March 31 – 2015

During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:

  •     Christians in Israel
  •     Christian Zionism
  •     Political Issues
  •     Christians and the Holocaust
  •     Conversion to Judaism
  •     Tourism
  •     Business
  •     Miscellaneous
  •     Archaeology

Christians in Israel

Israel Hayom, March 22, 2015

Father Gabriel Nadaf of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, congratulating him on his victory in the elections and saying that he is certain “that the state will act to integrate the Christian community in the society and the country.”

Christian Zionism

Chadashot Haifa VeHaTzafon, March 18, 2015

This article reiterates the story (March 24, 2015, Media Review) about a group of Israel-loving Christians headed by Jamie and Neil Lash of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, visiting the maternity ward of the Bnei Zion Medical Center. The group gave a contribution toward an emergency room with reinforced walls, as well as gifts to the new mothers. The hospital CEO, Dr. Amnon Rofeh, the head of the maternity department, Dr. Shlomi Sagi, and the department staff thanked the Lashes for “their support and dedication to the hospital.” The “exciting ceremony” was led by Keren Kabiri, head of the hospital friends association.

This is the sixth consecutive year in which a group led by the Lashes visited the hospital.

The Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2015

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the “Finnish Route” for aliyah from Russia. The anniversary was marked when the second group of immigrants this year (30 people) arrived in Finland, were hosted by Finnish Christian volunteers, and then flew to Israel.

Over these 25 years the route has assisted some 20,000 immigrants in coming to Israel. The logistics are currently coordinated jointly by the St. Petersburg branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) and the Finnish Exodus Committee (Neliapila). Howard Flower, the director for aliyah at the ICEJ St. Petersburg branch, said that an additional reason the route was kept open was “to provide a backup option for immigrants in case of turmoil in Russia, similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

The Jewish Agency began cooperating with the Finnish Route’s operation in 1996.

Political Issues

Liberal, March 23, 2015

This article is an opinion piece on the average Israeli voter’s opinion of US–Israel relations. The article states that voters have been taught to take the “special relations” between Israel and the United States for granted, and that even if a particular US president might act differently, the American public still loves Israel. Relations with the US are the “security policy” that “stands between a hostile world” and Israel. “Believing that the US always was and always will be on Israel’s side is part of a defense mechanism,” and so the average voter will “repress, deny, or unnecessarily blame the American President without the need or ability to analyze the US’s interests or Israel’s behavior.”

Christians and the Holocaust

Mishpacha, March 19, 2015

This five-page article is a short biography of Aristides de Sousa Mendes (do Amaral e Abranches), the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who defied the Salazar regime’s instructions by issuing thousands of transit visas to Jews escaping France during World War II. In conversation with Rabbi Chaim Kruger, the chief rabbi of Antwerp who had escaped with his children, Mendes said, “I prefer to be on God’s side against man, rather than being on man’s side against God.”

Musicologist Dr. Olivia Mattis – whose family was rescued by Mendes – discovered after contacting his grandchildren that as a result of his actions Mendes was immediately recalled to Lisbon, tried behind closed doors, dismissed from the diplomatic service, and deprived of his pension and law license. Mendes’s children were ostracized in their own country, and Mendes himself died in penury in 1954. His will to his family was that they should attempt to clear his name. Mattis, astounded at Mendes’s fate, decided to found the Sousa Mendes Foundation for the preservation of Mendes’s legacy. This foundation is currently operated both by members of Mendes’s family and by survivors’ descendants.

After a long struggle, Mendes’s name has been cleared. In 1987, then-president Mario Soares issued a formal apology to Mendes’s family and awarded him the Order of Liberty; in 1988, the Portuguese parliament voted unanimously to restore Mendes to the Portuguese diplomatic corps; in 1994, Soares raised a statue to Mendes in Bordeaux. The Mendes foundation has continued attempting to find the descendants of those saved by the consul, particularly their escape routes, with a view to founding a museum in memory of Mendes’s legacy. “My father said that his parents made the decision to ignore orders together,” said Gerald Mendes, the consul’s grandson; “they never had one moment of regret.” The consul himself, when asked shortly before his death how he viewed his wartime actions, said, “If thousands of Jews are suffering because of one Christian [Hitler], surely one Christian may suffer for so many Jews.”

