On Christmas, Netanyahu declares ‘Next year in Jerusalem’
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Christians in Israel and around the world a Merry Christmas and offered to give them a guided tour next Christmas, Palestinians scaled back all celebrations of the holidays to strictly religious observations in protest of the American decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Christians make up about 2 percent of the Palestinian population.
Bethlehem’s mayor, Anton Salman, said celebrations were toned down because of anger over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We decided to limit the Christmas celebrations to the religious rituals as an expression of rejection and anger and sympathy with the victims who fell in the recent protests,” he said. “We want to show the people that we are people who deserve life, deserve our freedom, deserve our independence, deserve Jerusalem as our capital.”
In a video message filmed outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Netanyahu said Christians “can visit… any place that you want to visit, in the footsteps of Jesus and in the origin of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
“I’m proud that Israel is the country in which Christians not only survive, but they thrive because we believe in this friendship among people and we protect the rights of everyone to worship in the holy shrines behind me,” he said.
“Please come to Israel, next year in Jerusalem and Merry Christmas to all of you,” he added.
At Christmas mass in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the apostolic administrator of Jerusalem and the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, referred to Trump’s decision — with which he disagrees — and prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, appealing to politicians “to have courage” to make bold decisions.
“There is no peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude,” Pizzaballa said. “The mother, Jerusalem is our mother, loves all her children. If one is missing, the mother cannot be in peace.”
More Embassies to join US, Guatemala in Jerusalem
Ynet is reporting that one two more countries will probably be joining America in moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Guatemala President Jimmy Morales announced Sunday his country will be doing so. Now, it is believed that Honduras, Guatemala’s neighbor, and Paraguay are expected to follow suit.
Honduras and Guatemala were among nine countries that voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution last week which declared Trump’s declaration “null and void.”
Paraguay abstained from the vote.
Morales is attempting to consolidate cooperative ties with Israel in a variety of fields, and also solicit economic assistance from Washington as the country steps up its battle against crime and drugs, Ynet reported. The move also helped curry favor with his country’s Evangelical base.
City of Gold
Jerusalem’s most exclusive hotel, the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria Hotel, just sold for for $130 million, Globes has reported.
The Reichmann Canadian Jewish family sold to French-Jewish buyer, Michel Ohayon, owner of the Versailles Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The Hilton Hotel chain manages the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria.
The hotel, which opened in 2014, was the first in Israel of the Waldorf Astoria chain. It has 227 rooms and a residential wing with 30 luxury apartments. The residential wing recorded Jerusalem’s most expensive real estate deal when in 2014 Russian Leonid Nevzlin bought a 500-square meter apartment there for 40 million shekels ($11.4 million).
The Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria Hotel is located in downtown Jerusalem on King David Street and down the street from the American consulate.
Showdown between religious and secular over Shabbat
Six municipalities are scrambling to enact new bylaws to allow businesses to open on Shabbat before the national government passes the “Supermarket Bill,” which would allow the interior minister to veto them, Haaretz reported
Ultra-Orthodox parties are sponsoring the bill, which has passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset, allowing the interior minister to veto any new bylaws allowing businesses to open on the Sabbath. The law would not be retroactive, hence the rush to pass new laws before its enactment.
Mayors from 58 cities sent a letter opposing the Knesset bill to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that the bill would “severely harm” Israelis and “drastically alter the status quo regarding commercial activity on Shabbat in localities throughout the country.”
Avi Gabbay, Labor Party chairman, also spoke against the proposed legislation.
“One after the other, local communities are rising up and telling the government, ‘Let us run our lives as we please; don’t force us into a life that isn’t suitable for us.’” Gabbay said, mentioning establishments already running on Shabbat. “We’re in favor of Shabbat as a day of rest and a day that’s different, and we’re in favor of anyone who works on Shabbat getting what he deserves by law and even more. But we’re also in favor of communities deciding whether or not they want supermarkets and whether or not they want public transportation on Shabbat.”
One religious organization, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, also opposes the bill.
“The Supermarket Law is a double mistake,” the organization’s Tani Frank said. “First, even its sponsors know it won’t survive a High Court challenge. …Second, it’s bad for Shabbat. Had it never been born, mayors would never have dreamed of enacting legislation allowing businesses to open within their jurisdictions — they would have continued the local dialogue that makes coexistence possible.”