For decades now, the Jewish National Fund has been growing Arizona Cedars in two of their forests in Israel with Christmas in mind. Each year, at least 1000 trees are distributed by JNF to churches and monasteries (paid for by the Interior Ministry) as well as embassies, consulates and foreign diplomats (paid for by the Foreign Ministry). For this, I give JNF a big Yasher Koach.
Christmas is clearly not my holiday. But my fervent wish and prayer is for Christians in this country to have a meaningful and merry Christmas. As a Jew living in 2015, a Christian world, especially a Christian minority in Israel does not frighten me; a godless world especially a godless majority in Europe and elsewhere on the other hand terrifies me. If the JNF can contribute to good Christians spreading peace on earth and good cheer to all, then the JNF has my blessings as well as my support.
It’s tempting for us to seek justice against a minority, given what Christians have done to our people over the centuries, when we celebrated our festivals. Any of our Eastern European ancestors will sadly agree that all too often Pesach was a propitious time for a pogrom. It’s not for naught that the selection Shfoch Chamatcha el HaGoyim (pour out Your wrath on the Goyim) appears in the hagaddah. I wouldn’t be overstating it in the least to say: We owe them…big time.
Rather than “teach them a lesson”, let’s applaud the JNF as it teaches a Christian minority in Israel a lesson in mentschlechkeit. Who knows? It just might rub off. And if our mentschlechleit doesn’t rub off, them at least we’ll know that we did the right thing. Please remember, there’s a world of difference between hurt feelings where you can’t stand the sight of someone and the ability to look at yourself in the mirror. Given the choice, I’ll take the latter!
However elusive it may be, the slogan for (at least American) Christians this time of year is Peace on Earth. Let’s stand in awe of JNF as it chooses a path that’s very down to earth. Having just celebrated a festival with an inherent message of “the right to be different” where our Maccabean ancestors fought for the right to promote and celebrate one’s religion and culture, we should shep naches as the JNF understands that the right to be different doesn’t just apply to us but extends to other minorities as well.
It’s been a good many years since I’ve been in Israel in December, but should the opportunity present itself, one of the sights I’ll look forward to seeing will be Israeli Christmas trees in front of Christian churches and embassies thanks to the efforts of JNF making a difference in an area that is so very much beyond the thinking of a great many American Jews.