During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Merkaz HaInyanim Zafon, February 24, 2014
This religious paper jubilantly reports on the failure of the Tiberiam – a sound and light show put on by the municipality of Tiberias describing the city’s history. The attraction caused an uproar within the religious community since it included a portrayal of “that man” walking on the water. Furthermore, the paper claims that the event was a gathering place for missionaries. The rabbis of Tiberias forbade the religious public from attending the event and asked the municipality to remove the Christian content. But when the municipality refused to do so, the hand of God seemed to take over, and the fountain began to sink into the sea. The municipality tried to save the display, but then the motor “mysteriously” disappeared as well. “It turns out,” writes Avi Yehudai, “that ‘that man’ wasn’t the only one to walk on water, as the Christians claim, but there are others who walked on the water without being noticed, and they didn’t sink, even though the precious motor was in their hands.”
The Jerusalem Post, February 24, 2014
President Shimon Peres met with a delegation of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim representatives from Argentina. The purpose of the delegation is to “demonstrate that Jews, Muslims and Christians can co-exist in harmony and friendship.” After meeting with Peres, the group is expected to meet with Jordanian parliamentarians as well as with Pope Francis in Rome. In speaking of Argentina, Peres told the group: “If every other country with Muslim, Jewish and Christian populations followed your example to support peace, it would be of major significance, because peace is a unity message and has great influence. … We need peace among peoples, not just governments.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Maariv, February 25, 2014
Yossi Bar writes this two-page article about Yad beYad, the bilingual school in Jerusalem where Christians, Arabs and Jews all study together in Hebrew and Arabic. The pope has arranged to visit the school during his 24-hour stay in Israel/Palestine at the end of May, because the Catholic Church believes in “dialogue with everyone – with those who believe in other faiths and even with those who have no faith at all.” According to Pope Francis, “Interfaith dialogue will not harm our identity and our sense of belonging, and it will only strengthen international understanding.” The pope was impressed with the way the Yad beYad school manifests this vision.
Bar visited the school in order to gain a better understanding of its unique character. There are 600 students currently studying there. The students come from a mix of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian backgrounds, “including three sons of rabbis and a son of an imam.” One teacher tells Bar that “we established a bilingual school as an example: our education is based on equality and respects Israelis and Arabs and other cultures and religions, without any preferential treatment. … The students have two teachers, one who speaks Hebrew and one who speaks Arabic, and until 6th grade they can choose between the religious and secular stream.” The school also marks the holidays of all three religions, although no one is obligated to celebrate all of them. One of the principals of the school says that dialogue is of the utmost importance to them: “We don’t have to agree, but we have to understand.”
BeSheva, February 20, 2014
Yishai Friedman continues to report on the growing fears among religious Jews that King David’s Tomb will be handed over to the jurisdiction of the Vatican (see February 12, 2014, Media Review).
The Jerusalem Post, February 25; Haaretz, February 26, 2014
The Knesset passed a law on Monday that says, “Christians will receive separate representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in Employment.” This is the first such law that differentiates between Christian and Muslim Arabs. Coalition chairman Yariv Levin said that “soon we’ll expand on this and [Christians] will get all the separate representation they deserve.” However, Arab MKs were unhappy with the bill, claiming that it is “a racist attempt to ‘divide and conquer’ minorities.”
Haaretz explains that the law’s purpose is to “heighten involvement of Christians in Israeli society,” which is why it is controversial. Zehava Gal On, from Meretz, said in response to the bill: “Perhaps we should also divide the Jewish population into Poles, Yemenites, and Moroccans.” MK Jamal Zahalka added that “Arab rights don’t interest Yariv Levin. … There’s no specific Christian or Druze employment problem, only a problem of the general Arab population. Levin is interested in cruelly dividing the Arab public.”
Levin seemed to confirm this view when he told Maariv that his “legislation will provide separate representation and separate attention to the Christian public, separate from the Muslim Arabs. … This is a historic and important move that could help balance the State of Israel, and connect us and the Christians, and I’m being careful about not calling them Arabs because they aren’t Arabs.” Levin added that Christians and Israeli Jews “have a lot in common. They’re our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within.”
Ma Nishma Eilat, February 20, 2014
In this five-page article, Rotem Noam describes a variety of unfortunate wedding scenarios that ended up in unusual court cases in Israel. Of interest is the case involving Yad HaShmona and the lesbian couple who sued them when the Messianic events hall refused to host their wedding. Yad HaShmona lost the case and was ordered to pay 80,000 ILS in damages. The judge presiding over the case stressed that the fine was not only to compensate the women, but to “educate the public about the value of equality and respect for all human beings.” The article praises the lesbian couple for “proving to the events hall that discrimination can be painful.”
