O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, what are You Doing in the Jewish State?

A plastic Christmas tree set up for the holiday at Beit Hachayal has caused a stir in Israel.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Christmas in Israel
Israeli decorates Christmas Tree December 2, 2022 Photo: Michael Giladi Flash90

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.


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5 responses to “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, what are You Doing in the Jewish State?”

  1. Robert's World says:

    How unusual! A Christmas tree for the IDF. Maybe justified for the few Arab Christians who do serve in the IDF.
    But for Messianic believers??

    I find with our personal JMB connections “Christmas” is basically off topic. No celebration; no mentioning of it; rare acknowledgement that we might celebrate Christmas. Maybe it is still the outworking of 2000 years of Gentile/ Christian mistreatment of the Jews.

    The Birth of Yeshua (no matter what date might be ascribed for that) seems to be considered irrelevant and NOT to be celebrated.

  2. Jürgen Buschhardt says:

    google translation:
    Since I became a child of God and was allowed to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my Redeemer, it was clear to me that Christmas does not exist at all. It has been introduced by the churches. The Christmas tree is pagan and has nothing to do with Jesus coming to Bethlehem. In addition, many know that Jesus Christ cannot have been born in December because the sheep and goats are already in the stables. Unfortunately, it is only an external way to celebrate, to receive gifts….but how does it look in the big Christian countries, where Christianity is not lived and Jesus Christ is glorified, then we would really have a paradise on earth

    Da ich ein Kind Gottes geworden bin und den Herrn Jesus Christus als meinen Erlöser annehmen durfte war mir klar das es das Weihnachtsfest überhaupt nicht gibt. Es ist von den Kirchen eingeführt worden. Der Weihnachtsbaum ist heidnisch und hat mit dem kommen Jesu in Bethlehem nichts zu tun. Zudem wissen viele das Jesus Christus nicht im Dezember geboren sein kann da die Schafe und Ziegen schon in der Stallung sind. Es leider nur noch ein äußerlicher Rahmen feiern, sich beschenken zu lassen….aber wie sieht es denn aus in den großen christlichen Ländern, da wird das Christentum nicht gelebt und Jesus Christus verherrlicht dann hätten wir wirklich ein Paradies auf Erden

    • Franciscus says:

      Danke Jürgen ! Ja es ist wirklich so.

      Jürgen correctly points out that the Christmas tree is a relatively recent addition to Christianity and as such is an optional extra, and as such is not particularly christian, but has become associated with christianity.

  3. Mark Watkins says:


    I’m speaking for myself and I don’t condemn anyone who celebrates this pagan day, December the 25th, decided by the pagan Catholic Church, St Jerome who was tasked to determine this date, in my humble opine, everything about this festivus for the rest us, is bogus.

    I do celebrate the Feast, and Rosh HaShanna especially Rosh HaShanna, for one man sin entered into the world, and by Yeshua sin was atoned for… I could go on all day, but as I said, I don’t condemn others who do, but we are to come out from among them and to be Kodesh even as Eloki is Kodesh…

  4. Disciple 1978 says:

    As the Christmas tree is a recent addition to the festivities along with cards and tinsel it’s perhaps a good time to review what influences and what is responsible for these additions. Sometimes God’s people follow the world, as they did in demanding kings, and sometimes the world follows God’s people such as when traders followed the missionaries.
    As the one new man in Christ (Israel) comes together it’s a good time for the religious elements of his Jewish and Gentile character to review where they may have got off course a bit during their development and reset themselves. An Ezra is required to undo the religious errors of both strains, then a Nehemiah would be helpful in rebuilding the correct structure. Honesty and humility will be needed to admit that both the Jewish and Christian religions tried to take Lordship from the Lord.

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