Hamas in Gaza banned New Year celebrations because "celebrating the new year contradicts the instructions of Islamic religion. It's a Western custom that we don't accept in Gaza." A similar line of reasoning was used this week by a leading moderate Zionist Orthodox rabbi to do almost exactly the same thing.
Above: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Hamas in Gaza has banned New Year's celebrations because they "contradict Islam," the AP reported today.
[Gaza] Police spokesman Ayman Batniji said hotels and restaurants were allowed to hold parties a day earlier, or a day later.
"Celebrating the new year contradicts the instructions of Islamic religion," Batniji said. "It's a Western custom that we don't accept in Gaza."
Earlier this week, one of Israel's most liberal Zionist Orthodox / Modern Orthodox rabbis, Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, argued that New Year's celebrations are forbidden under halakha and Jews should not partake of them:
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, has far-reaching spiritual meaning throughout the year, [Riskin said,] while the secular New Year was created by the Romans as an expression of "debauchery."
But Riskin did go on to admit the ban he sees on celebrating the secular New Year is only rabbinic in origin.
Israel's haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate has repeatedly threatened hotels and restaurants who want to hold New Year's Eve or Christmas Eve parties for Christian tour groups that doing so – especially if a Christmas tree is displayed – will cost the restaurant or hotel its kosher certification.
Even when the High Court of Justice forbade the Chief Rabbinate from extorting restaurants and hotels in this manner, it found a way to continue to do so, using its local affiliates like the official state Jerusalem Chief Rabbinate to do its dirty work – dirty work that is supported even by many Zionist Orthodox rabbis, including Jerusalem's current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern.
This begs an important question.
What would happen if Zionist Orthodox and/or haredi rabbis controlled Israel? Would that ban on Christmas and New Year celebrations in hotels and restaurants be extended to Christmas and New Year celebrations in private homes in Jewish areas of the country? Of course it would. Would the ban be extended to the entire country including non-Jewish areas? It likely would and would be used a tool to try to force those non-Jews to leave Israel.
We focus on the terrorism of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and ISIS, but we often forget that these fundamentalist groups also seek to govern. Theocracies are not pretty things. They are repressive and almost always evil. Arguably, what most separates Israel's wannabe theocrats from Hamas, at least for the day -to-day lives of the citizens they seek to rule, isn't that our theocrats are good and their's are bad. It's that our theocrats do not – yet – hold absolute power.