Edelstein to Christian MK: Knesset won't put up Christmas tree

Knesset Speaker says inappropriate for Knesset to have tree, recommends for MK Sweid have one in his office instead.

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December 22, 2013 12:28
1 minute read.
Santa in Jerusalem, December 22 2013

Santa in Jerusalem 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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It is not appropriate for the Knesset to have a Christmas tree, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Sunday in response to a request from MK Hanna Sweid (Hadash), the body’s only Christian lawmaker.

However, Edelstein added, there is nothing stopping Sweid from putting a tree in his office or for Hadash to set one up in its faction room.

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“It is not right to instruct [the Knesset] to set up a Christmas tree as you asked,” the Speaker told Sweid.

Sweid said he was disappointed by Edelstein’s answer.

“I expected more openness from the Speaker,” Sweid stated.

“I think he felt pressured by extreme groups on the religious and nationalist Right.”

The Hadash MK added that a Christmas tree “could have been an opportunity to emphasize the Knesset’s special status as an official institution, but also a pluralist one where Arab MKs are elected by the public, including Christians, and there are representatives of all sectors of the population.”

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Sweid expressed hope that Edelstein’s decision would not set a precedent for other public institutions.

“The public space does not only belong to the Jewish majority. It should show other groups,” he said.

Last week, Sweid wrote Edelstein a letter asking for a tree to be placed in the legislature as a gesture to Christians in Israel and the world in response to “price-tag” vandalism in churches.

Sweid also pointed out that many US Jews have Christmas trees, and that Knesset Speakers traditionally participate in Muslim observances at the Knesset, like fast-breaking meals during Ramadan.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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