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Unnecessary enmity toward Christmas

In response to: "Yes, kids, there is a Jewish tannenbaum," December 20

Regarding "Hotels - under threat of losing kashrut certificates - are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby."

Just imagine our reaction if some European country prohibited putting up even the smallest Hannukah candelabrum in hotel lobbies.

Bianca Schlesigner

Tel Aviv

Let's treat New Year's right

As the new year approaches, the education system is repeating the usual and undignified routine of ignoring the New Year's Eve celebrations known as Sylvester parties. There are two main elements in this phenomenon: the absence of many post-elementary-school students from classes on January 1, and just as serious, teens' excessive alcohol consumption at these parties as the main activity, sometimes the only one.

We the education system, parents and community must deal with alcohol consumption through a comprehensive educational effort; this is actually happening with some success. But the matter of absence from school is an ugly, embarrassing phenomenon that cheapens the education system and the value of teachers who come to work and have to hold staff meetings because the classes are empty.

Undoubtedly the community - mainly the parents - plays a major role in this embarrassing phenomenon by ignoring or even consenting to school absences due to late-night parties, but we, as educators and Education Ministry officials, must take the initiative and work to limit this phenomenon. The ministry's guidelines call for a regular school day, but many parents let their children be absent.

In my humble opinion, this issue should be carefully reviewed and not overlooked. It's possible, for example, to designate this day as a day off that will be compensated for during one of the longer vacations like Hanukkah or Passover.

We could be less self-righteous in viewing this date as a Gentile holiday because, after all, our lives run according to the civil calendar. And if we recognize the Moroccans' Maimouna, the Ethiopians' Sigd and other holidays and make them a day off, we should respect the 1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union who celebrate New Year's.

True, acknowledging Sylvester parties would signal general acceptance of Western holidays by Israeli society, but with the immigration waves from the former Soviet Union, where New Year's Eve was the most meaningful and practically the only holiday fervently observed, the phenomenon has spread among immigrant youth and beyond.

It may be easy to ignore this and impose strict sanctions as the Education Ministry is recommending, but it would be better to channel this trend toward a civilian event at the time the tax year and budget year end - a celebration that doesn't affect the school year.

Asher Ben

Devora

Poor children with grown-up problems

It's sad to read about the worsening poverty in our country, and even sadder to read about the increase in the number of poor children. Children who should be outside playing, running around and having fun with their friends are dealing with grown-up problems.

Poverty exists; it's not a new social problem, but it's intensifying and something needs to be done to control it. There can be no legitimization for a family's economic situation and living conditions becoming a child's concern.

A child in distress is a child at risk. The recent reports on poverty present worrisome data and reflect the link between being at risk and the dropout rate, which leads to ignorance in society. When children are developing they should not have to behave like grown-ups.

This is a wake-up call for the government to urgently address the situation. Solutions should be found; a significant share of the national budget should be allotted to social services. It's impossible to wait and only have philosophical discussions. Our children are our future - and they deserve a better future.

Or Gafniel

Herzliya