In a letter to hotel managers, Jerusalem’s two chief rabbis have requested that Christmas trees not be displayed in the city’s hotels on the basis of Jewish law. According to Times of Israel, the rabbis’ also requested that New Year’s Eve parties not be hosted, as they mark the completion of the secular, rather than the Hebrew, year.
“As the secular year ends, we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel,” the letter reads. “It is also appropriate to avoid hosting parties to mark the end of the secular year.”
The rabbis pointed out that the Jewish new year falls on the first of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, “in an atmosphere of holiness, with the happiness of mitzva.”
A Rabbinate spokesman told Israeli news site Kippa that the request was “a private initiative from the Jerusalem rabbinate” requesting that Christmas decorations be removed “out of consideration for the feelings of those members of the public who observe mitzvos.”
Despite this disclaimer, the chief rabbis request appears to contradict guidelines issued by the Chief Rabbinate in 2015, stating that the kashrut certification of hotels could not be revoked based on music, photography, or the displaying of Christmas trees. The guidelines were implemented in response to a petition by Israeli NGO Hiddush- For Religious Freedom and Equality, demanding that that the existing regulations be changed.
“After decades, the Chief Rabbinate ended its policy of religious coercion related to Shabbat observance and Christmas,” Rabbi Uri Regev, the CEO of Hiddush, said in a statement at the time. “The kashrut regulations for hotels, hostels and halls are now finally in line with the law and truly deal only with matters of kashrut.”
In a statement cited by Times of Israel Monday, Regev said he had “heard of [local] rabbinates that do not consider themselves bound by the law or the ruling of the Supreme court. We understand the sensitive situation that hotels find themselves in, and offer our assistance in enforcing the law against renegade rabbinates, which are publicly funded by the state but disregard its laws.”