April 8 – 2015

During the week covered by this review, we received 25 articles on the following subjects:

  •     Christian Holidays
  •     Jewish Holidays
  •     Anti-Missionary Activity
  •     Anti-Semitism
  •     Jewish–Christian Relations
  •     Tourism
  •     Christianity
  •     History
  •     Miscellaneous
  •     Archaeology

Christian Holidays

Haaretz; The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2015

Many Christians marked Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, March 29th, some by carrying palm branches in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Jewish Holidays

Yediot Eilat, April 3, 2015

This article covers some of the non-traditional ways people choose to celebrate the Passover Seder, such as a meal at the pools at the Dolphin Reef in Eilat; at the Eilat Chabad Center, or even by the light of the full moon on the banks of the Jordan. But of particular interest is the Seder to be held at the Shelter hostel in Eilat by John and Judy Pex, which will integrate a traditional Seder and the Christian belief that this was the night of Jesus’ Last Supper, and will therefore include a communion service as well as encouraging participants’ thoughts. Some fifty people will be present, including Eilat residents, Messianic Jews, asylum-seekers, and even a Druze.

Anti-Missionary Activity

HaShavua B’Yerushalayim; Kol Ha’Ir Bnei Brak, March 25; Sha’a Tova; HaShavua B’Holon Bat Yam, March 26; HaMevaser, HaShavua B’Petach Tikva, March 27, 2015

The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim has recently sent a letter to every religious Knesset member, urging them to do all in their power to correct the “Missions Law.” This law, as it stands at present, forbids any missionary activity among minors, as well as missionary activity which “includes any kind of benefit.” Yad L’Achim is convinced not only that this law is not sufficiently enforced, but that many families in financial difficulty end up being easier targets for missionary activity.

The solution proposed by Yad L’Achim is to make missionary activity of any sort illegal, which would “stop the anomalous situation in which missionaries can do as they please in the Land of Israel.”

HaShavua B’Yerushalayim, April 1; HaMevaser, April 2, 2015

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot’s bureau, having received a letter from Yad L’Achim complaining formally about missionary activity during an International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) event honoring soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge, has responded that the incident is being investigated “in order to prevent its recurrence.” However, Yad L’Achim emphasizes the lack of response to other incidents mentioned in the letter, particularly the activities of the “infamous missionary” Yaakov Damkani, who “preaches to soldiers without anyone stopping him.”


Yated Ne’eman, April 3, 2015

This article recounts how Passover has historically been a time when the blood libel appeared [according to the blood libel, Jews would kidnap a Christian child, drain its body of blood, and use this blood in the baking of matzah]. The article mentions the libel in 1149 in Norwich (England), the libel in 1171 in Blois (France), the libel in 1235 in Fulda (Germany), the libel in 1255 in Lincoln (England), the libel in 1288 in Troas (Spain), the libel in 1348-1349 in Basle (Switzerland—Jews were accused of poisoning wells, thereby causing the Black Death), the libel in 1475 in Trento (Italy), the libel in 1840 in Damascus (Syria), and the libel in 1911 in Kiev (Ukraine).

Although various measures were occasionally taken by the authorities to prevent this phenomenon, none were entirely successful, and in some of the above cases Jews suffered pogroms or died at the stake.

Jewish–Christian Relations

The Jerusalem Post, March 31, 2015

This article is a response to an article titled “US magazine claims PM ‘burned his bridges’ with black Democrats” (The Jerusalem Post, March 29), which said that members of the Congressional Black Caucus “equated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Election Day remarks about Arab voters with discrimination against American blacks.”

Steve Berger opposes this opinion, and states that “we Jews are the ‘blacks’ of the Middle East”; people such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Jeremiah Wright “worship a Jewish West Bank ‘settler’ who lived in the land 600 years before the Arab invasion”; Jesus “never met a Palestinian or heard a word of Arabic”; Arab law “forbids Jews from residing in Jordan and Saudi Arabia”; and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas “has assured the world that any Palestine will be judenrein.” On the other hand, Israel is “the only country in the Mideast that extends full democracy to Arabs.”

