During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
Kol Ha’Ir Bnei Brak, December 17; Sha’a Tova; BaKehila; HaShavua B’Elad, December 18, 2014
These articles are a reiteration of the stories in last week’s Review (December 24, 2014). The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim is jubilant over the fact that the missionaries’ latest attempt at fighting back – in the form of imitating the Yad L’Achim Mechapsim [“Searching”] magazine – has failed. The Yad L’Achim magazine has caused some of the Messianic believers “to contact Yad L’Achim clandestinely,” says the organization, and the missionaries’ imitation magazine is “demagogic and worthless.” Yad L’Achim additionally states, “We will continue to give an appropriate answer for Jews who are lost, use every legitimate means to remove Jews from missionary cults and return them to the way of the fathers.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 19, 2014
In this four-page article, Aviva Bar-Am reviews different Christmas activities available in the Old City during the month of December, as an alternative to attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Of particular note is the Armenian Cathedral of Saint James, with its many beautiful paintings; the Syrian Orthodox Saint Mark’s Church, a Crusader-era structure built over a Byzantine foundation and housing a portrait of Mary and Jesus believed to have been painted by Saint Luke; the Church of Saint John the Baptist, originally a hospital run for pilgrims of all denominations by the Knights Hospitaller and housing a collection of icons and frescoes entirely at odds with its simple exterior; the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky; but most especially the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with its conglomeration of chapels and architectural styles.
Haaretz, December 23, 2014
The failed restoration of a fresco in the village church of Borja in Spain has become a tourist attraction after the initial reaction of derision in 2012. Cecilia Ximenes, an 83-year-old widow, had attempted to restore the painting, but critics claimed the result actually resembled “a monkey or a porcupine.” However, curious tourists who come to see the painting have revived the village’s economy, the villagers see the free advertising as God’s blessing, and Ximenes “gives out awards at young artists’ contests.” At the same time, however, some of the nearby vineyards have become involved in a legal battle over the rights to the painting as a tool of trade.
Maariv; The Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2014
The Ministry of Tourism is preparing to receive some 70,000 Christian tourists, who are expected to arrive in Israel to celebrate Christmas. Various services have been activated, such as shuttle service to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and Tourism Minister Uzi Landau will hold a reception for Christian leaders on the evening of December 23, 2014. “The government of Israel will continue to invest in the Christian holy sites, and its Christian population will always be free,” said Landau.
Although final tourism figures for 2014 are not yet available, it has been determined that thousands of Christian visitors arrived following Pope Francis’ visit in May. Additionally, although the tourism industry suffered as a result of Operation Protective Edge, it is now beginning to recover. The Ministry of Tourism has invested some 100m. NIS in the Christian sites, with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Capernaum, the Yardenit baptismal site on the Sea of Galilee, and Bethlehem remaining among the most popular.
Haaretz, December 23, 2014
This article recounts the history of the recent excavations at Magdala and the first-century synagogue discovered there. Magdala was the only town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee before Tiberias was built, and was on the Via Maris. Not only was the synagogue discovered, but fish pools and Jewish ritual baths as well, leading the archaeologists of the ongoing excavations to surmise that an entire first-century city remains to be uncovered. The site opened to the public in May 2014, and since then has received some 5,000 visitors. Mariana Bravo of the Magdala Center calls the project “a crossroads of Jewish and Christian history.”
Psifas Magazine, December 18, 2014
In this three-page article, Michael Avraham reviews the questions “Who is a Jew?” and “What is Judaism?”
Avraham begins with early Christianity, which parted ways with Pharisaic Judaism and set moral living and religious experience as a valid alternative to the practical execution of the halacha [Jewish law for everyday life]. Others followed in this vein, such as the early Hassidim, the Jewish Enlightenment, the Zionist movement, and so on.
Avraham continues by stating that it is easier to imagine a lack of religious experience than a lack of morality. He states that moral living is no less important than fulfilling the halacha, but that it is the halacha that defines Jewish life: “Gentiles are obligated to a moral life, just as Jews are.” He instead suggests an Aristotelian definition of a Jew as “homo halachicus” (homo sapiens who is obligated to the halacha).
Avraham is of the opinion that secular Judaism is a fallacious idea, since even someone who is defined as Jewish despite not keeping Jewish law, is defined as such because of having a Jewish mother. If one goes back far enough in the ancestry of that Jewish mother, one will find the grandmother who kept the Jewish dietary laws and who obeyed the halacha. “Humanism cannot be replacement for halacha, since it is not a characteristic particular to Jews,” says Avraham.
Zman HaTzafon, December 4, 2014
A group of 11th-graders from the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood of Jerusalem have recently visited Neve Shalom, an interfaith village located west of Jerusalem. The students took part in workshops led by inhabitants of the village, who spoke about their reasons for living there, and in artistic and dramatic workshops, which were all “an excellent platform for the fostering of tolerance and a pluralism of opinions.” Throughout the day the students showed a remarkable ability to deal with difficult questions.
Olam Katan, December 19, 2014
This four-page article details the history and controversy surrounding the Second Temple–era burial cave in Jerusalem’s Givat HaMivtar neighborhood.
The article begins by giving a historical retrospective of the Hasmonean period, beginning with Simeon son of Mattathias, to Alexander Jannaeus and Salome Alexandra and their grandson Mattathias Antigonus, the last king of Judea, who was executed by the Romans.
The article describes how a cave was discovered by a neighbor of the Dilharoza family in Givat HaMivtar after the Six Day War, complete with an Aramaic inscription mentioning Matityahu ben Yehuda being buried by Aba, and another cave on the Dilharoza property with an ornate ossuary buried in its floor. The ossuary was determined to have contained the bones of two people, one approximately 60 years of age, and the other approximately 25. In 1982, another cave was discovered on the site; it contained another ossuary, with the bones of two more people.
Ever since the caves were discovered researchers have been divided as to the identity of the individuals who were buried. One opinion is that Matityahu ben Yehuda was in fact Mattathias Antigonus; another is that Matityahu was a Samaritan priest who became a Jew; and a third is that the individual buried was in fact a woman with delicate bones. However, it is interesting to note that the individual was tortured before being executed by beheading, and this was the way Mattathias was executed according to records.
After the research was finished in the 1960s, the Israel Antiquities Authority released the site to the Dilharoza family. Since then it has been impossible to carry out any research on site, such as DNA tests, so until that happens “the doubt will always remain,” says Prof. Israel Hershkowitz of the department of anatomy and anthropology at Tel-Aviv University.
Israel Hayom; Haaretz (x2), December 24, 2014
A dig being carried out in the Mount Carmel National Park, near Eliakim, has revealed a 1,600-year-old fragment of a turquoise glass bracelet, carved with two menorahs, one of which even shows flames above its branches. The dig has also revealed a glassmaking industrial area and refuse pits, testifying of a large settlement from the late Roman and early Byzantine periods (the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth century CE). The fragment has been sent for analysis, although it has already been determined that it was a bracelet due to its diameter, and that the menorahs were embossed in the glass while it was still hot.
Limor Talmai and Dan Kirzner are directing the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.