Video: Christmas returns to Seattle airport

msnbc.com news services
updated 12/12/2006 9:42:58 AM ET 2006-12-12T14:42:58

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — again — as trees are going back up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Pat Davis, president of the Port of Seattle commission, which directs airport operations, said late Monday that maintenance staff would restore the 14 plastic holiday trees, festooned with red ribbons and bows, that were removed over the weekend because of a rabbi’s complaint that holiday decor did not include a menorah.

Airport managers believed that if they allowed the addition of an 8-foot-tall menorah to the display, as Seattle Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky had requested, they would also have to display symbols of other religions and cultures, which was not something airport workers had time for during the busiest travel season of the year, Airport Director Mark Reis said earlier Monday.

Port officials received word Monday afternoon that Bogomilsky’s organization would not file a lawsuit at this time over the placement of a menorah, Davis said in a statement.

“Given that, the holiday trees will be replaced as quickly as possible,” he said.

Davis added that the rabbi “never asked us to remove the trees; it was the port’s decision based on what we knew at the time.”

A plan for next year’s decorations
There were no immediate plans to display a menorah, airport spokesman Bob Parker said, saying restoration of the trees was expected to take place overnight Monday.

“A key element in moving forward will be to work with the rabbi and other members of the community to develop a plan for next year’s holiday decorations at the airport,” the port statement said.

The rabbi has also offered to give the port an electric menorah to display, said his lawyer, Harvey Grad.

“We are not going to be the instrument by which the port holds Christmas hostage,” Grad said, emphasizing the rabbi never sought removal of the trees, but addition of the menorah.

The rabbi had received “all kinds of calls and emails,” many of them “odious,” Grad said, adding he was “trying to figure out how this is consistent with the spirit of Christmas.”

Thirteen trees had sat above foyers that lead outside to the airport drive. The largest tree, which Reis estimated to be 15 or 20 feet tall, was placed in a large lobby near baggage claim for international arrivals.

After the removal, some airline workers decorated ticketing counters with their own miniature Christmas trees.

Customer service agents with Frontier Airlines pooled their money Monday morning to buy four 1-foot-high Christmas trees, which they placed on the airline’s ticketing counter. Atop a Delta counter, workers put up a tree several feet tall.

The airlines lease space for ticket counters from the airport, and can display trees there if they want, Reis said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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