May 30 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – May 30, 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:

Messianic Jews
Christian Zionism
Jewish-Christian relations
Interfaith activity

This week’s review covered various archaeological discoveries from both First and Second Temple periods.

Messianic Jews

Haaretz, May 25; Ma’ariv, May 25; Zman Netanya, May 25, 2012

In an article covering the plight of African refugees in Israel, Gideon Levy noted in Haaretz (May 25) that on “A pleasant spring afternoon in Levinsky Park. The people in line to receive a hot meal from the volunteers of Lev Lesharet (Hearts to Serve, a charitable organization based in Jerusalem) wait patiently. Among those waiting are a number of asylum seekers who arrived only this morning. The volunteers – a Christian woman from Holland, a Muslim woman from East Jerusalem and a British-Israeli Jew who believes in Jesus – serve up a dish of beans and rice, a thick slice of bread, and a Christian religious book in the language of Sudan or Eritrea.”

A second piece on the same day (Ma’ariv, May 25), this time looking at experimental schools in Israel included the youth agricultural school Kadourie. Its director “explained the spirit of the school: ‘We had Messianic Jews here before we were even known as an experimental school. I allowed a student of that faith to tell us her life story to the class. We made a process of the students’ responses and the way she was received.’”

A third (Zman Netanya, May 25) featured Israel College of the Bible, noting that “The Messianic Jews in Netanya are celebrating the expansion of the College for training priests for the community … Yeshu was working overtime recently, succeeding in a getting good real estate deal for the College – the only institution in the country which trains spiritual pastors within the Messianic Jewish community. In honor of the occasion, we wished to interview the President, Erez Soref, but to our surprise it transpired that the College wanted to keep a low publicity profile in order not to rouse the ire of religious bodies in the city. In the end, Soref agreed to be interviewed but insisted on not being photographed. Having been asked whether he understands the suspicion with which they are regarded, he was then asked: “‘Are you sure that you aren’t getting confused with Christianity?,’” this question being followed by: “‘What is your attitude to the State of Israel?’” The second half of the article focused on the response from the religious community to the college/Messianic Jews. Having been told that Messianic Jews “‘seduce Jews with material benefits to come to them,’” their activity being “‘worse than the Holocaust,’”  the interviewer asked “‘Isn’t this a slight exaggeration?’” The piece also pictured Dan Sered and related to the bomb which injured Ami Ortiz.

Christian Zionism

Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2012

According to this report, “It has become an annual tradition for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to host a Jerusalem Day reception on the lawns of its premises. When executive-director Jurgen Buhler sent out invitations to the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel, he did not expect many to come, but he thought that some of those ambassadors who had previously attended events at the ICEJ would at least put in a brief appearance. No such luck. He was indirectly informed that the reason was because Jerusalem Day celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem, which is a matter of controversy in international circles and therefore a political problem. No foreign ambassador could go against his or her own country’s foreign policy. One might expect Jews to be a little hesitant about socializing with Christians, but there was quite a sizable Jewish turnout that included several Orthodox Jews who were wearing kippot, including a rabbi or two, former Israeli diplomats and representatives of various organizations and institutions … The hosts also provided top-quality kosher catering for their Jewish guests at one end of the garden and non-kosher catering for those who don’t observe the Jewish dietary laws at the other end of the garden.”

Jewish-Christian Relations

Kolbo, May 25, 2012

“For the first time in Israel, Gordon College is opening an extension in a monastery. The College’s academic director recently held intense contacts with the Vatican to open an extension in the Carmelite monastery at Stella Maris. The classes will be held in the educational framework of a BEd in Christian Heritage. In the initial stages the two-and-a-half-year program will be open to academics from all religions [sic]. Gordon’s Academic Director was quoted as saying: “‘I met with the Bishop of the Catholic Orthodox church and with the Archbishop of Nazareth and the heads of the church in the Catholic community here. We thought that, just as we have a Druze heritage, there’s room for us to also have a Christian heritage, and we began to work on a curriculum. I announced candidly to everyone that we are talking about the New and Old Testaments and so forth. It would be difficult for me to introduce this curriculum into the academic program – people would accuse me of bringing the mission into Gordon … Christian studies here at the College would be very hard. So I suggested the creative solution of studying in the nearby monastery.”

