During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Pope and the Vatican
The Historic Church
The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2013
Marcie Lenk’s article reflects on the “price tag” attack on Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem last Friday, where the church walls were vandalized and spray-painted with the words “Jesus is a monkey” and “Jesus is a slave,” among other things. “This,” writes Lenk, “follows similar incidents in the past few months at the Monastery of the Cross, at the Baptist church on Narkis Street in western Jerusalem, at the monastery in Latrun, as well as at a number of mosques around the country.” The question, for Lenk, is why churches and mosques are targeted in these “price tag” attacks, which are always related to Israeli politics, first and foremost. While “racism certainly is at the core of these attacks,” she writes, “racism and revenge do not explain the attacks on churches and mosques.” Indeed, one would think that, given Jewish history, Israelis would be more sensitive to such attacks and would rise up in opposition to them. But this has not been the case.
Lenk believes that Israeli Jews’ apathy stems from ignorance. “Israeli Jews generally learn very little about Christianity or Islam, and religious schools offer their students even less.” Lenk describes how in her own religious Jewish education in the USA, they were taught “two basic ideas about Christianity: They either want to kill us or convert us, so beware. My sense is that most Israelis have a similar sense about Christianity. Should we be surprised,” she poignantly asks, “that there is little outrage when Christians are perceived as being on the receiving end of even a small part of what we once suffered at their hands?”
Lenk explains how even though Jewish Israelis are the majority in Israel, they still feel threatened by the Christians living in their midst. And yet, “if Jews understood more about Christianity, we would know that there is little to fear and much to respect. How many Jews know what is good and compelling in the stories of Jesus in the New Testament? There are more than 4 billion Christians in the world today. What compels so many people to this faith? Answering these questions rarely leads to conversion, but it may well lead to greater respect.” Lenk ends her article with a call to her fellow Jews to work at educating themselves and their children “about the others who live among us,” in much the same way they themselves, as Jews and Israelis, desire to be understood by the world.
Yediot Bat Yam, May 31, 2013
Residents of south Bat Yam continue to be outraged by the presence of a Messianic Jewish prayer house operating out of the ground floor of a private apartment building. After receiving many complaints, Yad L’Achim decided to investigate and sent Rabbi Meir Tal to check out the apartment. While he was looking around, he found New Testaments on some of the bookshelves inside. The rabbi confronted those who were present, and a verbal confrontation ensued. He then met with Yad L’Achim, and together they launched a campaign on Facebook, which quickly gathered momentum and caused some people to return to the prayer house in an act of protest. They entered the premises and removed what New Testaments they could find, which they later burned on the beach. Eliezer Gal, who belongs to the Messianic prayer house, told the paper, “No one from our group has any problems with other people, whoever they may be. We are a warm and supportive congregation who believe in justice, and we have no desire to confront those who do not share our worldview. This world is open to everyone. We will continue with our activities throughout the city.”
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2013
Barbara Bramburger’s four-page article focuses on the Christian ecumenical village of Ness Amim, which was established in 1963 by a group of European Christians and operates today as a bridge-building community in Israel. The initial founders of the community were mostly German, which made it difficult for them to get permission to get started in the wake of World War II. However, they overcame this difficulty when “the European churches developed a theology that encompassed an exploration of the roots of Christianity through the study of Jewish traditions, with a non-missionary approach to Jews, and sensitivity to the fact that Christian residents of Ness Amim are guests in the Jewish homeland.”
Ness Amim has gone through many changes over the years, adapting itself to the changing cultural/political landscape in Israel. Today, “the village has rededicated itself ‘to encounter and dialogue, learning and hospitality’ … and has become increasingly involved in organizing and facilitating these activities” through their study program, through fellowship, and through a variety of dialogue projects. For example, there is the “annual retreat for Jewish and Arab Christian women from the Galilee,” or the “Ness Amim Christian Fellowship Committee” which aims “to connect Arab Christian communities in the Galilee with the European churches that are connected with Ness Amim, in order to support and strengthen this weak segment of Israeli society.” There is also a joint Jewish and Arab bilingual camp which takes place every summer.
