During the week covered by this review, we received 21 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Community
Christians in Israel
The Pope and the Vatican
Arab Believing Community
Haaretz, February 19, 2014
MK Basel Ghattas has appealed to Pope Francis, asking him to intervene “with the Israeli government on the issue of recruiting Arab Christians into the Israel Defense Forces.” Ghattas criticized those who are encouraging Christian Arabs to join the army, saying that it is part of a “divide-and-conquer policy and a plank in the Israelization of the Arab minority that will erode Christians’ identity in the country.” Ghattas’s appeal comes as preparations are being made for the pope’s visit in May; Ghattas hopes that the pope will consider lengthening his stay so he can meet with some of the Arab MKs in order to discuss issues relating to the Arab minority living in Israel.
Christians in Israel
Yediot Tel Aviv, February 21, 2014
There have been some strong reactions to the report of how the Tel Aviv police force has been working hard to shut down refugee churches in south Tel Aviv. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem is planning on asking the pope to intervene in this matter and hopes to set up a meeting with Pope Francis during his visit in May. Father David Neuhaus says he hopes the pope will address the issue of refugees in Israel, especially since so many of them are Catholic. MK Basel Ghattas wrote a letter to the Vatican’s embassy in Tel Aviv, asking for their intervention in the matter.
Maariv, February 21, 2014
In his weekend column, Shalom Yerushalmi tells the strange story of Renata Kaufman, a Holocaust survivor who recently wed a man 36 years younger than her. The couple live in Israel and have faced a myriad of difficulties in trying to establish Renata’s status here. The Ministry of Interior has made it very difficult for Kaufman to become a citizen, mostly on account of the fact that she is a Messianic Jew. Kaufman’s family was living in Germany when World War II broke out. Her father, who was Jewish, perished in one of the concentration camps. When the war was over, Kaufman moved to the States, where she eventually settled into a Messianic Jewish community. When Kaufman decided to make aliyah, she was told by the Jewish Agency that she’s not Jewish—that she’s Messianic and a traitor. Kaufman recalls her response: “For the furnaces in Germany we were Jewish. But for Israeli citizenship we’re not?”
Kaufman came to Israel anyway, and before long she met Adi, a Messianic Jew 36 years her junior. Adi was born and raised in Israel and became a follower of Jesus through reading Ya’acov Damkani’s book. His faith caused him a lot of suffering. “There are a lot of people who hate me, who consider me their enemy, within the religious Jewish community,” he says. Adi has lost several jobs on account of his faith, and has even been beaten. Adi and Kaufman eventually fell in love and decided to get married.
Kaufman’s status in the country is still undecided. Even though she is a Holocaust survivor, the Ministry of Interior is making it very difficult for her to receive Israeli citizenship.
The Pope and the Vatican
Sha’a Tova, February 20, 2014
This article reports on a meeting that took place between representatives of the Vatican and the Israeli government regarding the handing over of King David’s Tomb to the Vatican. According to the paper, in the meeting, which was secret, the church demanded that Israel hand over not only the tomb but Mount Zion in its entirety. The paper also mentions that there will be an unleashing of “Price Tag” attacks if the Catholic Church continues pushing the issue.
The Jerusalem Post, February 16 & 20, 2014
The Presbyterian Church in the United States issued a statement on Thursday reiterating its support for Israel after the publication of a study guide, which denounces Israel, garnered widespread condemnation from Jewish organizations in the U.S. The statement said that the policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) “calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. … The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlement. … Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.”
The study guide, which was published earlier in the week, describes the “pathology inherent in Zionism,” which “drives the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” However, the Presbyterian Church clarified that the publication, which is independent, “speaks to the church” but is not “from the church,” and its purpose is simply to “drive discussion.” But Jewish groups in the United States rejected this explanation.
In another article, the Jerusalem Post reports that “Presbyterians who engage in dialogue with Jewish groups are scrambling to undo the damage” caused by the publication of the study guide. The president of New York’s Auburn Theological Seminary said that “this document purports to be about love, but it actually expresses demonization, distortion and imbalance.” Many Presbyterians have been pushing back, saying that the guide “does not reflect the broader church.” One minister told the paper that it is “critical for the Jewish community to engage with sympathetic Christians in pushing back against the guide.”
Haaretz, February 18, 2014
Mike Huckabee, a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in the United States in 2016, spoke with journalists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a visit to Israel this week. Huckabee is a Southern Baptist who “has been coming to Israel for 41 years,” bringing with him hundreds of Christian pilgrims each year. Speaking to the media, Huckabee said that “this is the Holy Land, it is God’s land,” adding that “as a Christian, Israel is the only place in the region he feels safe. He no longer takes pilgrims to Christian sites beyond the wall – i.e. the separation barrier – because he doesn’t feel safe taking them there. This, he acknowledged, includes Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.” Huckabee also cast his doubts on the Palestinians’ desire for peace. He said that he doesn’t think “the talks are going anywhere at all. Nothing has been asked of the Palestinians, nothing, not one thing. And until there’s an understanding of the Jewish state’s right to exist, I’m not sure there’s anything to negotiate.”
Sha’a Tova, February 13, 2014
David Rosen reports on the latest developments with 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.
