Christmas tree in Acre central square lights up debate

Local chief rabbi: There shouldn’t be Christian symbols in city but there’s no need to remove tree; Israeli-Arab writer: Decorations promote pluralism.

Christmas tree in Acre (photo credit: PR)
Christmas tree in Acre
(photo credit: PR)
The Acre Municipality, headed by Mayor Shimon Lankry, placed a Christmas tree for the first time in a central square of the mixed city, drawing mixed reactions from the city’s Arab  and Jewish residents.
Hatem Fares, an Israeli-Arab Christian on the city council, had requested that a tree be placed at Barcelona Square.
The chief rabbi of Acre, Yosef Yashar, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday that according to Jewish law, there is no place for Christian symbols in the city.
However, he went on to note, “Acre is a mixed city, and to remove the tree at this point would cause disrespect and create a provocation. From the outset it should have been considered whether this was a good idea, but now that [the tree] is there, there is no need to come with force and remove it.”
Next year, they need to rethink how to avoid this, he said.
“We have coexistence here” between Jews, Muslims and Christians, added the rabbi.
Residents who defend the tree’s placement say that Christians, who are taxpaying residents of the city, have the right to publicly celebrate their religion. They note that Hanukka menorahs are often placed in European and American cities without a big fuss.
Anton Shulhut, an Israeli-Arab writer and publicist from Acre, told the Post on Sunday that there should be no problem with the municipality placing a Christmas tree in the city.
Christian Arabs make up a minority of the city’s Arabs, but they are active and have four or five churches, pay taxes, and have rights as well, argued Shulhut.
Having the tree is good for the city and promotes pluralism, he said.
“People opposing it are not right,” as such opposition serves only to increase already high tensions in the city between Arabs and Jews.
“I would hope that all of the religious leaders would support coexistence and not tensions and conflict,” added Shulhut, noting that Muslims have no problem with the placing of the tree.
The Post contacted the Acre Municipality, but it declined to comment.