In the Christmas spirit: JfJfP hands out free newspaper, Palestine at Christmas
Newspaper Palestine at Chritmas, Produced by JfJfP for free public distribution
UPDATE JfJfP distributes Palestine at Christmas newspaper round the UK
By Glyn Secker, JfJfP
JFJFP has just produced 17,000 copies of a free newspaper ‘Palestine At Christmas’, giving the background to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Many thanks to Oxfam, War On Want, Save The Children, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment ProgrammePalestine and Israel), Rabbis For Human Rights Israel, and B’Tselem, from whose websites we have quoted without necessarily agreeing with all of the contents of these passages.
The paper was distributed widely across London and other towns and cities in the UK, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, and has been very well received”
The use of the War on Want, EAPPI and Rabbis For Human Rights (Israel) logos is with their written approval. Oxfam, Amnesty and Save The Children were happy for us to quote from their material which was already in the public domain and freely available on their websites.
Palestine at Christmas can be downloaded here
Also in this posting, 1) photos of Christmas celebrations in Ramallah, 2) News Nosh rounds up the press reports of anti-Christmas in Hebrew-language press, 3) Ma’an news on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem 2012; 4) Jonathan Cook on the Nazareth mayor who will allow no non-Jewish symbols.
Photos by Mohamed Farrag/WAFA
APN’s daily news review from Israel
December 23, 2012
Quote of the day:
“There is no permission to hold end of year parties with non-Jewish symbols such as Christmas trees…”
–From letter by local Haifa rabbis to hotel and event hall owners threatening to revoke kosher licenses if they hold “Christmas” or “New Year’s” parties.
Two small new items reveal pressure by the ultra-Orthodox to keep Christmas symbols and celebrations out of sight. Maariv reported that a Christmas tree placed by the Jerusalem municipality at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate [the entrance to the Christian Quarter also used to enter the Jewish Quarter – OH] raised the ire of ultra-Orthodox and now, suddenly the tree is gone – a few days before Christmas. The municipality said it was planned in advance to leave it only three days.
Meanwhile, in Haifa, Yedioth reports that in the city famous for its Arab-Jewish coexistence, local rabbis wrote ‘upsetting letters’ to hotel and event hall owners telling them they cannot hold ‘Christmas’ or ‘Sylvester’ (New Year’s) parties or they will lose their kosher license. [The article did not explain that local Christian Arabs rent the halls and hold big holiday parties. – OH] “There is no permission to hold end of year parties with non-Jewish symbols such as Christmas trees, etc. Moreover, it is prohibited to advertise parties as Christmas or Sylvester parties…”
The letters caused a storm. The angry hotel and event hall owners say they don’t understand what the connection between a kosher certificate and respecting Christians during their holiday.
Bethlehem celebrates Christmas Eve
By Ma’an news
December 24, 2012
BETHLEHEM — Thousands of scouts, tourists and locals will celebrate Christmas Eve in the historic city of Bethlehem on Monday, gathering outside Nativity Church.
The city has been decorated and a huge tree is standing in Manger Square, with thousands of colorful lights and a 150 centimeter star on top. The tree was lit on Dec. 15 by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and political and religious leaders. [see Christmas tree lit in Bethlehem]
It is Bethlehem’s first Christmas since Palestine was admitted to the United Nations as a non-member state.
Minister of Tourism Rula Maayah told Ma’an that 15,000 tourists were expected to join Christmas celebrations this year. Bethlehem hotels are fully booked, she added.
Terrasanta scout group leader George Zughbi said around 3500 scouts representing 27 groups from across the West Bank would take part in the celebrations. A group from Jaffa, a Palestinian city in Israel, also will join the festival, he added.
Scout groups from the Gaza Strip hoped to attend but Israeli authorities refused them permission to enter the West Bank, Zughbi added.
Israel granted 557 Christians in Gaza permission to spend Christmas in Bethlehem, the Palestinian liaison department said. Palestinian officials at Erez crossing said 200 Christians left Gaza on Monday morning.
For the first time, Israel granted Christians multiple-entry permits allowing them to travel back and forth between Gaza and the West Bank from Dec. 24 to Jan. 8, crossing officials told Ma’an.
In Bethlehem, Police director Alaa Shalabi said officers were ready to keep order. A team of 15 paramedics, seven ambulances and a mobile clinic with 100 volunteers will be on hand in Manger Square, Red Crescent director Abdul-Halim Jaafari told Ma’an.
President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive on Monday afternoon and attend Midnight Mass at the Nativity Church. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judah will also attend on behalf of King Abdullah II.
The terror lurking in a Christmas tree – Israel tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations
By Jonathan Cook, Sabbah Report
December 24, 2012
Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political programme – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.
But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?
This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees (Hebrew) from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.
“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”
The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.
Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.
Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.
The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.
Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.
But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.
That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.
A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”
In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.
Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettoes of Palestinians living on the periphery.
Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.
But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.
“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.
After the letter (above) was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.
But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.