There is an interesting controversy in Israel after the rabbinate in Jerusalem issued a letter warning dozens of hotels in the city that it is “forbidden” by Jewish religious law to erect a Christmas tree or stage new year’s parties. It is a reminder of how Israel remains a country without separation of temple and state — a source of continual tension between the government and both secular Jews and other religions. The Washington Post has referred to a virtual “war on Christmas” by some rabbis in the country.
Hotel owners have been put in a difficult position as rabbis threaten to pull certification for “kosher” establishments. Elad Dokow, a rabbi in Haifa and Israel’s premier technology university, has been one of the more vocal opponents to Christmas trees. Called “the Technion’s rabbi, Dokow ordered that Jewish students boycott their students’ union after the installation of a small Christmas tree, which he called the tree “idolatry” and a “pagan” symbol. Dokow explained that his intolerance is really not . . . well . . . intolerant: “This is not about freedom of worship. his is the world’s only Jewish state. And it has a role to be a ‘light unto the nations’ and not to uncritically embrace every idea.” It is of course about freedom to worship when you ban Christian symbols of worship.
There is a strong secular movement in Israel but the country still gives considerable powers to religious leaders in maintaining Jewish identity and traditions.
What do you think?