Makor Rishon, April 3, 2015

Kenneth Meshoe of South Africa, a member of parliament and member of the International Christian Embassy, is emphatically opposed to the idea that Israel is an apartheid state. “As a black who lived under apartheid, I know that there is no connection between it and Israel, where all citizens are equal,” says Meshoe. He opposed the South African government’s decision to cool relations with Israel out of identification with the Palestinians, and called this decision “hypocritical” due to the ignoring of Christian persecution in Muslim countries. Meshoe went on to state that many among the South African public in fact support Israel, and that those who wish to advance boycotts do so out of ignorance and because they have been “brainwashed.”


Segula, February 27, 2015

Although Jericho has been closed to Israeli visitors since 1993, a certain easing of these restrictions has allowed Jews in once again (although entrance must still be with military permission).

The most conspicuous sight is the 10,000-year-old Neolithic tower built of thousands of clay bricks. Second in interest is Elisha’s spring, which flows all year and is the secret of Jericho’s agricultural success. One may also ascend to the Karantal Monastery (marking the location of Jesus’ temptation in the desert after 40 days of fasting) on the cliffs overlooking the city either on foot or by cable car. The architectural complexity of the Hasmonean palaces and the beautiful ornamentation of the Hisham palace are intriguing to visitors as well.

Ha’Ir Kol Ha’Ir, March 27, 2015

This article lists various exhibitions currently to be found in museums in Jerusalem, such as those at the Wohl Museum of Archaeology; the Yad VaShem Museum; the Israel Museum; the Skirball Museum of Archaeology; the Tower of David Museum; the Rockefeller Museum of Archaeology; the Ariel Center for the 1st Temple History of Jerusalem; the memorial site at Ammunition Hill; and the National Library.

Ha’Ir Kol Ha’Ir, March 27, 2015

This article lists a number of walking tours of interest in Jerusalem, such as Yad Ben Tzvi’s tours of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and a tour following poet Natan Alterman’s life; Beit Shmuel’s tour of various Greek monasteries in the Old City; and tour guide Efrat Assaf’s tour of the Old City in light of Passion Week and Easter.

HaMevaser, March 27, 2015

The Israel Museum, which is marking its jubilee this year, is currently hosting a variety of intriguing Passover related exhibits. These include various religious articles used in the Passover Seder, such as medieval Haggadahs; the Rehov inscription regarding shmitta; the recently discovered Second Temple era menorah medallion; and especially the 2,000-square-meter model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period.

Ruach Tzevet, April 3, 2015

This article details different sites of interest to be found on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It begins with the archaeological site at Magdala, most of the history of which can be found in Josephus Flavius’ The Jewish Wars. It continues with the Minim ruins, where visitors can see the ruins of an Umayyad palace. Continuing onwards one finds the Nukayeb Syrian outpost—a relic of the pre-1967 border—and the Pilots’ Memorial, to the memory of two Ottoman airplane pilots who crashed on the way to Jerusalem in 1914. The last site to be mentioned is the Arbel Valley, the location of Nebi Shu’ayeb’s tomb, the holiest site for the Druze community in Israel.


Segula, February 27, 2015

This eight-page article is an in-depth survey of the Christian history of Jericho. It makes particular mention of Kasr-al-Yahud, where tradition locates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan; the capture of Jericho in the book of Joshua and how this emphasizes the importance of faith; Rahab’s faith and her mention in Jesus’ genealogy; Zacchaeus; the healing of Bartimaeus; how Eusebius of Caesarea’s Onomastikon located Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim near Jericho, and how the conflicting traditions regarding this were depicted in the Medeba map; Jesus’ temptation in the desert; Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb; and Elisha’s spring.


Haaretz, March 27, 2015

This article recounts the forced baptism of two Jewish children in Rome on March 27, 1639.

Apparently, the children’s father, Prospero di Tullio, had been conversing with a Dominican friar earlier in 1639. The friar had suggested that Tullio hand over one of the children to the church, and that the child would be well cared for and the pope would serve as his godfather. According to several witnesses Tullio agreed, but “immediately afterward claimed that he had only been joking.” He was informed that it was too late, and that he was obligated to provide a child. Tullio, on his part, refused, even after the matter had been referred to the Holy Office [also known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition] and to Pope Urban VIII, and Remedio Albani, then-rector of the House of the Catechumens for Jewish and Muslim converts to Christianity, seized not one, but both children. They were baptized the following Sunday at the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, despite significant Jewish unrest in the city.


