January 5 – 2015

During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:

  •     Anti-Missionary Attitudes
  •     Political Issues
  •     Interfaith Dialogue
  •     Christian Tourism
  •     Art
  •     Miscellaneous
  •     Archaeology

Anti-Missionary Attitudes

Gal-Gefen, December 25, 2014

Inhabitants of Or Yehuda are “in shock” over having received missionary material in their mailboxes. “Inhabitants who are proud of their Judaism do not exchange a glorious legacy for a dubious and unacceptable one,” said the vice-mayor, Uzi Aharon. An anonymous source answering the phone number on the distributed material said in response, “I think this content should speak to whoever believes in the Bible. … If [the inhabitants] aren’t able to hear another opinion I am very sorry, but their situation is not good.”

Yediot Haifa, December 26, 2014

Missionary activity at Christmastime has been evident in Haifa for decades. Of particular note are the door-to-door visits of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as a book stand of Keren Achva Meshichit, a Messianic Jewish publishing house, that was put up near the holiday celebration area in the Wadi Nisnas area of Haifa during the Holiday of Holidays festival. However, this year Mayor Yona Yahav instructed that the book stand be taken away from the festival area, so that it does not become a permanent part of the celebrations. Asaf Ron, head of Beit HaGefen, operators of the festival, stated that the book stand “had been put up through personal initiative rather than through the festival’s authority.”

Political Issues

Yom L’Yom, December 25, 2014

This four-page article is a survey of the Irish Protestant–Catholic conflict; the similarities and differences between it and the Israeli–Palestinian conflict; and the way in which the Protestants are seen as British, and therefore supporters of Israel, and the Catholics are seen as Irish, and therefore supporters of the Palestinians. The writer tells of how the British government, under whose auspices the Yom L’Yom journalists visited Ireland, wished to emphasize to the readers how the violence in the conflict was solved voluntarily through negotiations.

Interfaith Dialogue

The Jerusalem Post, December 31, 2014

President Reuven Rivlin, speaking on December 30 to assembled Christian civic and religious leaders, said that the supporters of destruction and hatred are waging war against “those who want to spread the message of freedom of worship and coexistence.” Rivlin emphasized that retaliation to this “is not a religious war, but a war against extremism”; he mentioned Pope Francis’ work as well, “in reminding us that what matters most is our relationship with our fellow man.”

Theophilos III, Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, emphasized that “continuing dialogue is needed on the road to peace and reconciliation.” Whether in religion or politics, said Theophilos, “first and foremost our care is for our people. … The harmonious coexistence of the Abrahamic faiths is essential to the integrity of the Holy Land.”

Christian Tourism

BaMachane, December 25, 2014

Some 30,000 Palestinians are expected to receive entrance permits from the territories for the Christian holidays. 500 Christian Arabs from Judea and Samaria will visit relatives in Gaza, and some 65 Christian clerics will be permitted entry, as well as receiving transportation assistance from Judea and Samaria.

Globes, January 1, 2015

This article details new discoveries in Jerusalem that are now open to the public, such as the Kishleh prison in the Tower of David Museum, where one can see the timeline of the city in Ottoman, Crusader, Herodian, Hasmonean, and Hezekiah-era ruins; the Spring Citadel in the City of David, next to Hezekiah’s tunnel; the adjacent Givati parking lot, where an ongoing excavation has revealed an impressive Roman villa; the tunnel that leads from the Givati site to the Western Wall; and the Davidson Center, with its many riveting artifacts from the Second Temple era and later, such as those from an 8th-century Umayyad palace.

The Jerusalem Post, January 2, 2015

The Crusader fortress at Acre was built by the Knights Hospitaller to care for the thousands of pilgrims who were on their way to Jerusalem and other sites. Today, visitors can experience a meticulously designed reconstruction of Crusader life, complete with artifacts displayed at eye level, walls covered with facsimiles of medieval manuscript illustrations, lamps set high to imitate torchlight, and chivalric banners set at the entrances to various halls. The artisans’ alley in the fortress has a glassblower, a basket weaver, a leatherworker, a medicinal herb vendor, and others. The site offers a monthly knights’ banquet as well, with food and entertainment according to the period (the food is kosher).


