During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Christians in Israel
HaShavua BeYerushalayim, September 11; HaMahane HaHaredi, September 17, 2013
According to these articles, the whole of Jerusalem is in an uproar after a missionary “take-over” of municipality billboards on which misleading posters were hung to try and lure innocent Jews away from their faith. Yad L’Achim issued a statement warning all Jews that the link on the posters leads to a “Messianic Christian” website. “This is a provocative act carried out by fundamentalist extremists who have already caused a storm,” said the statement. Yad L’Achim has appealed to Knesset members as well as the Jerusalem municipality in an effort to have the posters removed “at once.”
The Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, September 16, 2013
In answer to a question about whether or not God has kept his promises to the descendants of Abraham and the Jewish people, Pope Francis wrote an article for an Italian paper in which he said that “this is a question – believe me – that touches us profoundly as Christians, because with the help of God … we have rediscovered that the Jewish people are still for us the holy root that produced Jesus. … We will never be sufficiently grateful to them as a Church, but also as human beings.” The pope added that God did not abandon his covenant with Israel. “In the persistence of their faith in the God of the Covenant, [the Jewish people] summon all, including us as Christians, to recall the fact that we are awaiting the return of the Lord as pilgrims, and must therefore always remain open to Him and never retreat from what we have already achieved.”
The chief rabbi of Rome, Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, said in response that “this Pontificate does not cease to surprise.” Though the pope’s words are not new, “it is the force with which he expresses them and his capacity of communicating them that is astounding. The fact that Judaism is the holy root of Christianity is fundamental, but many theological currents, especially in Protestantism, have tried to belittle them. In opposing these currents, Francis is coherent to the teaching of Benedict. Especially noteworthy is his expression of gratitude to Jews for their devotion in faith.”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, September 18, 2013
This three-page article focuses on the Christian community in moshav Magen Shaul near the Gilboa. The Beit El community originates in Canada, and consists of families who chose to immigrate to Israel in order to help the moshav out of its financial deficit. They set up a high-tech company (an extension of their company in Canada) and within ten years turned things completely around: the moshav paid off its debts and Israeli families that left many years ago are beginning to return. Magen Shaul went from being “a place people run away from to a place people come back to,” writes Tali Harut-Sober.
The Beit El community in Canada is a conservative Christian Zionist community – Israel-lovers who believe it is their duty to bless Israel. When asked why they would leave their homeland and come to a dilapidated and dwindling village in the north of Israel, they reply by saying that “you [Israel] are the root of the tree. … We are the branches, and branches will never become roots.” Harut-Sober explains that the Beit El community believes in the Bible and in the New Testament. “Their role in the world,” she writes, “is to help Israel continue to exist, to strengthen [Israel] as much as possible, and in so doing to hasten the return of the messiah.” For them, this would include helping grow the nation of Israel’s financial and economic status. The high-tech company now operating in Magen Shaul employs a good number of Israelis as well, thus providing jobs for the local community. When asked if they employ Arabs, the answer is, “we bless the Jewish nation.”
The Beit El community in Magen Shaul is one of several Christian Zionist communities around the country, the biggest one being in Zichron Ya’acov.
Yisrael HaYom, September 18, 2013
Dror Idar’s four-page article examines in great detail the archaeological findings of professor Adam Zartal and how they relate to the biblical passages detailing Israel’s history in the 11th and 12th centuries BC. Idar is specifically interested in Zartal’s theory relating to the biblical site of Gilgal, which is mentioned 39 times in Scripture. Zartal’s findings have led him to believe that Gilgal isn’t a single geographical site, but rather a term used to describe places of gathering – sites where Israel could perform its religious and national rituals. What is interesting is that all these sites, which were built atop low hills with flat summits, were made in the shape of a foot. Zartal has found several of these sites already, and his search continues, based on coordinates offered in the biblical text.
The question, for Idar, is why these sites were built in the shape of a foot. Zartal explains that since this phenomenon is unknown in any other part of the ancient world, he had to look for his answer in the Bible, where the foot consistently symbolizes four things: an expression of territorial ownership; the relationship between the people and the land; making enemies surrender and ruling over them; a sign of God’s presence on earth. Zartal believes that the fourth use of the word “foot” in the Bible is the one that explains the various Gilgals, or communal gathering places: “ancient Israel’s earliest temples were in the shape of a foot representing God’s footprint on the earth.”
Zartal’s theory sheds light not only the biblical passages referring to Gilgal, but also on one of the phrases commonly used in Hebrew to describe religious pilgrimage: “aliyah la-regel,” or “going up to the foot.” Writes Idar: “After thousands of years in which the origin of the phrase has been forgotten, the expression is suddenly understood.”
Kochav HaZafon, Mabat LeHazor VeLaGalil, August 30, 2013
Two papers ran the same story about the Minister of Tourism’s visit to the Sea of Galilee to view building projects that are underway for Christian pilgrims. About 1.5 million ILS has been invested in the upgrade of the Yardenit baptismal site, and 6.5 million ILS in the development of the sea port at Ein Gev. MK Landau said during his visit that it is important to conserve the Sea of Galilee as a natural resource, but also as a historical, religious, and cultural resource. The papers note that later that evening, Landau participated in an evangelical Christian event.
Haaretz, September 17, 2013
Batya Kahana Dror takes issue with several local rabbis who refused to pray for the release of “chained” women (women bound in marriage by a husband who refuses to grant a divorce) on the eve of the holidays, even though one of the courts recently permitted such women to be purified according to Jewish law. Kahana Dror is interested in the separation of state law and religious law, and quotes Jesus’ saying that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21) to emphasize her point.
The Jerusalem Post, September 17, 2013
In the “Letters” section of the paper, Colin Nevin addresses the issue of Jesus’ birth, writing that “it is now widely accepted by an increasing number of Bible scholars that Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25, but rather at the ‘appointed time’ on 15 Tishrei, the first day of Succot.” Nevin adds that most Christians are unaware of the fact that Jesus was born on a Jewish holiday, saying that “it is just a pity the Church doesn’t see this rich significance and prefers to uphold error rather than truth. … Jesus himself said of the religious people of His day that ‘they prefer to keep the traditions of men, which make the word of God of none-effect.’ That is exactly what happens each December.”