobby for Jewish Values” recently began to take action against restaurants and hotels that intend to put up Christian symbols. “We are considering making public those business establishments that put up Christian symbols for the Christian holidays and will call to boycott them,” said the lobby’s chairman, Ofer Cohen.
Every year, the Jerusalem Rabbinate also acts to ensure that fir trees not adorn places of entertainment. A source in the Kashrut Department said that this is done every year in consent, and that businesses that don’t comply can find their kashrut certificate revoked.
In the wake of reports on the ban, a number of complaints were made to the Foreign Ministry from Christian figures protesting the decision. Among others, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican received calls from Vatican officials and from Christian media outlets, and US Christian Congress members called the Israeli embassy in Washington. As a result of the protest, the Foreign Ministry called the director general of the Chief Rabbinate, Oded Weiner, and heard from him that this was not a compulsory ban but rather a recommendation relating to the public areas of the hotels and restaurants.
“Our examination of Chief Rabbinate documents show that in a public area it is indeed proper to refrain from displaying Christian symbols as a non-binding suggestion,” said Weiner last night. “Hotels can hold New Year events without this affecting the kashrut of closed halls. But in public areas, symbols that are liable to offend members of other faiths should be avoided.”
The Foreign Ministry, as it does every year, made sure to provide the diplomatic corps in Israel with fir trees. There are about 8,000 foreign diplomats serving in Israel who receive free fir trees from the Foreign Ministry and the JNF.