During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Pope and the Vatican
Pope and the Vatican
Maariv, January 19; Yisrael HaYom, January 20, 2014
Reprinting an article from the Sunday Times, Maariv reports that Pope Francis is considering opening up the Vatican archives from the time of the Holocaust. The move comes as part of the process of canonizing Pope Pius XII, who was the head of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust. According to Rabbi Skorka from Argentina, who is friends with Pope Francis, the current pope agreed that the archives must be opened before any further steps are taken in the canonization of Pius XII. Those who are critical of Pope Pius claim that he turned a blind eye to the Holocaust, while the Vatican maintains that the pope actually saved many Jews by allowing them to be hidden in Christian institutions.
Pope Francis would like to develop Jewish-Christian relations, continuing in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Many Jewish leaders around the world have said that Pope Francis’ relationship to the Jews is unique, and that there has never been a pope who had such close ties with Jews, even before he was elected.
Mishpaha, January 23, 2014
This article focuses on the long-standing relationship between Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, who is from Argentina. Skorka and Bergoglio (Pope Francis) first met in early 1990s. They were both involved in efforts to bring about an end to the military dictatorship in Argentina. “During our first meeting,” recalls Skorka, “the pope chose to talk about insignificant things … and I understood that he was sending me a message that he doesn’t like to work according to protocols and prefers free-flowing conversation.” After that, the two met on a weekly basis, and discussed issues like the Holocaust and the Peace Process. “The way [the pope] relates to the Holocaust,” says Skorka, “makes it seem as though he was born a Jew himself.” Later, Skorka and Bergoglio turned these conversations into a book, which they co-authored and published.
When asked if the current pope is the greatest friend the Jewish people have ever had from within the Vatican, Skorka doesn’t hesitate to answer with a resounding “yes.” The new pope, he says, “is bound to increase the dialogue between the Vatican and the Jews – and also Israel.” Skorka concludes by saying that “even though there will never be a perfect fit between the Jews and the Catholic Church, it is evident that now the door is opened.”
Many believe that it is Pope Francis’ relationship with Skorka that is behind the pope’s decision to open the Vatican archives which hold documents relating to the Vatican’s stance and efforts (or lack thereof) during the Holocaust.
Shvi’i, January 3, 2014
The Union of Preparatory Programs for the IDF (Igud HaMechinot) has rejected donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews on account of the money coming from Christians. Rabbi Hagar explains that the money comes from an “unworthy” source, which is why they are not interested in receiving it. The IFCJ receives most of its funds from Israel-loving Christians abroad, and there are many rabbis who have forbidden Jews from receiving this money.
Maariv, January 23, 2014
An ancient Byzantine church has been uncovered at an archeological dig near the Aluma junction in the south of Israel. The church includes a spectacular mosaic. According to Dr. Daniel Varga, “An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide. The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus.”
The site will be opened for two days this weekend, and then will be covered again. The mosaic will eventually be transferred to a museum.
The Jerusalem Post, January 21, 2014
Eli Kavon, an American Jew, reflects on the Christian nature of the American Revolution, in his attempt to come to terms with the foundations upon which his country was built. Kavon explains that the American Revolution was a religious war, one that the “New Israelites” [i.e. the Protestant immigrants to America] fought against the “demonic evil” represented by the British. Many sermons preached during the Revolution reveal this bent in American thinking at the time. These sermons leaned heavily on “the militant Christ of Luther” as is manifested in the book of Revelation. “In an attempt to convince Americans that Jesus never condoned pacifism,” writes Kavon, “ministers cited Revelation 19. This particular chapter features Jesus as the ‘militant victor.’ This was a Christ wielding ‘a sharp sword’ that would ‘smite the nations’ in judgment, laying down ‘the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.’ … Americans martyred themselves on the field of battle, inspired by the image of a Jesus who fought evil, not a meek, ‘turn the other cheek’ teacher.” All this, explains Kavon, ought to make American Jews feel rather uncomfortable, especially since “the Christ as ‘militant victor’ is the same force that persecuted Jews as the ‘sons of the Devil,’ in the extreme hatred of Jews evoked by Luther in his later writings.” However, Jews ought to recognize that these are facts of history, and “face this reality with honesty, grace and a sense of history not distorted by an out-of-date and insecure apologetic stance.”
BeRosh Yehudi, January 10; Yisrael HaYom, January 24, 2014
BeRosh Yehudi reviews the book The Chosen Nation by Dr. Becker. The book looks at people’s reactions to the idea of there being a chosen nation, including both Jews and non-Jews in the analysis. According to Dr. Becker, 70% of Israelis believe they are the chosen nation. In addition, there are billions of Christians and Muslims around the world “who declare in their holy writings, the New Testament and Quran, that the Jews are the chosen people, the first with whom God made a covenant, and who are therefore destined to play a central role in the shaping of human history.”
Yirael HaYom also reviews Becker’s book, although a large part of the article is dedicated to an interview with the author. In the interview, Becker mentions some famous Christian anti-Semites, such as Martin Luther and Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, which made headlines several years ago, happened very shortly after his movie The Passion of the Christ was released. This is no coincidence, says Becker. The movie’s portrayal of the death of Christ is so violent, it is not surprising that it would unleash an anti-Semitic reaction.
Haaretz, January 24, 2014 [X2]
Two articles review the book The End of Sacrifice by Gedalya Stroumsa, which has just been released in a Hebrew translation. According to Stroumsa, when the West adopted Christianity, the ancient world more or less ceased to exist. The only religion to make it through the transformation was Judaism, which had to reinvent itself in order to survive. But Christianity was only able to take over the Greco-Roman world because of its “Jewish weapon.” There are five main changes that Christianity introduced, all of which were inherited from Judaism. These include a new concept of the self, one that is rooted in moral development; centering the religion around sacred writings or texts; the end of sacrifice (which the Jews had already “adopted” after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE); changing from a civil to a communal faith; and the use of spiritual mentors.
Yerushalayim Shelanu, January 16, 2014
A short article gives some statistics relating to tourism in Israel in 2012: 56% of the 2.88 million tourists who visited Israel were Christian. Of these, 90% visited Jerusalem, 68% visited the Dead Sea, 62% visited Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, and 60% visited Bethlehem. Most Christian tourists come from Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Mexico, Russia, Romania, and Nigeria
Olam HaZilum, January 19, 2014
This photography journal exhibits pictures of monasteries, giving advice on what is the best way to photograph these extraordinary sites. The monasteries included are Mar Saba, Nabi Musa, the Church of Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and St. George’s.
The Jerusalem Post, January 19, 2014
The paper ran a photograph of a Christian pilgrim attending the Feast of the Epiphany, which took place on the banks of the Jordan River on Saturday.
Index HaEmek veHaGalil, January 3, 2014
This article discusses statistics relating to the Christian Arab community in Israel on the eve of Christmas and the New Year.