During the week covered by this review, we received 21 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Shaa Tova, December 5; HaMevaser, December 6, 2013
Two papers ran the same article about Yad L’Achim’s latest success in bringing an end to missionary activity that was taking place among lone soldiers in Jerusalem. According to Yad L’Achim, a Messianic Jewish missionary organization was frequenting the home (or hostel) for lone soldiers in Jerusalem every Friday, inviting the soldiers into Messianic homes for dessert following their Shabbat meal. Furthermore, these missionaries were handing out New Testaments and other Christian reading material, which led to the conversion of one of the soldiers. Yad L’Achim decided to take matters into their own hands, and after acquiring all the evidence they needed, they wrote to the Ministry of Defense and asked that it put an end to this activity. The Ministry of Defense wrote back saying that it has stopped the missionary activity and has informed the Messianic Jewish organization that if they wish to interact with the soldiers, they must first present their plans to the Ministry for approval. Yad L’Achim reports that they will continue to do all that they can to “save Jews” and “keep them away from this danger.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, December 6, 2013
Benny Zipper uses the latest meeting between the pope and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to criticize both the Vatican and Israel, claiming that what they have in common is that they are merely a “spec” on the world map, even though both arrogantly believe they are so much more. The Vatican and Israel resemble each other in two ways, writes Zipper: first, in their inflated self-image; and second, in the tremendous amount of kitsch they both use to solidify their status. Zipper quotes Stalin’s famous line, “how many legions does the pope have?” to make his point, saying that no one has yet found a way to re-state this in relation to Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism. But when all is said and done, asks Zipper, who appointed either the pope or Netanyahu to be a political spokesperson for the world (in the matter of Iran, for example)?
Regarding the second point, Zipper lashes out at the Christian (or Catholic) tradition of “plastic idol worship” – all the kitsch that is sold in the name of religion – a tradition that ironically goes against the grain of the religion’s founder, Jesus, who “overturned the money changers’ and merchants’ tables in the temple in Jerusalem because they were taking advantage of the simple people’s faith in order to get rich.” Kitsch is when religion becomes an empty mimicry of the real thing. Israel suffers from the same problem, says Zipper, especially in issues related to the territories and the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel covers up for its helplessness by offering kitschy promises about world peace and the security of the Jewish people. “The Christians have a plastic doll of Jesus, the savior of the world; and the Jews now also have a plastic doll of the savior of the world – the only one who is opening the eyes of humanity to the nuclear threat; but there is no one listening to him, poor man, just like Jesus before him.”
HaShavua beYerushalayim, December 4, 2013
This article reports on Haim Miller’s continued efforts to stop the government from handing over King David’s Tomb to the Vatican’s jurisdiction.
Yediot Aharonot, December 2, 2013
One doesn’t have to travel all the way to Europe to experience Christmas, writes Gaffi Amir. Nazareth is preparing for the holiday season, and will have a host of things on offer to celebrate the birth of Jesus, even though only a third of the city is Christian. There is the traditional Christmas parade to look forward to, prayers and ceremonies in the churches, Christmas trees, fireworks, and a Christmas fair. Nazareth’s Old City will be the focus of these events, with both its Catholic and Orthodox churches vying for the visitors’ attention. “Both churches claim to be the original,” writes Amir. “That is, the original place where the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced to her that she would give birth to the Messiah. The Catholics claim that the message was given in the cave in their church, and the Orthodox insist on the spring in their church” – an argument that stems from the different versions of the Annunciation depicted in the New Testament.
The rest of the article is dedicated to places worth visiting in Nazareth ahead of the season.
BaMachane, November 28, 2013
The biggest cities in the West Bank, Bethlehem and Jericho, are preparing for the Christmas season, which is sure to draw thousands of Christian pilgrims. Last year, about 170,000 visitors passed through the West Bank between December 25th and January 6th (the Catholic and Orthodox Christmases, respectively), and that number is expected to increase this year. Security forces are working together with the Palestinian Authority and Jordanian officials to ensure that the many Christian pilgrims will be able to visit their holy sites without incident.
Kol HaIr, December 6, 2013
The Benedictine monastery in Abu Gosh is once again preparing to receive a multitude of visitors during the Christmas season. The main events will take place on December 24th and 25th, and will involve times of prayer and singing. “We don’t have any decorations,” says Brother Olivier, “and we don’t hold dazzling events like some other monasteries do.”
Yirael HaYom, December 4; HaModia, December 5, 2013
A group of Christian leaders from Norway visited the Knesset this week and apologized for their government’s attitude towards Israel. “There are many other countries that need to apologize,” the group said. “This is just the beginning.” They added that “it is not enough ask forgiveness, but we must also act now on behalf of Israel.” The delegation was organized by the International Christian Embassy in Norway, which is part of “the largest Christian Zionist organization in the world.”
