During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Israel Hayom, September 30, 2014
In this article, David Parsons, media manager of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), surveys the connections various Israeli and Christian leaders have had with each other. He mentions former premier Menachem Begin, who welcomed Christian Zionist connections and “looked for any way to enlist this support in order to protect the Jewish state.” Although others before him had connections with Christians, such as Theodor Herzl with William Hechler, or David Ben-Gurion with Dr. W. A. Crisswell of the Dallas Theological Seminary, Begin is notable for being the first premier to “warmly welcome” Christian Zionist support. There are three main reasons for this: Begin “shared some of the biblical opinions” of the evangelicals; some of his advisors shared his own opinions; and some of the complicated issues that arose during his term of office, such as the striking of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, caused him to seek Christian support. This support and cooperation has since developed into what Foreign Ministry officials call a “strategic treasure.”
Kol Israel, September 19, 2014
In this article, Shabtai Fogel interviews five people concerning the reasons for the recent flare-ups of anti-Semitism. Abraham Levy of Manchester says that after years of being on good terms, the good relations have begun to deteriorate in line with the deterioration of relations between Jews and Christians in the Old City. Hillel Cohen of Kiev says that Jews in the Ukraine have come under revenge attacks for what is happening in the Old City, and are threatened that as long as Christians are wounded in their own holy places, Jews will be considered targets when they come to holy sites in the Ukraine. Eliezer Neichtler of Brooklyn says that “the Gentile neighbors see us as hostages for the conduct of every Jew in the world.” Yehuda Krakovsky of Moscow says that anti-Semitic attacks are generally unpredictable in Russia, but the situation has escalated due to Jewish conduct in the Old City. Elchanan Cohen of Antwerp also tells of escalation in his city, and says that the situation will only worsen if Jews continue to do as they wish.
At the end of the article, Fogel mentions Wolfgang Schmidt, representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, who has made it his goal to reduce anti-Semitism in Germany wherever possible, and even holds historical lectures for clerics to this end.
Haaretz, September 30 (English and Hebrew); HaModia, The Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2014
Israel’s chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, have published a condemnation and a call to cancel the prayer vigil set to take place at the Hulda Gates during the upcoming International Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration. While admitting that freedom of religion exists in Israel and that people of any faith may pray at the Temple Mount, the rabbis emphasized that such prayers should not be permitted if they offend another religion. Yosef and Lau further said that “the goal of the vigil’s organizers is to stick their nails in the city and in the Holy Land, and separate the house of Israel, our brothers, from the land of the living.” According to the rabbis’ argument they appear to have endorsed the opinions of the Rabanei Derekh Emunah (Rabbis of the Path of Faith) organization, which is convinced that the vigil “will be a missionary activity” and that posters around Jerusalem declaring this to not be so are “deliberately misleading.”
However, Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of the Hiddush organization for religious freedom and equality, has turned to Yehuda Weinstein, the state attorney general, asking him to “consider opening an investigation against the chief and other rabbis due to their battle against the prayer of the Christian pilgrims,” specifically for possible “contravention of clause 173 of the Law for Freedom of Worship and Public Order.” Regev has also called upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett to “distance themselves” from the conflict, as the “radicalization in the religious sector [involves] Israel in a declaration of war against Christianity.”
In response, an official of the ICEJ denied that the vigil was to be an interfaith event, and stated that it is intended for Feast of Tabernacles attendees only, although one night of the general celebration is open to Israeli guests. The ICEJ did not make an official response to the chief rabbis’ letter.
Index HaEmek VeHaGalil, September 12, 2014
An Israeli Christian in Nazareth has started a Facebook page for exposing supporters of the Islamic State (IS), and has received threats such as “we will come to your house and behead you.” This anti-IS activist has exposed some 300 Facebook profiles with IS flags in Nazareth, as well as a person who flew the IS flag on their house and another who flew it on their car. An IS supporter posted on the exposure page, “We love death as you love life and gambling.” The police in Nazareth have stated that this issue is not within their sphere of responsibility, but falls under that of other entities.
The Pope and the Vatican
Israel Hayom, September 30, 2014
The Vatican has committed to contributing USD 125,000 for the preservation of the museum at the Auschwitz extermination camp. “Considering our limited resources it is a small sum,” said Vatican secretary Pietro Peruline, “but this is an expression of our complete support for the Auschwitz-Bireknau Fund, which oversees the upkeep of the site.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2014
The Beit Guvrin–Maresha National Park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2014, consists of an estimated 1,000 man-made chalk caves, some 600 of which are open to the public. Over the course of 2,000 years, the caves were used for everyday purposes as well as for worship and refuge. Of particular note is the Bell Cave complex, consisting of 70 connected quarry caves; cave no. 61, the width of which is 15 minutes’ walk; the 85 columbarium caves, “reflecting the ancient premium on doves’ meat, eggs, dung, and value as sacrificial offerings”; the Sidonian burial caves from the Hellenistic period; the Maze Cave; and the Bathtub Cave.
The World Heritage designation came as a result of a five-year effort on the part of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israeli World Heritage Committee. Other UNESCO-listed sites in Israel include Masada, the Incense Route, and the biblical Tels.
The Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2014
In this article Alexander Zvielli reviews Max Stern’s Bible and Music and Psalms and Music, recently published by Ktav Publishing House. In this massive work, “the result of major, comprehensive scientific and systematic research,” Stern lists the books of the Bible with the composers whose music was inspired by them, such as Arthur Honegger and King David; Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Leonard Bernstein and the Jeremiah Symphony; and the African-American spiritual “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel,” connected, of course, to Ezekiel’s “vision of the divine chariot.” However, Stern not only provides readers with data, but seems to elucidate and deepen their knowledge of both the Bible passages and the music connected with them.
In the book on Psalms, each psalm is given particular separate attention, with commentary on both the text and the music connected with it, complete with a “religious, historical and general analysis.” Noted examples are Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Salomone Rossi’s Baruch Haba, and Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God.
All in all, this is a “huge, painstaking work,” a “unique achievement not only in the worlds of Bible and music, but in the world’s universal spiritual library.”
Handasa, Bniya veTashtiyot, August 31, 2014
On May 1st of this year an exact replica of Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb was dedicated in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt.
The tomb, built some 3,245 years ago, was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter, and is unique in that is was discovered almost entirely intact and unlooted, and contained “some 200 of the most impressive artifacts from the Pharaonic period,” such as pure gold furniture studded with gems, alabaster vessels, various of the pharaoh’s wardrobes, and other things meant “to serve him in the afterlife.” A mask of the pharaoh, made of pure gold and weighing one ton, is in the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
The carbon dioxide let out by the millions of yearly visitors to the tomb severely damaged it, leading to it being closed to the public during 2011. A restoration being impossible, the Egyptian Antiquities Council decided to build a replica of the tomb. Factum Arta of Madrid was commissioned to carry out the task, and used exacting photographic and engraving technology to do so. Experts on the tomb have declared that they cannot find any difference between the replica and the original.
Although this replica of Tutankhamen’s tomb was made with new technology, other structures have been replicated before, such as the Lascaux caves in the Dordogne, with their spectacular prehistoric paintings. The writer ends by expressing the hope that similar technology will be used to replicate structures in Israel such as Rachel’s Tomb, the Machpelah Cave, and the Stalactite Cave.
Ha’Ir Kol Ha’Ir, September 24, 2014
Last week the Bible Lands Museum revealed the oldest known siddur (Jewish prayer book) as part of the museum’s famed Book of Books exhibition. The siddur is unique in that it is dated to approximately 840 CE, consists of fifty vellum pages written in ancient Hebrew with Babylonian pointing, and still has its original binding. It had been in the possession of one family for many generations, but they decided to sell it to the Green family for the Museum of the Bible, which is planned to open in Washington D.C. in 2017. The script will still be in analysis until some time in 2015.
The year 840 is of special note, as it was during the time of the Babylonian sages, particularly Rabbi Amram Ga’on, who wrote some of the first siddurim. Museum curator Amanda Weiss stated that the prayers are the same, and “can be read today as though they had not been written 1,200 years ago; this historical artifact symbolizes exactly what we are doing here at the museum.”
Merkaz Ha’Inyanim, September 29, 2014
In this three-page article, Yitzhak Eliezri surveys the damage likely to be inflicted by the Islamic State on the ruins of Nineveh – on the eastern bank of the Tigris River opposite Mosul – where local tradition places the tombs of the prophets Jonah, Daniel, and Nahum. Whereas Nineveh was the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, now it is the next target of the IS fighters, who have declared destruction “upon every non-Islamic ruin in the vicinity.”
Nineveh was discovered in 1849 by Austen Henry Layard, who had been commissioned by Stafford Canning, then British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to “purchase interesting antiquities” near Mosul. Layard discovered not only the ruins and palaces of the imperial city, with its 65 irrigation channels and documentary stone carvings, but the royal library, written on thousands of clay tablets, some of which have yet to be deciphered.
Eliezri ends by stating that if IS accomplishes its avowed purpose, the two immense stone winged lions taken by Layard to Britain, and now in the British Museum, may end up being the only remains of “the great city of Nineveh.”
Israel Hayom, September 30, 2014
The current excavation being conducted by Haifa University in Susita has recently uncovered a unique golden dove-shaped pendant on a woman’s skeleton. Archaeologists estimate the pendant to date to 363 CE, when the first of two major earthquakes hit Susita. The excavation has also recently uncovered a large marble leg, and artillery of the kind used 2,000 years ago.
Hamevaser, October 2, 2014
The Tel-Aviv University excavation in Timna, headed by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, has recently posited the theory that the metalworkers at the Timna mines, originally thought by Nelson Glick in 1934 to be slaves, were in fact of very high social status. The dry climate of the area has enabled archaeologists to find animal bones, showing that the workers received the best cuts of meat, and fish bones belonging to fish from the Mediterranean Sea. As for the wall surrounding the “Slaves’ Hill,” researchers are now positing that its purpose was to protect the workers and the copper they smelted, as it was the most precious natural resource of the period, requiring a complicated and expert process.
Makor Rishon, October 3, 2014
A “treasure” of coins from the Byzantine period was found approximately a year ago on the Temple Mount by Eilat Mazar, daughter of noted archaeologist Binyamin Mazar. This treasure is now on display in the Israel Museum’s permanent exhibit.
The treasure consists of some 36 gold coins, minted with images of Byzantine emperors, enabling easy dating. Dudi Mevorach, one of the curators in the Israel Museum, surmises that these 36 coins were worth approximately three years’ salary at the time, and that they were buried as insurance before a catastrophe (which apparently did in fact take place, as the coins were not retrieved).
However, the most unique artifact found in this treasure is a medallion, the largest found to date, decorated with a menorah and a shofar. Mazar surmises that the medallion was meant to ornament a Torah scroll, while Mevorach posits that it may have been an article of personal jewelry for a congregational rabbi.