Sunday, December 17, 2006

O Hanukkah Bush

Back in the 1960s, reform Jewish friends from Beverly Hills or the San Fernando Valley used to joke about their “Hanukkah Bushes”.

The kids would insist that their parents buy a ceiling-scraping tree, heap it with baubles, and place it next to the front window, just like all the neighbors. Towering fir trees were flocked and decorated in blue and silver balls, or topped with a star of David rather than an angel. Some families added a special ornament for each night of Chanukah. This fad was seen as a kitschy SoCal hybrid of “Happy Cholidays” with Christmas commerce.

Devout Christian evangelicals reviled pagan trees and stockings left out for Santa Claus and restricted themselves to an elaborate nativity scene. They said anything else was putting the X into Christmas. But people of all religions were drawn to the community Xmas tree bonfires in mid-January. (photo above is courtesy of There must be a pyromaniac urge that unites us all. Burn baby burn!

This childhood memory fest was revived when the Jewish National Fund, the Zionists who now own 14 per cent of Israeli land, invited foreign journalists and “assorted Christian friends” to come claim a spruce or fir tree “thinned from its forests.” The largest trees are a staggering 6 metres tall! Leftist friends implied that these gift trees were tainted by a century of pro-settlement sentiment, and that we ought to try and support the Palestinian economy by ferreting out some Christian Xmas tree lots in the West Bank. Easier said than done, considering the obstacles of xrays and turnstills. I did manage to buy a couple of poinsettia plants in East Jerusalem and some overpriced ornaments in Bethlehem. But I hankered for a proper tree, and it seems counterproductive to spurn the JNF’s holiday gift if we expect to interview their members and report their perspective on occupation.

Yet some colleagues consider this notion politically incorrect and suggest that we risk selling out objectivity in exchange for a Hanukkah Bush. (The latter has nothing to do with Dubya Shrubya.) Well, bah humbug. I do wonder whether the JNF gives away trees to any Palestinian Christians. None were in evidence yesterday when Ozzy Bee and I went to pick up our arboreal presents from the JNF, but the giveaway goes on for another week.

We wound our way on the pine-scented Burma Road to Givat-Eshayahu nursery, where a taciturn muscleman took a buzz saw to the beautiful trees of our choice. When we loaded up the car, a nostalgic evergreen aroma of Christmas wafted all around us. We had to take our sylvan load past a couple of checkpoints. Soldiers wished us “Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas”, and cautioned us that the branches poking out the window posed a road hazard. One tiny adolescent soldier with a broad grin could almost have passed as an elf in her green fatigues, if only her rifle had been a toy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JNF is handing out trees at Jaffa Gate to all comers.