During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel/Political Issues
Christians in Israel/Political Issues
The Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2012
The Jerusalem Post ran a six page article reviewing the growing animosity towards Jerusalem’s Christian community by its Jewish inhabitants. The article based its information on Dr. Amnon Ramon’s recently published book, Christianity and Christians in the Jewish State, which paints a grim picture: the number of Christians living in Jerusalem has decreased by more than 50% since 1946. Dr. Ramon asserts that it is hard being a Christian in Jerusalem, and that the community is rapidly diminishing: “The process of decline in the numbers of Christians here is reaching a critical point,” he says. “I’m afraid we might be soon facing a situation of an ‘endangered species’ with regard to these communities.” Recent months have seen an increase in the number of attacks on Christian sites as well as the harassment of clergymen walking through the Old City. Says Ramon: “When an MK [Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union] contemptuously tears up the New Testament while standing at the podium in the Knesset, why should we be surprised to see young Jews from the religious right wing setting fire to monasteries or spitting in clergymen’s faces?” Ramon explains that this is the result of the Jewish Orthodox community’s growing trend of extremism regarding all things Christian: “The Christian issue – presented as a threat to Judaism – has gained a kind of high priority, I would say, sometimes even more acute than [concerns about] the Arabs.”
The difficulty most Christians face is the lack of an official policy, on the national level, regarding their status in the city. “Since the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry . . . there is no organized address for the Christian communities living here. Even before the ministry was shut down, though, it was in the hands of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas party, which didn’t make things easier for the Christians.” Governmental policy seems to range from indifference at best to animosity at worst. This is why so many young (mostly Arab) Christians are leaving the city. As one Armenian Christian told the paper: “What do I have here? . . . For you, the Jews, I am an Arab – an enemy. For the Arabs, I am a Christian, an intruder.”
The article ends on a small optimistic note, citing the more recent change in the mayor’s office towards the city’s Christian residents. Mayor Nir Barakat “has visited [the Christian communities] on their holy days, talked to them and decided on a series of steps to improve their situation . . . probably because this mayor understands the high potential of the Christians to bring tourism to the city.”
Makor Rishon, November 9, 2012
In a follow-up to the furor caused by the gathering in Nazareth which aimed to encourage Christian Arab youths to be drafted into the IDF (see first Media Review for November), Jewish group Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) called on Christian Arabs to abstain from joining the IDF. Hadash claims that the Ministry of Defense is deliberately trying to divide the Arab community (Christian and Muslim) in Israel. They write: “It is not legitimate that [the Arab community] will be drafted into an army that most of the time is used against their own people . . . Brothers and sisters of all ethnic groups, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, we, young Jews who have refused to serve in the Israeli military on account of our opposition to the ongoing occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people . . . are writing to strengthen you and to encourage you in your refusal to be drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces. We have been fighting alongside you for years . . . and recognize the devious and cunning tactics used against you . . . to frustrate and divide you and distract you from your struggle for your rights and the rights of the Palestinian people in general.”
Christian Jewish Relations
The Jerusalem Post, Makor Rishon, November 7, 2012
Two articles reported on a conference taking place in Ma’ale HaHamisha, organized by the B’nai Brith organization along with the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel in response to the unsettled relationship between Jews and Protestants resulting from the letter sent by fifteen church leaders to the US Congress (see fourth Media Review in October). The purpose of the conference is to counter anti-Israeli sentiment in the Protestant church. According to the director of B’nai Brith, the conference provides “opportunity for representatives of Protestant churches who are supportive of Israel to meet similar people from other countries and denominations.” He explains that “the doctrine of ‘replacement theology’ [is] a large factor in ongoing Christian hostility to the Jewish State.” Speaking at the conference, Rev. Dr. Paul Wilkinson (from the UK) said that “the big lie is Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade going on in the church today that will say from one corner of its mouth ‘We love the Jewish people,’ and from the other corner of its mouth ‘We hate Israel.’ That is not possible. You cannot love the Jewish people and hate Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 4 & 7, 2012
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem had its bank account frozen this week by Jerusalem’s water company (Gihon) in response to an unpaid bill totaling over $2.3 million. The bill is accumulative, since “for decades there had been a tacit agreement between the church and then-Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, exempting the Patriarchate from paying for water piped to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” The Patriarchate has said it is willing to begin paying the water bill from now on, but will not pay for the accumulated debt. “We trust God and hope that people will help us,” they said. The Church has also sent letters to President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, asking for their intervention in the case.
Ma’ariv, November 5, 2012
This article reported on the Jerusalem local conservation committee’s rejection of plans to build a four-storey hotel next door to Mary’s Well in the pastoral village of Ein Karem (see first Media Review for November).
Yediot Aharonot, November 6, 2012
Acclaimed Israeli writer Smadar Shir reviews a book by Rachel Held Evans entitled A Year of Biblical Womanhood. The book depicts Held Evan’s year of self-imposed biblical living, including rising at dawn, cooking on an open fire, cleaning without the aid of chemical cleaners, sewing and knitting, wearing skirts and head coverings, and sleeping separately from her husband for 12 days of each month during her menstruation cycle. Writes Shir: “In order to understand this you need to get to know . . . the Evangelical church. It is a denomination in Christianity that emphasizes studying the Bible and the New Testament and gives its followers the freedom to interpret Scripture as they wish, without the aid of the clergy.”
HaShavua BeYerushalayim, October 31, 2012, Merkaz HaInyanim Yerushalayim, November 5, 2012
Two articles reported on the recent discovery of an ancient wine press from the First Temple period as well as a few bronze coins from the Second Temple period (see first Media Review for November).
HaHayim HaTovim – Club 50, November 6, 2012
A snippet promoting a tour of Nazareth during the Christmas season.