Esra, February 10, 2014
Brenda Katten reports on a talk given by Rabbi David Rosen on the topic of how much the Christian world has changed its attitude to Jews and Israel. The talk focused on the Catholic segment of Christianity. Rosen told the audience about Herzl’s meeting with Pope Pius X in 1904, in which he asked the Vatican to support the endeavor for a Jewish state in Palestine. According to Herzl, the pope refused, saying: “We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem – but we will never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. … The Jews have not recognized our Lord; therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people.” Many years later, in 1965, the Vatican published the “Nostra Aetate,” which stated that the Catholic Church “decries the hatred, persecution, and display of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time by anyone” – a “milestone” in the church’s relations with the Jews. Today’s leader of the church, Pope Francis, is interested in building “strong, warm relations with the Jewish community. He is outspoken against all forms of anti-Semitism and has praised the current state of Jewish-Catholic relations,” which, according to Rosen, have never been better.
Yediot Eilat, February 20, 2014
This three-page article focuses on Avi Levi, an Israeli tour guide who specializes in guiding Christian pilgrims in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In order to guide well, Levi had to learn about the Christian holy sites in Israel; he read the Bible again, and this time also added the New Testament. “Jesus of Nazareth was born here in Bethlehem,” says Levi. “And he founded the biggest religion in the world right here in this land. Jesus was a Jew, a reformer. Today we might call him a defender of civil rights. It was easy for me to connect to the stories – helping the needy, giving, not accepting evil.” Levi admits that it is still hard for him to comprehend the full force of what the Christian pilgrims experience here. He has accompanied many hundreds of them to the Jordan River, where he has witnessed their baptism, “and every time,” he says, “I am moved by the strength and beauty and sanctity of their experience.”
Levi says that guiding pilgrims has changed him: “Giving and compassion have become integral to his life, and he is always looking for ways to help others.” Levi regularly volunteers at a soup kitchen in Eilat that serves mostly the refugee community. “There I meet people of every faith and color. … I feel at home there, with the refugees, Israelis, Christians, and Muslims. I suppose this is what compassion ought to look like – free of race, color, and religion.”
Being a tour guide is a big responsibility, Levi admits, since he not only carries the weight of presenting the tourists with accurate information but also of presenting them with a positive image of Israelis. More than just a tour guide, “I am also an ambassador,” he says. Many Christian pilgrims love Israel and Israelis, believing that Israel is God’s land, and that the land belongs to God’s chosen people. Pilgrims will keep on coming, no matter what the political situation is like, because “it’s hard to prevent a believing pilgrim from setting out on pilgrimage.”
Yerushalayim Shelanu, February 12, 2014
Dr. Adam Ackerman writes a history of the Ratisbonne Monastery in Jerusalem. Alfonso Ratisbonne, a French Jew who converted to Christianity at the age of 26, bought the land from the Greek Orthodox Church in 1874. After his conversion, Ratisbonne worked tirelessly to convert his fellow Jews to Christianity. He also was engaged in extensive humanitarian work, and was subsequently named a saint by the Vatican. Ratisbonne became a Christian after he had a vision of Mary while visiting a cathedral in Rome. He arrived in the land in 1855, where, in addition to building the monastery, he also built a convent and an orphanage. Today, the Ratisbonne monastery is home to one of the Catholic Church’s theological seminaries.
Maariv, February 20, 2014
Eyal Levi writes this five-page article about the Jordan Valley and its various “secret treasures.” Of interest is his brief mention of the Qasr el-Yahud baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan River, where “almost every believing Christian who lands at Ben Gurion Airport” must visit before leaving the country. This is because the Jordan River is where Jesus met John the Baptist and where the Holy Spirit descended on him.
Haaretz, Yisrael HaYom, The Jerusalem Post, HaMevaser, February 19, 2014
Several papers reported on the discovery of a 2,300-year-old village near the Burma road that dates back to the Second Temple period. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, “the excavations, which covered about 750 square meters, revealed a small rural settlement with a few stone houses and a network of narrow alleys. … The excavations yielded varied finds from all occupation periods.” In addition, coins were discovered from the time of King Antiochus III and King Alexander Jannaues.
Maariv, February 18, 2014
New technology has enabled scholars to makes sense of the Moses Scroll, which is part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and which was originally written in code. Using this technology, scholars can now say that the scroll was written by two different scribes, sometime in the first century BCE. The first scribe titled the scroll the “Book of Moses,” while the second scribe renamed it the “Midrash of Moses.” Scholars believe that the first scribe didn’t know enough Scripture to recognize that the text wasn’t just biblical, but also included interpretations of the scriptural text. The second scribe corrected this mistake.
Maariv, February 20, 2014
Zachi Yoked interviews Dr. Irving Finkel, the scholar who has been researching the 4,000-year-old inscription etched on a small tablet from Mesopotamia that suggests Noah’s ark might have been round, rather than square (see the February 4, 2014, Media Review).
Achbar Kol Ha’Ir, February 14, 2014
In an article detailing the various events taking place in Jerusalem on Valentine’s Day, the writers give a brief history of the Christian holiday. There were, in fact, three Saint Valentines, and it is not clear which one of them was the original inspiration for the holiday. It is said that one of them secretly married a Christian couple in Rome when this was forbidden by the Roman Empire. He was subsequently imprisoned and executed. The other two Valentines didn’t fare any better, both of them also dying in tragic circumstances. Though the holiday is Christian, and “there are always those who will claim that it shouldn’t be celebrated,” there are many events taking place that are worth participating in.
Maariv, Yisrael HaYom, February 21, 2014
Yair Sheleg and Ariel Oxhorn review the book The Chosen Nation by Dr. Becker (see the January 27, 2014, Media Review).