Rabbi Elad Dokow of the Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology – has issued a prohibition against Jewish students entering the university’s student union due to the Christmas tree that has been set up there. The Technion which was founded in Haifa in 1912, during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, is the oldest university in the country.
“The Christmas tree is a religious symbol – not Christian, but even more problematic – pagan,” Dokow wrote in an article carried on the religious website Srugim. “Halakha [Jewish religious law] clearly states that whenever it is possible to go around and not pass through a place where there is any kind of idolatry, this must be done. So one shouldn’t enter the student union if it’s not necessary to do so.” Dokay said that he wrote the prohibition “in wake of the student union’s affront to the Jewish identity on campus, by placing a Christmas tree (if only there were a [Hanukah] menorah of that size)… in the public space (the student union) and giving a place to Christian religious identity in the heart of the Technion.”
Asked if it was permissible to buy food or eat in the student union, the rabbi replied, “Unfortunately, I do not see any way to permit this, especially since there is a problem with uttering God’s name and reciting blessings in a place where such problematic things are found.” Explaining his objection, the rabbi wrote, “This is an anti-Jewish and not just an anti-religious symbol. Is it conceivable that in the name of some type of liberty we would let students declare that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish people as was done by UNESCO? Must we accept everything without reservation or limit? In the name of acceptance, would we sanction a Spanish food festival that prominently featured pork? (I served as a rabbi in Madrid and that is the national food there.)”
The rabbi also wrote it would not be sufficient if a Hanukah menorah were also placed there next to the tree, because “it would be paired with something that represents the total antithesis of the Hasmoneans’ entire struggle.” Dokow added, “I would have expected something different from an academic institution – an approach that is more scientific and intellectually and ethically thoughtful.”
In a message to Technion President Prof. Peretz Lavie, Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) argued that the rabbi’s words constitute incitement and that he should therefore be fired. “There’s no need to elaborate on the gravity of these statements, and the serious offense to the Technion’s Arab students and to Arabs in Israel – in general. These statements contain clear incitement to racism, in violation of the law, and therefore also constitute a serious criminal offense,” Jabareen wrote.
The Hadash MK says such statements harm the fabric of Jewish-Arab relations and thus stand in stark contradiction to the Technion’s impressive efforts over the last few years to integrate Arab students. Jabareen called for Dokow’s immediate dismissal as rabbi of the Technion synagogue. He also called on the school’s administration to denounce his statements, and to call upon students to come and partake of the cultural richness at the student union.