Religious and secular Jews were astounded that the Israeli Army would put up a Christmas tree this year in Beit Hachayal, Israel’s home for soldiers without family. On the occasional Shabbat and days off duty the ‘Soldier’s Home’ is where lone soldiers can find a warm bed, food, and companionship.
A letter about why the army put up a Christmas tree at the home was sent to officers and soldiers of the Northern Command by Lt. Col. Tzachi Revivo. He explained that in addition to Hanukkah, the IDF would celebrate “another holiday that is common to all denominations in Christianity, Christmas.”
The commander even went on to explain that “According to the New Testament Christmas marks the birth of Jesus to Mary in Bethlehem.”
Responses to the Christmas tree
The ‘Torat Lechima’ organization which works to strengthen the Jewish identity and fighting spirit in the IDF stated: “This amounts to the promotion of ‘Hanuchristmas’ and the placing of Judaism and Christianity on the same level. This is very serious and unprecedented. This has nothing to do with respect for any soldier. It’s a sign of the intentional blurring of identities.”
For Torat Lechima combining Christmas with Hanukah reflects the “woke” idea that national, religious, and even sexual orientations should be abolished because we are all “equal.”
Others said that putting up a Christmas tree for soldiers has nothing to do with emphasizing Jewish holidays in Israel. They pointed out that there are many Christians who serve in the IDF, and that they too should be honored. See here, and here on Christians serving in the Israeli Army.
Commander Revivo responded that there is a connection between Hanukkah and Christmas: “This year the holidays fall out at the same time and are celebrated together. You can even find a connection between the two – [they are both] family holidays of joy and light, of feasting, of giving gifts, of togetherness.”
Some of the lone soldiers who received the letter thought that the IDF had gone too far and were uncomfortable when they arrived for the Hanukah holiday to find symbols of Christmas in Beit Hachayal, their “home away from home.”
Many Messianic Jews in Israel also celebrated Hanukah this year with Christmas parties and decorations in their congregations. One Messianic Jewish girl from Tel Aviv who helped organize a Christmas party in her Messianic Jewish congregation explained that many secular Jews are attracted to the beauty of Christmas and attended the celebration. “Everyone had a great time,” she said.
Like many Messianic Jews in Israel, she did not believe that celebrating the Christian holiday in a Messianic Jewish congregation distracted from the need to explain to Israelis that Jesus is Jewish.
Other Messianic Jews said that celebrating Christmas only reinforces the wrong impression that Jesus is for Christians and not Jews.
See Is the Future of Messianics Jewish for more on Jewish identity in the Messianic Movement in Israel.
We’d love to hear what our readers think about celebrating Christmas in Israel in the comments below.
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.