I have just come to know that next week the Jerusalem Municipality will distribute free Christmas trees to the Christian residents of Jerusalem. I missed my chance! I already bought a Christmas tree (plastic) and matching decoration in Bethlehem, on my visit last week.
It was a bit silly to drag around the tree all day, including in the narrow corridors of the checkpoint, on collective taxis I took on both sides and on the final Egged bus trip back to Tel Aviv. I bought the tree in Bethlehem rather than Jaffa for two reasons: an idealistic desire to support Palestinian shaky economy (I was embarrassed when the taxi drivers actually thanked me for that), and the will to fulfill a romantic dream. I am still a Christian, after all.
Ah, Bethlehem! What a beautiful little town. Too bad none of my Israeli friends could come for the ride. Sometimes I forget the reality of the place I live in. Call me naive, but I caught myself more than once daydreaming about the time were people (including me) will travel freely in the Middle East – how about an afternoon hibiscus tea in Damascus, before or after an hammam bath in Lebanon? Shall we drop by the Pyramids on the way?
This year I am throwing a Christmas party for my Jewish friends, who never had a Christmas tree or sang Adeste Fidelis. I do this lightheartedly, yet well aware of the amount of Judeo-Christian hate the birth of this little oh! so-special baby has brought about.
Talking about religious zeal, the lovely gesture of the Jerusalem municipality (a tradition which has been taking place yearly since 1965) did not fail to provoke its share of polemics: the Jewish state fomenting Christian traditions in the public square? With Orthodox taxpayers money?
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.
[read the entire article here]
The municipality explained that it engages in activities for the benefit of all three major monotheistic faiths, although Christians make up only 2% of Jerusalem census (they plane to hand out as little as 100 Christmas trees).
Much ado about…