Testimony of israeli soldiers who raped and killed Arab teenage girl

Testimony of Israeli soldiers who raped and killed Arab teenage girl– ‘I took the Arab female captive. On the first night the soldiers abused her and the next day saw fit to remove her from the world’

theguardian.com

For 54 years the fate of a young Bedouin girl who disappeared in the Negev desert was relegated to rumour and a single entry in the diary of David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of the fledgling Israeli state.

“It was decided and carried out: they washed her, cut her hair, raped her and then killed her,” he wrote.

After that the case became one of the state’s earliest secrets, and no more than hearsay passed between soldiers.

Now the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has used previously classified army documents to reveal the full story of what Mr Ben-Gurion called a “horrific atrocity”.

In August 1949, an army unit stationed at Nirim in the Negev shot an Arab man and captured a Bedouin girl with him. Her name and age remain unknown, but she was probably in her mid-teens.

In the following hours she was taken from the hut and forced to shower naked in full view of the soldiers. Three of the men then raped her.

After the Sabbath meal the platoon commander, identified by Ha’aretz as a man called Moshe who had served in the British army during the second world war, proposed a vote on what should be done with her.

One option was to put her to work in the outpost’s kitchen.

Most of the 20 or so soldiers present voted for the alternative by chanting: “We want to fuck”. The commander organised a rota for groups of his men to gang rape the girl over the next three days. Moshe and one of his sergeants went first, leaving the girl unconscious. Next morning, she complicated matters by protesting about her treatment. Moshe told one of his sergeants to kill her.

She was forced into a patrol vehicle with several soldiers, two carrying shovels, and they drove off into the dunes. When the girl realised what was about to happen she tried to run, but only made it a few paces before she was shot by a Sergeant Michael.

Her body was buried in a grave less than a foot deep.

A few days later the battalion commander, Yehuda Drexler, asked Moshe if he had carried out an order to return the girl to her village.

“They killed her,” replied Moshe. “It was a shame to waste the petrol.” He was ordered to write a report. Ha’aretz has obtained a copy.

It said: “In my patrol on 12.8.49 I encountered Arabs in the territory under my command, one of them armed. I killed the armed Arab on the spot and took his weapon. I took the Arab female captive. On the first night the soldiers abused her and the next day I saw fit to remove her from the world.”

He and most of the soldiers at the outpost were tried in secret. Some said they were carrying out their commander’s orders. The military judges rejected that line of defence. Moshe denied rape. “Morally speaking, it was impossible to sleep with such a dirty girl,” he told the court.

He was acquitted of rape but convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The judges likened his stated willingness “to murder even women and children in cold blood” to “Hitler’s methods in France”.

Nineteen other soldiers received light sentences of between one and three years, mostly for “negligence in preventing a crime”.

The appeal court reduced their sentences, saying: “At the time there was a general feeling of contempt for the life of Arabs … and sometimes wanton events occurred in this sphere. All this helped create an atmosphere of ‘anything goes’.

“We are convinced that this atmosphere existed at the Nirim outpost, too.”

But the government and army understood the shame that would fall on the armed forces if the girl’s fate became known to wider Israeli society, so the murder and trial were classified as secret.

The case was briefly resurrected at the trial in 1956 of Israeli soldiers and police officers who murdered 43 Arab civilians in Kafr Qassem, to help establish the precedent that there is no defence in obeying illegal orders.

Then it disappeared from view again.

Several years later members of a kibbutz near the Nirim base noticed that the wind had uncovered a small hand

 

Orthodox Jewish families won’t identify circumcisers who gave babies herpes

Orthodox Jewish families won’t identify circumcisers who gave babies herpes

 

Health Department says Orthodox relatives of infected infants refusing to reveal names, obstructing investigation

ed note–please consider for a moment the absolutely insanity of this situation and what it reveals about the Judaic mindset.