Interfaith Activities

Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2012

“Forty religious leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Druse, Bahai, Ahmadi and Jewish faiths based in the North gathered at the Ma’aleh Gilboa yeshiva to discuss matters of religion and society, as well as coexistence in Israel in general, and in the Galilee in particular. During the five-hour event, the rabbis, imams, priests and assorted religious leaders engaged in joint study sessions dealing with the issue of the gap between religious study and societal improvement, while the yeshiva students also had a chance to ask questions of the different clerical guests. The conference was a joint initiative of the yeshiva and the Department of Minorities of the Interior Ministry and was also intended to help establish relations and communications between local religious leaders. Rabbi Yehudah Gilad, one of the two co-deans of the yeshiva and a former MK for Meimad, said that the goal of the conference was to create an understanding that the different religious communities living in Israel all descended from the patriarch Abraham and as such, share much common ground. Asked about the difficulties in engaging with other faiths and communities given the often conflicting claims of competing religions, Gilad said that the issue is not relevant to the broader goal of the initiative. ‘We’re not conducting a conversation to reconcile the differences between religions, the idea here is to go about making the society in which we all live better for us all,’ he said. ‘The Rambam [Maimonides] said that Islam and Christianity are part of the process leading to the final arrival of the Messiah, because they have spread monotheism around the world and led to a diminution in paganism, so that they have in fact had a very important contribution to humanity.’ Gilad added that the different religious communities in Israel face similar challenges such as how to convey religious values and inspiration to the next generation, and the struggle against negative aspects of Western society such as widely accessible pornography on the Internet, modesty and respect for the institution of the family. During the question and answer session, students from the yeshiva had the opportunity to pose questions to the different religious leaders, including enquiries about how to pass on religious traditions to coming generations and questions to the Druse leaders about their close connection to the Jewish people. One student asked to what extent the different clergymen who participated in the event actually influenced their respective communities. In response, some of the Arab leaders said they represent the silent majority of the Arab community, as opposed to organizations like the Islamic Movement and the Arab MKs who are an unrepresentative, yet extremely loud group.


Jerusalem Post, May 22; Haaretz, May 9, 24 (Hebrew and English editions); Israel HaYom, May 22 (x 2); HaMevaser, May 26;  HaModia, May 25, 2112

Several papers ran the story of the unearthing of the “first evidence of biblical Bethlehem’s existence”: “A piece of clay was found during archaeological excavations at the City of David, in Jerusalem, bearing the name of the city of Bethlehem in ancient Hebrew script. The piece of clay dates back to the First Temple period (1006 – 586 BCE), making it the first tangible evidence of existence of the city of Bethlehem in ancient times. The artifact, called a ‘bulla,’ is a piece of clay typically used as an official seal on a document or object. Impressed with the seal of the sender of the document, an intact ‘bulla’ upon delivery was proof that a document had not been opened by anyone unauthorized to do so. The bulla, measuring around 1.5 cm, was found during the sifting of soil removed from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the City of David … Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the artifact, including the words ‘Bat Lechem,’ an ancient name for Bethlehem. The artifact is of significant importance because the area of biblical Bethlehem has yet to be archaeologically excavated, making the bulla the only proof of the city’s existence found outside of the Bible. ‘There’s a difference between reading the name of a city in the Bible, and reading that name written in ancient Hebrew script on an artifact,’ said Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Shukron provided some historical background for the object: ‘It seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem. The bulla we found belongs to the group of fiscal bullas – administrative bullas used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE,’ said Shukron. ‘This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,’ continued Shukron” (see also Israel HaYom, May 24; HaModia, May 25).

In another discovery, “Archeologists working in the North have discovered a three-millennia- old jewelry trove they say may be one of the most valuable ever discovered from the biblical period. Experts from Tel Aviv University uncovered the hoard at Tel Megiddo, a man-made hill near Afula, inhabited since the eighth millennium BCE. The newly discovered jewels date to the dawn of the Iron Age, when a Canaanite city occupied the site just before it was subsumed into the Kingdom of Israel … The clay vessel in which the jewels were found was excavated in 2010. In July, the vessel was emptied, and experts were stunned to find what they described as some of the most valuable jewels ever unearthed from the biblical period. A Tel Aviv University spokesman said the find was announced only this week because it took the experts months to analyze and date the jewels. The Megiddo cache is notable for its abundance of gold jewels, including nine large earrings and a ring seal. It also includes more than a thousand small beads of gold, silver and carnelian – a semiprecious stone of orange-to-amber hue. All of the artifacts are in good condition. One of the collection’s most remarkable items is a gold basket-shaped earring bearing the figure of a bird, possibly an ostrich. Experts believe one of the items may be the first of its kind ever discovered in Israel, and that its use of gold points to possible Egyptian influence. Megiddo, the Armageddon of Christian Scripture, was for centuries a major trading post on the Egypt-Assyria trade route. So far 25 Iron Age jewelry hoards have been uncovered in Israel, with most of them containing only silver artifacts. ‘The hoard includes a lot of gold items, which have origins in Egypt,’ said Eran Arie, a Tel Aviv University archeologist who was supervising the dig at the time of the jewels’ discovery. ‘The moment the Egyptians leave Canaan, gold begins to disappear,’ Arie told The Jerusalem Post. ‘It’s possible that at this stage silver is already being used as payment, and not just raw material.’ The items are now undergoing intensive analyses at Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Museum. A date for their presentation to the public has yet to be set” (Jerusalem Post, May 22; see also Israel HaYom 22 [x 2]).

