During the week covered by this review, we received 26 articles on the following subjects:
Pope and the Vatican
Christians in Israel
Pope and the Vatican
Yediot Aharonot, April 29, Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, Makor Rishon, The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2013, The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2013
Many papers reported on President Peres’ visit with the Pope in Rome, the purpose of which, according to Peres, “was to strengthen the existing good relations between Israel and the Vatican.” During his visit, Peres invited the newly appointed pope to visit Israel, the latter accepting “with willingness and joy.” Peres is one of the first world leaders to be granted an audience with the pope, also visiting with the former pope, Benedict XVI, during his stay at the Vatican. Peres told the Pope that his appointment was a cause for hope in the tense Middle East, adding that “we all have an obligation to stand up and say, in a loud and clear voice, that the Lord did not give anyone the authority to murder and carry out bloodshed . . . I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”
The Pope, in turn, addressed the issue of anti-Semitism, saying that it contradicts Christianity and that he would do all within his power to combat any manifestation of it.
According to The Jerusalem Post, “on the day of Peres’ departure, Palestinian Christians from Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, published an open letter entreating the pope to intercede on their behalf and prevent the construction of a separation wall which would isolate them from Jerusalem.” The paper also mentions how the Pope “had already made an appeal for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians in his Easter address last month.”
In another article, The Jerusalem Post reported on Peres’ visit to the city of Assisi, north of Rome, where he was named an honorary citizen of peace. The ceremony, which took place in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, was attended by thousands of devout Catholics and tourists who wished to “witness the historic event.” Peres is the first recipient of this award. In his speech, the Mayor of Assisi explained: “We know that peace is complicated and not easy to attain, but peace is life and full of hope and you, Mr. President, are the shining example of all that.” Peres thanked the city of Assisi on behalf of the Jewish people, most especially because of the role it played in saving Jewish lives during World War II, when a Franciscan friar “hid and saved hundreds of Jews by giving them shelter in his monastery and in the cathedral.” In accepting the award, Peres told the crowd that “leaders of all religious persuasions can make significant contributions towards peace” and that “peace is the only and best solution against terror and threats. I believe in peace with all my heart. I have always done so. We must pray together for an end to the terrible bloodshed in the Middle East and transform the world into a place where people go together hand in hand.”
The Jerusalem Report [X2], April 24, 2013
In this two-page article, rabbi David Rosen reflects on “the transformations in Catholic attitudes and teaching towards the Jewish people” that is “without parallel in human history,” and how this is reflected in the election of the latest pope, Francis I. “The conclave,” writes Rosen, “chose a Latin American with a profound background in and commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations. Indeed, there has never been a pope who has had so much personal experience, engagement and involvement with a contemporary living Jewish community as Pope Francis.” And yet, in spite of the remarkable progress in Catholic-Jewish relations, Rosen points out that “there is one area where much still remains to be done: the transmission of this revolution in attitudes to the Jewish people into Catholic education at all levels and in all places.” Interestingly, Rosen also calls on the new pope “to take full account of the needs and circumstances of the local faithful, who, in Israel as well as under the Palestinian Authority, are Arab Christians and who, in East Jerusalem, north of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and its environs in particular, are disproportionately and negatively affected by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Rosen is optimistic that Pope Francis will rise to the challenges set before him.
In another article, the Jerusalem Report interviews the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, who also praises the new Pope, saying that “the first four weeks of Pope Francis’s papacy have been amazing – there is no other word. Never before has there been a Catholic pontiff who reached out to Jews in such a cordial, personal manner.” Lauder adds that he had the privilege of meeting Cardinal Bergoglio in 2008, and that “you could tell then that this is a special man. He is greatly admired by many in the Argentine Jewish community, and now everyone can see why.”
