Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday wars

Here’s the situation: your local public airport (or library, or courthouse, or city hall, or. . . you get the idea) has a display of lighted “Christmas trees.” Your local airport (or whatever) decides to call them “Holiday trees” and figure that will be enough to keep all cultures happy. It works for several years and then a local rabbi asks that the local airport (or whatever) put a menorah beside the trees. The rabbi doesn’t ask for the trees to be taken down. He only wants to menorah added to the display to make it more culturally diverse. He also asks for the menorah to be included in the display back in October.

Your local airport (or whatever) doesn’t respond to the rabbi. Maybe they think if they ignore him the rabbi will go away. Maybe they don’t think at all. Maybe they decide to “research” the issue. In any case, having received no response to his request, the rabbi threatens a lawsuit.

Remember, the request was simply to add a menorah to the display. Add something, not take something away.

Your local airport, to ensure cultural sensitivity, responds by taking down the display completely. And by making sure that the implication is that the rabbi forced them to take the trees down. Hoping to hide their inability to make a decision or admit to their actions, your local airport tries to have the trees taken down after midnight.

If you live in Seattle, this really is your local airport. Instead of making a decision anytime between October (when the request was first made) until December 9, 2006 about including a menorah in the display, the port authority decided to take their ball and go home.

One commissioner, John Creighton, showed his understanding of the issue by making this statement

I felt we’d also have to put up Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish symbols. Where does it stop?

It appears that Creighton doesn’t realize that the menorah is a Jewish symbol. It also appears that Creighton doesn’t realize that Hanukkah is celebrated at the same time as Christmas.

Just what does the rabbi that requested the addition of the menorah feel about SeaTac Airport’s decision to remove the display?

Elazar Bogomilsky, the rabbi who requested the menorah be added to the display back in October said,

Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season.

Bogomilsky did not want the trees taken down. At least one commissioner, Bob Edwards, felt that the Port’s decision was an “overreaction.”

And just what other religions celebrate holy days in December? Not too many. While several holidays are listed in December, they only belong to a handful of religions.

So is this a real example of Bill O’Really’s “War on Christmas?” Hardly. This is the small minded reaction of a single group of people that had hoped that by ignoring the rabbi he would go away. The port authority had plenty of time to address the issue prior to deciding to just take it all down. They hired someone to do research into the issue for them. Any one of them could have done a search on the internet and found plenty of information very quickly to help them determine a course of action. Back in October the port authority could have done a search to see which holidays were celebrated in December and decided to incorporate symbols from the three main religions involved.

They could have done all of that. By doing that the port authority would have shown that they were aware that Christmas is not the only holiday of the season. They would have shown that they recognized that they lived in a culturally diverse area.

Instead, the Seattle airport authority decided to pack it in and take the display down. If anyone in this case is waging a “war on Christmas” it is the SeaTac Airport authority by not demonstrating the giving nature of the season. Instead of giving space to the rabbi’s request, the authority took the display away from everyone.

The authority would like you to believe they took the display down to be “thoughtful and respectful” and to give them time to review their policies in January. I personally feel that it was little more than “if I can’t have it my way no one can have it” reaction of the majority of the commissioners involved in the decision making. Childish.

Equally childish is the response you can see on any of the Sound-Off pages from Seattle’s media. Most posters show that they don’t know anything about the issue beyond the fact that the trees were removed. Most accuse the rabbi of claiming to be “offended” by the Christmas/Holiday tree display. As his quote above shows, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky was not offended by the display. He simply asked for some representation of his religion.

Most posters also assume that the rabbi’s first action was to hire a lawyer and threaten a lawsuit. It wasn’t. His first action was to send a request to be included to the airport authority back in October. The lawyer was a last resort.

One last assumption of the posters is that Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky is a liberal, “radical” rabbi. Bogomilsky belongs to the “Chabad-Lubavich” movement. In other words he’s part of a messianic, Hassidic branch of Judaism known for it’s conservative, fundamentalist practices.

This event doesn’t prove that there is a “War on Christmas.” It only proves that there are far too many small-minded and childish people in this country who would rather “take their ball and go home” than show the true meaning of the season. You know, that idea of “Peace on earth and good will toward man.” Those lessons that Jesus Christ tried to teach.

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Blogger Happy Mama to Three said...

I have a real problem with the whole concept of "War on Christmas." There is nothing wrong with having a Christmas tree, or saying Merry Christmas equal to the Jewish culture displaying a mennorah or celebrating in any way they choose. In a public place a display for the major holidays of a season should be multicultural as far as I am concerned. I am a devoted, rather conservative Southern Baptist. But that doesn't make me offended by anyone's holiday traditions. I think Seatac probably doesn't have a clue how to handle this type of situation and the easiest way out was just to not celebrate or commemorate anything. Ridiculous.


12/12/06 2:14 PM  
Blogger itazurakko said...

I'll consider the airport (or other such places) truly clued in when they have a holiday display for some other culture when it is NOT around X'mas. How about Jewish New Year or Lunar New Year? Or the star festival? Not holding my breath.

The interesting thing right now is Ramadan and Eid. Interest in Muslim holidays spiked after 2001, and conveniently Eid was in the general "Holiday season," so it got the "alternative X'mas" treatment. Eid IS the big "go visit with family" holiday, so in that sense it sort of works, but it rotates around the year.

It was in the fall this year, and eventually it'll work its way around all seasons. Seeing signs with Eid now is hilarious in a sad kinda way. Like the Hannukah discrepancy but larger...

13/12/06 9:22 AM  

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