Jerusalem’s free Christmas trees bring joy, unity after Hamas massacre

Nataly Brol came to pick up a free mini Christmas tree from Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time on Tuesday.

A resident of Jerusalem who moved to Israel from Ukraine 25 years ago, this season, she decided her home needed a little extra joy.

“For me, this is to celebrate Novy God,” the Russian New Year, she explained. “Usually, I celebrate at home with my son. This year, he is on reserve duty in the IDF. So I decided I would put up a tree to bring some joy. I like the smell of the tree; it reminds me of back home.”

Bringing the holiday spirit to Israel

Brol was one of around 100 Jerusalemites waiting in the cold by the New Gate to receive their free Christmas tree, a project of the Jerusalem Municipality. Each year, for the past 25 years, the city has been giving out 350 free trees to Christian residents – local Arab Christians, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Christian volunteers who are in the city for the holiday, said Jerusalem spokesperson Udi Shaham.

The city advertises the offer in local newspapers in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, he said.

Picking up Christmas trees in the old city. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Getting trees this year was more difficult than in the past, because they come from southern Israel, noted Bassam Ghoul, who leads the tree distribution. Many of the farms where the trees are harvested were destroyed or burnt during the October 7 Hamas terrorist massacre. As such, trees had to be planted again, so they were much smaller than in previous years, he said.

Many people from the former Soviet Union don’t celebrate Christmas, but Novy God, which has less religious significance, explained a Jerusalemite as she waited for the trees to arrive. When the white pickup trucks pulled in through the gate, the crowd ran after them, eager to see the selection.

Trees that bring joy

“I get a tree every year,” Sofia Sakoltsev said as the trucks passed. “While it is true that many festivities have been canceled this year, I want to bring some joy to my family.”

Sakoltsev, like Borel, was getting the tree for Novy God. She pointed to dozens of others like her. She said that her family gives out gifts on the holiday, makes unique salads, and eats clementines. The tree is another special part of the celebration.

Moreover, this year, the trees would take on extra meaning in the aftermath of the Hamas massacre, Ghoul said.

“Jerusalem is the city of peace,” he screamed from atop one of the trucks as residents waved their hands, begging to be next to receive a tree. “Here in Jerusalem, Jews, Christians, and Muslims live together, and we will continue to live together and celebrate all of the holidays together.” 





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