Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Where Have I Heard That Song Before?

I got quite a start in Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station earlier this week. No, they haven’t added a women’s section to their synagogue. They had “Little Drummer Boy” playing on the piped-in soundtrack, and it wasn’t just an instrumental version, either.

This may sound strange coming from a religious Jew, but I actually don’t mind Christmas carols at all. During my years here I’ve found that many religious English-speaking Israelis actually like them—and I admit that I do, too. I guess we Anglos regard them as part of our shared cultural background. And I suppose that the whole concept of Christmas music is different here in the Jewish state, where we are not bombarded by Christmas advertisements from the beginning of November, Jewish holidays are the norm and the odd Hanukkah song isn’t tacked on to the public-school Christmas concert program as a gesture to the Jewish pupils, as it was in my day.

(That thesis may be a bit difficult to defend these days, with Israeli stores and schools now adopting Christmas symbols. But I believe that is a cultural expression stemming from a desire to emulate the US and has nothing to do with religious belief.)

I wonder what the Central Bus Station’s rabbi—the same man who feels that there is no need to include a women’s section in the bus station’s synagogue—would have done if I had alerted him to the phenomenon. But I was in a hurry and didn’t have time ... and actually, I didn’t mind it all that much. For me it was rather like finding something in a place where one wouldn’t normally look for it—like seeing Christmas decorations adorning sukkot in Me’ah She’arim, or discovering that there are elm trees in Jerusalem.

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