Christmas in the Holy Land
A Tale of Two Cities
The mayor of Nazareth Ilit, a Jewish majority suburb of Nazareth, banned Christmas trees from public spaces in his town. About 15% of the population of Nazereth Ilit are Arabs: most of them Christians. There is also a significant number of Christian immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the town. The mayor turned down a request by Christian leaders in the town to allow them to erect a Christmas tree in a square in an Arab neighbourhood.
"Let them go to Lower Nazareth," said mayor Gaspo. "This is a Jewish City. All its symbols are Jewish. Arabs constitute only 15%. There is no reason to turn this into an Arab town." The city government of Nazereth Ilit does put up massive displays of Menorahs at Hannukah time. (See full story - in Hebrew - at the Maariv web site.)
The city of Haifa, however, not only allowed a Christmas tree in a public square it commissioned and paid for it itself. In light of the devastating Carmel forest fire just outside Haifa, the tree is made from 5000 recycled plastic bottles. (See photo above.) About 14% of Haifa's population are Christians: about two thirds immigrants from the FSU and the rest Arabs.
The photo below is of a Hannukah Menorah in Toronto's Dundas Square, in the heart of the downtown shopping district. Toronto is about 5% Jewish, and this menorah is but one of several put up in public, government owned locations.