JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said it would be inappropriate to place a Christmas tree on prominent display in the Knesset following a request from a Christian lawmaker.
Edelstein suggested in a statement released Sunday that Hanna Swaid of the Israeli-Arab Hadash party, who is Christian, place a Christmas tree in his office or in the party’s faction room.
“I do not believe it appropriate to order the erection of a Christmas tree as you requested,” Edelstein wrote.
Swaid on Sunday told Israeli media that he was disappointed in Edelstein’s response.
“The public space does not only belong to the Jewish majority. It should show other groups,” he told The Jerusalem Post.
Swaid had sent a letter to the speaker at the end of last week requesting that he place a Christmas tree at the entrance to the Knesset or in a “visible place.” He said it would be “a gesture toward Christian members of Knesset and citizens of Israel, and a symbol of [Israel’s] ties to the Christian world.”
Also on Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres visited the Franciscan Catholic Church in Ramla in honor of Christmas. He was welcomed by children in Santa hats singing Christmas songs in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
“It is a special occasion for us to be able to celebrate Christmas all together — we all pray to the same Lord and we all pray for the same thing — for the Lord to provide peace to us all and in particular that the young girls and boys will now know anymore wars and hatred,” Peres said in his greeting.
Leaders of several Christian denominations attended the event and each delivered a holiday greeting.