March 8 – 2015

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

  •     Christian Sites
  •     Christians in Israel
  •     Jewish–Christian Relations
  •     Archaeology
  •     Film Reviews
  •     Jewish Holidays
  •     History
  •     Miscellaneous

Christian Sites

Haaretz, March 3, 2015

Mary’s Well, a site visited by hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, may be in danger, caution some Jerusalem residents and Catholic and Russian Orthodox clerics. Investments Limited, an entrepreneurial company, has planned an hotel, the foundation of which requires digging into the cliff from which the spring flows. Dr. Gavriel Weinberger, head of the Israel Hydrological Service, has warned that “construction could definitely endanger the spring” since digging might divert it. The issue remains contested at the National Planning and Building Council.

Christians in Israel

Makor Rishon, March 6, 2015

Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, known for being one of the founders of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum (ICRF), has long been known as one of the most outspoken supporters of Israel among the Israeli Christian community. However, since October 2012, Nadaf has been subject to numerous threats to his life and his person, particularly from members of the Arab community in Israel. In May 2014, a YouTube video was produced that calls for Nadaf and Captain (res.) Shadi Khalloul, the ICRF’s spokesman, to be assassinated.

That same month, the Knesset Interior Committee held a meeting where representatives of the police and the State Attorney’s office were asked to explain their actions in the matter. The police explained that “having completed their investigation of seven files regarding incitement to violence, they transferred these files to the State Attorney’s office.” The Ministry of Justice representative, speaking for the State Attorney’s office, explained that “the decision was delayed due to the complicated nature of the complaints.” One week after the Knesset committee conference an additional letter demanding an indictment was sent by Nadaf’s attorneys, but to date, a year after the material was transferred for legal action, no such action has taken place. Nadaf and the other threatened ICRF members have complained to the Commission for Inspection of the State Prosecution, saying that the absence of a decision is contributing to the danger Father Nadaf is in, and citing additional, more complicated cases where a decision had been reached more quickly. “I don’t feel we are being treated justly,” said Nadaf to Makor Rishon, “particularly due to the fact that we are walking in a new path and advancing an important historic step for the country and the Christian community.” Nadaf went on to say that the advancement made by the ICRF regarding recruitment may be eroded because of the lack of action in his case. Nadaf additionally said that “he is close to concluding that all the official words regarding Christian integration are, in fact, mere words.” He has consulted with an attorney and appears to be preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court against the State Attorney’s office.

MK Miri Regev, chairperson of the Knesset Interior Committee, is well aware of the threats against Nadaf. She is convinced that the core of the problem is that the law enforcement entities “aren’t doing enough against the Arab members of Knesset ‘who are inciting against the State of Israel.’” “In a democracy with an elected government, no one is above the law,” said Regev.

The State Attorney’s office and the police have both stated in response that the threats against Nadaf are being investigated with due attention by special designated teams. The State Attorney’s office stated that some of the files were closed due to evidentiary problems, others due to difficulty in determining the likelihood of actual action, and others were returned to the police for their continued analysis and investigation. The police have stated that the protection level already granted to Nadaf is “sufficient to answer the threat” and that files are reviewed “according the threat level at the relevant time.”

Jewish–Christian Relations

Haaretz, February 27, 2015

Jewish–Christian relations remain multifaceted, particularly after last week’s attack on a Greek Orthodox seminary (see the March 3, 2015, Media Review). However, a group of Israelis have recently united to repair Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cemeteries on Mount Zion. The first project, sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, is taking place in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion. The volunteers in the group range “from religious Israeli Jews to overseas Christians studying here,” and students from a military academy will soon be joining the group as well. The work consists of tending the greenery and documenting the graves; the gravestones that had been damaged have been repaired by Circassian master masons from northern Israel. The next sites to be repaired are Mount Zion’s Muslim cemetery and the Sambursky Jewish Cemetery, also on Mount Zion. After the work is finished, a tourist route is planned for the area. “We’re doing this to rescue Israel’s honor,” said architect Gil Gordon, the project’s overseer, “so they’ll know there are also people who care.”


