Nazareth Illit: The mayor of a
Jewish suburb of Nazareth on Wednesday sparked outrage after refusing
to allow Christmas trees to be placed in town squares, calling
Predominantly Jewish Nazareth Illit, or Upper
Nazareth, is adjacent to Nazareth, where Jesus is said to have
spent much of his life. It has a sizable Arab Christian
minority, as does mostly Muslim Nazareth itself.
"The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in
the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is
provocative," Mayor Shimon Gapso told a news agency.
"Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not
happen -- not this year and not next year, so long as I am a
mayor," he said of the northern Israeli town.
"Nazareth is right next door and they can do what they
want there," he said.
His decision angered the town`s Arab and Christian
minority, who accused him of racism.
"The racism of not putting a tree up is nothing
compared to the real racism that we experience here," said
Aziz Dahdal, a 35-year-old Christian resident of Nazareth
"When we asked the mayor to put up a Christmas tree in
the Arab neighbourhoods of Nazareth Illit he said this is a
Jewish town, not a mixed town," said Shukri Awawdeh, a Muslim
Arab member of the town council.
Awawdeh said there were 10,000 Arabs, most of them
Christian in the town and there was also a large community of
Christian Russian immigrants.
"We told him that decorating a tree is just to share
the happiness and cheer with other people in the town," said
"People here, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in
harmony, but when the mayor does something like that, it does
not make things better."
Christmas festivities in the Holy Land focus on the
West Bank town of Bethlehem, where Christians celebrate the
birth of Jesus in a manger.
But there are also events in Nazareth, where Jesus is
believed to have grown up with his mother Mary and her husband