During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Pope and the Vatican
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, November 8, 2013
In response to the growing number of attacks on Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, a number of clerics signed a Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites, stating that “holy sites shall be preserved for present and future generations, with dignity, integrity and respect for their name and identity. … They shall not be desecrated or damaged, nor shall religious communities be forcibly deprived of their holy sites.”
The Code of Conduct was signed at a recent conference organized by Search for Common Ground, an organization “that works for ‘conflict transformation.’” The deputy mayor of Jerusalem, who also attended the conference, said that “when we’re talking about holy places in a holy land we have to remember that we’re a pilgrim city and a pilgrim country. How we conducts ourselves and our holy places in Israel has implications for all over the world and the faith communities for people all over the world who see Jerusalem as an important spiritual destination.”
According to the article, there is a push for teaching young Israelis how to respect other religions. The head of the Department of Non-Jews in Israel (in the Ministry of Interior) tells the Post that “clerics make frequent visits to Jewish schools to teach about the country’s religious minorities.” The paper adds that “there is also a growing move for religious dialogue.”
Yediot HaNegev, November 8, 2013
Oded Bar Meir tells the story of Hanok Arga, an Ethiopian Christian who moved to Israel when he was 17 and was granted Israeli citizenship four years later, receiving his Israeli ID card just two weeks ago.
Hanok’s interest is in astronomy, and he began studying the stars already at the age of eight. At thirteen he was admitted to the Ethiopian Space Society, and quickly earned a name for himself as “the young Einstein.” The question, for Bar Meir, is “what brings a young Christian Ethiopian to the Holy Land?” Hanok explains: “When I was a little boy, I read the New Testament and knew also the stories of the Jewish Torah. I learned about the history of the Jews and their connection to the land of Israel. … I always dreamed about coming to Israel. … And anyway, when I saw that a lot of scientists, like Professor Albert Einstein, were Jews, it excited me and strengthened my desire to come to the land of the Jews.” Hanok continued to educate himself about Israel, and moving here eventually became the dream he “had to fulfill.”
When Bar Meir asks Hanok if he wasn’t afraid he might encounter racism or discrimination on account of not being a Jew, Hanok answers, “On the contrary. I believed that everyone here is accepted as he is, without discrimination against him on account of his religious or ethnic background. I believed I would be accepted here for who I am, and it doesn’t matter where I’ve come from or what color my skin is.” When asked if he thinks he might convert to Judaism some day, he answers: “I don’t see any difference between a Jew and a Christian. I keep the Sabbath, go to the synagogue, love the religious rituals, but I don’t consider myself a religious person. I am happy with who I am.”
The Pope and the Vatican
HaModia, October 24, 2013
This two-page article reports on the ongoing dispute regarding the handing over of David’s Tomb to the Vatican. HaModia places the blame on Danny Ayalon, the previous government’s deputy foreign minister, because of his close connections to Christians. Ayalon spoke at many churches during his time as Israel’s ambassador to Washington DC, telling his Christian audiences that their “Judeo-Christian heritage is entwined with ours. We share the same beliefs. … We are brothers, and we will dwell together in unity.” But the real issue is Ayalon’s wife, Anne, an evangelical Christian “who, according to Yad L’Achim, used her status [as Ayalon’s wife] to spread Christianity among Jewish and international dignitaries around the world.” Yad L’Achim also claims that Anne “hailed as ‘good news’ the growth of Christian missionaries in the Galilee” and that she “appears in a missionary film.” It is no secret, according to HaModia, that Ayalon has been working “to upgrade the status of evangelicals in Israel,” criticizing “the harsh policies against Christian volunteers living in the Holy Land.”
The connection to David’s Tomb is that Ayalon was the one appointed by Israel to negotiate with the Vatican about the disputed holy sites. According to the paper, “when Ayalon was appointed the chief negotiator with the Vatican on the issue, those who knew anything about the man realized that there was no chance of Israel keeping the site.” But there is more at stake than just handing over King David’s Tomb. Indeed, gaining jurisdiction over the site will give Catholics a foothold in the Old City that will enable them to carry out their true mission, which is “to get the Jews out of the Old City. … The Catholic Church wants Israel to relinquish sovereignty over the Kosel and Har Habayis.” The paper concludes with the affirmation that “the Vatican’s attitude on Israel’s capital is still stuck in the unforgivable anti-Semitic rhetoric of the 1940s.” But “instead of saying ‘keep your hands off Jerusalem, it’s not for sale,’ the Israeli government accepted the Vatican’s ransom request.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 10, 2013
In the “From the Archives” section of the paper, Alexander Zvielli reports that 50 years ago The Jerusalem Post ran an article about an official agenda document released by the Vatican that rejected “as ‘unjust’ the belief that Jews were collectively guilty of Jesus’ death.” The purpose of the document was to improve “understanding between Roman Catholics and Jews” by emphasizing that “the events of the New Testament, especially the account of the crucifixion of Jesus, ‘cannot give rise to disdain between Christians and Jews.’”
