During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz (4), Yediot Aharanot (2), Yisrael HaYom, Makor Rishon, September 5-7, 2012
Nine articles this week dealt with the vandalizing of the Latrun Monastery by right-wing extremists early Tuesday morning. It is the first “price tag” attack in the wake of the dismantlement of the Migron settlement on the preceding Sunday. The vandals set the front door of the Monastery on fire, and spray painted “Jesus is a monkey” and “mutual responsibility,” together with the names of illegal outposts, on the Monastery’s entrance walls. The Jerusalem Post reported that the police “immediately formed a special investigative unit to find the perpetrators.” Police confirmed that this is the first attack of its kind on the Monastery at Latrun, although it comes hard on the heels of several such “price tag” attacks on other Christian sites in recent months, including the Cross Monastery and the Baptist church in Jerusalem (in February) as well as the (partially Christian) village of Neve Shalom (in June).
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was quick to condemn the attack, saying: “This is a criminal act and those responsible must be severely punished. Religious freedom . . . is fundamental in Israel.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak “issued a call to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), police, and state prosecution to ‘tackle Jewish terrorism.’” Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich also condemned the attack, stating that the attack was committed by “an extreme minority that does not represent Israeli society.” The most severe condemnation, however, came from the Catholic Church who issued a statement denouncing the incident as “only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship.” In a statement to the media, The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land asked “What is going on in Israeli society today that permits Christians to be scapegoated and targeted by these acts of violence? Those who sprayed their hateful slogans expressed their anger at the dismantlement of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But why do they vent this anger against Christians and Christian places of worship? And why are the culprits not found and brought to justice?” According to Yediot Aharonot, Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said that he is worried about the religious intolerance in Israel. “The damage inflicted on the image of Christ caused a lot of pain to Christian believers,” he said. Jerusalem Patriarch Fouad Twal was more extreme in his condemnation, stating that “the Israeli government must get involved in order to stop these outbursts of violence . . . The government has given the extremists a lot of leeway and now they feel free. It’s true that everyone condemns, also the Israeli government condemns, but condemnation is not enough.” Further condemnation of the event came from Israel’s ambassadors around the world who claimed that such an attack damages Israel’s image abroad.
In spite of the Israeli government’s sweeping condemnation of the attack, Yisrael HaYom reported that only one government representative arrived at Latrun in an act of solidarity. Representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danny Ailon met with the religious leaders at the Monastery, telling them that “an attack against you is terrorism against all of us. This is not the way of Zionism or of Judaism. In the name of Israel and the people of Israel, I have come to strengthen you. This act of terror has not only hurt the people of the monastery, but also the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.”
In a rare interview for Haaretz, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is the head of the Franciscan order in the Middle East, expressed his concern for the way Christians are treated in Israel: “When you say ‘Christianity’ to the Israelis . . . they immediately think of the Holocaust and the [Spanish] Inquisition. People don’t know that we are here and that we have roots [here] . . . When I came to the country, I was told that I should know that if I walk around with a frock in the city [of Jerusalem], people would spit on me, and I shouldn’t be offended, it’s normal.” Pizzaballa, who has been actively trying to draw attention to the mistreatment of Christians in the land, wrote a letter to President Shimon Peres in February in response to the “price tag” attacks on Christian churches in Jerusalem. Ironically, it was after Pizzaballa wrote this letter that “anti-Christian animosity even surfaced in the Knesset, after Christian bibles were sent to parliament members and National Union MK Michael Ben Ari ripped a copy of the New Testament in front of the camera. ‘It was shocking,’ said Pizzaballa. ‘If you as a Jew want people to respect you, you need to respect others. There are billions of Christians for whom this book is holy.’” Pizzaballa added that the weak response of both the political system and the public at large to these attacks on Christians and Christianity essentially “’negates our existence here.’”
Zman Haifa, Hadashot Hadera, August 31, 2012, Maariv, September 2, 2012
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) recently donated school supplies to 11,000 needy children in the Hadera area as part of the first stage in an initiative that is being funded by Israel-loving Christians from abroad. In the second stage, some 450 children will receive clothing vouchers for the upcoming Jewish holidays. Rabbi Eckstein, who recently arrived in Israel from Hungary, said that in September, he and his wife will be traveling to South Korea on behalf of IFCJ to fundraise and gain support from the Israel-loving Christian community there.
Sgula, August 30, 2012
A new website has been launched that targets lovers of biblical and historical archeology of the land of Israel. The site (www.bibleage.com) aims to expand the users’ knowledge in Israel’s ancient history and offers a lot of basic information on historical eras, archeological sites, ancient texts, Jerusalem, as well as maps and articles on the land of Israel.
Yisrael HaYom, September 7, 2012
A new water reservoir from the Second Temple period has been discovered outside the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Dr. Tzvika Zuk, the head archeologist of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, said that this is the first reservoir of its kind to be discovered at an archeological site. The reservoir indicates that water consumption in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period was not entirely dependent on the Gihon river, but also made use of more immediate resources, such as the reservoir.
Makor Rishon, September 7, 2012
This seven page article deals with the forgery trial of antiquity collector Oded Golan who was accused of presenting the world with a fake burial box with the Hebrew inscription “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” as well as an inscribed tablet linked to king Joash in the Old Testament books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. The five-year trial ended in a not-guilty verdict, as the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the items in question were forged. What is interesting is the way the article exposes the thriving market for forged items from biblical times, and especially items claiming to have some connection to Jesus. Thousands such artifacts have been presented over the years, and then “disqualified” when they have been proved to be fake. Though the prosecution in Golan’s case could not prove that the ossuary and tablet are forged, there is still plenty of speculation in the archeological world as to their authenticity. The prosecution in the case intends to appeal the verdict.