Haifa Jews Demand 'Equal Holiday Rights' for Hanukkah
Haifa has long used the “holiday season” to promote itself as a destination for tourists, both from Israel and abroad. For Haifa, that has meant using the symbols of the season's Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, to attract Jews from Israel and abroad, and the symbols of the season's Christian holiday, such as the Christmas tree, to attract tourists of that faith, mostly from abroad, but also including Russian and Arab Christians living in the area.
This year, however, a number of Jewish residents complained that the city broke its usual “status quo.” Hannukah menorahs were nowhere to be found, the residents said, while Christmas trees were ubiquitous. Outraged Jewish residents of Haifa sent petitions and embarked on phone campaigns, demanding that their holiday be given equal billing with the Christian one.
The issue was serious enough for Haifa Deputy Mayor Shai Blumenthal, a member of the Bayit Yehudi party, to lend his name to the cause in an appeal to Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav for action. Blumenthal was joined by city council member Aryeh Blithenthal (United Torah Jewry), who called for equal holiday representation for Jews.
Eventually the appeals and protests had an impact. While the Christmas trees are still plentiful, more Hanukkah decorations were seen on streets over the weekend. And, several large menorahs have been set up around town, the largest being at the city's Chabad House.