During the week covered by this review, we received 18 articles on the following subjects:
Conversion to Judaism
The Pope and the Vatican
Conversion to Judaism
Berosh Yehudi, December 13, 2013
Amit Shulman interviews Daniel Feldstein, a Ukrainian Jew who converted to Christianity and later returned to his Jewish roots. Feldstein came to Israel when he was twenty years old, joined the army, and later settled in Tel Aviv. He had an identity crisis and couldn’t decide if he was Russian, Jewish, or secular; and though he was drawn to religion, he avoided Judaism because it seemed cold and unfriendly. Instead, Feldstein chose to convert to Christianity, because this faith allowed him to remain secular: in Christianity, “you don’t have to grow a beard or wear pe’ot, and there are no laws. There is only one commandment, and that is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ … It sounded very simple and convincing,” says Feldstein. He wandered from one Christian denomination to another, finally settling on the Hebrew-speaking Catholic congregation in Jaffa, where he was baptized. “Because of all the hardships I went through in Israel, becoming fully Christian was actually a kind of honorable intellectual suicide,” he says.
When Feldstein decided to become a priest, he travelled to Germany (where his family was now living) and was surprised by how well he was treated on account of being Israeli. In Israel, he says, he was only a “dirty Russian,” but abroad he suddenly became a revered Israeli. He was the “star” and “pride” of his seminary. But the longer he stayed in Germany, the more he yearned to be back in Israel. And this longing caused him to reevaluate his Jewish identity. Furthermore, he began to get into a lot of political arguments with his fellow-students, and realized that he was Zionist in a way that they could not understand. All these arguments and disagreements had an adverse affect on Feldstein, who started to play the devil’s advocate in everything. Pretty soon he was taunting them by performing Jewish practices (like hanging up a mezuzah on his door), and eventually his longing for Israel and for Judaism overcame his fears and he returned to Israel to study Jewish priesthood at the Meir Institute.
In conclusion, Feldstein encourages his fellow Jews to appreciate what they have, and not take their Judaism for granted, the way he did.
The Jerusalem Post, January 17, 2014
Marcie Lenk uses Filipina caregiver Rose Fostanas’ recent win in Israel’s X-Factor to highlight the fear that many Jews feel towards the Christian “other” living in their midst. There are invisible walls in Israel, “blinders that [Israeli Jews] wear to protect [their] sense of self,” she says. Lenk compares these invisible walls to the visible ones that surround many Christian institutions. Israelis, she writes, usually remain unaware of what lies behind these walls, and are not inclined to change that. Lenk uses the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem as an example: “When I tell my fellow Jewish friends that I teach there, they insist that they have no idea where it is,” though it is “an enormous complex, a castle among the modern apartments of today’s Rehavia neighborhood.”
The rest of the article details the history and current mission of the Ratisbonne Monastery. Though it was originally built to encourage Christian-Jewish understanding and to bring “Jews to convert to Christianity,” in the wake of the Holocaust, the Congregation of our Lady of Sion “began to devote its efforts to teaching Christians about Judaism, in order to teach them to respect Jews as Jews.” Lenk herself has been asked to lecture at the seminary that operates at Ratisbonne, and this despite the fact that she is Jewish. And “lest you think that my identity is insignificant,” writes Lenk, “try to imagine a haredi yeshiva hiring a Christian woman to teach Talmud.” And yet, she has always “felt welcomed and respected by both students and colleagues” at Ratisbonne.
Returning to Rose Fostanas, Lenk mentions how the finale of Israel’s X-Factor was held on Christmas Eve and how each of the Israeli Jewish judges took the time to wish Fostanas a Merry Christmas. “If not for Rose,” writes Lenk, “the holiday would probably not have been mentioned.” But “acknowledgement of Christmas on a popular television show served to remind the (mostly Jewish) viewers that the Jewish State of Israel is home to many people who are not Jews, and that despite all of the walls, we are interrelated.”
Haaretz, January 13, 2014
Archeological evidence indicates that the first camels arrived in the land in the 10th century BC, some 300 years after they are first mentioned in the Bible. This provides clear evidence, writes Nir Hasson, that the biblical text was written hundreds of years after the events it describes. Quoting from the story of Jacob and Esau, where Jacob gives Esau gifts that include 30 camels, Hasson concludes that “even if there were historical figures named Jacob and Esau, they were not familiar with the beast with a hump,” since these did not appear on the scene till hundreds of years later.
