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The Reason Why the Israeli Parliament Speaker Refused to Display a Christmas Tree

"Painful memories."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. Israel’s prime minister says he is making a “real effort” to reach peace with the Palestinians, but is giving no signs of progress in recently relaunched negotiations. In a speech to parliament on Monday, Netanyahu vowed to maintain a hard line in the negotiations. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) AP Photo/Ariel Schalit\n

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The speaker of Israel's parliament says he refused to display a Christmas tree in the building because of the "painful memories" it evoked among Jews.

Yuli Edelstein told Israel Radio Thursday such a public display of a Christian symbol could be construed as offensive. Jews have suffered from centuries of persecution by Christians.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Earlier this week, Edelstein rejected the request of a Christian-Arab lawmaker. He said the parliamentarian could display a tree in his office and party's conference room.

Edelstein says the initiative is part of an Arab campaign to chip away at Israel's Jewish nature. He warned that if he had agreed he would then likely face further requests to display a cross and crescent in parliament.

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