Dec 23, 2005

Clamoring for Christmas trees--in Israel

More and more Jews are buying them, but even some of the sellers have misgivings.
Moshe Zada, a native Israeli Jew of Persian decent, owns a small store near the old Tel Aviv central bus station that sells Christmas trees and Christmas paraphernalia.

"All of my customers are Russians or foreign workers," Zada insists, sounding anxious. "No Jews would want to have a tree in their home. Look for yourself," he says, pointing to a thin, blond man with a tattoo of an eagle on his forearm.

Then Lilach Cohen, 31, of Ramat Gan, interrupts to ask the price of a tree.

Cohen says she is buying the tree for a Christmas party she is having at her house.

"It is just another opportunity to party," says Cohen, who senses the need to address the religious issue, and adds, "I am secure enough with my faith in God to do something like this. The tree has no religious meaning for me whatsoever."

Cohen said she got the idea for the tree from TV.

Zada seems uncomfortable with Cohen's choice, but defends his sale.

"Listen, a guy has to make a living," he says. "What can I do?"

EVEN IN the most secular Israeli circles many consider a Christmas tree anathema. MK Ronnie Brizon of the staunchly secular Shinui Party says the phenomenon of Israelis celebrating with a Christmas tree is "weird and pathetic."

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