The most recent endeavor to be taken up by the Ness Amim community is the rezoning of some of their agricultural land for residential use. What makes this project unique is the community’s desire that, “as a natural extension of its historical ideals, the neighborhood should reflect the full spectrum of Israel’s population. … The intent is to build a pluralistic community,” modeled, in some small way, on the mixed community at Neve Shalom near Latrun. Writes Bramburger: “Although most buyers are Jewish, so far there is a multicultural and multiethnic representation that includes Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druze, and non-Jewish Europeans.” Two families who have signed on to the project, one Arab and one Jewish, tell Bramburger: “What attracted me is the idea of living together, Jews and Arabs, in a neutral place. … I see in our moving something that will propagate dialogue, trialogue,” and “I like [that the residents of Ness Amim] see the person above all. That they stand for equality, tolerance and patience; and that they have a wide worldview.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Makor Rishon, Ma’ariv, June 6, 2013
Two articles reported on the meeting that took place this week between the pope and Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin. During their interview, Elkin invited the pope to visit Israel, and the latter reassured him that he fully intended to do so. The purpose of the meeting was to finalize an agreement between the Israeli government and the Vatican concerning church property in Israel. The Vatican has been granted permission to build a gathering place in Caesarea’s national park. Furthermore, the state has agreed to give the Vatican a piece of land beside the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem as compensation for a disputed piece of land within the Old City walls.
The Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2013
Faydra Shapiro, the director for the Center for Studies in Jewish Christian Relations, writes this piece reflecting on the nature of this relationship in light of the Catholic Church. “Increasingly,” she writes, “there’s a tendency, particularly in Israel, to see Christian support for Israel, Christian efforts to combat anti-Semitism and Christian love for the Jews primarily through an evangelical, Christian Zionist lens. For many Jews, Roman Catholic priests taking Judaism seriously, celebrating Jewish holidays, honoring Torah and learning Hebrew is a shock.” It is a tragic oversight, writes Shapiro, that many Jews do not realize that Catholics can also be avid supporters of Israel. “There are lovers of Israel and the Jews to be found among all denominations, just as there are evangelical anti-Semites.” As an example, Shapiro focuses on the life work of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. This is the not the first time she has written on the Cardinal’s prolific attempts to better the relationship between Jews and the Catholic Church. Later this month, his memory will be celebrated with “a most appropriate … Jewish and Christian pilgrimage from Italy to Israel.” The diverse group making the pilgrimage “will engage in many important activities to honor Martini’s legacy and recognize his special bond with the land of Israel and the Jewish people, to stand as an example of what can be done and what must be done for the future.”
Yediot Ashkelon, May 31, 2013
A group of Canadian Israel-loving Christians has donated several portable shelters to a school in Ashkelon. This is not the first time a Christian group has made such a contribution to schools in the south of Israel.
Yediot Ahronot, June 3, 2013
This article, which reports primarily on the shortage of toilet paper in Venezuela (as a result of the country’s current financial crisis), also mentions the shortage of wine and wafers for the celebration of the Eucharist. “The Catholic Church in Venezuela has ordered all its priests to drastically minimize their use” of the bread and wine. “Though millions of Venezuelans come to church every Sunday hoping to partake in the ‘blood and body’ of Jesus … the truth is that the current crisis proves that the body and blood of the Christian messiah is nothing more than a totally earthly substance.”
Makor Rishon, June 3, 2013
This article reports on a huge rally that took place in Stockholm, Sweden, protesting the rise in anti-Semitism throughout the country. Though the event was organized by Jewish entities, the article mentions that some of the participants also included Israel-loving Christians.
The Historic Church
Haaretz, May 31, 2013
Haaretz reprinted in their English edition the article about the thousands of historical artifacts that have been hidden for centuries by the Franciscan order in Israel and are soon to go on display for the first time (see May 27, 2013, Media Review).
Hapeles, May 30, 2013
This article reported on the discovery of the oldest known scroll copy of the Torah in the library of Bologna University in Italy (see May 31, 2013, Media Review).