No probe for Israeli rabbi who called to avoid Christmas tree

Technion leader told students to stay away from building because it had ‘pagan’ symbol inside.

A Christmas tree ornament  (photo credit: KRIS DE CURTIS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
A Christmas tree ornament
Israel's state prosecutor will not open an investigation against a university rabbi for telling students to avoid a campus building because it had the “pagan” symbol of a Christmas tree inside.
Rabbi Elad Dokow, of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, made the remarks in December.
“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.”
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen had demanded to investigate the rabbi, who he said should be charged with incitement.
But Israel Radio reported that the prosecutor’s decision was based on the fact that Dokow’s directive wasn’t incitement, but only aimed at Jewish observant students who might have been seeking guidelines as to what Jewish law permits.
In response to the affair, the leader of the Christian Empowerment Council, which encourages Christian Israelis to enlist and integrate into the larger Israeli society, wrote to Dokow saying the country’s religious leaders need to work toward unity.
“Your God is also our God,” Father Gabriel Naddaf wrote to Dokow. “We were all born in the image of God.”
Dokow compared the tree’s display to letting students declare that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish people.
“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.”
In a Q&A on the national-religious Srugim website, where Dokow’s directive originally appeared, national-religious Rabbi Shlomo Aviner wrote 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.
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 also responded, saying 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.”