Mendes was honored by Yad VaShem in 1966 as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Conversion to Judaism

Makor Rishon, March 27, 2015

This article analyzes the issue of conversion to Judaism and its treatment by local Israeli rabbinical authorities. It tell the story of Michael and Anna (false names), who married in 2010 in a Jewish ceremony. Over the course of time Anna was discovered not to be Jewish. The couple divorced due to other circumstances, but a daughter had already been born, and has been attending a Christian kindergarten. Michael is concerned about the Jewish status of his daughter, and is seeking permission to have her converted as a minor, thus eliminating the three years’ study she would need were she to convert as an adult. This would also provide the proof of Jewish identity the daughter would need should she eventually wish to marry in a Jewish ceremony herself.

This proof of Jewish identity is requested of people who were not married by a recognized rabbi, or who wish to divorce. It is a complicated, thorny issue, as an estimated 20-30 percent of people who convert are in fact Jewish, but unable to prove this. The article also quotes the opinions of other authorities from non-profit organizations concerned with this issue, such as NPOs Tzohar and Itim, who say that the process of proving Jewish identity “must be done professionally and in a friendly manner” (Rabbi David Stav of Tzohar), and that “if the halacha [Jewish religious law] is before our eyes, then the decision of the rabbinical court must be accepted” (Adv. Elad Kaplan from Itim).


Globes, March 26, 2015

In this article, Gili Matza describes Ethiopia with its 280 ethnic groups and 86 languages. Of particular interest is Gondar, Ethiopia’s former capital, with its monumental palaces and fortresses and the Debre Berhan Selassie church, with its beautiful frescos of biblical scenes; Volaka village, home to the Beita Israel Ethiopian Jewish community before most of them emigrated to Israel; and the Simien Mountains National Park, with its many singular local species.

Matza also makes particular mention of Tikkun Empowerment Network’s (TEN) service in Ethiopia, where her daughter is serving as a volunteer, and the organization for women in Volaka, which trains single mothers in traditional Jewish Ethiopian crafts in order to provide them with a livelihood.


The Jerusalem Post, March 22, 2015

This op-ed article by Kevin M. Kruse states that the United States was conceived as a Christian nation only in the 1930s and ’40s (rather than by the founding fathers), when the precarious financial situation demanded decisive action and corporate leaders “presented capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity” and “clergy were recruited as spokesmen” due to “their ability to mold public opinion more than any other profession.” The article makes particular mention of Rev. Billy Graham’s “zealous support of corporate interests” in the early 1950s, and goes on to mention the “consecrations” and establishment of prayer meetings in Washington during that time, which all joined together to convince the population that the US “was and had always been a Christian nation.”


Israel Hayom, March 27, 2015

92-year-old Sara Wolff serves as the president of her family’s Aviv Matza Company, in existence since 1887. She arrives at work every day at 08:00, rather than at 06:00, as in the past, so as to spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the morning. One of her grandsons serves as the company’s vice-president; the company is one of the main companies in the matza market, and has been preparing for Passover since Sukkot (more recently in three shifts) so as to be able to supply the need.


Shavshevet, March 11, 2015

This article reiterates the story from two weeks ago (March 17, 2015) about three members of the Israeli Caving Club who recently discovered a cache of silver and bronze items in a stalactite cave in the north of Israel. The coins date to the Wars of the Diadochi, and were found in a cloth sack. Archaeologists surmise that the cache may have been hidden by people who escaped to the cave to avoid danger. Evidence of human habitation from 5,000-6,000 years ago was found in the cave as well.

Officials from the Israel Antiquities Authority surmise that “this is one of the most important discoveries in the north during the past few years.” The IAA wishes to keep the location of the cave a secret in order to prevent damage to the stalactites and archaeological remains. Additionally, gaps and hidden passageways in the cave pose a danger to the untrained.

Amir Ganor, head of the Unit for Prevention of Theft in the IAA, said that the three hikers showed “exemplary conduct” in the alacrity with which they called the IAA to the scene.