MembersKosher Santa

A week or so before Christmas, I happened to be walking down Ibn Gabirol, one of Tel Aviv’s main streets, when for no good reason I looked up and there it was, a brightly-decorated Christmas tree in the window of a third-floor apartment. Nor was this an isolated phenomenon.

By Tsvi Sadan |
Christmas
Photo: Aviel Schneider

As Christmas approached, Israeli shops offered holiday treats like cakes, chocolate Santas and yuletide decorations. There were also Christmas events in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Galilee as well as at various nightclubs across the country. There was even a “Christmas quiz” in Hebrew for Israelis. Such public displays of Christmas “spirit” were unthinkable a decade ago.

To understand just how radical this new leniency toward Christmas is, one must be reminded that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate prohibits hotels and kosher restaurants from displaying Christmas paraphernalia. There is also the custom of nittel nacht, in which many ultra-Orthodox Jews will refrain from Torah study or anything of spiritual significance on Christmas Eve. Rather than lend any hint of religious credence to the date, these observant Jews will instead indulge in games of cards, chess or other distractions.

But these safeguards are increasingly to no avail. This year, countless...

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