A man dressed as Santa Claus gestures in front of a Christmas tree.
(photo credit: OSWALDO RIVAS/REUTERS)
A shopping center in Ashdod displayed a fir tree, commonly associated with Christmas, in the center of the mall plaza, sparking the displeasure of city council member and current acting mayor Avi Amsalem, according to a report in Israeli media.
Amsalem, who belongs to the Shas party, claimed in a post on Facebook that "this is no longer the subject of a disagreement between haredi [ultra-Orthodox] people and secular people... this is something intended to hurt anyone who identifies as Jewish."
Big Fashion mall in Ashdod had been run for the past five years "without symbols that arouse incitement and division," according to a post by Amsalem on his Facebook page.
"Respect the buyers and especially the business owners in the facility," Amsalem said, addressing the mall's owners. "Your job is to create commerce, not to display symbols that hurt the feelings of the city's traditional residents."
"For generations, tradition always won," he added.
In response, the company said that a large part of the community in Ashdod and of visitors to the mall are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who, according to commonly held stereotypes, observe Christmas.
"Any word beyond that is unnecessary," the company said.
Big Fashion, which owns shopping centers all over Israel, said that they have had Christmas trees on display in the past and never received such a response.
On Monday, a few days following the opening of the tree display, a menorah was added. This did not satisfy the acting mayor, however, who responded saying that "the last candle was lit yesterday."
"Remove the disgrace," he said, "the sooner the better."