BaKehila, April 1, 2015

Former Polish priest Romwald Waszkinel is in fact Jacob Wexler, adopted during the Second World War. His first Jewish memory is from age five, when two drunk men shouted “Little Jew” at him and cursed him; at the time he didn’t know what a Jew was. He went through a period of atheism in high school, and in the end decided to become a priest. He learned about World War II–era German racism and the Final Solution while studying philosophy at the Sorbonne. Wexler realized his possible Jewish identity when he found a cemetery in France where not one person had died before 1940.

Eventually Wexler was able to find out from his Polish mother that his Jewish father had been the village tailor and that he had had a brother named Shmuel, who were both killed. His internal struggle continued for the next 15 years, until he found—through a survivors’ organization—someone from his home town who had known his father. He also found an uncle and aunt who were living in Netanya.

Wexler was eventually able to make aliyah to Israel, and while applying for membership in the Sdeh Eliyahu kibbutz he was required to choose between Judaism and Christianity. Wexler chose Judaism and spent five years in the kibbutz learning about Judaism and Hebrew. He now lives in an assisted living facility in Jerusalem and works at the Yad VaShem archives. His Polish parents’ names are engraved in the memorial wall to Gentiles from the nations who gave their lives to save Jews.

Yediot Yerushalayim, April 3, 2015

12-year-old Michelle Dridzo of the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem recently won the first prize in the national sermon competition. She had previously not been outspoken about her beliefs, other than wearing a cross, but her sermon spoke about the fact that her parents are Christian and her grandfather Jewish, and about how much she loves the land and its traditions. “Today, as I enter adolescence, I can say with maturity and interest who and what I am,” said Dridzo in her sermon.


Segula, February 27, 2015

This nine-page article surveys various issues in Jewish history in the vicinity of Jericho. It pays particular attention to the ancient synagogue at Naaran, located near the springs in the north of the Jericho valley and known from Jewish and Christian Byzantine-era writings, and to the ancient synagogue in Jericho.

The synagogue at Naaran, dated to the sixth century CE, is built on a high, visible point; its entrance is from the north and it points south. Its most notable feature is its mosaic floor with a menorah at the entrance, some ornamental animals, two more menorahs near the ark, a wheel depicting the signs of the Zodiac, and ten inscriptions, two of which are in Hebrew.

The “Peace on Israel” synagogue in Jericho is dated to the middle of the seventh century CE, and was destroyed some 100 years later. Its entrance is from the north, and it points to the southwest. It too has a beautiful mosaic floor, with a dominant medallion and holy ark motif, but it is unique in that there are no figures depicted. The name “Peace on Israel” comes from the inscription in the floor near the medallion. Another inscription, found at the entrance to the sanctuary, is a dedication prayer in Aramaic.

Both Jewish communities were destroyed in the earthquake of 749 CE.

Galileo Tza’ir, April 1, 2015

This article is a reiteration of the story regarding the finding of some 2,000 dinar, half-dinar, and quarter dinar gold coins in the ancient port of Caesarea. The coins have been dated to the Fatimid dynasty (circa 1000 CE). Archaeologists at the Unit for Maritime Archaeology at the Israel Antiquities Authority surmise that the coins were on a ship that sank off the port, and that the money may have been taxes sent to the central government in Egypt, salaries for the military unit stationed in Caesarea at the time, or the property of a merchant. Some of the coins showed tooth marks, evidence that they had been suspected of being counterfeit.

The oldest coin found in the treasure was minted in Palermo in the 9th century CE. The majority of the coins date from 996 to 1036 CE, and were minted in Egypt and North Africa.

Caesarea appears to have flourished during the Fatimid period, in spite of the bad condition of the Herodian port; the article quotes travelers such as Al-Muqadasi (ca. 958), who declared that “there is no city as beautiful [as Caesarea],” and Nasir Khusraw, who declared Caesarea to be “a good city, abundant in dates, oranges, lemons, and running water” upon visiting in 1074.