A man dressed as Santa Claus gestures in front of a Christmas tree.
(photo credit: OSWALDO RIVAS/REUTERS)
The Knesset will be full of its usual discord rather than Christmas cheer during the week ahead, as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s gesture to shorten the parliament’s agenda on the Christian holiday faced opposition from the Right.
There are currently only two Christian MKs: Aida Touma-Sliman and Neven Abu Rahmoun of the Joint List. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said it would be wrong for the Knesset to cater to them because it would harm Israel’s Jewish identity.
“The Knesset needs to be a lighthouse for the State of Israel as it displays the Jewish path,” Ariel wrote to Edelstein. “The Jewish state must honor all its residents, but it also must maintain its Jewish character and identity as its supreme value.”
Ariel said it was an especially wrong time to honor Christmas
, because international organizations are working to “harm the state’s Jewish character, trample its traditions and make Israel into a state of all its citizens.”
Abu Rahmoun said she found it disturbing that Ariel does not care about the freedom of religion of Arab MKs.
“All he cares about is presenting Judaism as superior in every opportunity and every place,” Abu Rahmoun said.
Edelstein’s spokeswoman said he would not respond to Ariel’s protest. She said that, at the request of Arab MKs, the plenum would end at 7 p.m. that evening, instead of much later at night as it usually does on a Monday.
In the past, Edelstein has disappointed Christian MKs by rejecting their requests to put up a Christmas tree in a public place in the parliament and told them to put up trees in their offices instead. His spokeswoman said his views had not changed.
Touma-Sliman admitted that as an Orthodox Christian, her family celebrates Christmas on January 7, but said that her party asked to shorten the plenum session on principle, because so much is done to mark Jewish holidays
. She added that she would have a Christmas dinner Monday night with her children and new grandchild.
The date of January 7 also falls on a Monday this year, so the Knesset session could be shortened then, too. This does not present an issue for Armenian Christians, who celebrate Christmas on January 18, which falls on a Friday, when the Knesset is not in session.
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