July 9 – 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 17 articles on the following subjects:


Messianic Jews
Anti-missionary activities
Christian sites
Christian tourism
Jewish-Christian relations
Christians and the Holocaust
Book review


This week’s review included a feature article on John and Judy Pex.


Messianic Jews

Yediot Eilat, July 6, 2012

This lengthy article featured John and Judy Pex and the Shelter in Eilat.


Anti-missionary Activities

HaShabbat BeNetanya, June 29; Yom L’Yom, July 5; Chadashot HaGalil, June 29; Chadashot Netanya, June 29, 2012

Yom L’Yom (July 5) carried the recent story of the use of the Kfar Saba logo by Messianic Jews (see previous Reviews).

HaShabbat BeNetanya (June 29) and Chadashot Netanya (June 29) both addressed the “opening” of Israel College of the Bible in the city, the forming claiming that “Without anyone noticing, Israel College of the Bible has opened, preaching Messianism and conversion to many Jews across the world. Amongst its leaders are two missionaries identified as very dangerous, who live in Neve Itamar” – and the latter that “Messianic Jews are about to open a Bible College in the industrial area.” The reaction of the religious community is predictably fierce, Lev L’Achim vowing to “stop the activity as soon as possible.” The municipality, on the other hand, stated: “‘The college does not require a business license, just as none of the other colleges in the city require business licenses. We behave towards them exactly as we do to other similar institutions. It must be noted that the municipality and local councils are prohibited from refusing to grant licenses on religious grounds.”

According to Chadashot HaGalil (June 29), missionaries in the north of the country have “surprised” residents who had protested receiving missionary material in the mail by placing “large white, unstamped and unidentified envelopes in their mail boxes containing a DVD.”


Christian Sites

Ma’ariv, July 6, 2012

Being threatened by burials in the Muslim cemetery directly above it, the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is “appealing to the courts and warning of an international crisis.” In response, the Waqf is claiming “‘We have received permission from the Jerusalem municipality.’”


Christian Tourism

Haaretz, July 6 (x 2), 2012

“A Haaretz investigation into discounted group rates for tourists at leading Israeli hotel chains has revealed price disparities that appear to favor Christian travelers over Jewish ones … According to a group pricing menu marked ‘2012-2013 Wholesale Rates,’ issued by the Dan Hotels Corporation and obtained by Haaretz, the Jerusalem Dan Hotel lists rates in two categories: ‘Pilgrim Rates’ – the tourism industry’s term for discounted group rates for Christian tourists – and the generic ‘Group Rates.’ Under the ‘Low Season’ category, the pilgrim rate, booked on a ‘half-board’ (breakfast and dinner only ) basis, offered dinner at a price of $6 – whereas the regular dinner price for group rates was $32, amounting to a discount of $26 per person, or $52 per room.”

An exhibit at the National Library looks at nineteenth-century Christian visits to the Holy Land: “If there had been no Holy Land – a literally disillusioning place of unkempt, faith-based absurdity – Mark Twain might have had to invent one. In some ways, for generations of Americans, he did … Twain’s visit, as well as those of author Herman Melville and the likes of Ulysses S. Grant and a 15-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, are at the heart of “Dreamland,” an exhibit at the National Library in Jerusalem, a joint project of the library and the Los Angeles-based Shapell Manuscript Foundation…  As the exhibit illustrates, Twain almost single-handedly transformed the way Americans saw the Holy Land, from a vigorously marketed, church-appropriate ideal, to a dim colonial backwater. ‘Palestine is no more of this work-day world,’ he concludes, with no small exaggeration and over-simplification of his own. ‘It is sacred to poetry and tradition – it is dream-land’ …  A diary entry in the flowing penmanship of the young Theodore Roosevelt sums up a visit to the Western Wall in 1873: ‘In the afternoon we went to the Wailing Place of the Jews. Many of the women were in earnest, but most of the men were evidently shamming’ Among those most painfully affected was Melville, whose 1857 visit was so disheartening that he took nearly 20 years before completing an epic poem based on the experience. ‘A caked, depopulated hell,’ was how he summed up the Holy Land. ‘No country will more quickly dissipate romantic expectations than Palestine – particularly Jerusalem’ … … Until bitter accounts of the likes of Twain and Melville reached American shores in the late 1800s, the tendency of artists, authors and traveling lecturers had been to treat the Holy Land with a zealous and often inventive romanticism, stoking illusions in the service of Protestant sermonizing and Sunday School instruction. An idealized Jerusalem, and the ideal of building the City On The Hill (a New Jerusalem in North America), had informed American clergy and urban planners since the 1600s. But the 19th century, with its emphasis on scientific exactitude and an explosion of new technology, was to radically change both travel and the study of the Holy Land.”


Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Post, July 3, 4, 9, 2012

The first of these pieces reported on the Presbyterian Church’s upcoming vote on divestment, noting that it “could signal the end of Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue,” the second that the vote passed 36 to 11. The third provided some further background: “Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) rejected divestment from three companies doing business with Israel and opted instead to promote a ‘process of engagement’ and active investment. This was both a moral decision and a fitting rebuff to the decade-old worldwide NGO political war that seeks to co-opt major Christian denominations to the anti-Israel cause. Yet, the denomination’s decision to promote a boycott of Israeli West Bank products leaves the door open to future divestment efforts. With the United Methodist Church’s rejection of divestment this spring, this is the second defeat in two months handed to church-based divestment activists. Next up is the United Church of Canada, that will vote on divestment in August. It is worth examining the global forces behind these divestment efforts, and the surprising sources of much of their funding: Western governments in Europe, the United States and Canada. While Western political leaders are usually unaware of the details, the bureaucratic processes entangle taxpayer funds with highly politicized pro-Palestinian groups that often deploy anti-Semitic theology to buttress their attacks. European Christian aid organizations such as Sweden’s Diakonia, the Netherland’s Kerk in Actie (Church in Action), the UK’s Christian Aid, and Finland’s FinnChurchAid receive millions annually from their respective governments and the EU. These groups are supposed to grant these funds to life-saving humanitarian projects globally. Instead, some of the money goes to organizations such as Sabeel, a group in Jerusalem that promotes ‘Palestinian Liberation Theology,’ a fusion of Christianity and Palestinian Arab nationalism … American taxpayer dollars are also entangled with boycott campaigns via the Holy Land Trust, another Palestinian Christian group, and a signatory to the 2005 ‘call’ for BDS … The World Council of Churches (WCC) plays a key role in mobilizing churches globally in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) effort against Israel. WCC works closely with Sabeel, even promoting Sabeel’s Contemporary Way of the Cross, which uses deicide imagery: ‘Just as Jesus is condemned to die by the authorities to protect their own power, status and ideals so the Palestinians suffer as the result of the fear and ideology of the founders of the State of Israel.’ A major WCC vehicle promoting BDS and demonization of Israel is its Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, which brings volunteers to the West Bank to ‘experience life under occupation.’ Upon returning home they are expected to promote EAPPI’s message, which presents only the Palestinian side, ignores terror attacks against Israelis and blames Israel entirely for the conflict … While the Presbyterians’ principled rebuff of divestment should be commended, the governmental funds granted to Sabeel and other groups actively lobbying churches continue sowing the seeds of inter-faith discord, and further damage the prospects for peace.”


Christians and the Holocaust

Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2012

This brief noted indicated Yad Vashem’s attempt to “soften criticism on pope” in altering the text relating to Pius XII at the museum (see previous Review).



Jerusalem Post, July 3; Israel HaYom, July 3; Haaretz, July 3; HaModia, July 3, 2012

These articles all reported on the discovery of a talmudic-period synagogue. According to the Jerusalem Post, “Archaeologists digging just a few kilometers from the fishing village where Jesus is believed to have preached have uncovered a monumental Roman-era synagogue with an exquisite, colorful mosaic floor with fine female faces. ‘An inscription in Hebrew has two female faces on either side. One is destroyed and the other is complete and is absolutely spectacular,’ Jodi Magness, a professor of Early Judaism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The Media Line … Digging through the remnants of a Palestinian village abandoned in 1948 and later bulldozed, Archaeologists came upon an ancient Jewish village centered around the large synagogue. The ruins date from the Late Roman period, approximately of the 4th century, a time on the cusp of an ‘explosion of synagogue building,’ Magness said. ‘It’s contemporary with synagogues like Capernaum and Hamat Tiberias and Beit Alpha,’ she said, adding that the town itself was mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud. At first they discovered large, well-cut stones, indicating an impressive public edifice they assumed to be a synagogue. These assumptions were confirmed when they began excavating down to the floor. One of the mosaics, which are made up of tiny colored stone cubes, shows a biblical scene of Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). The other major mosaic held the faces with the Hebrew inscription which refers to rewards for those who perform good deeds. ‘This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson [one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq],’ said Magness, the Kenan distinguished professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. She said the fancy floor and large stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls showed that the village synagogue and nearby houses were built by an affluent society. In some ways, it appeared beyond what a small village like Huqoq would naturally have built. ‘That was a little bit surprising to me,’ Magness said. ‘I did not expect the level of prosperity that we see in the village context because this was a village not a town or a city. I am kind of dumbfounded really’ … Only portions of the synagogue have been uncovered so far. Magness said she believes the scale of the building is similar to the one uncovered in Bar Am, an opulent structure from a similar period in the Upper Galilee near Safed. She said that the Huqoq synagogue was partially intact, with walls standing to half their original first floor height, and with original plaster. The mosaic also serves to further dispel the notion that bans on graven images kept Jews from putting figurines in their synagogues. ‘One of the big surprises in the early 20th century when many of these synagogues of this period came to light for the first time was that many of them are decorated with figured images and sometimes even pagan images and this sort of revolutionized our understanding of Judaism in this period,’ Magness said. ‘So apparently Jews in this period were not bothered by these kinds of images and chose to decorate their synagogues with them. Now that we have this wonderful discovery we do want to share it with the public, but it is going to take time because we are still in the midst of a long term excavation project,’ she said. Options include removing the mosaic for display in a museum or turning the site into an archeological park, but that depends on the total finds made after a few seasons. Meanwhile, the findings have been covered over to prevent pillaging and damage until next summer when the excavations are scheduled to continue.”


Book Review

Jerusalem Post, July 6, 2012

Alexander Zvielliu reviewed Yehuda Shulewitz’s novel Herod: The Man Who Had to Be King (Penina Press) in the Jerusalem Post (July 6), noting that “the author sticks close to the facts” and “ends with Herod’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem” thus sparing the reader “all the gruesome details of his rule as quoted by Josephus and mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 3 and 4).”