Christmas tree in Israeli mall called a ‘disgrace’ by Orthodox city official

By MARCY OSTER

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Ashdod mall put up a Christmas tree for the first time — that’s not sitting too well with the northern Israeli city’s haredi Orthodox deputy mayor.

“This is something intended to hurt anyone who identifies as Jewish,” Avi Amsalem said in a post on his Facebook page.

He called on the Big Fashion Mall to remove the “disgrace.”

The mall had responded to previous criticism by erecting a giant menorah next to the trimmed tree on Monday, even though Chanukah was ending.

While the Christmas tree was making its debut at the mall opened in 2015, Haaretz reported, other malls in Israel owned by the same company, which keeps open on Shabbat, have featured trees.

The company told Haaretz that the Christmas decorations are an attempt to bring a “European atmosphere.”

A large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union live in Ashdod, a port city about a half-hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, and many are believed to celebrate Christmas.

The city’s haredi population was accused of religious coercion in recent municipal elections.

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