The Jerusalem Report, November 7, 2013
This four-page article focuses on Josh Reinstein, a 36 year-old Jewish American who immigrated to Israel in 1999 and organized the country’s first political caucus in 2004 – the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. Reinstein has since put all his efforts into strengthening Christian support for Israel. It was through a “quirk of fate” that Reinstein “developed an interest in helping Christians show their support for Israel.”
The biggest challenge for Reinstein (and for Israel) in harnessing Christian support is the viewpoint that preaches replacement theology: the belief that “the covenant between God and Abraham is over and now the covenant is between God and the church.” This viewpoint, according to Reinstein, is often what makes Christians become anti-Israel. Reinstein has chosen to focus instead on those thousands of Christians around the world who are avid supporters of Israel. He wanted to “work with Christian leaders abroad in order to mobilize even greater political support for Israel among the Christian community. He chose to focus on overseas Christians because he was quite aware that for the previous 25 years, pro-Israel Christians had no Israeli counterpart organization with which to work at the Israeli government level.” That is when Reinstein formed the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus.
The response to the caucus from overseas Christians has been extremely positive. Says Reinstein: “We started building this new relationship between Jews and Christians in the 21st century.” Furthermore, he adds that the caucus “is the most potent weapon in our diplomatic arsenal today. We have more success with faith-based diplomacy than any other diplomacy we do in the world.” In response to this caucus, 22 other sister caucuses have been formed around the world.
Of course, there are those within with Jewish world who are skeptical of Reinstein’s efforts, claiming that “Christian support for Israel is a deception, that Christian support for Israel is based on a belief that the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel is a precondition for the second coming of Christ.” But Reinstein is not bothered by these skeptics. “The key,” he says, “is that we’re all working on the same side for the same goals. Christians are Israel’s only allies who stand with us through thick and thin.”
Yediot HaKibbutz, November 8, 2013
Hundreds of Israelis who have backpacked around New Zealand and have experienced the boundless generosity of Katherine and Phil Lewis are attempting to raise 50,000 ILS to fly the couple and their five children to Israel.
The Lewises, who are Israel-loving Christians from New Zealand, have hosted hundreds of Israelis in their home over the past five years, never charging any of them a single cent. They are known among Israeli backpackers “as ones who open their hearts and their home to any Israeli who happens to be passing by.” More than that, writes Ya’acov Lior, “they actually seem to ‘hunt’ [the Israelis] in the street.” Says one student: “There were five of us walking around town [in Queensland] when we bumped into a ten year-old boy. He said ‘Shalom,’ and we wondered how he knows Hebrew. He asked us to come with him because his mother wanted to speak to us. We followed him to the nearest shop, where she works. She then gave us her number and address and told us to come over, without explaining why. When we got to their house, there were six other Israelis already there who had been sleeping on couches in the living room, on carpets, and in a tent in the backyard.”
The article goes on to tell the stories of many other young Israeli backpackers who experienced the Lewises’ “amazing hospitality.” The family has been invited to Israel many times, but so far they have not been able to afford the trip. Some of the backpackers who stayed with the Lewis family decided to take matters into their own hands, appealing to other backpackers to donate to the cause. Within a short amount of time, they managed to raise 30,000 ILS. They are now are planning a big event, which will take place on November 16th, where they hope to raise the remaining 20,000 ILS – just in time to fly the family over to Israel for Hanukkah or Christmas.
Ma Nishma Eilat, November 7, 2013
This three-page article tells the story of Ben and Marijke Verkehr, a retired Christian couple from Holland who moved to Israel to start a non-profit in support of the land and its people. Rotem Jackson explains that the Verkehrs are “part of a large group of Israel-lovers that is growing and increasing all around the world. They pray for us, take care of us, love us, and raise money to help us. And – it might surprise you to find out – most of them aren’t even Jewish. They call themselves Christian Zionists, they know the Bible by heart (and not just the New Testament), and they believe with their whole hearts in the land of Israel, the Jewish people, and in a Creator who is watching over us and uniting us here in this Holy Land according to our deepest desires.”
The Verkehrs believe that, according to the Bible, a mass exodus of Jews from countries all over the world is imminent, so they have come to Israel to help prepare the nation to receive all those who will be banished from other countries. “Do you know,” asks Ben, “that there are many Dutch people who have even built an extra room in their house so they can take in those Jews who will be traveling to Israel after the exodus?”
In response to the vision he had, Ben Verkehr and his first wife set up their non-profit, called Koresh, and began raising funds to support Israel. The organization also sponsors a large number of teachers and speakers who travel around giving lessons and lectures in support of Israel. In addition, the NGO tries to focus its local support on the more vulnerable populations in Israel, like single mothers, infants, and children. The organization works together with the social welfare department in Eilat (where the couple lives).