These babies are INFECTED and could die from it. The people responsible for doing this risk infecting other infants, but due to the Judaic attachment to this sick, perverse religious ritual of mutilating a little boy’s genitalia and then having one of these herpes-infected animals suck the blood out of the wound, a code of silence is maintained, protecting the animals who will doubtless go out and put more children’s lives at risk.

There simply is no other way to view/state it–Judaism is a sickness of the mind/heart/soul and embracing it in any form leads to mental illness, and until the rest of the sane world comes to this conclusion, mankind will continue to hurdle down the road towards universal armegeddon and will not realize until it is too late that this diagnosis should have been made thousands of years ago.

Times of Israel

The New York City Health Department said it cannot complete an investigation into who infected four infants with herpes through a circumcision rite because the boys’ fervently Orthodox families will not identify the mohels.

“Unfortunately, some in the community are resistant to sharing the name of the mohels,” Health Department spokesman Christopher Miller told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday. “This is a very insular community.”

According to DNAinfo, six families in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have seen children contract herpes since 2015 from metzitzah b’peh, which involves the ritual circumciser, or mohel, cleaning the circumcision wound by oral suction. Among the six families, only two have provided the names of their mohels, Miller said.

In March, the city ordered those two mohels to stop performing metzitzah b’peh. A herpes infection in a newborn baby can cause brain damage and death.

Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, told DNAinfo that the community was “fully cooperating” with the investigation. However, an unnamed source said the community is skeptical about the allegations against the two named mohels because it believes the city wants to make all metzitzah b’peh illegal.

“That’s why we’re not willing to give out the mohels. We know the city is going to ban them without giving them due process,” the source said. “There is not proof that they actually infected the baby.”

The custom, rarely practiced outside the Haredi, or fervently Orthodox, community, has become a political football in New York City with its large Haredi population. In February 2015, the city eliminated a parental consent form mandated by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. In return, the community pledged to test a mohel after an infant contracts herpes.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett said her department considers metzitzah b’peh an “unsafe practice,” but that as a religious practice it enjoys several legal protections.

It All Stays In The Family

By Gilad Atzmon

In this Jewish educational video, rabbi Moishe Zeldman elaborates on the meaning of being a Jew. What is that thing that binds the Jews together? Is it religion? Is it race? The blood? Zeldman’s answer is that Jews are the children of Israel and they are one family. Yet, I am left perplexed. What kind of a family are the Jews? And if the Jews are a family, as Zeldman claims, shouldn’t we expect that family to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the Jewish State? If Jews are a family, should we not expect this family to take responsibility for the global wars inflicted on us by their Jewish Lobbies (AIPAC, CFI, LFI, CRIF etc)? If the Jews are a family, shouldn’t we expect its leaders to restrain their reckless Wall Street mammonites?

Shockingly enough, this is exactly how the Jewish family operates. It forms Sanhedrin Courts that are there to sustain Jewish autonomy over Jewish affairs. The crimes of Israel are opposed by a few family members who insist on conveying a humanist image (JVP, Mondoweiss etc.) AIPAC’s crude interference with American politics is not really criticised by the American people. The fight against AIPAC has been reduced into an internal family battleground. Similarly, the crimes of Wall Street are debated by some pseudo-socialist tribal agents.

If the Jews are a family, ‘it all stays in the family’ is their survival code. Yet the family is far from being “dysfunctional” as rabbi Zeldman suggests. So far, this family has been overwhelmingly productive in maintaining its hegemony while dominating the opposition. However, some dissident voices, myself included, do believe that this celebration is now coming to an end. This family business has become too transparent.

Rabbis Urge President Trump To “Act Decisively” In Syria

Rabbis Urge President Trump To “Act Decisively” In Syria

April 14, 2017

Dear President Trump,

We write to you with angst just days before the Passover holiday when the Jews escaped the oppressive tyranny of Pharaoh in Egypt. The Assad regime in Syria appears to have conducted a nerve gas attack against Syrian civilians yesterday. At least 58 civilians have been killed in the attack, marking the worst chemical attack in Syria since the August 21, 2013 chemical massacre. We believe that a strong response from the U.S. is essential to stopping these war crimes.

