Haiku My Heart: Peace in the Gardens of Nazareth Hills

Peace in the Gardens of Nazareth Hills, Israel by  hermin abramovitchPeace in the Gardens of Nazareth Hills, Israel by Hermin Abramovitch

A Rush of White Wings

Round a Peace Encircled Tree,

Hope Grows like Green Grass.

~Noelle Renee

Dec. 31, 2010

Nazareth-The-Fountain-of-the-Virgin-1894 (1)

Nazareth, Jesus’s hometown, is today a bustling city of over 70,000 people. The people of Nazareth are termed “Arab citizens of Israel” or “1948 Palestinians,” depending on one’s politics. About a third of Nazarenes are Christians, the rest are Muslim.

On the hill rising above the dense town and its imposing Basilica of the Annunciation, lies Upper Nazareth (Hebrew: “Nazareth Illit”). This community was founded by Israel in 1957, a Jewish town situated so as to overlook the country’s largest solidly Arab community. However, realities in Galilee transcend nationalist aspirations. Families from Nazareth proper have been moving over the years to the airier hilltop suburb. Today, about 15 percent of Upper Nazareth residents are Arabs, mostly Christians.

These Arabs have witnessed the enormous Hanukkiyahs (menorahs) placed by the city over the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. Now, with the coming of Christmas, they approached the mayor, Shimon Gapso, and requested that a Christmas tree be placed as well. Gafso, reports Israeli news site NRG (owned by Maariv), refused staunchly. “Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” said Gapso, “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”

Arab members of the city council, representing a moderate public that chose to come and live in a heavily Jewish suburb, insisted. They mentioned the Hanukkiyahs erected in American cities that aren’t designated Jewish. Gapso ignored their pleas. “Let them go down to Lower Nazareth,” he said this week. To his support came the city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, who said that erecting a Christmas tree is unthinkable since it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes.”

Unlike the reporter at NRG, the author here at +972 Magazine has liberty to comment and analyze. It is almost scary to attempt this, since such a story would read so differently to different readers. Being a Jew, I know exactly how threatening Christmas is to us, being the most tempting symbol of non-Jewish life (I wouldn’t even say Christian life, since the roots of the holiday are pagan, it is celebrated by non-Christians and has been greatly stripped of its Christian content over the past century). We have all been brought up with the notion that holding on to Judaism requires resisting such symbols.

In the heart, that is.

By declaring Upper Nazareth Christmas resistant, Mayor Gapso exposes the great insecurity and confusion of the Jewish state. If the only way to maintain the Jewish character of his town is by showing complete lack of tolerance and resisting integration of its non-Jewish residents, then Upper Nazareth is in fact a self imposed ghetto, walled by fear and intolerance and so, by extension, is the entire state of Israel.

Having lived within these walls for so long, Mayor Gapso has absolutely no clue what non-Jews around the world would feel when hearing that the mayor of a Nazareth suburb bans Christmas trees. He is the mayor who stole Christmas, the mayor of an ethnocentric town with a name that hints at superiority, who rejects a symbol of universal tolerance.

Make no mistake, mayors always think forward to the next election. Mr. Gapso, who in the past made efforts to draw Jewish families into his town and reduce the percentage of Arabs in it, predicts that his act will draw support from the community. In that he does not differ from the Jewish mayors of other mixed towns, such as Akko’s Shimon Lankry, who take an intolerant position whenever that is an option, gaining power from the animosities within their communities.

In the spirit of the holidays, let us conclude this not with them but with a fond mention of a different city. The city of Haifa, under Mayor Yona Yahav, placed a huge Christmas tree right at the boundary of the its Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, (in fact, a bit further into the Jewish area), proving that sharing the festive season is possible even in this troubled land.

--Wednesday, December 22 2010|Yuval Ben-Ami  (author)

For more Haikus of Peace for the New Year see recuerda mi corazon

May the Seeds of Peace be Planted firmly in your Soul this Year and Reap a Fine Harvest in your Life and Heart.

Blessings and Light in 2011

~Noelle Renee



  1. Dearest Noelle,

    Thank you for your haiku of peace, and beautiful image.

    Thank you also for this information, making us appreciate our on-line 'peace loving' family, feeling even more precious!

    A very happy new year to you my friend,

    love Sue x

  2. Peace unto you. Deep, lasting peace. Calmness. Serenity. And love!

  3. dear noelle,
    the new year unfolds...all the brighter knowing we will lift each other up through all seasons.
    love love love you,

  4. Interesting story. All it makes me think of is this is why we have a world at war, constantly. I can't begin to figure it out.
    All the while your haiku is the reason I came here and it is lovely and speaks of peace, something I really strive for in my own life. (I haven't given the finger to an erradic driver on years!) It all starts with forgiveness you know.
    Thank you so very much for your visits to my blog and the kind words you bestow upon my pages. Thanks for your lovely photographs and articles. Thank you, you are a good friend to have. Your days will be wonderful, all of them.

    Peace, always

  5. Thank YOU!!! Noelle for the gift of seeing Nazareth Hills Gardens in this Christmas season!!! I LOVE it, it is soOOOOOooO BeauY Full!! HAPPY NEW YEAR! to YOU and YOURS!!! God Bless Mayor Yona for striving for PEACE! Thank YOU for all the spectacular photos! My eyes really enJOY them!!


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