During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Report, August 27, 2012
This article takes a look at the Maronite Christian community in the Galilee village of Jish and the community’s effort to revive the use of Aramaic, which is their traditionally spoken language. “With 65 percent of its residents belonging to the Maronite church, Jish is the only village in Israel with a majority Maronite population. Muslims constitute about 35 percent of the population, with a smattering of Melkite Christians making up the tiny remainder.” Aramaic is now taught as part of the religious studies program in the Maronite schools. Those wishing to continue studying the language outside of the school program have connected with Aramaic speaking communities abroad, for further guidance and help. Says one of the students: “This is our Maronite Aramaic heritage . . . A nation without a language and without his forefathers’ language has no future.”
Aramaic has been in decline since the Arab conquest in 7 AD, though it is still spoken in certain parts of the Middle East. But in the Galilee, the Maronite Christian community uses it only as part of their prayer liturgy, while the day-to-day communication is in Arabic. But those interested in reviving Aramaic as a spoken language are quick to point out “that it was the Galilean dialect of Aramaic . . . which was spoken by Jesus, affording further significance to the resurrection of the language in the region.” The Aramaic Maronite Center has taken this task upon themselves, their goal being to “revitalize Aramaic Syriac as an everyday spoken language, unite all Christians in the Middle East as ‘one strong nation,’ educate their children about their forefathers, heritage and history, and to fight for their rights in Israel and prevent Christian emigration.”
In Israel, the majority of the Maronite community are Lebanese who fled across the border when Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. The rest are refugees who fled their villages in 1948. Israel’s Ministry of Education now funds the community’s study of Aramaic up until 8th grade – the only such project in Israel.
The Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2012
Shelley Neese writes for the Jerusalem Post to explain why she is a Christian Zionist. There are a lot of stereotypes associated with Christian Zionism, and Neese challenges these by first setting them out and then dispelling them; she then offers her own reasons for supporting Christian Zionism.
Skeptics will often allege that Christian Zionists have ulterior motives in their support for Israel, such as wanting “to speed Armageddon and the return of Christ,” or a desire to convert the Jews en-masse. But, writes Neese, “never once have I heard talk about pushing Israel toward its doom just so Jesus will come back. I have never heard scheming about mass conversions. And as a natural cynic, I have been listening for it.” Instead, says Neese, she believes that many Christians are Zionists for three reasons: repentance, thankfulness, and obedience.
The Church, says Neese, has much to be embarrassed about in its historical relationship with the Jews. “Anti-Semitism started early in the Church out of a desire to separate Christianity from Judaism. As the Roman Church gained power this desire for distinction evolved into oppression. At best Jews were forcefully converted; at worst they were burned at the stake.” This treatment sprang from Christian Replacement Theology which claims that the Jews are no longer the chosen people of God because of their rejection of Christ. But “of course,” says Neese, “Replacement Theology has a tough time explaining the supernatural survival of the Jewish people and the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel after almost 2,000 years.” It took the atrocities of the Holocaust to finally bring the Church to repentance in its mistreatment of the Jews. Christian Zionism grew out of the desire to put an end to anti-Semitism, and “the first steps were to reject Replacement Theology, recognize Judaism as a living religion, and embrace the fact that God’s covenant with the Jewish people is eternal. It’s a simple acknowledgement. When God says ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with them,’ he is talking about the Jewish people.”
Thankfulness springs from the desire to recognize the great gift the Jews have given the Christians in the Bible and the Mosaic Law. “Jesus, born a Jew, lived an observant Jewish life.” But, writes Neese, “for many Christians, Jesus’s Jewishness is an attribute often disregarded and definitely not highlighted.” Christianity needs Judaism to understand itself.
This combination of factors means that Christian Zionists believe that loving the Jews is a moral imperative – it is their biblical responsibility. “In Genesis, we find the cornerstone of Christian Zionism when God tells Abraham: ‘I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse’. . . The commands to bless and comfort Israel are given to all peoples, but according to the Apostle Paul Christians have additional obligations.” For Christian Zionists, this blessing is manifested in three ways: money, prayers, and political support for the Jewish people and the modern state of Israel.
Writes Neese: “There is a movement among Christians today. Christian Zionism is growing as believers are getting more educated and informed about the plight of modern Israel. Christians are coming to realize that Israel’s story offers a chance to see God’s hand at work in the world today.”
Yistrael HaYom, 29 August, 2012
The well-known windmill built by Moshe Montefiore in Jerusalem’s Neve Shaananim neighborhood was restored this month to working order, 136 years after it stopped working. It will now serve as a tourist site and education center. The restoration of the windmill was sponsored by a Dutch group of Israel-loving Christians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke at the opening ceremony, said that Israel was established through the help and support of Christian philanthropists who love the Israeli people and support Zionism, “combining their sense of history with their practical sensibilities.”
Kol Herzeliya, August 24, 2012
David Brog, the chairman of CUFI (Christians United for Israel), has been to Israel on an official visit. Brog is closely associated with the Prime Minister, and was greeted by Netanyahu himself upon his arrival at Ben Gurion airport. His organization has donated millions of dollars to Israel.
Makor Rishon, August 31, 2012
Ariel Shenbal adds a note to his weekly column saying he has received many responses to his article on Christian Zionism (see “Christian Zionism” in Media Review for third week in August). For those interested in further reading, Shenbal recommends Standing with Israel by David Brog and Shtetl, Bagel, and Baseball by Shmuel Rosner.
Haaretz, August 31, 2012
A new form of ad-busting that makes use of the QR code application for mobile phones has been spotted in Tel Aviv on posters advertising the Rabbi Lubavitz as Israel’s messiah. The QR code was printed on large stickers and pasted on to the posters. When scanned, the code redirects users to the Jews for Jesus website – “to the competing messiah’s website.”
Haaretz, August 26, 2012
At the height of the latest drama surrounding the German government’s ban on circumcision, the German Post issued a stamp with a verse from Luke 2:21 that some might interpret as inappropriate or controversial. The verse says: “On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” The stamp was issued in honor of the 85th anniversary of the German Bible Society. A spokesman for the Bible Society said the issuing of the stamp is entirely coincidental, and that it had been planned a year before the debate on circumcision began.
Haaretz, August 31, 2012
The article reviews the exhibition “The Absent Body – Body Imagery Between Judaism and Christianity” at the Museum of the Jewish People, focusing especially on the way Jewish artists paradoxically use Christian imagery of the human body to express their complex relationship with Judaism. The eight Israeli artists explore the body as a symbol of the human longing for divinity.