We've been reading over the past year that Abu Dhabi and the other emirates are having financial difficulties. But troubles at the bank are always relative. These are not the worries of Spain or Greece and not even the worries of this emirate's poorer cousins, which are far less than that of the now nearly bankrupt European states.
Maybe Shiekh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the present ruler of the emirate, was trying to make a statement that his duchy had no money troubles at all when he decorated the Christmas tree in the lobby of the Emirates Palace Hotel with fully $11 million of what the Associated Press called "premium bling, including gold, rubies, diamonds and other precious stones." Questions arose "about whether the opulent tree was innocent good cheer or unfortunate bad taste."
I am back at the Tel Aviv K-12 school -Bialik-Rogozin- which has given me a job teaching English to tenth graders. I stepped into the library yesterday and heard a teacher reading A Christmas Carol alternately in Hebrew and English to eight youngsters. In Hebrew, because that is the real-life language of the children, even those whose parents are foreign workers. In English, for them to get the cadence and lilt of the original.
A few hours later I wandered into a hallway-cum-assembly place. There, in the center, stood a different Christmas tree, that is, a Christmas tree differently adorned and more than a bit shorter. It was lush green, alright. But the hangings were made by the pupils in those curiously original styles in which youngsters dabble and experiment. So Merry Christmas from Tel Aviv, Israel.
I haven't decided at which church I will usher in the night when Jesus was born.