This attack is a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the Assad regime from using chemical weapons passed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Local medical workers observed that victims were gasping for air, and video footage from the area showed dozens of dead bodies with no apparent external injuries.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin called the attack a “stain on humanity,” and urged the international community to “join together to bring an end to this murderous insanity and make sure these types of images will never again be seen anywhere in the world” and called on “world leaders and the heads of the world powers to act now and stop the criminal murdered taking in place in Syria at the hands of the Assad regime and act to have chemical weapons removed from the Syrian territory.”

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in 2012, “the so-called civilized world isn’t even trying to stop the massacre. Its leaders issue statements, but the bloodshed continues. A situation that has lasted 13-odd months is not about to end.”

The Assad regime will not cease these brutal attacks unless it faces the threat of serious military repercussions such as airstrikes against air bases associated with chemical weapons and suspected storage facilities.

We therefore urge you to fully appreciate the importance of this moment and to act decisively to avoid dire consequences. Specifically, we recommend that you adopt the following measures:

• Verify, with the various departments in your administration, that today’s attacks in Syria were indeed carried out with a nerve agent.

This would mean that the Assad regime still possesses nerve gas and therefore did not comply with the September 2013 chemical agreement.

• Order targeted airstrikes on Assad regime air facilities, jetways, and fix-wing and rotary aircraft so as to prevent the regime from carrying out further chemical attacks with nerve agents.

If today’s horrific atrocity is not met with a firm response, Assad likely has more attacks planned on an even larger scale. The world today is looking to your administration for leadership.

Signed,

Rabbi Alison Adler
Rabbi Daniel Askenazi
Rabbi Justus Baird
Rabbi Ben Berger
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch
Rabbi Jason Bonder
Rabbi Jill Borodin
Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Rabbi Debra S. Cantor
Rabbi Mari Chernow
Rabbi Yosi Cirlin
Rabbi Chuck Davidson
Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
Rabbi Menashe East
Rabbi Judith Edelstein
Rabbi Dr. Zev Farber
Cantor Rebecca Joy Fletcher
Rabbi Avidan Freedman
Rabbi Ruth Gais
Rabbi Rachel Gartner
Rabbi Daniel Goodman
Rabbi Mel Gottlieb,Ph.D.
Rabbi Maralee Gordon
Rabbi Steve Greenberg
Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
Rabbi Arielle Hanien
Rabbi Ari D. Hart
Rabbi Dr. Richard Hidary
Rabbi Sarit Horwitz
Rabbi Rachel Isaacs
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi Marisa James
Rabbi David Kalb
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
Rabbi Elana Kanter
Rabbi David Kasher
Cantor Dr. Evan Kent
Rabbi Riqi Kosovske
Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Rabbi Andy Koren
Rabbi Eugene Korn
Rabbi Dr. Robert L. Kravitz
Rabbi Daniel Landes
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz
Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh
Rabbi Joshua Lesser
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater
Rabbi Leah Lewis
Rabbi John A. Linder
Rabbi Andrea London
Rabbi Yehoshua Looks
Rabbi Marc Margolius
Rabbi Ariel Evan Mayse
Rabbi Avram Mlotek
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz
Rabbi Kehillah Dina Najman
Rabbi David Novak
Rabbi Micha Odenheimer
Rabbi Haim Ovadia
Rabbi Laura Owens
Rabbi Shuli Passow
Rabbi Robin Podolsky
Rabbi Aaron Potek
Rabbi Aviva Richman
Rabbi Tracee Rosen
Rabbi Scott B. Saulson
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg
Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger
Rabbi David Seidenberg
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Rabbi Dean Shapiro
Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman
Rabbi Garth Silberstein
Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabbi Suzanne Singer
Rabbi Jenny Solomon
Rabbi Robin S. Sparr
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Rabbi Victor Urecki
Rabbi Devin Villarreal
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub
Rabbi Ora Weiss
Rabbi Zari Weiss
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Rabbi Shawn Zevit
Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman

source

israel: Where Vision and Reality Violently Diverge

Source

By Jonathan Cook

Dustin Pfundheller, 30, an American dentist living in Singapore, was set to become the youngest person to visit every country in the world while in a full-time job. His globetrotting has taken him to 192 of the 193 recognised states, bringing his medical skills to the world’s remotest places. But in January he was barred for the second time from Israel, the only country left on his list, having previously been refused entry last year.
Despite an invitation to a dental conference in Tel Aviv, and Israelis who vouched for him, border officials banned Mr Pfundheller for 10 years. No reason was given, but lawyers suspect visits to Iran and the Arab states sealed his fate. There could hardly be starker evidence that Israel stubbornly refuses to become a normal country.
Paradoxically, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Singapore last month to promote Israel as a tolerant country, one “committed to a better world, a world of diversity.”
The reality could not be more different. Arabs and Muslims have always struggled to gain entry to Israel. Palestinians are routinely abused at the borders, and thousands, especially from Jerusalem, have been stripped of the right to return home after living abroad.
But new figures show Israel is excluding other groups too. Entry denials have increased nine-fold in the past five years, topping 16,000 people last year. Among those increasingly turned away are political activists. Israel controls all access to the occupied Palestinian territories, and now regularly denies entry to solidarity activists and those who support the boycott movement.
But in practice the net is cast wider still. Recently, Israel subjected Jennifer Gorovitz, an American Jewish vice-president of the New Israel Fund, to a humiliating interrogation at airport arrivals. NIF is one of the largest funders of Israeli organisations supporting human rights and social justice. That includes assistance to groups that monitor military abuses in the occupied territories. This presumably explains why Ms Gorovitz’s interrogators suggested she posed a “security threat”. She finally gained admittance only after Talia Sasson, the Israeli head of NIF, pulled strings.
Ms Gorovitz wrote of her experience: “My privilege as a Jew means I never imagined that Israel could or would deny me entrance.”
Such an assumption was justified. Israel’s Law of Return is supposed to guarantee Jews around the world the right to almost instant citizenship in Israel.
For that reason, the law is grossly unjust. It privileges Jewish access to Israel at the expense of the native Palestinian population, most of whom were expelled in 1948.
Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that Israel, a state that invested itself with the historical mission of offering sanctuary to Jews worldwide, is increasingly applying a political test to those who arrive at its borders. Israel is denying entry not only to Arabs and would-be record breakers. And it is deporting not just those such as migrant workers and African asylum seekers who might pollute the Jewish state with non-Jewish genes. Now it is openly targeting Jews whose politics do not align with the far-right government of Mr Netanyahu.

It should be noted that many of the solidarity and boycott activists turned away are Jewish. Famous Jewish critics of Israel such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein have been barred too.

In Israel’s eyes, it seems some Jews are more equal than others.

The pulling up of the drawbridge comes as Israel’s leadership has remained largely silent in the face of a rising tide of anti-semitism in the US, fuelled by Donald Trump’s election as president. Dozens of Jewish centres have received bomb threats, and Jewish cemeteries have been vandalised.
There are growing rumblings among American Jews that their interests are being overlooked by the Netanyahu government to avoid damaging relations with the new US administration. But another reason for the lack of response should be considered.

The principle of the “ingathering of the exiles”, according to Israel’s official ideology, Zionism, assumes that Israel is the rightful home of Jews everywhere. And the largest Jewish population outside Israel resides in the US.

In November, Yaron London, a popular TV host, welcomed Mr Trump’s election, pointing out that “a worldview which supports white supremacy matches our [Israeli] government’s interests.”
Last week opposition leader Isaac Herzog urged Israel to prepare for an influx of US Jews fleeing persecution.

