During the week covered by this review, we received 28 articles on the following subjects:
Messianic Jewish Community
Jews’ Attitudes Concerning Christians
The Pope and the Vatican
Conversion to Judaism
The Presbyterian General Assembly, meeting in Detroit on Friday, June 20, passed a resolution to boycott Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Motorola, as these companies have business interests in the “conquered territories.” The resolution was passed with a majority of seven votes only. The formal announcement published at the end of the meeting said, “We as a church cannot profit from the destruction of homes and lives … we continue to invest in many businesses that are involved in the pursuit of peace in Israel.” The announcement further approved Israel’s right to exist as part of a two-state solution, and called for interfaith dialogue and for peace and the improvement of both Israeli and Palestinian lifestyles.
Although the Presbyterian Church’s investment portfolio in these companies comprises a total of 21 millions dollars, this is a significant victory for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) that is “attempting to present Israel as an apartheid state,” as the church has some 1.76 million members, some of whom were U.S. presidents. BDS supporters called this decision “a turning point” and hope that similar decisions by other churches would follow. Omar Barghouti, a member of the founding committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, for instance, called the decision “a sweet victory.”
Caterpillar was divested from as it is allegedly the maker of bulldozers and other equipment used to destroy Palestinian homes; Caterpillar’s response to the decision said that the company is unable to control the way its equipment is used. Motorola was divested from as it allegedly supplies surveillance systems and biometric scanners for security screening; HP was divested from as it is allegedly a supplier of equipment that assists the maritime blockade of Gaza. Motorola and HP both stated that they have a clear human rights policy; Motorola, in particular, specified that “the implementation of its human rights policy is unified and systematic.”
Abe Foxman, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the decision “a painful message to the Jews of America”; he and other Jewish bodies said that the decision imperils relations between the Jewish community and the Presbyterian Church. However, Rabbi David Sandmel, also of ADL, suggested that the close vote meant that the Presbyterian Church’s main membership is not in fact strongly anti-Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded by saying, “I would recommend that they fly to the Middle East, see Israel, a democracy defending itself, and then take a bus tour. Go to Lybia, Syria, Iraq, and see the difference. I would give them two pieces of advice: first, to verify that it is an armored bus; and second, not to call yourself a Christian.” A Yediot Ahronot article said that due to the degree to which the church in the United States is splintered and the relative weakness of the Presbyterians, one must not attach undue importance to the divestment decision. Shmuley Boteach further responds in a Jerusalem Post article and asks why the Presbyterians do not condemn Syria, Libya, Iraq, Gaza – “any religion that doesn’t see the justice of Israel’s cause in simply trying to keep its children alive is morally lost.” Yael Eckstein, senior vice-president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, however, called for “recognition and appreciation of the priceless gift of friendship” from the larger Christian community.
As stated above, most of the Jewish community did not support the decision, and even published a letter expressing their opposition with 1,700 signatories. However, an organization called the Jewish Voice for Peace lobbied for divestment at the Presbyterian General Assembly meeting, publishing a support letter with 13 signatories. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, responded specifically to this activity through a Haaretz article, in which he urged Presbyterian leadership to get their information on the Jewish community from a source other than the Jewish Voice for Peace, who have a history of holding a radical anti-Israel position “cloaked in ambiguous language.”
Another Jerusalem Post article analyzes other possible reasons behind this decision. One such stated reason may be “a lack of a moral code grounded in scripture, tradition or common sense, causing theology to turn to moral relativism.” Another reason may be liberation theology, “a continual mindset of victimhood,” and replacement theology, which holds that the church has replaced Israel as the “chosen people.” This article declares that by their decision the Presbyterians of the USA “have declared that they know who is right and who is wrong,” but that since the factors informing their decision are “irrational, biased and radical” they have wrongly singled out Israel, while ignoring “some of the worst human rights offenders” such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority.