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2013, Haaretz, April 29, 2013
A Catholic convent and monastery near Bethlehem has lost its seven-year legal battle against the building of a security barrier on its land. According to the monastery’s lawyers, “the barrier would enclose the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land,” which is tended by the monks and nuns. Haaretz writes that “officials of the (Catholic) Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem were dissatisfied with the decision.” The barrier will also cut the monastery off from the local community and the 400 children who attend school at the convent. Haaretz explains that “the nuns of the convent initially wished to remain on the Israeli side of the barrier to avoid being separated from their farmland, but they later changed their position and asked to be on the Palestinian side since the community it serves lives in Beit Jala.” The plan, say the lawyers, violates “international law and conventions protecting religious minorities and the right to education and freedom of religion.” Haaretz adds that “the judges who heard the petition also rejected the assertion that constructing the barrier would violate treaties Israel signed with the Vatican.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, there are some 50,000 Palestinian Christians currently in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 90 percent of them living in a 20 km stretch from Ramallah and East Jerusalem to Bethlehem. However, this population is rapidly shrinking, mostly due to emigration. Says one diplomat: “The occupation hurts Muslims and Christians both, but affects the Christian community more because it’s a smaller percentage of the population.”
The Jerusalem Post, April 26, 2013
Miriam Kresh reports on the return of the Order of Saint Lazarus to the Holy Land after an absence of 700 years. Kresh gives a brief history of the Order, writing that “while the Crusaders raged in the Holy Land in 1099, the Order of Saint Lazarus established a hospital outside the walls of Jerusalem to treat knights who had contracted leprosy. Over time, the organization . . . [developed] into a healing house for the local population as well.” However, the Order was banished from the Holy Land in 1291 when Saladin expelled all the Christians from Jerusalem. The Order returned to Europe, where it established itself as a charitable healing mission. In 2012, the Order opened a small office again in Jerusalem’s Old City, reestablishing its presence in the Holy Land.
According to the Order’s Grand Chancellor, Count Philippe Piccapietra, the Order’s mission is to help people, “not because they are Christians. We are helping because we are Christians.” He adds that the Order desires to “heal mind, spirit and body, regardless of political, ethnic and religious borders.” The Order hopes to focus on small-medium sized charities, to work with needy families, disadvantaged youth and the elderly. To that end, the Count explains how “one of our projects in Jerusalem is access to places in the Old City for handicapped and reduced-mobility people. The Old City is beautiful, if you can walk. If you can’t walk, it’s a terrible city.” The Order hopes to import a large number of hybrid two-seater buggies which they will then run around the Old City, free of charge.
Kresh adds that, “when asked if the Order of Saint Lazarus is an evangelical order with an eye towards converting locals, Piccapietra became emphatic. ‘Never ever! We are not Crusaders, not here to convert anybody or to give out any kind of promotional material . . . Myself, I try to be an example of a good person, but this is not at all about conversion . . . Our principle is simple: do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”
Yisrael HaYom, May 1, 2013
This short article tells the story of Efrat and Shlomo Bartles, German Christians who live in Israel and attend the Beit El congregation in Zichron Ya’acov. The couple’s son, Avidan, almost died after his premature birth, but after they were told to prepare for the worst, Avidan’s life was miraculously spared. “Our faith was our strength during those long and painful days,” Efrat and Shlomo told Yisrael HaYom.
Ashdod BaKotarot, April 24, 2013
This report relates to missionary material which was placed in mailboxes in several neighborhoods in Ashdod. Shocked residents were quick to alert Yad L’Achim, who arrived at the scene and managed to stop the distribution. “The missionaries, who saw that the masks they were wearing had been torn off their faces and that their deception was evident to all, left the premises.” An hour later, Yad L’Achim received another call alerting them to the fact that the missionaries were now distributing their material to any and every passerby at the Star Center mall. The anti-missionary activists were quick to arrive at the scene and alert people to the “true” nature of the material being distributed. When the missionaries realized that Yad L’Achim intended to follow them wherever they went, “they lost their patience and began to attack and beat the dedicated activists, causing them physical harm.” Police arrived at the scene and arrested two of the missionaries. One Yad L’Achim activist told the paper that “the missionaries have done our work for us . . . After they began to beat us and grab our camera, acting in a brutal manner, they removed their own mask and everyone present understood that these are people with malicious intent. Our explanations were no longer necessary.”
