23 December 2014

The Hellenists Are Alive and Well Today

1 Tevet 5775
Rosh Chodesh
7th Candle of Hanukah

Quoting from a "Times of Israel" article...

December in Haifa, when menorahs mingle with Christmas trees and crescents

Over the past two weekends in December, Haifa’s artsy neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas has been overrun with soldiers in green uniforms. But these soldiers don’t have guns Instead, they have posters and petitions. “You light up my life!” reads one poster. Others gather signatures for petitions demanding people be happy and enjoy the holidays.

These “soldiers of love” are street performers at the popular Festival of Festivals in the mixed city of Haifa, Israel’s version of a “festivus for the rest of us” that celebrates the winter holidays of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

...In a country where most people live in religiously segregated neighborhoods, Haifa remains dedicated to multiculturalism and coexistence.

...“It’s not connected to religion at all, it’s totally about multiculturalism,” said Danny Ronen, the director of Haifa’s Tourist Board. “For Israeli Jews to come here and see a Christmas tree and to see Santa Claus and all those things is really nice, it puts them in the spirit of Christmas.” Ronen noted that growing up abroad in France and Belgium, his family incorporated their celebration of Hanukkah into the Christmas spirit of those countries, and he enjoys the blend of holidays. “It’s almost like going abroad, it’s really nice because Christmas is a special atmosphere,” he enthused.

...“Bringing my kids to see the lighting of the Christmas trees on Ben Gurion Street is a blessing,” said Ron. “It helps us understand we’re not alone in the world. There are more people living beside us who have the right to enjoy the holidays. It won’t hurt my Judaism, it may even strengthen it, because true Judaism is pluralism.”

At the city’s main traffic circle in front of the Baha’i Gardens, a worker put the finishing touches on a large menorah, a Muslim crescent, and a Christmas tree, celebrating all three monotheistic religions in front of the holiest site for the Baha’i faith.