Messianic Jewish Community
Haaretz, June 25, 2014 (English and Hebrew editions)
The district court has rejected the appeal by the event hall at Yad HaShmona against a previous magistrates’ court ruling that they must pay compensation of NIS 90,000 to a lesbian couple for refusing to hold the couple’s wedding reception due to their sexual orientation. The couple sued the event hall at Yad HaShmona after having been refused their reservation, saying that they were “humiliated due to their sexual orientation” and that the reception they intended to hold had no lesbian markers; the district court ruling stated that the event hall’s refusal was a violation of the law against discrimination in the provision of goods and services and entry to public places, especially as the event hall was in a place undefined by signs of religion. The event hall refused the couple’s reservation due to the fact that the residents of Yad HaShmona, who are Messianic Jews and evangelical Christians, do not agree with same-sex marriage.
Jews’ Attitudes Concerning Christians
Yahadut BaSharon, June 18; Yediot Yerushalayim, June 27, 2014
Although the controversy regarding the funding of the Ministry of Education’s summer camps continues, a partial solution has been found in Netanya: the Ministry of Education has permitted principals of schools who object to the IFCJ (International Fellowship of Christians and Jews) funding to receive a “base package” that would omit foreign funding; those who do not object will receive the extras funded by the IFCJ.
There has been a recent campaign in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, however, where religious students were attempting to collect contributions from passersby for the Ministry of Education, to avoid having to accept Christian funds.
The IFCJ is mystified by the recent defamation campaign against it, and questions the campaign’s motives, as many rabbis have given permission for these funds to be accepted. The IFCJ is determined to continue helping “weak elements” in society.
HaShavua B’Yerushalayim, June 25, 2014
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim is happy over having saved a girl who was “taken captive by the the dangerous and destructive Messianic Jewish cult.” The girl was convinced to attend a Shabbat seminar in Safed, and afterwards began to meet with a Yad L’Achim activist. She has since become more observant of Jewish law, and has also just married an observant man.
Matzav HaRuach, June 13, 2014
Prof. Yitzhak Reiter was interviewed regarding the recent visit of Pope Francis to Israel, the call for peace at the Vatican, and the Knesset’s marking of the 50-year anniversary of the death of Pope John XXIII. Reiter is of the opinion that no end to the wars of religion is in sight, especially in view of the fact that the majority of conflicts since World War II have had a religious element; he stated that when this is the case “the conflict becomes uncompromising, and one can recruit a much larger support base.” Reiter cited examples such as the issues surrounding the Temple Mount, the Mughrabi Bridge, and the David’s tomb/Cenacle structure, calling them “explosive,” but he is still convinced that with an agreement upon foundational points an unexpected peace could be reached.
The Pope and the Vatican
Liberal, June 17, 2014
Zvika Hauser is convinced that Pope Francis’ visit to Theodor Herzl’s grave has “greater historical significance” than his visit to Yad VaShem, the Memorial to Terror Victims, or the separation fence, and should have the same effect on Jews as the pope’s visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has on Catholics. The reason for this is that this visit of Pope Francis “repairs a historical injustice” done to Herzl by Pope Pius X on January 25, 1904, when Pope Pius X refused his support as the Jews did not recognize Jesus. Pope Francis, in visiting Herzl’s grave, demonstrated the long way the church has come since 1904, and how they have now “recognized the Jewish people’s right to self definition and its realization in the Holy Land, and [recognized] Israel as the land of the Jewish nation, as Herzl’s vision saw it.”
Kivun Chadash Gimla’im, June 6, 2014
In this article Dr. Ruth Levinson gives the answers she gave to her granddaughter when asked, “Why do so many people in the world hate the Jews?” Levinson’s first answer was that the origin is in the accusation that the Jews gave Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified, and saw them as murderers of God. She further told her granddaughter of the book The Trial and Death of Jesus of Nazareth, by High Court judge Chaim Cohen, which says that in fact the Sanhedrin tried to save Jesus from the Romans; going further back in history Levinson told of Haman and Balaam. She also told her granddaughter about the enlightened laws for assisting the poor, setting slaves free, the traditions of the Jubilee year, and how because of this legacy the Jews were seen as different and arrogant. Levinson ends by saying that “apparently anti-Semitism is an incurable disease.”
The Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2014
Varda Druker, CEO of Adopt-a-Battalion, was interviewed by The Jerusalem Post regarding the project, which seeks to connect society and the IDF through commercial companies “adopting” a battalion and contributing NIS 100,000 to the battalion each year for three years. The funds go directly to the battalion, and may be used in a variety of ways. In some cases, the adopting company may also help soldiers in the battalion with commercial training or employment for their future civilian life – as in the case of El Al, for instance, which adopted the Tzefa Battalion. Although the project currently consists of over 180 battalions it is looking to grow, and has signed an agreement with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has taken on the care of 11 battalions until adoptions can be found for them.
An upcoming event of interest is 2,000 Kfir Battalion fighters taking part in a volunteer day throughout the country; additionally, an event recently took place near Sderot, where a battalion and a company together renovated a public park near the city.
Conversion to Judaism
Kri’at 4, May 30, 2014
Devora (formerly Joseline) Tibi was born to a Christian family in Grenoble, France. As a child she was sent to learn Christian studies at the local church, but chose not to be confirmed at age 12. During her university studies she met Yves Tibi, whom she would later marry, and was curious about his Jewish customs. She studied Judaism as much as possible, convinced that she should convert and move to Israel. Yves and Devora in fact made aliyah to Israel in 1982, after Devora finished her BA studies. Devora spent another year in study before her conversion, and in 1983 Yves and Devora were married. They moved to Kiryat Arba, where they have lived ever since. They have six children. Devora’s family were not particularly disturbed when she converted; her mother was mostly worried that Devora would be living in a third-world country, but upon visiting realized that Israel is not very different from France.
BeRuach Glilit, June 24, 2014
Mount Tabor has been a site of interest for many years. The legacy center at the Bedouin village of Shibli is of particular interest, as is a hospitality tent; Christians hold the mountain as holy due to the tradition placing Jesus’ transfiguration there, and a Franciscan church and monastery mark the place. Kfar Tavor, important both to Jews and Circassians, boasts a museum about the Circassian legacy, complete with exhibits of the Circassian knight’s weapons from the Caucasus.
Haaretz, June 27, 2014
Yardenit is a charming baptismal site on the banks of the Jordan, slightly south of the Degania dam, and belongs to Kvutzat Kinneret. There is water there, even when the river is dry farther north, as it is this year. Farther south are a few small beaches for swimming, as well as a site for rafting. Access is from Highway 90 north of Degania.
The Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2014
This article summarizes the proceedings of the court hearing on Wednesday, June 25, which dealt with the defamation suit between Simcha Jacobovici and former Israel Antiquities official Joe Zias. Jacobovici’s 2007 documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, came to the conclusion that there was significant evidence that Jesus had been married to Mary Magdalene, had several children, and that they were all buried in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood. The film sparked years of debate, with the majority of academic opinion saying that Jacobovici’s conclusion was flawed. The suit was filed by Jacobovici, saying that Zias went far beyond legitimate debate and tried to sabotage him. The two sides have continued in mutual accusations, and tensions ran high in the courtroom. The presiding judge, Ya’akov Sheinman, expressed “extreme frustration” at both sides’ propensity to concentrate on side issues that he considered irrelevant to the case. The next hearing will take place in September.
Gefen, Gefen HaMoshava, Kol HaPardes, Kol Zikaron, June 20, 2014
The Carmel Coast Council has decided to restore the Crusader cemetery at Atlit and prepare it for visitors. The cemetery is adjacent to the Atlit fortress, which was built between 1217 and 1218 and is the best kept of all the Crusader fortresses in the country. The 1,700 graves in the cemetery – some boasting extremely unique headstones – belong to knights, pilgrims, city inhabitants, and employees of the fortress. Atlit was the last Crusader stronghold in the country before their retreat in 1291, and withstood three conquest attempts.