During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christian Holidays (Christmas)
HaShabat BeNetanya, December 14, 2012
Tourists were shocked to discover a missionary blessing in a prayer shawl they received while walking down Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda Street. The blessing read: “Blessed are you, king of the universe, who has filled the whole Torah with Jesus the Messiah and has covered us all with his righteousness.” The tourists lodged a complaint with the anti-missionary organization of Yad L’Achim. The same organization said that they have exposed an additional missionary ploy to deceive innocent victims: an internal communication that tells missionaries how to avoid using phrases that will give away their identity. For example, the booklet tells them to say “the second part of the Bible” instead of “the New Testament,” or to say, “come with me to a meeting of people who believe in the Bible” instead of saying, “come with me to church.” In response, Yad L’Achim promises that they will continue to stand on guard and use every legitimate means to keep the public warned.
Christian Holidays (Christmas)
Haaretz, December 18, 2012, The Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2012
Israel’s embassy in Ireland posted a controversial image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus on its Facebook page, accompanied by the caption: “A thought for Christmas . . . If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought.” The message drew a large number of complaints and was promptly removed from the embassy’s Facebook page within hours of being posted. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry later said that “removing the post is of course the right thing to do . . . We will of course carry out an internal investigation . . . but this is an internal matter.” Haaretz added that “the use of an image holy to Christians for political ends is likely to damage Israel’s interests, not help them. If an image of something holy to Jews had been used by a foreign embassy, it’s likely that Israelis and Jews around the world would consider it anti-Semitic.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2012, Haaretz, December 20, 2012
Two articles focused on the Jewish National Fund’s annual distribution of Christmas trees to Christians living in Israel. According to The Jerusalem Post, “the buyers include Christian Arabs, Russians, tourists, and curious Israeli Jews.” JNF’s director estimates that nearly 1000 trees will be bought this year – “a 20 percent increase over last year because of a new internet advertising campaign.” The distribution program costs thousands of dollars, but “American Jewish supporters of KKL-JNF should not be upset that their money is going for something that benefits Christians in Israel . . . [Christians abroad] see Israel doing this and it creates a good feeling and peace between people.”
Haaretz focused its article on a similar distribution of Christmas trees in the north of Israel. Even though “JNF’s gesture to the Christian community is much appreciated,” “the trees themselves . . . sometimes seem – how to put this – a little measly.” This is why Yossi Yeger, from a moshav in the north, started his own Christmas tree farm 12 years ago. “Today Yeger is the main, if not the only, commercial purveyor of Christmas trees in the country, with hundreds of loyal customers generating, in a good year, about NIS 20,000.” Yeger’s trees cost between NIS 200-400, depending on their size.
Maariv, December 21, 2012
This article reported on the controversial placing of a Christmas tree at Jaffa Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City in Jerusalem. Religious Jewish residents of the Old City have been in uproar, claiming that the gesture “hurts their feelings.” Their rage only increased when images of Santa Claus and Jesus were placed by the tree. “This is an affront to any Jews walking by this place,” said former municipality worker Mina Fanton. It was Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Bareket, who decided to place a tree at the entrance to the Old City as a gesture of goodwill to the Christian community. The mayor also intends to visit several churches in the Christian quarter during the holiday season. A spokesman for the municipality said that “it is to Jerusalem’s credit that we respect the three religions – including Christianity and Islam.” Maariv has been informed that the residents of the Jewish quarter are planning a protest rally in the near future.
Kol HaIr, December 21, 2012
Kol HaIr consulted tour guide Tamar Linchavski for the best places for Israelis to experience the Christmas season in Jerusalem. “What is interesting about Christmas,” says the article, “is how little people in this city know about it . . . One of the best ways to know a little more is to visit churches during this time.” Accordingly, the paper lists a number of churches worth visiting. Of interest is a comment about Christ Church: “Nearby Jaffa Gate is Christ Church. The building was erected in the middle of the 19th century and was the first modern building in the city. . . ‘Christ Church is interesting because of its combined Protestant and Messianic Jewish congregation,’ says Linchavski.’” The article encourages the locals to take advantage of this unique opportunity to get to know Jerusalem’s Christian community better during this season. “’We are talking about people who live a centimeter away from us,’ says Linchavski. “I recommend that [those touring the city] will read up on things before they go, or go with someone who is knowledgeable. And especially to be respectful.”
Yediot HaCarmel, December 14, 2012
This two-page article focused on Christian Dutch couple Ineke and Chris de Boks who moved to Israel two years ago as an act of solidarity with the Jewish people. The article begins by describing how the de Boks’ lowered the Dutch flag at the front of their house to half-mast on the day that the UN agreed to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state. “We were disappointed that [Holland] abstained during that vote,” the couple said. “That’s why we wrote a letter to the media expressing our anger and condolences about the decision, and also lowered the flag.’” The de Boks know that their letter will have very little impact, “’but we wanted to show [Israel] that there are people who care . . . We love the country and its people. They do so much good, and the people’s hearts are warm . . . This is one of the main reasons we came to live in Israel.’”
The de Boks claim that less and less Europeans are pro-Israeli, mostly on account of the growing influence of Islam. In Holland, for example, Muslims make up more than 15 percent of the population. On the other hand, the de Boks insist that they have “’lots of friends and fellow believers, mostly Christian, whose love for Israel is based on the Bible. There are enough voices like ours, pro-Israel organizations, that number tens of thousands, that raise funds and help a lot. The problem is that these voices are not heard in the media.’”
The de Boks are able to live in Israel on account of Ineke’s grandparents, who have been granted the status of “righteous among the nations” on account of their harboring a little Jewish boy in their home during the Holocaust. In two years, the couple will be able to apply for permanent residency. “’I believe,’” says Chris, “’that in the future, this will be the safest place in the world for Jews and those who love the Jews. A lot of things are about to change in Europe and America, and if you love Israel, you are in danger . . . We are approaching a kind of climax, one that will bring Jews from all over the world to this place.’”
Index HaEmek veHaGalil, December 7, 2012
The municipality of Migdal HaEmek is working together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to renovate the building of Beit Smucha, which functions as a meeting place for the elderly as well as housing 22 senior citizens. The funds for this project have been donated by Israel-loving Evangelical Christians from all around the world.
Efraton, November 30, 2012
The paper featured a photograph of a group of Israel-loving Christians planting trees in Efrat.
The Jerusalem Post, December 21, 2012
According to reports, the Malaysian government has decided to lift its restrictions on pilgrims traveling to Israel as a seasonal gesture. “Christians in this predominantly Muslim country can now visit Israel as many times as they want, and travel anywhere in the country they desire.” Israel and Malaysia have no diplomatic ties, and Israelis are still unable able to travel to Malaysia.
Haaretz, December 16, 2012
Controversy in the world of archeology has reached the Petah Tikva court as a libel case has been filed by journalist and filmmaker Simcha Jacovobici against anthropologist Joe Zias. At the center of the controversy is the question of whether or not Jesus’ tomb is in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood. In one of his films, Jacobovici “claimed that an ancient burial cave found during construction in Talpiot is the original tomb of Jesus,” but Zias “has vehemently attached these theories via his website, letters and phone calls.” According to Professor Amos Kloner, “a former Jerusalem district archeologist for the antiquities authority who took part in some of the excavations that appear in Jacobovici’s films,” the films “’do not present all the findings or the whole story with the accepted detail required and essential in critical research.’”
Hadashuti, December 14, 2012
This article reported on the recent archeological find in Jerusalem’s Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood of an agricultural farm dating back to the Hellenistic and Hasmonean periods (see second Media Review for December).
Haaretz, December 19, 2012
Iri Riken reviews Jose Saramago’s latest book, entitled Cain, writing that “Cain sacrifices all its creative force on the altar” of Saramago’s dubious antipathy towards God and the Bible. In his book, Saramago turns Cain (from the book of Genesis) into the victim and God into the villain, on the assumption that if God really knows everything, “then he could have prevented Cain [from committing murder] already in the conception phase.” Says Riken: “When an author becomes a preacher, the novel writer in him dries up. The interesting thing is that all [Saramgo’s] mockery and mire raise the suspicion that he maybe doesn’t believe in God, but is still very angry with him.”