It would be interesting to see what the Christian Zionist reaction to this statement will be. Note the date of the report.
Israeli Chief Rabbi Condemns Christmas Celebrations by Jews in Israel
By Laurie Copans Associated Press Writer
Published: Dec 24, 2002
JERUSALEM (AP) – Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau on Tuesday urged Jews in Israel not to celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Day, warning that such observances threaten the identity of the Jewish state.
Lau encouraged Christian Israeli Arabs, foreign workers and immigrants to mark the holidays. But he said Jewish families should not “be swept into keeping a way of life that is not their own, while obliterating and losing their self-respect.”
In recent years, small numbers of Israeli Jews have begun celebrating Christmas, putting up lights in shops and even trees in homes. The trend began with the influx of thousands of Christians – many of them married to Jews – in the early 1990s as part of a wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union.
At the same time, New Year’s Eve has become a major party night at Tel Aviv hotels, despite threats by local rabbis to punish the establishments by removing their approval to serve kosher food.
Interest in Christmas has grown since fighting with the Palestinians broke out two years ago and Christian foreign workers replaced their Palestinian counterparts in jobs. Israel has also undergone a type of cultural globalization – expressed in a desire among many Israelis to take part in what they view as a world holiday.
Such expressions grate on the nerves of many Israeli Jews, particularly Lau.
“Why should we have anything to do with Christmas or New Year’s Eve, in the shade of the Christmas tree?” Lau asked in a statement issued on Christmas Eve.
“We never imagined that even in our independent country of the Jewish nation, foreign cultures would threaten our identity as a people and a nation.”
At Mike’s Place in Jerusalem’s center, American-Israeli bartender Dave Sussman put up blue and white lights, red and silver tinsel and a plastic Christmas tree. For the 25-year-old Jew from Boston, Mass., the holiday is just a reason to have fun, but he said he has heard many complaints from religious Jews passing by.
On Christmas Eve, Sussman found himself serving beers to two Orthodox Jews who didn’t like the decor.
“There’s nothing fun about this,” said one of the men, an American-Israeli from North Miami Beach, Fla., who would give only his first name – Zvi. “It bothers me a little bit that Jews like to do this.”
“It’s the lights, dude,” Sussman retorted, adjusting his baseball cap. “I stare at these lights at least four hours a day!”
Tel Aviv, a more secular city than Jerusalem, demonstrates much more Christmas cheer. The Tel Aviv branch of Mike’s Place goes all out for the holiday, with a big party and Turkey dinner. Both bars expect to be packed for New Year’s Eve.
This week Israeli radio stations have occasionally played Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Israel’s national radio station even played “Silent Night,” a carol about the birth of the baby Jesus.
Lau warned that such habits could bring about assimilation between Jews and Christians.
Quoting from Psalms 106:35, Lau said; “They mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshipped their idols, which became a snare to them.”
According to Israeli government statistics, 142,000 Christians live in Israel, including 115,000 Christian Arabs. The figures do not include the West Bank and Gaza Strip.