According to a report in the Associated Press, a Christian lawmaker wanted to publicly display a Christmas tree in Israel’s parliament building, but Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said “no.”
At first, Edelstein denied that his decision had anything to do with “Israel’s Jewish character,” but later said that an official Christmas tree would evoke “painful memories” for the majority Jewish members.
Speaking on an Israeli radio station, the Speaker said that “such a public display of a Christian symbol could be construed as offensive. Jews have suffered from centuries of persecution by Christians.” He also said “the initiative is part of an Arab campaign to chip away at Israel’s Jewish nature” and “warned that if he had agreed he would then likely face further requests to display a cross and crescent in parliament.”
Hanna Swaid, a Christian opposition lawmaker from Israel’s Arab minority, said a Christmas tree would promote “multiculturalism and freedom of religion,” according to the AP.
There have been previous bans on public Christmas tree displays. The mayor of a Jewish town bordering Nazareth has previously refused them, even though some Christians live there.