During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Community
Christians in Israel
Arab Believing Community
Haaretz, February 9, 2014
Jacky Khoury writes this article in response to the growing number of Christian Arabs joining the army. Currently, there are over 300 Christian Arabs serving in the army. In the latter half of 2013, 84 new recruits joined the IDF – a staggering number, considering that in years past that many Christian Arabs joined over the course of 18 months. In addition, there are about 400 Christian Arab women volunteering in the national civilian service – the army’s alterative to full military service.
Those who support this growing trend, spearheaded by Father Gabriel Nadaf of the Greek Orthodox Church, often cite events happening in the Middle East at large, such as the “attacks on churches in Egypt and the beheading of priests in Syria” as strengthening the view that “the Arab world cannot be relied on, and therefore integration into Israel is the best protection for [Christian Arabs].”
Those in opposition to Father Nadaf’s initiative “say this viewpoint mainly serves the Zionist interests of the right, in a form of ‘divide and conquer’ of Arab Palestinian society in Israel – Druze, Muslims, and Christians.” Opponents also raise the question of Israel’s conduct towards the Christian minority in 1948, asking: “Has the state and successive Israeli governments seen to the rehabilitation of relations with the Christian community and the Arabs in general? What will they say to the displaced residents of Iqrit and Biram, who since 1948 have been waiting for the government to fulfill its promise to allow them back to their villages?” In addition, those who are against this recruitment are uncomfortable with the way the Israeli right, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, are very much in favor of it.
The Catholic Church in Israel released a statement recently in which it condemned the initiative. Joining the army only encourages Christian Arab youngsters to fall into the “Zionist melting pot of Israeli society,” the aim of which is to “create a unified national Zionist narrative,” which, in turn, “will lead to a loss of their Arab-Palestinian identity.” Furthermore, according to Father Ibrahim Daud, “joining the army goes against Christianity as a religion of nonviolence.” For wasn’t it Jesus who said that “all those who take the sword shall perish by the sword”?
Khoury ends his article by quoting Cap. Shadi Halul, a Christian Arab who served in the Paratroops Brigade “and is a descended of displaced residents of Biram.” Says Halul: “I go on the assumption that I have no other country and so I must act to receive my full rights. … If we continue to shout about Arab and Palestinian nationalism, nothing will move ahead.”
Christians in Israel
Yediot Tel Aviv, February 7, 2014
This two-page article reports on how the Tel Aviv police force has been working hard to shut down refugee churches in south Tel Aviv. Last week, for example, the police raided the Eritrean church of “Hope, Faith, and Love,” confiscating its contents (some 200 plastic chairs, mainly) because the church had accumulated a property tax bill of 300,000 ILS. The problem, says lawyer Doron Sapir, is that most of these churches operate within residential buildings and have not received the right permits. The municipality would shut these places of worship down no matter what religion was being practiced. A spokesperson for the municipality also added that the churches often function as makeshift housing for the refugees, encouraging them to stay illegally in the country.
Those who are opposed to the closing down of religious spaces claim that it violates the refugees’ right to religious freedom. One activist says that the move is simply an extension of the government’s recent crackdown on asylum-seekers in Israel. “There is a clear attempt to break the spirit of the refugees and those seeking asylum so that they will give up and leave the country of their own accord,” he says. Shutting down the churches of a “weak and vulnerable community whose only crime is that they are fleeing for their lives is shocking.”
Peter Habash, chairman of the Christian Orthodox League in Jaffa, says that the state must give the refugees the chance to feed their souls in the same way it (the state) gives them bread for their physical sustenance. He invites all the refugees to join his church in Jaffa, saying “we will receive them with open arms.”
In the meantime, the small “Hope, Faith, and Love” congregation in Tel Aviv has taken the Tel Aviv municipality to court in an effort to receive back what was confiscated.
Ramat HaNegev, February 11, 2014
David Palmach writes about his encounter with an Israel-loving nun from France who lives at the convent at Emmaus. Before launching into his story, however, Palmach assures his readers that he is a Jew through and through and they need not worry about his promoting Christianity. In fact, he first delves into a short treatise on the improbability of Christianity, saying how he doesn’t “understand how the story of the crucified one from Nazareth was marketed so successfully – perhaps the best marketing ploy in all of history. His story was bought by over two billion people around the world.” The Jews, in the meantime, remained a sad minority, even though the Christian story was “stolen” from them. And, to make matters worse, these Christians eventually became anti-Israel: “Instead of appreciating the original and giving it a place of honor, they harassed us to death,” writes Palmach.