Erev Erev beEilat, November 28, 2013
Members of the musical band “Koresh” performed for a group of soldiers at the “Eilat My City” museum. The group is made up of Israel-loving Christians from Holland who perform for free as an expression of their love for Israel. The band distributed small copies of the book of Psalms at the end of the event.
Yisrael HaYom, December 6, 2013
This lengthy article examines the shaky relationship between Israel and South Africa, which stems from South Africa’s accusations that Israel is an apartheid country. Of interest is a short paragraph mentioning the disparity between the South African government and the South African people, most of whom are Christian. Many South Africans respect Israel and hold it in high esteem. The South African Christians believe in the Old Testament as much as in the New Testament, and the “black churches … embrace Israel.”
Haaretz, December 3, 2013
Avi Bakar laments the fact that the Jews are the chosen nation, saying that this has put them on the world map in ways that have not been (are still aren’t) very helpful to the Jewish people. Of interest is a short paragraph where Bakar writes: “But what can we do, when billions of Christians and Muslims declare in their holy books, in the New Testament and the Quran, that the Jews were the first chosen nation to make a mystical covenant with God.” The trouble, writes Bakar, stems from the fact that Christianity and Islam “are based on the claim that they were chosen by God to replace the Jews, which is how they also usurp the essentials of faith and religion as well as most of the biblical heroes.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 1, 2013
This article focuses on a course on offer at Rutgers University in the United States that examines the theology of musician Bruce Springsteen. The course is taught by Israeli professor Azzan Yadin-Israel, and though it delves mostly into the Old Testament, reference is made to the song entitled “Jesus Was an Only Son,” which is “a New Testament midrash” that “tells about the last days and hours of Jesus’s life, but [Springsteen] shifts the focus from the traditional theological emphasis to Mary, this mortal woman losing her only son.”
Masa Acher, December 2013
This short article reviews the book Dona Perfecta by Spanish writer Benito Perez Galdos, which “provides us with important keys to unlocking modern Spain.” The reviewer explains that, unlike England and France, Spain was not freed from the control of the religious institutions until the 20th century. “We, as Jews, are used to thinking about the church in Spain in terms of the Inquisition that operated against anyone who was suspected of Judaism, but in Spain the population lived for centuries under the gaze and iron fist of the church,” an institution that “left Spain in a medieval state until the second half of the 20th century.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 29, 2013
Abigail Klein Leichman reviews Matti Friedman’s book The Aleppo Codex: In Pursuit of One of the World’s Most Coveted, Sacred and Mysterious Books. The Aleppo Codex, explains Leichman, is “generally acknowledged to be the world’s most accurate text of Hebrew scriptures.” In his book, Friedman tells the manuscript’s story. “It’s got everything,” says Friedman. “At the center is the objectively fascinating perfect copy of the Bible, a window through which we can see 1,000 years of Jewish history and an important part of the mechanism of Jewish survival, because the text has kept Judaism alive in the Diaspora.”
Makor Rishon, December 6, 2013
Galit Dahan-Karlibach reviews the book Jerusalem of Holiness and Madness by psychiatrists Professor Eliezer Witzum and Dr. Moshe Kalian.
Yediot Aharonot, December 2, 2013
Suggestions for stroller-friendly tourist sites around Israel include a visit to Mount Precipice in Nazareth, which commemorates the place, according to Christian tradition, “where Jesus jumped from the top of a high mountain when he ran away from his persecutors – residents of his home village, Nazareth. According to their religion, he lived and continued to perform miracles and gain a following of believers throughout the land.”
Haaretz, December 6, 2013
A short article recommends walking the Jesus Trail, calling it a pleasant weekend outing. “The trail passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country as well as through significant sites in the life of Jesus in the north of Israel as they are described in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark.”
Sof-hashavua, December 6, 2013
Meital Sharabi recommends visiting the Stella Maris church and monastery in Haifa. Stella Maris was founded by the Carmelites in the 12th century, after the last Crusade. The monks first lived in caves on Mount Carmel, following in the tradition of Elijah, but later established the church and monastery, which is where they live today. The church is built in the shape of a cross.
Maariv, December 5, 2013
In this article, Arel Segal discusses how, less than a week after his passing, Israeli singer Arik Einstein’s legacy is already being usurped by people who are using it to promote their own purposes. Segal compares this “storming of the legacy” to the strange legacy in Christianity concerning Jesus’ foreskin. For two thousand years, “the only physical remains” of Jesus’ body have been making the rounds, appearing in a variety of places and being claimed by certain people for their own benefit. “It turns out,” writes Segal, “that even in our day of advanced technology, believers do wonders with the legacy of the saints.”
Masa Acher, December 2013
Galia Guttman writes about her journey to Northern Ethiopia, where she visited a number of Ethiopian churches and monasteries and witnessed the celebration of a local holiday by the Christian community in one of the country’s remote villages.