Haaretz, Yisrael HaYom, January 16, 2014
Pottery from 3,000 years ago has been donated to the Antiquities Authority by Osnat Lester. Lester, who lives in Poriyah Ilit, contacted the Antiquities Authority to inform them that she has a store room full of boxes containing old pottery. The pots were collected by a family member, now deceased, who was a fisherman. One of the pots is believed to date back 3,000 years.
The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2014
Aviva Bar Am takes the reader on a tour of Komemiyut Forest, paying a special visit to the quarry situated in the middle of it. Of interest are two references she makes to the local vegetation and its relationship to the New Testament. Some of the trees lining the trail path are Christ-thorn jujubes. “Traditionally,” writes Bar Am, “this type of tree was used to create the thorny crown that Jesus wore on his last journey.” The path also showcases some haruv (or carob) trees, and Bar Am notes that “the New Testament relates that when John the Baptist lived in the Judean wilderness he nourished himself with ‘locusts and wild honey’ (Matthew 3:4). However, carob seeds are also known as locust beans, and many believe that John dined on carobs, and not grasshoppers.”
Gefen, December 27, 2013
The local Zichron Ya’acov paper mentions the Christian holidays (Christmas and New Year), explaining that according to Christian tradition, Jesus was circumcised on the first of January, eight days after his birth on December 25th. The paper mentions how these holidays are being celebrated by the Beit El community – the Christian community now living in Zichron Ya’acov. Though the relationship between the locals and the Beit El community is a good one, this wasn’t always the case. Lawyer Na’ama Zoref describes how, back in 1968, when members of the community wanted to purchase land, they were refused on account of their Christian background. The case eventually landed in the Supreme Court, which ruled in the community’s favor. Today much of the land in question is used to house the Beit El community.
Magazine HaMoshavot, December 27, 2013
This article discusses statistics relating to the Christian Arab community in Israel on the eve of Christmas and the New Year (see December 29, 2013, Media Review).
Shavshevet, January 1; Maariv, January 16; Haaretz, January 17, 2014
Three articles recommend visiting the baptismal site on the Jordan River to witness the thousands of Christian pilgrims who will be baptized during Epiphany.
Gefen HaMoshava, December 27, 2013
Ami Argov gives a brief history of the Sylvester (New Year) to explain how the secular holiday got its name. Very little is known about the historical figure of Sylvester. He was pope until his death in 335, and his saint’s day now falls on December 31st. When people began to celebrate the New Year as an official holiday, a new name was needed, and Sylvester was catchy, so it was adopted to mark the holiday. The church disagreed with this procedure, but it has remained in use until today.
ITN, December 31, 2013
In an extended article about the port city of Jaffa, a section is dedicated to the mention of Jaffa in the New Testament. Jaffa was not considered a sacred site for Jews, but it was “important to the development of early Christianity.” The article then goes on to quote Acts 10:10-15, which tells the story of the vision of St. Peter: “And he [Simon Peter] became very hungry and would have eaten; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance …” The article then explains that the vision, which occurred in Jaffa, is what turned Christianity into a universal religion. The sacred site is the house of Simon the Tanner, which “has been the focus of pilgrimages to the Holy Land” for the past 800 years. Jaffa is of interest to Christians also on account of the grave of Tabitha – the girl whom Peter raised from the dead.
Index HaEmek veHaGalil, December 27, 2013
This article reported on the Christian Arab political party’s plans to erect the biggest statue of Jesus in world on Mount Precipice in Nazareth.
Yisrael HaYom, January 17, 2014
Smadar Salton recommends visiting Nazareth, “one of the most important cities to Christians around the world.” Salton mentions Nazareth Village, “a tourist attraction that reconstructs life in Nazareth during the Second Temple period.” Even though Nazareth Village was built in order to “bring Christian tourists closer to the time in which Jesus was born and lived … it lacks a missionary orientation.” From Nazareth Village, Salton travels to the Church of the Annunciation, which is “Mary’s home.” The rest of the article focuses on other, more modern sites, as well as restaurants worth visiting.
Maariv, January 17, 2014
In a three-page article that looks at Jewish artwork from the medieval period depicting God’s giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, there is a short section that mentions the difference between this artwork and Christian art describing the same scene. Christian art, writes Yael Mali, always adds the Golden Calf scene to the law-giving scene as a way of “emphasizing the Jews’ sins and their rejection of God.”
The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2014
A snippet advertising the Book of Books exhibition currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum.
The Pope and the Vatican
ITN, December 31, 2013
This article reports on the pope’s plans to visit the Holy Land in May.