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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celebrating 'winter' year after controversial tree removal

After unceremoniously removing all of its Christmas trees in the middle of the night last year, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this season will dispense with any religious symbols and just celebrate "winter."

A panel that formed after the Port of Seattle Commission removed the airport's 17 red-ribboned trees, decided the new decorations will feature a grove of birches in Dacron snow, hung with crystals and mirrors to reflect low-energy lights, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

The port drew international attention last year when its five elected commissioners reacted to a lawsuit threat by a rabbi who wanted to erect a menorah alongside the largest of Christmas trees.

As WND reported, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky said, contrary to widespread news reports, that he never intended to have the trees removed. The Jewish leader said he was horrified by the decision, which spurred anti-Semitism and angry accusations. The port returned the trees about a week later after Bogomilsky told officials his organization, the Northwest Friends of Chabad-Lubavitch, a Hasidic Orthodox group, was not going to sue.

This year, however, the port is taking no chances.

"What I was hoping for was something that was cheerful and evocative of the holiday spirit, and as much to do with nature and evergreen trees as they could," Commissioner Pat Davis told the Seattle paper "We wanted to move forward without something that would get us back into any sort of controversy, and I think it is very creative. I hope the public likes it – it will take a while to get used to."

The $300,000 airport display – now being assembled in a warehouse – will include foam migrating birds above the birch trees, which will be dusted periodically with non-toxic snowfall to the sound of wind chimes.

The port said it rejected the menorah last year because it didn't want other religious groups pressing to have their own symbols' included.

The port commission this year convened a 12-member holiday decorations advisory committee of religious, academic, legal and business leaders. The panel agreed in July to have decorations that would "reflect the Pacific Northwest environment and our diverse community, and convey universal values, such as peace and harmony."

The installation at airport is expected to begin Nov. 9.



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