Kol HaIr Bnei Brak, April 24, 2013
One article reported on the missionary material which was distributed directly into the mailboxes of residents of Bnei Brak (see third Media Review for April).
The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2013
Nathan Lopes Cardozo examines anti-Semitism through the eyes of Sigmund Freud, who claimed that Christian resentment of Judaism is actually Christian resentment of Christianity. Cardozo explains: “Freud suggests anti-Semitism is the result and expression of resentment felt by many Christians who hold the Jewish people responsible for the creation of their own religion. ‘They have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic. They have not yet overcome their grudge against the new religion which was forced on them and they have projected it onto the source from which Christianity came to them . . .’ Freud is right on the mark . . . Christianity, throughout all of its history became entangled in many polytheistic beliefs, giving birth to a religious society that was never at ease with the fundamental concepts of monotheism.” Cardozo claims that Christianity was unable to accept a monotheistic God, as well as the demands that such a God makes on them – it made them rise up in opposition. Thus, “the bottom line was the awareness that Jesus was a Jew who incorporated much of Jewish ethical values into his teachings, and this turned many early Christians against their own religion.” This, says Cardozo, is the true root of anti-Semitism. In a scathing critique of Western Christianity, he writes: “Part of the Western world has always tried to effect a divorce between Judaism and Christianity, since it cannot accept that Christianity is greatly indebted to Judaism . . . Resisting its own destiny, it needs to destroy those who bring that destiny to mind. The Jew spoils the anti-Semite’s life by emphasizing the ethical demands of the Torah which, despite their often inaccurate absorption into Jesus’ teachings, still remind him of those demands. The anti-Semite therefore re-enacts the crucifixion of his savior by torturing and killing the Jew who represents the teachings that Jesus had adopted.”
Cardozo then takes this worldview and applies it to current-day politics and Western criticism of modern-day Israeli policies, demonstrating how all such criticism stems from the Christian West’s subconscious animosity towards the Jews (for example, Cardozo writes that “what irritates [the West] more than anything is the knowledge that Israeli soldiers try to do everything in their power not to hurt the general Palestinian population, in contrast to their own armies that would surely have taken much more aggressive action and left thousands dead”).
Cardozo summarizes his article by saying that “above all, it is important for us Jews and for Israel to realize that we are hated because of Judaism’s stand on paganism and its unfaltering commitment to morality. And we should be proud of it. Let us at least be hated for the right reasons.”
The Jerusalem Post, May 2, 2013
Manfred Gersternfeld reflects on Europe’s growing anti-Semitism and the way it is being translated into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of interest is a brief paragraph that details the origins of this anti-Semitism: “In the first centuries of Christianity, the false accusation was launched that Jews had committed deicide, killing the supposed son of God. At that time, no greater evil could have been imagined.”
The Jerusalem Report, April 26, 2013
Professor Marc Zvi Brettler offers an analysis of the verse in Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” explaining that it is “one of the best known, but most misunderstood, verses in the entire Bible.” By examining the broader context in which the verse is found, Brettler is able to determine that the verse is mandating “proper behavior between Israelites,” meaning it does not apply to non-Israelites. “These verses are particularistic,” he writes, “and not universal.” Furthermore, the word “love” is often misunderstood, since in the biblical context “the verb ahav often does not imply an emotional attitude, but action connected to such an attitude.” Bearing these things in mind, Brettler re-translates the verse to read: “like your neighbor who is like you.”
If this is a more correct translation of the verse, the question, for Brettler, is why Rabbi Akiva called it a klal gadol, or “a great principle of the Torah.” He writes: “It is likely that Akiva’s dictum is related to Matthew 22; there are many places where the New Testament and rabbinic literature reflect a common tradition. In that passage, Jesus is asked: ‘”Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” He said unto him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ While this translation from the Greek hides some ambiguities, this New Testament passage likely clarifies what klal means – a principle in the sense of a generality that subsumes many other laws – other injunctions ‘hang’ within it.”
