“Noël, Noël … born is the King of Israel !” Devout Jews, celebrating this year, 2014, the final evening of their feast of Hanukkah on our Christmas Eve, will hear, if not in televised Masses, inevitably in supermarkets, the famous Christian Christmas carol, praising the newborn King of Israel. There has not been a king of Israel for more than 2500 years. Christians believe not only that Jesus was and is the Messiah whom the Jews are still waiting for, but that this Jewish rabbi, said to be the Son of David, is the King of the Jews. The inscription on His cross on Calvary, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (“I.N.R.I.”) was Pilate’s cruel touch of satire to crown, along with the thorns, the terrible physical torture and execution to which he allowed Him to be condemned.

At Christ-Mass, I sometimes wonder what Jewish believers make of the joyous, universally popular Christian feast. A break-away sect of the first century of our era claims to have made Judaism an anachronism. If I were a Jew, I don’t think I’d be too happy about the fact being rubbed in at the end of every year.

All of which makes me wonder about ecumenism. In a recent post, “When Believers Bury the Hatchet”, I thought out loud about how sincere the representatives of Islam and both the Roman Catholic and Christian Orthodox churches could have been in their shared “silent adoration” in a mosque in Istanbul. It is significant that no Jewish rabbi was present. Since the antisemitic wealth tax in 1942 and the Istanbul pogrom against the Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities of Istanbul in 1955, there are only 26,000 Jews still living in Turkey. But there are currently 26 active synagogues in Istanbul. Apparently all the rabbis had already full agendas during the Papal visit…

It is remarkable that given not the gap but the abyss between the three monotheisms and even among Christian denominations, the pretense of compatibility or anything remotely resembling unity between them, could be taken seriously. We atheists, of course, could not, my dear, give a damn. It is just another facet of the absurdity of religious faith.

Happy Hanukkah ! Merry Christmas !