Grinch Strikes Out

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

At first, it appeared that the mayors of two cities holy to Christians the world over would curtail their annual Christmas celebrations to protest the U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Luckily for those who make the annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem and Nazareth, wiser heads — perhaps with dollar signs in their eyes — prevailed.

In Bethlehem, the purported birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, Mayor Anton Salman originally announced that the Christmas tree in Manger Square would not be lit as a symbolic protest against the Jerusalem decision, diminishing one of Christianity’s holiest dates out of political spite.

Meanwhile, in Nazareth, the city in which Jesus was raised, Mayor Ali Salam said that Trump has taken the “joy” out of Christmas, and the town would cancel events planned for the holiday, according to the New York Daily News.

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“Our identity and faith cannot be bargained,” the mayor said.

But a victory for the Middle East version of the Grinch was averted when both mayors backed off of their shortsighted decisions. 

In Bethlehem, huge crowds gathered as its Christmas tree was lit outside the Church of the Nativity. Residents and tourists alike enjoyed the festivities as usual. 

In Nazareth, which is located in Israel and has a mixed Muslim-Christian population, the mayor said that while the festivities would be slightly modified, the popular and lucrative celebrations would be held as usual.

After apparently getting pressure from merchants in Nazareth, Salman told Reuters: “I don’t know why people thought that there would be cuts to the celebrations. Everything except for three singers who will not be coming will be held as normal. We have already welcomed 60,000 people to the city today.”

Curtailing festivities in Nazareth and Bethlehem would have violated the spirit of both Christmas and Hanukkah, which celebrate the quest for peace and religious freedom. And the moves would have hurt the Palestinian and Israeli residents of those two holy cities — a victory for forces that want to destabilize the region.

Now that the two Arab mayors have reversed their previous positions regarding Christmas, we hope the overall Palestinian leadership will have a similar change of heart and end its boycott of the peace process, resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution.

The planned visit to the Middle East by Vice President Mike Pence next month would be a good place to start.