Yisrael HaYom, May 3, 2013
In anticipation of the upcoming Jerusalem Day celebrations, writer Yochi Barnedas reviews the city’s place in Scripture. She admits that her study caught her off guard. “You say Jerusalem, you say division,” she writes, explaining that she had always assumed that the ultimate biblical vision for Jerusalem is that she will one day be completely Jewish. “I knew that the multi-national vision of Jerusalem was in Scripture, but I was sure that next to it I would find the dream of a Jerusalem that is entirely Jewish. I never imagined that I would not find a single verse that justified this approach . . . And yet, there are many verses that say exactly the opposite . . . Jerusalem is described in Scripture as God’s eternal city, not ours. The right to live and pray in this place is granted first and foremost to Israel . . . but also to the gentiles.” Barnedas quotes several passages to demonstrate this point, concluding her article by saying that “the sight of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious figures gathered together in the city of God, praying to him, is a fulfillment of the Bible’s prophetic vision. Our sages dreamed of this; for us, it is a daily reality.”
Maariv, May 3, 2013
In a long and complicated article about the intricacies of the political scene in Israel today, Danny Ailon reveals how much of the money going into the public purse, helping fund some highly questionable political activities and policies, comes from tourist sites, including, for example, the sale of “holy water” at the baptismal site in Kasr al-Yahud on the Jordan River.
The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2013
MK Gila Gamliel has been appointed by the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus to be one of its six MK representatives. Gamliel said she is “thrilled” by the appointment, adding that “she understands the importance of developing Judeo-Christian relations based on shared values” and that she will work “to build political ties through faith-based diplomacy with elected officials, pastors and grassroots Christians who support Israel from all over the world.”
Maariv, May 1, 2013
“Gabriel’s Revelation,” the 2000 year-old stone tablet with Hebrew inscription, is going on display at the Israel Museum. The tablet “is considered to be one of the most important archeological finds in our area, not including the Dead Sea Scrolls.” It was written somewhere between the 1st century BC and the 1st century CE and “describes the messianic atmosphere that was prevalent in the land of Israel around the time of Herod the Great, including fears over Jerusalem’s fate. It also depicts the new role of the angels as mediators between man and God, in a way that is typical of Second Temple Judaism.” The text is in the form of a dialogue between the angel Gabriel and an unknown person, and “is reminiscent of the latter prophets, like Haggai and Zechariah.”
Haaretz, April 29, 2013
Haaretz reviews a composition by Pergolezi, entitled Septa verba a Christo (The last seven words of Christ) which has just been released on CD in Israel. Of interest is a short section which explains the theological underpinnings of the classical piece: “According to the different New Testament versions of the crucifixion (by Matthew, John, Luke and Mark) Jesus said several things while he was already hanging on the cross, until he died. Some of these sayings deal with forgiveness for himself and his accusers (titled: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’), and some are the desperate cries of a human being (‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’). Pergolezi, in the 17th century, and Hyden in the 18th century . . . tried to compose music befitting of these words.”
The Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2013
A short article reporting on the interreligious conference taking place in Spain next week under the patronage of the Spanish monarchy in a bid to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations.
The Jerusalem Post, April 29, 2013
The paper printed a photograph of the Christian Orthodox Church’s Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem’s Old City. The caption explains that “Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and crucifixion on Good Friday.”
Yisrael HaYom, May 3, 2013
A two-page article that reviews a new guidebook to Jerusalem by Shlomo Tzezana. Among other things, the article mentions several of the Old City sites associated with the life of Jesus.
Makor Rishon, May 3, 2013
The paper ran a photograph of a huge banner that was hung just inside Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City depicting Jesus with a crown of thorns on his head. Police removed the banner after receiving complaints from residents of the Jewish Quarter.