Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Armistice in Seattle

The Christmas War on the West Coast ends for the moment.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has returned the Christmas Trees they had removed. Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, who had pressured Airport officials to display a Menorah in addition to the Christmas Trees, rescinded his proposed lawsuit.

The Seattle Times has the details:

The holiday trees that went away in the middle of the night are back.

Monday night, Port of Seattle staff began putting up the trees they earlier had removed from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The trees had come down Friday night after a local rabbi requested that a Hanukkah menorah also be displayed, and Port officials had said the threat of a lawsuit left them without enough time to consider all the issues.

A nationwide furor erupted over the weekend as news of the trees' removal spread, with a flood of calls to Port officials and harshly worded e-mails to Jewish organizations.

On Monday, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky said he would not file a lawsuit and the Port, in response, said it would put the trees back up.

"This has been an unfortunate situation for all of us in Seattle," Port of Seattle Commission President Pat Davis said in a statement. "The rabbi never asked us to remove the trees; it was the Port's decision based on what we knew at the time. We very much appreciate the rabbi's willingness to work with us as we move forward."

A menorah will not be displayed this year.

Port spokesman Bob Parker said, "we look forward to sitting down after the first of the year with not only Rabbi Bogomilsky but others as well, and finding ways to make sure there's an appropriate winter holiday representation for all faiths. We want to find out a way to celebrate the winter holidays that is sensitive to all faiths."

Bogomilsky, who works with Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization, said, "Like people from all cultures and religions, we're thrilled the trees are going back up."

But he said he was disappointed that Port officials chose not to put up the menorah as well, pointing out that there are still several days until Hanukkah begins at sundown Friday. "I still hope that they'll consider putting the menorah up this year. But ultimately it's their decision."

The rabbi, who says he never wanted the trees removed, also said he hopes the Port will apologize for mischaracterizations that led people to believe he was against having the trees displayed.

"At the end of the day it's not about trees, but adding light to the holiday, not diminishing any light."
Unfortunately, our society tilts more and more toward diminishing light in this season. Lawsuits for Menorahs? Removal of Christmas Trees out of fear of future lawsuits?

How does this enlighten our lives in this joyful season?

We would all benefit from some Foolishness this season. Christmastime is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate, in joy, the best experience of all our lives. Let's not waste it fighting over the symbols in which we all find inspiration. Put up the Menorah. Keep the trees.

Is it really that difficult?

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