The council of the Norwegian town of Strand has asked a local church to drop the Star of David from its Christmas decoration because it is being associated with Jews and Israel in an uncalled-for way.
Strand Mayor Irene Heng Lauvsnes of the Conservative Party has admittedly received numerous complaints regarding the Christmas decoration, set up by Klippen Pentecostal Church. The decoration featured a hexagonal star, which many interpreted as a symbol of Jews and Israel. Lauvsnes, herself a member of Klippen, then asked the church to replace the star with a “traditional one”.
“Strand municipality has not imposed a ban, but the administration asked Klippen to do something about the shape of the star. For me as mayor, it is important that public places remain neutral, especially when we see that there are contradictions and different opinions”, Lauvsnes explained to the newspaper Aftenbladet.
Klippen Church agreed to make the changes “to reflect the reactions that have come”. At the same time it assured that it didn't intend to provoke anyone and suggested it was a mere coincidence that the Christmas star turned out to be the same shape as that of the Star of David.
However, the Christmas star and its shape sparked serious commotion in Norway and abroad.
Vebjorn Selbekk, the editor-in-chief of the Christian newspaper Dagen, published a searing opinion piece in order to “remind municipal bureaucrats” of some important facts about Christmas and why it is celebrated.
“Have you forgotten that we celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy to a Jewish mother in a Jewish stable in a Jewish city in a Jewish country?” Selbekk wrote in his piece “Merry Jew-Free Christmas”.
The news also received coverage in the Israeli media.
On Facebook, the decision was interpreted as a ban on the Star of David and contact information about Strand's mayor was shared for people to speak up. Irene Heng Lauvsnes admitted to receiving several phone calls, six text messages and 14 e-mails, in some of which she was called an “idiot”.
“It's okay for people to get involved, but I'm a little surprised at how rude people can be. I have never thought a star should create so much engagement, I have never thought it would be such a big issue, or that it should be linked to freedom of speech”, she concluded.