Full-Size Christmas Trees to Return to Seattle Airport

The Christmas trees are going back up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Port of Seattle officials had ordered the trees taken down over the weekend after a local rabbi threatened a lawsuit if a menorah wasn't also displayed at the airport.

Airport officials say they took that action out of concern that if they allowed the addition of a menorah, 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.

Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky says he never asked that the trees be taken down, and the threat of a lawsuit was withdrawn.

With the threat of the lawsuit gone, airport spokesman Bob Parker says all 14 trees will go back up -- hopefully by tomorrow morning.

A menorah won't be going up for now, but Parker says airport officials will sit down with the rabbi and others after the first of the year to discuss ways to recognize the winter holidays in a way that is sensitive to all faiths.

Employees at both Delta and Frontier airlines took up a collection on Monday and bought a few foot-tall decorated trees for the check-in counter.

Bogomilsky originally said he was appalled by the decision.

"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season," said Bogomilsky, who works at Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation headquartered in Seattle's University District.

After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt said, and staff didn't have time to play cultural anthropologists.

Hanukkah begins this Friday at sundown.

"They've darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up," said his lawyer, Harvey Grad. "There is a concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch."