During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Christian Holidays (Christmas)
Haaretz, December 18, 2012
This article focuses on Kay Wilson’s story, two years after she and Kristine Luken were attacked by Palestinian terrorists in a forest outside of Beit Shemesh. Kristine died in the attack, while Kay was left for dead. Instead, Kay, who was “bound and gagged, with a punctured lung and shattered ribs . . . trudged over a kilometer” on the forest trail in search for help. Wilson explains: “I wanted them to be able to find my body, to prevent my loved ones from [enduring] the pain of wondering what happened to me.”
Since then, Kay has been through months of trauma therapy and has also battled bureaucracy “that nearly broke her and loss of her livelihood, anonymity, and innocence.” For example, the “humiliating session in which clerks calculated her state disability allowance by measuring the length of her scars with a tape measure.” On the other hand, Kay’s “recovery has also been marked by a string of extraordinary gestures.” For example, that the first person to visit her in the hospital was the Arab bus driver of the tour company Kay worked for. Or that the Star of David Kay was wearing on the day of the attack was framed in olivewood by the same police officer who had analyzed the DNA on the Star.
Kay no longer works as a tour guide, but now “gives lectures, including ones on survival to the Israel Defense Forces . . . She is also working on a book about her experience.” Says Kay: “’It will take me a lifetime to get over this.’ But that’s more than she thought she had ahead of her that Saturday in the forest.”
Christians in Israel
Maariv, December 31, 2012
Arab Knesst member Hanin Zoabi sent a letter this week to ostracized Orthodox priest Jobrail Nadaf criticizing his support of the initiative for young Christian Arabs to be drafted in the IDF (see first and second Media Reviews for November and last Media Review for December). “You are separating [the young Christian Arab] from his nation and turning him into the enemy of his own people by helping the real enemy,” wrote Zoabi. “Arab Christians are not a neutral bridge between two sides. They have a place among their people . . . They have no place outside of their nation . . . They are part of the fabric of our Arab Palestinian nation.”
The Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2012
Faydra Shapiro, director for the Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations at Yezreel Valley College, writes why she believes that nurturing Jewish-Christian relations in Israel is an important task for Israelis. Reflecting on the varied responses in Israel to the Christmas season, Shapiro remarks that “we [Israelis] are not entirely sure how we feel about Christians here in Israel, or why.” Indeed, “for many here, it is Jewish-Muslim issues that require attention because those are ostensibly the real issues we face.” And yet, says Shapiro, “I imagine that the clergy members that were spat on, the faithful whose holy sites were vandalized and the believers who watched their scriptures ripped up by a Knesset member who then posed for pictures might think differently.”
Shapiro claims that Jewish-Christian relations in Israel are unique and therefore relevant to Israelis in a variety of ways. “First,” she writes, “there are no two religions that share as broad a textual foundation as do Judaism and Christianity . . . Second, because it grew out of a Jewish context, Christianity is deeply and passionately interested in Jews and Judaism,” which is why “a fierce battle over support for Israel is being played out in Christian pews, fellowship halls and colleges.” This also explains why “it is in the Christian world that Israel finds some of its staunchest critics and some of its most powerful allies.”
Shapiro asserts that there are problems in this entangled relationship, although Christianity’s problems with Judaism are mostly theological while Judaism’s problems with Christianity are mostly historical. And yet, Jewish-Christian relations “are of grave importance for all of us here in Israel.” Thus they require “care and a protected space” in which to grow. Shapiro ends her article writing that “we hold in our hands the priceless privilege and responsibility to nurture [this relationship]. And you are invited to join us.”
Christian Holidays (Christmas)
Hadashot Haifa veHaZafon, 26 December 2012, Yisrael Post, January 1, 2012
As a gesture for the Christmas season, President Shimon Peres visited the residence of Archbishop Elias Chacour in Haifa, delivering a Christmas greeting to all Christians living in Israel. The President said: “It is for me a privilege, as president of the State of Israel, to send profound wishes on behalf of all of Israel for a happy Christmas . . . The State of Israel is committed to protect all the holy sites and the freedom of worship for everyone. In the Holy Land, coexistence between Jews, Christians, and Muslims will continue.”
The President also remarked on the good relations between Israel and Vatican, saying that he has “immense respect for the Pope.” In addition, Peres said that Israel is proud of its Christian community, adding that he is “also proud that they feel fully at home, completely free to worship in their own way and to continue with their own traditions.”
HaMekomon Petah Tikva, December 26, 2012
In a short snippet addressed to children, Itzik the Clown explains what Christmas is: “During Christmas the Christian faith marks the birth of Jesus.” He adds that “today, Christmas is the most popular and most beloved holiday in the Western world. It is celebrated by religious and secular alike. Those who believe pray a special prayer in church, called Midnight Mass.” In his final message to the children, Itzik the Clown writes that “we [Israelis] who live in a land that is sacred to all religions must learn about those who live in our midst. This is how we will learn to respect one another and live peaceful and quiet lives. The religious wars caused lots of problems, and that’s why we need to respect one another.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 28, 2012
Since Bethlehem features significantly in the Christmas celebrations, Lenny Ben-David gives a brief history of the Church of the Nativity where Christians believe Jesus was born. It was “built in 339 CE by King Constantine and his mother, Helena, over the grotto believed to be the site of Jesus’ birth. Throughout history, the church was destroyed and/or rebuilt by various conquering armies.” Though “Bethlehem was traditionally a Christian town,” its Christian population is currently in decline. “The proportion of Christians . . . has dropped from 85 percent in 1948 to 54% in 1967, and now to about 40%.”
BaMahane, December 27, 2012
A record number of permits were granted to Christian Palestinians in the West Bank crossing into Israel during the Christmas season. This year, between 16,000 and 17,000 permits were issued, “in comparison to 10,000 in the previous year.” In addition, about 500 permits were granted to Christian residents of Gaza “so that they too could come to the Christmas celebrations in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A spokesperson for the Israeli government said that “even in the days when Hamas rules in Gaza, Israel is trying to put the civilian’s needs above all else – as long as it does not pose a security threat.” The article further reported that in the 24 hours prior to the Christmas celebrations, some 80,000 people visited Bethlehem. 300,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the West Bank city during the Christmas season.
BeRuach HaGlilit, December 23, 2012
This two-page article offers readers a detailed tour of Nazareth, which is especially good to visit during the Christmas season. As background to the tour, the article gives a brief history of Nazareth: “Before the end of the second Temple period, Nazareth was a tiny village . . . in the Roman Empire. According to the New Testament, Nazareth was the home of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of her husband Joseph. It is also where the angel Gabriel brought Mary the news that she was carrying the son of God in her womb. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and stayed there until he came of age. Until the Byzantine era it was a Jewish town, but the city grew in significance when the Crusaders arrived . . . Today Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel.”
Maariv, January 2, 2013
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel released its annual report on threats to open spaces in Israel. Of interest is the mention of the threat to build a four-storey hotel next door to Mary’s Well in the pastoral village of Ein Kerem on the outskirts of Jerusalem (see first and second Media Reviews for November).
Haaretz, January 2, 2013
David Hadar reviews Colm Toibin’s latest book, The Testament of Mary, which focuses on the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of his mother, Mary. Though the story is told from Mary’s perspective, “her text is not Gospel. In fact, it is an anti-Gospel, a text that erases and rewrites some of the well-known events of the story.” What stands out the most, says Hadar, is Mary’s doubt of her son’s divinity. But her love for Jesus, and her fear for his life, are the driving force behind her narrative. Much of the book is “characterized by Mary’s guilt feelings, not for having failed her son, but for choosing to run away . . . instead of waiting for her son to be taken down from the cross.” Hadar recognizes that Toibin “did not attempt to recreate Jesus as he really was, but to rethink the well-known stories of the canonical gospels. The result is a story that is not a historical novel . . . but rather an allegorical text about the relationship between parents and children, or between mothers and sons.”
Maariv, January 2013
In this weekly column, Arel Segal, who claims he is tired of writing about the upcoming elections, decides to take a look at the role that sacred body parts play in the Christian tradition. More specifically, Segal surveys the history of the body parts of the saints, including Jesus. First, he gives a brief synopsis of the various Christian traditions concerning the fate of Jesus’ foreskin, including how up until the 19th century, 18 different churches or monasteries claimed ownership. Segal goes beyond a history of sacred body parts, however, and also delves into the Christian tradition regarding sacred artifacts relating to Jesus, which, in the Middle Ages, “were a hysterical hit.” For example, Segal tells of a feather that fell from the wings of the angel Gabriel when he visited Mary to announce that she was bearing the son of God, which was later sold for a great price.