March 3 – 2015

During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:

  •     Jewish Attitudes Concerning Christians
  •     Anti-Missionary Activity
  •     The Pope and the Vatican
  •     Christians in Israel
  •     Christian Tourism
  •     Miscellaneous
  •     History

Jewish Attitudes Concerning Christians

HaModia; Haaretz; The Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2015

The Greek Orthodox seminary just inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City has recently been the victim of arson. The fire apparently started around 4AM on Thursday, February 26. Firefighters arriving at the scene were able to quench the fire; no injuries were reported, but damage was done to the building. Upon investigation, firefighters discovered hate speech graffiti against Jesus and Mary, as well as the name “Geulat Zion,” a recently evacuated Jewish outpost, sprayed on one of the walls.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat spoke out against the arson, saying, “There is no room for phenomena like this in Jerusalem, they must be taken out at the root and bring the perpetrators to justice.” Barkat stated as well that he “is working closely with the police to expedite the investigation.” President Reuven Rivlin called Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem to express his outrage, and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has denounced the attack as well.

Some 600 price-tag attacks have been recorded in recent years, including vandalism and arson against churches and mosques, and personal harassment against monks in habits.

Anti-Missionary Activity

Yediot Haifa, February 20, 2015

This article reiterates the story from last week’s MR (February 24, 2015) concerning the distribution of Christian material in Haifa, and the anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim’s response to this. The article makes particular mention of vice-mayor of Haifa Rabbi Arieh Blittental’s reaction: “I have called upon the organization Yad L’Achim to help us in defeating this unacceptable phenomenon of attempts to convince Jews to change their religion,” Blittental stated to Yediot Haifa.

The Pope and the Vatican

Yediot Ahronot; Maariv, February 25, 2015

The Israeli painter Rachel Timor has recently met with Pope Francis in Rome. In this meeting Timor presented the pope with her painting of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, painted some 30 years ago as part of a series for a book documenting the land of Israel but remaining unsold. Timor contacted the Vatican, suggesting this gift; Pope Francis has promised that the painting “will be displayed in the Vatican and be added to his own personal collection.”


Christians in Israel

Ha’Ir Kol Ha’Ir, February 27, 2015

On Tuesday morning, February 24, Catholic and Russian Orthodox clerics protested a plan to build a hotel near Mary’s Well in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem by walking in procession from the Russian Compound to the offices of the District Committee for Planning and Construction on Shlomzion Street. The clerics, along with the Ein Kerem Preservation Committee, are objecting to the construction plan due to the possible damage to Mary’s Well, venerated by various Christian denominations as the site where Mary and Elizabeth met when they were both pregnant. The discussion on the subject took several hours, but the Interior Ministry stated in the committee’s name that the discussion will continue after the hydrological report on the property has been reviewed.

The Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2015

Some members of the Israeli Christian community, having been strengthened by the recent government recognition of the Aramean nationality, are using the upcoming March 17 elections to “make their voices heard.” One of these is Shadi Khalloul, who served in the IDF as a paratrooper, was one of the founders of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, and is now running in the Yisrael Beytenu list. The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land has encouraged the country’s Christians to vote as well.

However, others, such as Nathan Sachs of the Brookings Institute, have downplayed this as minor, saying that many Christian Arabs still identify with the larger Palestinian community. Still others have condemned the move, saying that it undermines Arab unity.

Khalloul, however, remains convinced that most Israeli Christians will not vote for the Joint Arab List, since some of its members belong to the Islamic Movement, which, like the Islamic State, “calls for Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state and for it to be a caliphate.” Khalloul stated, “As a Christian, I believe the only way to strengthen Israel at the end of the day is to keep it a Jewish and democratic state that will defend every citizen regardless of their religion, identity, race or sex.”

Christian Tourism

Maariv, February 25; Maariv-Luach Zman Tzafon, February 27, 2015

Slightly more that 3 million tourists visited Israel during 2014, some 200,000 of whom were pilgrims. The Custodia Terrae Sanctae has released some intriguing statistics as well, according to which the United States places first on the list of number of tour groups in 2014 (472 groups), Italy second (358 groups), Brazil third (263 groups), and Indonesia fourth (193 groups in the last quarter of the year alone). It is estimated that some 100,000 additional Protestant and Orthodox pilgrims arrived during this quarter as well. “Visiting the historic holy sites … is an opportunity for the Catholic pilgrims to strengthen their personal faith,” said Fr. Augustin Pelayo, OFM, manager of the Custodia’s visitors’ center.

The Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2015

Nazareth, an important tourist center for northern Israel, offers a variety of sights. For the religious tourist, Nazareth is the location of many churches and monasteries that would “fit in architecturally” in any town in southern Europe. Another site is Nazareth Village, which aims to recreate life in a Jewish village at the time of the Roman Empire, and which boasts a group of actors in period dress “playing the roles of ordinary people.” The non-religious tourist can take a walk through the city’s colorful market, or view some of the impressive mansions built in the town in the 18th and 19th centuries.


BaEmek U’BaRama, February 19, 2015

Amnon Meishar, a member of Kibbutz Degania Bet, currently in his eighties, has taken up trying to prove the truth of the biblical stories. He was greatly influenced by Prof. Adam Zartal, whom he came to know while they were both serving in military reserve duty, and who relates archaeology and the Bible by saying that “even if a biblical incident cannot be proven it doesn’t mean it didn’t take place, but rather that one must go on looking.”

Thus, when an altar built like the temple altar was discovered on Mount Ebal, and many bones of kosher year-old male animals were found nearby, or when the monolith discovered in Kurkh in north Syria mentions Ahab as leading 10,000 foot soldiers and 2,000 chariots against Shalmaneser III of Assyria, Meishar considers these finds to be authentic.

Meishar is familiar with the opinion of the “Tel Aviv School,” which says that if the biblical events took place they were, at most, great exaggerations. However, he says that he has been through the sites for hundreds of hours, and has “filtered things through his logic.” Therefore, even if an event hasn’t yet been proven, there is no reason that it won’t be proven in the future.


HaMevaser, February 20, 2015

This article begins by giving an in-depth survey of the biblical history of Shilo. It continues by describing how, 1,000 years later, an old man told Tanna sage Rabbi Joshua ben Korcha that he once smelled incense at Shilo. The article goes on to describe 20th-century archaeological findings at Tel Shilo, such as evidence of a fire, silver jewelry, many pitchers, a wine press, many animal bones, and, in particular, evidence of quarrying in the dimensions of the biblical tabernacle.

Today, a synagogue whose entrance, walls, and prayer ark are reminiscent of the tabernacle stands at Shilo. Women come from all over the country to pray the “prayer of Hannah” as a blessing for an easy birth.