Leading Israeli priest calls for unity after Christmas tree affair

Rabbi told students to avoid building because it had ‘pagan’ symbol inside

Father Gabriel Naddaf (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Father Gabriel Naddaf
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Israel’s religious leaders need to work toward unity, a leading priest said about a rabbi’s advice to avoid a building because it had a Christmas tree inside. “Your God is also our God,” Father Gabriel Naddaf wrote to Rabbi Elad Dokow on Thursday. “We were all born in the image of God.”
In a Q&A on the national-religious Srugim website on Tuesday, Dokow, the rabbi of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, forbade students from entering the student union on campus because of the presence of a Christmas tree in the building. National-religious Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote in response to the affair that Israel needed to decide what its religious future would be.
“It must be decided once and for all, are we a Jewish state or a Christian state,” he told Srugim on Thursday. Aviner said it was a mistake to think Christians were the Jewish people’s friends. “Their hands are stained with Jews’ blood over the course of centuries: Murders, destruction, expulsions and humiliations.”
Naddaf, the leader of the Christian Empowerment Council, which encourages Christian Israelis to enlist and integrate into the larger Israeli society, said Christianity was no longer a threat to Jews. “It’s true that there were awful things against the Jewish people done in the name of Christianity, but this is not the state of Christianity today,” Naddaf said. “And from you [Dokow], it’s expected that you will act toward unity and not divisiveness and segregation.”
Dokow had called the Christian symbol a pagan one.
“The Christmas tree is a religious symbol – not Christian, but even more problematic – pagan,” he wrote. “Halacha clearly states that whenever it is possible to circumvent and not pass through a place where there is any kind of idolatry, this must be done. So one should not enter the student union if it’s not necessary to do so.
“This is not about freedom of worship. It’s about the public space of the campus,” he said. “This is the world’s only Jewish state. And it has a role to be a ‘light unto the nations’ and not to uncritically embrace every idea.”
Naddaf told Dokow in the letter that the Christmas tree was a “symbol of light and hope that we’re supposed to be sending out to the world.” Dokow compared the tree’s display to letting students declare that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish people.
JTA contributed to this report.
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