Having safeguarded himself, Palmach then tells of how he recently met an Israel-loving nun. Israel-loving Christians are nothing new, he says. But what makes this encounter unique is that the nun is not evangelical but Catholic – and Catholics are not Israel-loving Christians. “For them,” explains Palmach, “the Jews have finished their job, and there is no justification for their existence as a (chosen) nation.” Palmach was so beside himself with excitement that he asked the nun if he could give her a hug, to which she responded, “Sure, why not?”
Palmach invited the nun to come visit his village, and she took him up on his offer. Several weeks after their first encounter, the nun came to Nitzana, bringing a monk and several volunteers with her. Palmach writes how he was completely amazed when the group began to sing well-known Israeli songs in Hebrew. “They love Israel so much,” he says, “that they find ways to connect to our cultural songs and our Jewish values.”
“It is important for us [Jews] to be in a good relationship with Gentiles who love Israel,” Palmach concludes. “Honoring those who honor you is the basis of ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Maariv, February 10, 2014
Authors Kahana and Berndstein report on the latest developments in the international boycott on Israeli goods. Of interest is a short paragraph that describes how one major Dutch company, ABP, reversed its decision to join the boycott, not least because of pressure from Israel-loving Christians in Holland.
Olam Katan, February 7, 2014
In 2011, Dr. Rivka Neriyah Ben-Shahar visited an Amish community in the United States in order to study the similarities between them and the religious Jewish community in Israel. The Amish community originated in Switzerland in the 16th century as an offshoot of the Protestant community. They were badly persecuted, which is why the community relocated to the American colonies in the 18th century. Today there are about 300,000 Amish living in the United States and Canada. They believe that modern life makes it impossible to live well spiritually, so they reject any form of modern comfort that is available (including electricity).
Ben-Shahar developed a close relationship with one of the smaller Amish communities in Pennsylvania. “They are Christian, and that’s why they follow Christian laws,” she explains. “The most important rule for them is that of obedience: the family obeys the community, the wives obey the husbands, and the children obey their parents.” Her first visit was the hardest, she says, as it was very difficult for her to eat kosher in a household where most of the food is made with lard (including the milk and yogurt). But the fact that Ben-Shahar made an effort to keep the Jewish laws actually formed a bond between her and the Amish – they appreciated what she was doing.
“The biggest similarity between the two communities is that of strict observance,” Ben-Shahar explains. The biggest difference is education: the religious Jewish community is immersed in learning, while the Amish community hardly studies at all. The Amish follow their laws without trying to understand or explain them, while religious Jews try to understand and explain everything. In the past, the Amish believed that God had forsaken the Jewish people, and that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on them. However, the Amish repented of this stance, and even asked forgiveness of the Jewish people.
“From the Amish I learned about the beauty of simplicity,” Ben-Shahar concludes. “Something about their choices makes me respect them greatly: these are people who are trying to understand what God wants of them.”
Yisrael HaYom, February 14, 2014 [X2]
Dror Idar, in his weekend column, writes about the Spanish government’s decision this week to repatriate Jews descended from Spanish families who were forced to leave Spain during the time of the Inquisition. Idar gives a brief history of the event, explaining that when the Jews were given the option of either converting to Christianity or leaving the country, thousands of them chose to leave. Those who remained either pretended to convert to Christianity and continued practicing their Judaism in secret, or fully converted, abandoning their Jewish faith. Whatever the case may be, writes Idar, those Spaniards descended from Jewish families were never accepted in Spanish society. Idar is very critical of current-day Jews who are excited about their repatriation, saying that Spain never welcomed them and that their obligation is to Zion –the only true home they will ever have.
Sal Amaragi also writes about the Spanish government’s announcement, focusing his article on a number of Israelis of Spanish descent who are planning on claiming their Spanish citizenship. “We suffered under the Inquisition,” says one such Israeli. “It is closing a circle, and with justice.”
SofHaShavua, February 14, 2014
Nir Kipnis writes a column about Valentine’s Day, mentioning briefly how 800 years ago, a town in France decided to celebrate the feast day of St. Valentine by burning 6,000 Jews who wouldn’t convert to Christianity. “It took them three days on account of the rain,” writes Kipnis. “Just think about that next time you buy a scented candle to celebrate the holiday.”
Haaretz, February 10, 2014
Nadav Schirman’s movie The Green Prince, which details the story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, will be made into an action film, it has been reported. Hassan Yousef, the son of a leading Hamas figure, was an informer for the Israeli army. He eventually converted from Islam to Christianity and became a “strict follower of Jesus.”
Maariv, February 14, 2014
This article reviews the book The Chosen Nation by Dr. Becker (see the January 27, 2014, Media Review).