But will Israel’s arms really be open to all Jews equally, or only to those willing to contribute enthusiastically to the tribal project?

And can Jews of conscience ignore the true cost of their migration? They can leave behind anti-Jewish bigotry in the US, but only if they bolster the Jewish bigots of Israel who lord it over the native Palestinian population.

Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist in Nazareth

Netanyahu cheated US taxpayers under four different IDs when he was studying in United States

Pastor Baldwin: Why I hate Netanyahu

bomb3[1]When American horror books author Stephen King wrote: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us” – being a Christian Zionist, I’m sure he was not talking about Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been fooling Americans before joining politics. He cheated US taxpayers under four different IDs when he was studying in United States. He inherited this and many other immoral characteristics from his father Benzion Netanyahu (d. 2012) – a Jew terrorist.

The Israeli weekly Ha’ir reports that four requests for credit approval appear in the US social security file number 020-36-4537. Under each request one finds a different name: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benjamin Nitai, John Jay Sullivan and John Jay Sullivan Jr. – one man, four names (here).

Charles (Chuck) Baldwin, 64, American pastor, politician, radio host, and blogger posted an article on February 9, entitled, Is Netanyahu Finished?. In the article the good pastor claims that people around world are finding out that Netanyahu is a serial liar – he lied about Muslim threat to the US, and Syria, Iran, and Iraq are threat to American interests in the region. currently, he is being investigated at home for corruption.

The removal of Netanyahu from office would be a very good thing for the entire world. The problem is the State of Israel is controlled by about 20 mega-rich Zionist families. To think that these power-brokers would replace Bibi with a truly honest man is as likely as the sun rising in the west tomorrow morning,” pastor said.

Is Baldwin anti-Israel? Nope. He believes that Israel has enough military power to wipe out any country in the Middle East, and it doesn’t need Washington’s permission to do that. However, Baldwin believes that Israeli interests are not necessarily American interests, therefore, American should stop pampering the Zionist regime. How Baldwin knows about Israel’s military strength? It could be judged by his knowledge of the Middle East from the following statement:

America continues to furnish Israel’s enemies with three times more aid and assistance than it does Israel. Three times. Is that being a blessing to Israel? America gives unflinching and magnanimous support to militant Muslim governments such as Saudi Arabia. There is no nation in the Middle East that has harbored, trained, supplied, and supported more terrorists than Saudi Arabia. Is that being a blessing to Israel? In addition, every time an American President wants to meddle in Middle Eastern affairs, he insists that Israel give up land for peace,” wrote Baldwin on his blog on January 15, 2008 while endorsing Congressman Ron Paul.

Professor Melvin A. Goodman, former CIA analyst and author claimed in July 2013 that Israel receives 46% of total annual USAID.

On February 15, 2017, American Jewish journalist, author, academic, and contributing editor at The Atlantic, and The Daily Jewish Forward, professor Peter Alexander Beinart penned an article, entitled, “How Benjamin Netanyahu Played Us On The Iran Deal – And We Let him“.

The political barriers that Netanyahu faced two years ago are gone. He and Trump are now free to renounce the Iran nuclear deal, and thus, by Netanyahu’s logic, prevent a second Shoah. Or, failing that, Netanyahu could take matters into his own hands and bomb Iran’s nuclear sites himself, secure in the knowledge that Trump is less likely than Obama to object,” Beinart said.

Netanyahu may kiss Trump for ‘tearing Iran nuclear agreement’, but that wouldn’t effect Iran because it signed the agreement with UN’s five permanent members and Germany – not just United States. Russia, China, Germany, and France would refuse to follow Trump’s decision because they all need Iranian oil money ($410 billion/year). Even Pentagon’s to gun Gen. James Mattis supports the agreement.

