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"Amid mainland hoopla, menorahs quietly go up at Hawaii airports"


 
Saturday, December 16, 2006

Amid mainland hoopla, menorahs quietly go up at Hawaii airports
By TARA GODVIN
The Associated Press


HONOLULU -- Despite a dustup in Seattle over whether Christmas trees and
menorahs have a place in that city's airport, both were put up this season
at airports throughout the islands without controversy.

"In light of everything that's going on, we thought it was a good idea to
approach the state ... and see if we can put the menorahs up there. And we
got a very, very favorable response," said Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky,
director of Chabad of Hawaii.

The national Chabad organization has put up menorahs in public places
throughout the country, including one in Waikiki, which Gov. Linda Lingle
was to help light Saturday night to celebrate Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish
festival of lights.

Earlier this week, maintenance staff restored 14 plastic trees to their
places at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after the trees had been
removed after a rabbi threatened to sue over the lack of a menorah in the
airport's holiday display.

Airport managers believed that if they allowed an 8-foot-tall menorah the
rabbi requested, they would also have had to display symbols of other
religions and cultures. On Monday, port officials learned that the rabbi's
organization would not file a lawsuit.

This year marks a first for menorahs in the common areas of Hawaii's
airports, said Krasnjansky and Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for state
Department of Transportation which has authority over the state's airports.

"It's a general holiday display. We're not going to have one or the other
stand out," Ishikawa said.

Each Hawaii airport menorah is six feet tall, with one each on all the major
islands except Oahu where one is in the international terminal and another
in the interisland terminal.

Ishikawa said the state has received no complaints from the public so far
over the trees and menorahs.

Displays of faith aren't uncommon in Hawaii where sessions of the state
Legislature's House and Senate open with religious prayers.

And while the historic Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu is demurely decorated
for the season with two wreaths on its front door and a simple, abstracted
nativity scene in a side garden, across the street at Honolulu Hale is a
whole other story.

Massive effigies of Mr. and Mrs. Claus bathe their feet in a public fountain
amid frolicking penguins. Next to them is a giant tree adorned with giant
pieces of candy. And on the other side of the hall, a site set aside for
charity groups features a nativity display by the Knights of Columbus urging
everyone to "Keep Christ in Christmas" and a rainbow colored display by
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Oahu declaring "All You
Need is Love."

Inside city hall, a live Santa awaits amid a forest of Christmas trees to
hear children's wishes beginning at 7:30 p.m. when the elaborate city lights
display that covers the grounds attracts droves of local and tourist
families.

"I've never seen a Christmas display like you have here," said John Packer
of Vancouver, British Columbia, who visited the Honolulu Hale Saturday with
his wife of 49 years, Ellen.

Taking a rest on a city bench, the couple said people should rejoice in
their cultural and religious differences and avoid conflicts over them.

"Give peace a chance ... couldn't hurt," John Packer said.

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