By Julie Stahl
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – The sale of Nativity scenes with a wall running through the middle to symbolize Israels security barrier borders on anti-Semitism, Jewish groups are saying.
The Amos Trust, a British Christian charity that works with needy communities around the world, is selling the traditional Nativity sets with a political twist, noting that the wise men wont reach the stable because of the wall. The Amos Trust says its Nativity sets are made by Palestinian carpenters from olive wood from Bethlehem.
Israel started building its security barrier a series of walls and fences in response to an upsurge in Palestinian terrorism that began in 2000. When it is complete, the barrier will stretch nearly 500 miles, dividing Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank.
Near Bethlehem, the barrier separates the town where Jesus was born from Jerusalem.
The security barrier has been deemed a necessary response to terrorism and indeed has saved many lives, both Jewish and Arab, said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The irony is that Mary and Joseph would have been a Jewish couple, and if they were travelling through the West Bank today, [their lives would have been at risk] from the same terrorists that have targeted so many Israelis, Benjamin told Cybercast News Service.
Other Jewish leaders were dismayed as well by the politically motivated Nativity sets.
Its a shameful, cheap gimmick and its destroying the spirit of Christmas by politicizing it, Arieh OSullivan, an ADL spokesman in Jerusalem, told Cybercast News Service. Its amazing how low people will go to make a sale.
OSullivan said the sets come close to resurrecting the old anti-Semitic canard that says Jews killed Christ.
The British have a very long history of anti-Semitism, said Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America. That, coupled with the fact that the most popular name for a newborn in England is now Mohammed, tells what is happening to England and Europe, he said.
Im not surprised by this type of racism against Jews and Israel, said Klein in a telephone interview.
Its not a good idea at all to use any religious symbols or events for anti-Israel propaganda, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel told Cybercast News Service.
Many Palestinian Christians blame the security barrier for their financial troubles, which have prompted many Christians to leave Bethlehem and other Palestinian Authority areas.
Bethlehem Pastor Naim Khoury said Nativity scenes are supposed to depict a real-life event that did not include a security barrier. Its a real story. Its not a fake story, Khoury told Cybercast News Service. The wise men, shepherds, sheep should all be included.
David Parsons, spokesman for the pro-Israel International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, called the Nativity sets a disgraceful political exploitation of the Bibles message.
The message of the incarnation is too precious for any Christians to be abusing it in this way.