Jackson writes that beyond all the good that Koresh does for those living in Israel, they are also a blessing outside of the country since they make it a point to be ambassadors on behalf of the land and its people. Says Marijke: “The world has a very mistaken picture of Israel. European media present Israel as the cruel enemy of the Palestinians. They don’t explain that things are done in response to something. They strengthen the Palestinian side because they are supposedly the weak victims. We know the truth but out there they don’t know. No wonder there are so many who hate Israel! There are, in fact, two strong forces in the world that are growing simultaneously: anti-Semitism and the pro-Israel movement. … We want to show Israelis that there are people who love them in the world – love them, pray for them, and bless them.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 15, 2013
Former U.S. President George W. Bush was the main speaker at a Messianic Jewish fundraiser in Texas hosted by the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, “an organization that works to convert Jews to Christianity.” The national director of the Anti-Defamation League said in response that “President Bush is a friend who has an abiding love and respect for Israel and the Jewish people. … I know that he does not represent or embrace the purpose or the mission of this group, and therefore I wish he would not speak there.”
The paper quotes Bush in a speech he gave in 2005 where he stated that Judaism has had a positive impact on the United States. “The stock of Abraham has thrived here like nowhere else,” said Bush, “And we’re a better and stronger and freer nation because so many Jews from countries all over the world have chosen to become American citizens. … Both [America and Israel] are founded on certain basic beliefs, that there is an Almighty God who watches over the affairs of men and values every life.”
Maariv, November 14, 2013
Carmit Sapir interviews Michael Coogan on the release of his controversial book God and Sex in a new Hebrew translation. Coogan’s main claim is that the Bible is full of sexual references that have been covered over and hushed up throughout the centuries. He includes both the Old and New Testament in his analysis, saying that the Bible is very preoccupied with “polygamy, prostitution, abortion, rape, homosexuality and lesbianism,” and so forth.
Sapir asks Coogan what the difference is between Paul and Jesus regarding male and female relationships, and Coogan explains that, in his opinion, “Jesus’ attitude towards women was more inclusive than Paul’s.” When Sapir asks Coogan if a comparison can be made between the idea of the nephilim (sons of God) mentioned in Genesis and Jesus’ virgin birth, he replies: “Nice parallel! Both myths deal with divine beings having sex with the daughters of men.”
Overall, Coogan believes that the Bible is much more lenient in all things relating to sex than our culture is today. “We are more conservative,” he says.
Rabbi Haim Navon responds to this interview by saying that he believes Coogan’s book is simply a response to an internal Christian controversy in which the Bible “is used as a battering ram in the struggle between different Christian denominations, especially between the Vatican and its opponents.” Rabbi Navon explains that Christianity has an age-old complex concerning human sexuality – something Judaism has been able to deal with in a much more mature and open way.
Haaretz, November 15, 2013
Ruth Becky Coloradi reviewed the book Jerusalem of Holiness and Madness by psychiatrists Prof. Eliezer Witztum and Dr. Moshe Kalian, which documents the Jerusalem Syndrome phenomenon as it has been manifested in attacks on the Temple Mount through the ages (see the November 13, 2013, Media Review).
Maariv, November 15, 2013
Dr. Itamar Brener writes a critique of the Bible exhibition currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum claiming that it is clearly Christian: “The visitor who expects to meet our father Abraham at the exhibition, or our mother Sarah, or our rabbi Moses, or King David will be disappointed. It is easier to find Jesus, his disciples, the various popes who were instrumental in spreading the Scriptures, and Martin Luther.” Brener claims that the exhibition betrays itself from the outset since its chronological point of departure (in terms of the fragments and scrolls on display) is only after the birth of Christianity.
Makor Rishon, November 15, 2013
This short snippet gives details about the Bible exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum.
Maariv, November 15, 2013
David Ohana looks at some of the writings of French philosopher Albert Camus in honor of the latter’s centenary, which was marked this week. Ohana explains that Camus’ writings challenged the old way of doing things, which, in his context, was represented by the church. “The church,” writes Ohana, “having inherited the image of the crucified Christ, became the persecutor – the one who crucifies,” or the one who remains silent in the face of such events as the Holocaust. Camus was very critical of the church during World War II, writing that though he waited for a voice of protest to be heard from Rome, there was none to be heard.
Yerushalayim Shelanu, October 24, 2013
Dr. Adam Ackerman writes about two sensational archeology court cases that have taken place regarding certain biblical artifacts that some claimed were frauds. Among the contested artifacts are the Jehoash Tablet and the burial box attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, both of which are in the possession of archeologist Oded Golan.
HaHaim HaTovim, November 10, 2013
This travel magazine recommends visiting the sites near the Galilee that “connect Judaism and Christianity.” These include the Mount of Beatitudes, which is in the area where “Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth,” chose to focus most of his activities.