Netanyahu, for all his thunderous emotion, wasn’t being honest when he railed against the nuclear agreement. He wasn’t actually worried that the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb. His real concern was that it would improve relations between Washington and Tehran, thus empowering Israel’s greatest regional foe, and reducing America’s dependence on Israel. Now that the chances of a US-Iranian détente have diminished (thanks to the Zionist shill in the White House), so have Netanyahu’s fears about the nuclear deal. In speaking to Americans, Netanyahu emphasized the nuclear issue because it allowed him to invoke the specter of the Holocaust, which is what he’s been doing his entire career,” Beinart said.

israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

Shopping for Christmas trees and glitter in Tel Aviv. The shop has been repeatedly heckled for selling these emblems of Christmas. Photo by Ben Sales/JTA

Israeli rabbis launch war on Christmas tree

Jerusalem hotels receive warning letter noting that Jewish religious law forbids Christmas trees and new year’s parties

By Jonathan Cook, his blog and Al Jazeera
December 23, 2016

As tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims converge on the Holy Land this week to celebrate the birth of Jesus, senior Israeli rabbis have announced a war on the Christmas tree.

In Jerusalem, the rabbinate has issued a letter warning dozens of hotels in the city that it is “forbidden” by Jewish religious law to erect a tree or stage new year’s parties.

Many hotel owners have taken the warning to heart, fearful that the rabbis may carry out previous threats to damage their businesses by denying them certificates declaring their premises to be “kosher”.

In the coastal city of Haifa, in northern Israel, the rabbi of Israel’s premier technology university has taken a similarly strict line. Elad Dokow, the Technion’s rabbi, ordered that Jewish students boycott their students’ union, after it installed for the first time a modest Christmas tree.

He called the tree “idolatry”, warning that it was a “pagan” symbol that violated the kosher status of the building, including its food hall.

About a fifth of the Technion’s students belong to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Issa Kassissieh, a former professional basketball player, is Jerusalem’s Santa Claus. Photo by Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel

 

While most of Israel’s Palestinian citizens are Muslim, there are some 130,000 Christians, most of them living in Galilee. Other Palestinian Christians live under occupation in East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed in violation of international law.

“This is not about freedom of worship,” Dokow told the Technion’s students. “This 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.”

Rabea Mahajni, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student, said that placing the tree in the union was backed by Palestinian students but had strongly divided opinion among Jewish students and staff. The majority, he said, were against the decision.

“One professor upset [Palestinian] students by taking to Facebook to say that the tree made him uncomfortable, and that those who wanted it should either put one up in their own home or go to Europe,” he told Al Jazeera.

Mahajni added: “This is not really about a Christmas tree. It is about who the tree represents. It is a test of whether Jewish society is willing to accept an Arab minority and our symbols.”

He pointed out that Palestinian students had not objected to the students’ union also marking Hanukkah, referring to the Jewish winter “festival of lights” that this year coincides with Christmas.

Interest in Santa hats

For most of Israel’s history, the festive fir tree was rarely seen outside a handful of communities in Israel with significant Christian populations. But in recent years, the appeal of Christmas celebrations has spread among secular Israeli Jews.

Interest took off two decades ago, after one million Russian-speaking Jews immigrated following the fall of the Soviet Union, said David Bogomolny, a spokesman for Hiddush, which lobbies for religious freedom in Israel.

Many, he told Al Jazeera, had little connection to Jewish religious practice and had adopted local customs in their countries of origin instead.

“The tree [in the former Soviet Union] was very popular but it had nothing to do with Christmas,” he said. “Each home had one as a way to welcome in the new year.”

Nazareth, which claims to host the tallest Christmas tree in the Middle East, has recently become a magnet for many domestic tourists, including Jews, Christians and Muslims. They come to visit the Christmas market, hear carols and buy a Santa hat.


Santa hats are particularly popular at Christmas markets, this one in the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood of Haifa. Photo by Jorge Novominsky/FLASH90

Haifa and Jaffa, two largely Jewish cities with significant Palestinian Christian populations, have recently started competing. Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv, staged its first Christmas market last year.