Shavshevet, February 18, 2015

This article describes a variety of sites to be seen at this time all over the southern half of Israel. Of particular note is the Archaeological Garden in Jerusalem, with its spectacular Second Temple–era remains.

Ha’Ir Kol Ha’Ir, February 27, 2015

A variety of museums in Jerusalem are currently housing exciting exhibitions. Among them are the renovated Herzl Museum; the Wohl Museum of Archaeology, housing the oldest engraving of the temple menorah; the Yad VaShem Museum; the Israel Museum’s exhibition of the golden treasure found at the foot of the Temple Mount; the Museum of Islamic Art; and the Rockefeller Museum of Archaeology’s exhibition of both ancient artifacts and modern art.

Film Reviews

The Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2015

The film Shades of Truth premiered at Vatican City on March 2; it depicts Pope Pius XII as a savior of Jews. Pope Pius XII has remained a controversial character, called by some “Hitler’s pope,” but the Vatican has stated that Pius in fact “worked behind the scenes to save Jews.”

An editorial in the online publication Pagine Ebraiche is extremely critical of the film, saying, “The Vatican archives are still closed, but at least Catholic cinema gives us one more fiction to rewrite history.”

Jewish Holidays

The Jerusalem Post, March 5, 2015

This article analyzes the reactions and responses Purim and the Book of Esther have received throughout history. It particularly notes, as issues drawing either support or criticism, the fact that the main characters in the story are Jews; that there is only one mention of the story in the New Testament (Mark 6:22–23); that Jerome thought Esther and Mordecai were symbols of the church and Jesus; that Luther opposed the Book of Esther due to its “heathen unnaturalities”; that Esther was the only book not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls; and that there is no mention of the name of God in the book. The article resolves this issue by emphasizing both the point of the story—that evil was defeated—as well as the principle of “human beings being able to live quietly without fear or molestation.”


Haaretz, March 2, 2015

On March 2, 1349, the Jewish community of Erfurt in Germany was massacred. The number of massacre victims is estimated to be between 100 and 1,000; in some cases victims preferred to kill their families, set fire to their homes, and commit suicide rather than fall into the hands of rioters. In 1357, Jews were permitted to return to Erfurt, and the community eventually became noted for its rabbinic scholarship.

Centuries later, important Jewish artifacts—particularly what is now known as the Erfurt treasure—were found. The most important of these was the oldest known manuscript of the Tosefta (a post-Mishnaic compilation of Oral Law), together with 16 other scrolls and manuscripts, which were found in 1879 in an Augustinian monastery in the town. In 1998, a collection of objects made of precious metals was found buried beneath a wall; the majority of these were some 3,000 silver coins, dated to the 14th century and earlier, a gold wedding ring inscribed with the words “Mazal Tov” [“good luck” or “congratulations” in Hebrew], and a “hexagonal tower than may be meant to depict the temple in Jerusalem.”

The synagogue building changed hands many times over the centuries, serving as a dance hall, a bowling alley, and a warehouse. It has since been bought by the city and restored, and opened as a museum of Erfurt’s Jewry in 2009.


Haaretz, March 1, 2015

Texas A&M University is considering establishing a campus in Nazareth, due to pressure from donors to open a campus in Israel along with the existing campus in the Persian Gulf. The location decided upon was Nazareth, so as to aid Arabs in entering the Israeli job market.

The authorities in Nazareth are anxious for the campus to be in operation. However, the Committee for Higher Education is extremely cautious about granting the necessary permits because many colleges and higher education institutions have failed in recent years. The planned A&M campus, being private, is therefore being required to prove its “long-term academic and financial viability.” Additionally, the degrees granted there will be considered Israeli only if the campus operates in partnership with, or under the auspices of, a recognized Israeli institution.