Haaretz, December 29, 2014

In this four-page article, Shachar Ben-Porat details the concepts behind church architecture. He particularly mentions the significance of the building size, such as the height of Gothic churches, in order to make the worshipper feel his own insignificance, or the small chapels, in which the worshipper feels alone with God. Ben-Porat concentrates on the new church built at Magdala, whose size fits the latter concept. The rounded lines and color scheme of the church were planned in honor of the women mentioned in the New Testament, with the fresco in the dome honoring Mary Magdalene in particular. The main sanctuary is reminiscent of a boat, in honor of the ancient boat on display at Ginosar, and its twelve columns are in honor of the twelve apostles. Large windows replace the Holy Land frescoes typically found on church walls.

The church opened to the public in May, after five years of planning and building.


Haaretz, January 2, 2015

A joint Tel-Aviv University–Oxford University symposium will take place on January 6 at the Cymbalista Jewish Heritage Center at Tel-Aviv University. Lectures will be given on the Second Temple period and the New Testament; Jews, Christians, and “the parting of the ways”; and Jews and Christians in late antiquity.

The symposium will be broadcast live at http://goo.gl/FxQOfl.


Haaretz, December 29, 2014

Excavations at Khirbet Majdulia on the Golan Heights have revealed a Roman-era building built of hewn stone that may have served as a synagogue. Specific remains include benches along the walls, remains of columns, and many potsherds. Although archaeologists are not definitively calling the building a synagogue, “this is a monumental public building in a village in a Jewish area, [and] we don’t know another purpose for a building like this other than a synagogue,” said Dr. Michael Azband, the director of the dig.

This structure is particularly important, as a controversy has arisen during the last decade as to the existence of synagogues on the Golan Heights during the Roman period, with some researchers dating synagogues in the Galilee as late as the 4th and 5th centuries CE.

The dig was conducted by the department of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University.

Haaretz (Hebrew and English editions); The Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2015

A resident of Beit Shemesh was recently arrested on suspicion of having engaged in systematic antiquities theft. A search of his home revealed some 800 ancient coins, some of which were Persian (5th century BCE), as well as later Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman coins. The man has confessed to searching for antiquities in the Beit Shemesh area using a metal detector. “Taking the coin away from the archaeological site causes irreversible damage and prevents us from reconstructing information … just for the sake of greed, nothing else,” said Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The suspect has been “released under restrictive conditions” and will soon be indicted.

Haaretz, January 2, 2015

This article presents Prof. Shimon Gibson’s alternative explanation of the pile of stones on the Herodian street in Jerusalem’s Davidson Center, which tour guides describe as the most tangible evidence of the Temple’s destruction.

Gibson asks why a pile of rocks would be allowed to remain in a city full of rich inhabitants, thriving commerce, and wide streets, such as Jerusalem was after being remade as Aelia Capitolina. He points out the similarity between the buttresses to the Temple Mount walls and the buttresses to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Cave of Machpelah, and Khirbet Mamre, which were all built some hundreds of years after 70 CE. He also asks why the Roman Legion would have taken the trouble to destroy the walls, when the Temple itself had already been robbed and burned. Gibson’s solution to this is the theory that the walls were destroyed in the earthquake of 363 CE.

Prof. Ronny Reich, who participated in the 1970s excavations of the Southern Wall, cites as evidence against Gibson’s theory a layer of earth below the rocks, in which some 120 coins were found – the latest of which is dated to 69 CE. “If the rocks fell 290 years later, how is it that no later coins were found on the site?” asks Reich. He does not definitively say that the rocks fell in 70 CE, but has no doubt that the wall did not remain standing until the 4th century CE.