Monday, December 21, 2009

Banning Christmas in Jerusalem

Banning Christmas in Jerusalem
©2009 David Talbot

This may sound like an unlikely topic for a Jewish guy to be writing about. Especially if he happens to be an Orthodox Zionist Jew. But this news has got me riled up. Here’s the background to this story.

Rabbi Brad Hershfeld writes in his “Windows and Doors” blog, that a group called “Lobby for Jewish Values,“ is handing out fliers condemning Christmas, pushing for a ban on all public displays of Christmas trees and other "foolish" Christian symbols and asking the public to boycott restaurants and other public institutions which do so..”

In addition to the fliers, “Lobby for Jewish Values” has been printing and distributing the name and locations of restaurants as a guide, and has enlisted the help of one of the groups who grant Kashrut licenses to restaurants and stores selling food and other products. With out those licenses, observant Jews who keep kosher, can not patronize these establishments.

“Have the abused become the abusers?” asks Rabbi Hershfeld.

The issue brings up a fundamental political dilemma for Israel. “The Jewish state wants to be two things: A Jewish state and a free democratic state.” Writes Morten Berthelsen in, on December 21st. But if all Israelis were to celebrate Christmas, can it still be called a Jewish State? Or, if all Christmas celebrations and symbols are removed, can it be called a free democratic state?

Political issues aside, “Lobby for Jewish Values” ideas seem to be in direct conflict with most Jewish values as expressed in Torah, and by our sages. In more than one section of the Torah, we are told not to “mistreat the strangers among you for you were once a stranger in Egypt.” Does the removal of objects and symbols sacred to Christians equate with “mistreatment”? I think so. Have our sages not decreed that any non-Jew who follows the Noahide commandments has a place in the world to come? And have not our Torah and our sages repeatedly stated to “treat every person the way you would wish to be treated”? Yes, on both counts.

As we just finished the celebration of Chanukah, where a small army of Jews fought for the right to worship according to their beliefs, against a society determined to strip them of their symbols and customs, can we really support such a movement to do exactly to our Christian Israelis what Antiocus tried to do unto us? I can’t.

Anyway, that’s my opinion.


David Talbot

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