January 26 – 2015

During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:

  •     Anti-Semitism
  •     Christians in Israel
  •     Christian Zionism
  •     Christian Tourism
  •     Miscellaneous
  •     Archaeology


Makor Rishon, January 23, 2015

The rise of Islam in Europe has caused a rise in the power of the far-right parties, who often call for limiting immigration as well as warning against Islamization and wishing to extract their countries from the European Union. However, Jewish communities are wondering if these far-right parties will succeed in re-establishing security, or if they are in fact anti-Semitic.

Dr. Ofer Koenig of the Israeli Institute for Democracy warns against too much cooperation with far-right elements, which are still a relatively weak component of the European political scene; these parties are “trying to fill the vacuum left by the far-left parties” when the latter ceased their support of Israel, and in fact have never ceased to be anti-Semitic. Matan Asher of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs warns against cooperation with far-left elements as well, “due to their connection with radical Islam.” Schneor Zalman Odz of the conservative United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) states emphatically that there is no trace of anti-Semitism in his party, “otherwise I would not be there.” He agrees with UKIP’s call for immigration limitation and bureaucratic transparency, as well as requiring immigrants to “commit to democratic values and elements”; this, to Odz’s mind, will “decrease inter-community tension.”

Christians in Israel

Index HaEmek VeHaGalil–Nazareth Ilit, January 2, 2015

On December 31, 2014, “a group of bullies” stoned the house of a Christian soldier in Nazareth. Father Gabriel Naddaf, head of the Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum, stated, “This is not Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, this is the reality in the State of Israel in the year 2014, when soldiers are attacked for having chosen to identify themselves with the State of Israel, and this voluntarily.” The soldier’s family is being represented by Adv. Shadi Hassan and by Adv. Eyal Paltek, who has offered free legal advice for any soldier finding himself persecuted for his service.

Index HaEmek VeHaGalil–Nazareth Ilit, January 2, 2015

The new bureau of the Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum has recently opened in Nazareth Ilit. Father Gabriel Naddaf opened the ceremony with a prayer, and spoke to those present concerning “the connection between Jews and Christians in Israel.”

Yediot HaNegev, January 16, 2015

Father Pyotr Zalasko was born in Poland to a Catholic family. After being ordained he functioned as a priest in Poland for one year, and was then sent to Rome. Five years ago he was sent to Jerusalem, where he studied at the Hebrew University and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, and as of October 2014 Zalasko has been functioning as the priest for the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Beer-Sheva. The congregation members’ backgrounds are extremely varied, says Zalasko, ranging from Israelis to French Christians to refugees to foreign workers.

Zalasko is dedicated to peace, and considers violence to be a sin. “I am here in order to give Catholics in Israel a chance to pray,” he stated, rejecting the accusation of being a missionary. Peace is first made with one’s friends, one’s neighbors, one’s city; Zalasko has become particular friends with one of the rabbis in Beer-Sheva. The two occasionally attend football matches, and celebrated this past Hanukkah together. “The people here are warm, and I feel part of the city,” says Zalasko.

Christian Zionism

Gefen, January 9, 2015

This article is one of a number detailing how an imaging department has been added to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, complete with a Philips Ingenia MRI machine. This is the only permanent machine between Tel-Aviv and Haifa, and was bought with the assistance of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), who donated NIS 1.6 million to the project. Other assistance came from the Ministry of Health and from the hospital’s own research fund. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, head of the IFCJ, said, “This contribution towards the MRI machine, the sixth such contribution given by the fellowship to hospitals in Israel, was made possible thanks to thousands of contributions from Christian lovers of Israel, who by their contributions wish to strengthen the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

The existence of this new department is expected to greatly improve medical service to the region’s residents.

Yediot Kiryat Shmona, January 16, 2015

On January 7, the Magen David Adom (MDA) center in Kiryat Shmona was dedicated after a year of renovations. The center now offers around-the-clock emergency medical care. The renovations were made possible thanks to Christian Friends of MDA in Britain.

Christian Tourism

Haaretz, January 23, 2015

The baptismal site known as Kasr al-Yahud is known in Jewish tradition as having been the place where the children of Israel crossed the Jordan, as well as where Elijah was taken up to heaven. Christian tradition venerates the site as the location of Jesus’ baptism, where a dove descended upon him out of heaven.

However, the article notes a variety of opinions stated by those present regarding the sanctity of the site and the water, as well as the reasons for being baptized there. It also notes that three Palestinians were detained before being able to stage a protest against the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Theophilos; the three belong to a group demanding the patriarch’s removal and much more foundational support for the Palestinian Authority from the Greek Orthodox Church.


Globes, January 23, 2015

The four species of fish native to the Sea of Galilee, including the Galilee tilapia known as “Saint Peter’s Fish” are in danger, warn scientists studying the location. The danger is from a virus hitherto unknown to science, ultimately deadly, and apparently originating from a contamination of the Ministry of Agriculture fishponds at Kibbutz Ginossar.

An international expert on fish diseases called the issue “an ecological disaster” that could deal a death blow to pilgrimage tourism. The Ministry of Agriculture has stated in response that according to their current data there does not appear to be a problem with fish mortality in the lake, nor a “drastic change as a result of a specific disease, nor a problem for public health.” The ministry is continuing to study the virus, “in order to make the correct decisions as necessary.”


Haaretz, January 21, 2015

The Kishleh prison in the Tower of David Museum, recently opened to the public, is notable for revealing not only British Mandate–era remains, but Ottoman, Crusader, Muslim, Byzantine, Roman, Herodian, Hasmonean, and Judean remains as well. However, the place is now drawing Christian attention, as one tradition identifies the spot as the Praetorium, where Jesus appeared before Pilate. This is in controversy to the older view, which locates the Praetorium as adjacent to the Lions’ Gate, where the Via Dolorosa begins.

Beneath the Ottoman structure, Crusader-era pools were found that yielded red pigment, apparently used in dying hides (this matches the description by Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Jerusalem between 1169 and 1172, and located Jewish dyers of hides on the spot). Beneath the pools are massive Herodian-era support columns and sewage channels; archaeologists have concluded that these columns and channels are built on the ruins of a Hasmonean wall, itself built on the ruins of a First Temple–era wall.

The Herodian wall is notable, as these massive supports were what enabled Herod to build his palace. One supposition among archaeologists is that the Roman prefects – Pilate included – took the palace for their own use. If this is accurate, this would mean that the traditional location of Jesus’ trial at the fortress of Antonia is mistaken. Additionally, it is known that the current route of the Via Dolorosa dates to the Middle Ages, and that earlier routes passed by the palace.


Correction: In the January 21, 2015, review of the Eretz Binyamin (December 31, 2014) article, the archaeologist’s name should be Dr. Bryant (not Brian) Wood. We apologize for this error, which was due to a mistaken transliteration of Dr. Wood’s name in the Hebrew article reviewed.