Finally, “Archaeologists at a controversial site in the Elah Valley Tuesday announced a discovery that should further stir up the scholarly debate over the Bible’s historical veracity.

Two small containers, one of clay and one of stone, unearthed at Khirbet Qeiyafa near Beit Shemesh, are believed to be the first-ever archaeological evidence of Judean ritual dating from the time of David, about the 10th century B.C.E. Furthermore, the models resemble the description of Solomon’s Temple in the biblical Book of Kings, say the head of the Hebrew University expedition to Tel Qeiyafa, Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, and his associate from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Sa’ar Ganor. The ruin known as Khirbet Qeiyafa, on a rocky slope overlooking the Elah Valley in Israel’s western lowlands, contains remnants of a walled city dating back 3,000 years. Originally the walls rose to a height of some six meters. Along the walls, which still stand three meters tall in some places, archaeologists have discovered the remains of 99 dwellings. According to Garfinkel, Khirbet Qeiyafa is the first proof of the existence of a regional government during the time of David … Garfinkel told reporters that the boxes, 20 and 35 centimeters high, and which they believe contained symbols of a deity, are important because they are ‘identical to the object the Bible calls “the ark of the Lord.”’ Containers of this type, which look like model shrines, are known to archaeologists from other sites, but Garfinkel says the Khirbet Qeiyafa finds are unique because they reveal motifs known from the biblical description of Solomon’s Temple. The clay container features a decorated opening flanked by lions and two pillars that Garfinkel says recall ‘Boaz and Yachin’ – pillars that flanked Solomon’s Temple, according to the Bible. Garfinkel says a depiction of three straight beams appears on the clay container, above which are three circles as well as a design apparently representing the curtain that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies. Above that, three birds can be discerned on the roof, recalling the sacrifice of birds in the Temple. According to Garfinkel, the stone container also recalls the Bible’s description of Solomon’s palace and the Temple: ‘And there were beams in three rows; and light was over against light in three ranks’ (I Kings 7:4) … Prof. Nadav Na’aman, a historian and archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, discounts Garfinkel and Ganor’s conclusions. ‘These are beautiful finds but they are not special in that similar ones have been found in various places, and they should therefore not be connected in any way to the ark,’ nor to the Temple in Jerusalem, says Na’aman … This evidence is a significant counter-claim to scholars who say David’s kingdom was nothing more than a meagerly populated village in the Jerusalem area. These scholars, known as minimalists, say that in the absence of extra-biblical support, Scripture’s depiction of David’s kingdom as large and powerful cannot be accepted. The maximalists, however, who accept the validity of the biblical description, view Khirbet Qeiyafa as the first proof of their claim that David’s realm could have been as large as the Bible says it was. Garfinkel takes a middle position; to him, Khirbet Qeiyafa shows the existence of a regional realm that included Jerusalem, Hebron and the lowlands around Khirbet Qeiyafa … For Qeiyafa to play a role in disproving the claims of the minimalists about the meager nature of David’s kingdom, Garfinkel has to show that it was neither a Canaanite nor Philistine site. Garfinkel and Ganor say the shrine models they have found differ from those known so far and that their design underscores a Judean connection. But Garfinkel says he does not need the shrines to prove that Qeiyafa was Judean – other discoveries at the site do it for him. For example, out of thousands of animal bones unearthed there, none were pig bones, and no figurines were found – two elements some see as alluding to biblical prohibitions. An inscribed potsherd was also found there whose writing some archaeologists identify as ancient Hebrew. Na’aman has a different explanation for the lack of pig bones: ‘The Canaanites also did not eat pork. Only the Philistines ate a great deal of pork at this time.’ As for figurines, Na’aman says places elsewhere in Judea ‘were full of figurines.’ Minimalists also discount the inscribed potsherd, saying it is impossible to differentiate its letters from other languages at that time. Whether Judean or Canaanite, ammunition for the minimalists or the maximalists, one thing is certain about Khirbet Qeiyafa – the slated expansion of nearby Ramat Beit Shemesh would swallow it up, endangering what Ganor calls ‘a heritage site of the first order’” (Haaretz, May 9; see also HaMevaser, May 26).