Photo: Alex Kolomoiski
Never before have so many trees been sold in Israel ahead of Christmas. Once upon a time, not too long ago, they were sold only in areas where Israel’s Christian minority resides, in Haifa, Abu Ghosh, and east Jerusalem. Today, we can find them at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, at supermarket stores in Rishon LeZion, and at chains in Nazareth Elite and Netanya.
The buyers are no longer the State of Israel’s Christian citizens, but rather, mostly Israelis who moved here from the former Soviet Union and from Eastern Europe under the Law of Return, and are now openly celebrating the birthday of the Christian savior.
I am not a religious Jew and I do not live my life based on Jewish law. I am a Zionist Jew who lives in Israel because of my appreciation and love of Jewish culture. In my view, Judaism is not a religion, or mostly not a religion, but rather, a culture and nationality. I speak the language of the Bible, and I live in a country where Jews aspired to live for hundreds of years in political independence.
I am part of the Zionist enterprise, the largest secular movement of the Jewish people, which brought it back to its country and historic homeland based on its natural and historical right to live as a people like all others. My constitutive document is the Declaration of Independence. My cultural heritage is the Bible and not the Talmud.
The holidays I celebrate here are religious Jewish holidays, but I celebrate them not in accordance with religious law, but rather, based on my perception of them as a free person in his sovereign state. Yet I and people like me do not view Christmas as an Israeli holiday. More accurately, I do not see those who celebrate this holiday as entitled to come and live with us on the basis of the Law of Return, whose aim is to gather Diaspora Jews in their homeland.
The Law of Return is currently a mirror image of the Nuremberg Laws legislated by the Nazis against the Jews. Anyone considered a Jew based on Arian race laws is also considered as a “Jew” entitled to return to Israel. In defiance of the cursed Nazis and out of a genuine will to openly prove that the Jewish people is alive and well despite the terrible Holocaust it suffered, we created our main naturalization law based on the law implemented in the Diaspora by our most cursed enemies.
Do we want people who go to church regularly?Based on this law, a person is entitled to become an Israeli citizen even in the absence of any attachment to the Jewish people and its Zionist heritage. It is enough to have one parent, or even one grandparent who is Jewish to make a person Jewish and enable him or her to become an Israeli citizen.
In our wildest dreams we did not believe we will see people arriving in Israel and wishing to become citizens here not because they are persecuted over their Jewish faith, but rather, because Israel is a good place to live. What can we do? We’re a success story. Israel, despite the many security threats and social conflicts, has become a worthy place in international standards. There is no wonder then that we see people who seek to live here and receive assistance for their apparent “Aliyah” even if they have no connection to the Jewish Zionist culture and heritage.
I personally believe that the citizenship test of the Law of Return is not a religious one. Jewish law should not be determining who is entitled to become a citizen of Israel and who isn’t. Yet one thing is clear to me. A person who views himself as Christian and who follows Christian ritual which has no cultural connection to Jewish heritage or the Israeli existence has nothing to do with us. Do we wish to bring to Israel people who go to church regularly? Do we seek to turn Christmas into an Israeli holiday?
One of my friends is an immigrant from Russia. His father was a Zionist “refusenik” and his family celebrated the Jewish holidays all those years, even when this entailed true life danger. He moved to Israel about 20 years ago and speaks fluent Hebrew. I asked for his opinion on this matter, and he looked at me and said: “If I wanted to celebrate Christmas I would have stayed in Moscow. The holiday is much nicer there…”