Meanwhile, hotels are keen to erect a tree in their lobbies as a way to boost tourism revenue from Christian pilgrims, who comprise the bulk of overseas visitors.

‘No danger’ to Judaism

But the growing popularity of Christmas has upset many Orthodox rabbis, who have significant powers over public space. Bogomolny said that some rabbis were driven by a desire to make the state “as Jewish as possible” to avert it losing its identity.

Others may fear that the proliferation of Christmas trees could lure Israeli Jews towards Christianity.

Wadie Abu Nassar, a spokesman for the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, said that he had noticed an increasing interest from Israeli Jews in Christian festivals, including in some cases requests to attend Christmas mass.

He told Al Jazeera this was not a threat to Judaism, but healthy curiosity. “If we want to live together in peace, we have to understand each other and learn to trust,” he said.

Tree-free Knesset


A Christmas tree in Jerusalem. The chief rabbis’ request appears to contradict guidelines issued by the Chief Rabbinate in 2015, stating that the kashrut certification of hotels could not be revoked based on music, photography, or the displaying of Christmas trees. The guidelines were implemented in response to a petition by Israeli NGO Hiddush*- For Religious Freedom and Equality, demanding that that the existing regulations be changed. Caption from jp updates, Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

The controversial status of Christmas in Israel was underscored four years ago when Yair Netanyahu, the 21-year-old son of Israel’s prime minister, caused a minor scandal by being photographed wearing a Santa hat next to a Christmas tree.

The office of Benjamin Netanyahu hurriedly issued a statement saying that Yair had posed as a joke while attending a party hosted by “Christian Zionists who love Israel, and whose children served in the [Israeli army]”.

Two years earlier, Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, originally founded for Jews on Nazareth’s land, banned all signs of Christmas in the city’s public places. He has been a vociferous opponent of an influx of Christians from overcrowded Nazareth.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has also been declared a Christmas tree-free zone.

In 2013, its speaker rejected a request from Hanna Swaid, then a Palestinian Christian legislator, to erect a tree in the building. Yuli Edelstein said it would evoke “painful memories” of Jewish persecution in Europe and chip away at the state’s Jewish character.

Attack on religious freedoms

Swaid pointed to the prominence of Jewish symbols in public spaces in the United States, including an annual Hanukkah party at the White House, during which the president lights menorah candles.

“Israeli leaders expect the US to be religiously inclusive, but then they refuse to practise the same at home,” he told Al Jazeera.

He also noted that the religious freedoms of the Palestinian minority were under ever greater attack, most notably with the recent drafting of a so-called “muezzin bill”, which would crack down on mosques’ use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

“Given this hostile political climate, the battle to gain legitimacy for our religious symbols becomes all the more important,” he said. “Otherwise we face a dark future.”

Threat to kosher status

Nonetheless, there has been a backlash, especially from secular Jews, against the rigid control exercised by Orthodox rabbis.

Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, overruled the city’s rabbi in 2012 when he tried to ban Christmas trees and new year’s parties. The Jewish new year occurs several months before the Christian one.

And last year, in the face of a legal challenge from Hiddush, the chief rabbinate backed down on threats to revoke the kosher status of businesses that celebrate Christmas.

But while the ban on Christmas trees has been formally lifted, in practice it is still widely enforced, according to Bogomolny.

“The problem is that the chief rabbinate actually has no authority over city rabbis, who can disregard its rulings, as we have seen with the letter issued by the Jerusalem rabbis,” he said.

Most hotels wanted to ignore the prohibition on Christmas trees because it was bad for business, but feared being punished.
“It is a problem throughout the country,” he said. “The hotels are afraid to take a stand. If they try to fight it through the courts, it will be costly and could take years to get a ruling.”

One hotel manager in West Jerusalem to whom Al Jazeera spoke on condition of anonymity said he feared “retaliation” from the rabbis.
“The letter was clearly intended to intimidate us,” he said. “The Christian tourists are here to celebrate Christmas and we want to help them do it, but not if it costs us our certificate.”

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