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25.12.02

Israeli Rabbi Warns Jews Of Christmas

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.

Lau warned that such habits could bring about assimilation between Jews and Christians.


This sounds delightfully Pat Buchanan-esque. I've never been entirely comfortable with the idea of Israel as a "Jewish state," even though that was the whole basis for creating the country in the first place. It reminds me too much of the insistence from certain quarters that America is a "Christian nation" (though I should point out that in the example I'm quoting, Rabbi Lau isn't asking the government to get involved). The historical argument on that count is irrelevant -- whatever the actual status of the country was, I don't want the country now to have a government that is religiously aligned. So I wonder how Israel can remain true to its mission to be a homeland for the Jewish people and still be a modern liberal democracy, with the religious nonpartisanism that requires.

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