Yisrael HaYom, February 28, 2014
Amit Levintal writes about the relationship between the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and Yad Ezer LaChaver, who together have built the Haifa Home – a residence for Holocaust survivors that now houses 97 elderly people. The ICEJ is headed by Jurgen Buhler, “an evangelical Christian” from Germany, and Yad Ezer LaChaver is run by Shimon Sabag, the son of a Holocaust survivor from Greece. When Sabag told Buhler that he would like to expand his small home for Holocaust survivors (he housed nine at the time), Buhler decided to raise the necessary funds from Christians all over the world. With the money that came in, Sabag and Buhler were able to buy not only one but nine buildings on Kessel Street in Haifa. In addition to buying and building these homes for survivors, ICEJ sends hundreds of Christian volunteers each year to help maintain the houses and care for the elderly.
Jurgen Buhler’s father, Albert, was born in Germany and served in the German army during the Second World War. In 1945, he fell into the hands of the Soviets and was taken to one of their concentration camps, where he was treated cruelly. He was one of the only prisoners to survive that camp. He almost died, but then a Jewish nurse saved his life. Albert swore that if he got out alive, he would dedicate his life to paying back the Jews for what they had done for him. “My father told me that the Jews gave us our faith,” recalls Buhler, “and they were also the ones that restored him and gave him back his life.” Upon his release, Albert became an evangelical pastor and dedicated his life to loving the Jews and Israel. Buhler has been living in Israel for twenty years, since he came with his father on a trip to Israel and never left.
The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has 70 offices worldwide. Buhler explains that among evangelical Christians “there is an understanding that it is important that we know the Jewish roots of our faith, that Christianity stems from Judaism, which is why it is necessary to support Israel.”
Haaretz, February 28, 2014
Dalia Karpel writes this five-page article about the life of Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, the 19th century doctor after whom the cancer is named and who is buried in the Anglican cemetery in Jaffa. Hodgkin was born in 1798 in England to a Quaker family. The Quakers, “a Protestant cult … that believes that ‘the spirit of Jesus is within us,’” greatly influenced Hodgkin’s worldview. He “internalized the [Quaker] values of honesty and equal rights, simplicity and mutual accountability,” and remained a devout Christian throughout his life.
Hodgkin studied medicine in Edinburgh and then worked as a doctor in London for many years. Over time, he developed a close relationship with Moses Montefiore. It was through this friendship that Hodgkin began working with London’s poorest Jewish communities, treating them free of charge. Indeed, “what connected Hodgkin and Montefiore was their shared desire to help those who are oppressed.” Eventually, Hodgkin became Montefiore’s personal doctor, and accompanied the baron and his wife to the Holy Land in 1857. Hodgkin was appalled by the poverty he encountered in both the Jewish and Christian communities, and made an effort to improve sanitation in Jerusalem and Jaffa. He continued to travel with Montefiore throughout Europe until their return to Jaffa in 1866, when Hodgkin fell gravely ill. He never recovered from his illness, but passed away in that city and was buried in the Christian cemetery there.
The cemetery eventually fell into disrepair, and there are efforts being made today by Israeli doctors in collaboration with the Tabitha School in Jaffa to restore it. In a small sidebar, Karpel adds a brief history of the Tabitha School, explaining that it was founded in 1863 by Jane Walker-Arnott, a Christian missionary from Scotland. The school was named after the little girl in the New Testament whom Jesus raised from the dead.
Merkaz HaInyanim Yerushalayim, February 24, 2014
Yizhak Eliezri writes about the process that he has to go through in order to claim the citizenship promised him by the Spanish government as a descendent of Jews who were forced to leave the country during the Spanish Inquisition. Eliezri gives a brief history of the event, explaining that the thousands of Jews who chose to convert to Christianity continued to be persecuted for another 324 years as the Spanish authorities constantly found creative ways to torture them and expose their secret Jewish life.
Maariv, February 24, 2014
This two-page article gives a history of the pastoral village of Ein Kerem, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, briefly mentioning that the village is sacred to Christians on account of the spring which is associated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. “According to Christian tradition, Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, met by the spring when they were both pregnant. Ein Kerem … is a pilgrimage site visited by thousands of Christian pilgrims each year.”
SofHaShavua, February 28, 2014
Dana Kessler writes 20 interesting facts about pop star Justin Bieber in honor of his 20th birthday. Of interest is Kessler’s mention of Bieber’s Christian background: he was born to a Christian mother, and his “friendship with Jesus” has gotten him into trouble on a number of occasions (for example, when he spoke out against abortion).
Maariv, February 23, 2014
This article reviews the book Jerusalem of Holiness and Madness by Witztum and Kalian