During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
Conversion to Judaism
Kol Raanan, April 22; Kol Israel, May 1; Haaretz; Yated Ne’eman; HaModia; The Jerusalem Post; Israel Hayom, May 3, 2015
A “mass conversion event,” planned by the non-profit Jehovah’s Witnesses Mitzpe L’Israel organization to take place in Ra’anana, was held in the city on Saturday, May 2. Hundreds demonstrated outside the hall, and two men who refused to respond to police instructions forbidding them to enter the building were detained and taken from the scene. “This was an awesome occasion of sanctification of God’s name, the like of which the city has not seen,” said Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, Ra’anana’s city rabbi, who went on to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the event to take place.
The event, recently the center of a legal battle, had originally been planned for Saturday, April 18, but was postponed and then canceled due to stiff objections from the anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim, religious Ra’anana city council members, and residents of the city. Mitzpe L’Israel petitioned the district court in Lod and then the Supreme Court on the matter; the final decision given was that the event must be allowed to take place, since canceling it constituted an infringement “on the petitioner’s constitutional right to freedom of religion and assembly.”
HaChayim HaTovim—Club 50, May 5, 2015
The article begins by introducing the history of the Christ Church compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, how it was originally founded by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, and how the bishop who dedicated the church was Michael Shlomo Alexander, a Jew who converted to Christianity. It tells how the other Anglican works in Jerusalem, such as craft shops and a hospital, only caused some 600 Jews to convert, but notes that this was the beginning of the Messianic Jewish movement, which allowed Jews who believe in Jesus to keep their Jewish identity. The article goes on to describe how today, some 10 Messianic congregations operate in the Jerusalem area, one of which is in Yad HaShmona, and another in Ma’ale Adumim. It says that the community numbers some 10,000 in all of Israel.
Messianic Jews believe in Jesus as the Son of God and redeemer of the world, according to “hints they bring from the Tanakh which came true in the New Testament.” They do “baptize themselves,” but also circumcise their children, keep the Jewish feasts, fast on Yom Kippur, and eat matzah at Passover. They are strongly connected to Israel and Jerusalem. For example, most of their children study in public schools and serve in the army.
However, the aggressive activity of some, as well as their “lack of transparency” (such as the use of “friends” instead of “believers,” “shepherd” instead of “priest,” and “congregation” instead of “church”), cause the Israeli public to “react towards them with suspicion” and “increase the religious public’s fears that these are none other than ‘soul-hunters.’”
The article takes care to mention that the Messianic Jewish community is not homogeneous, as there is no umbrella organization, no structured public prayer services, and no common textbook—to say nothing of different interpretations of Scripture and differing opinions on “who Jesus is exactly” among the members of the community. It also mentions Moshav Yad HaShmona specifically as a positive example of a place where “Messianic Jews have integrated well in Israeli society”: the residents have a “deep Jewish identity,” some of them act as tour guides, the children want to serve in elite IDF units, and they do not engage in missionary activity.
Haaretz, May 1; The Jerusalem Post, May 4, 2015
In his article (see the previous Media Review), Peter Beinart states that although US conservatives tend to support Israel because of theology, this is not at all the entire story. Conservatives also support Israel because it is on the front lines facing the US’s current existential foe; in a similar way, conservatives supported South Vietnam, Poland, Taiwan and Georgia in previous years. However, conservatives also support Israel because Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks that “the only problem with American power is that it isn’t wielded self-confidently enough”; therefore, conservatives think that he, and Israel, “represent the America that they fear is slipping away.”
In The Jerusalem Post, Ruthie Blum responds to Beinart in an article, saying that while Beinart is “bemoaning these words,” she herself supports them and “cheers at their justice.”
Kolbo, May 1, 2015
As part of International Museum Day (May 7), the public was able to enter some 65 museums all over Israel free of charge and see several intriguing exhibitions. For example, the National Maritime Museum in Haifa is holding an exhibition on Greek mythology, the Haifa City Museum is holding an exhibition on European porcelain, and the Hecht Museum, also in Haifa, is holding an exhibition on biblical archaeology. “Education and exhibitions on archaeology, design, art, ecology, history, and culture teach us lessons we can implement for our existing society,” says Dorit Wolenitz, head of the Association of Museums in Israel.
Conversion to Judaism
Matzav HaRuach, May 1, 2015
Six residents of Sicily, descended from Jews who converted to Christianity during the Spanish Expulsion, have recently converted to back Judaism in Milan. They are the first of the community, who have been Catholic until now, to do so, but in fact had heard about their background for generations.
The Jewish presence in Sicily is some 2,000 years old; some surmise that the first Jews came to the island as slaves after the destruction of the Second Temple.
HaShevet HaShishi, April 3, 2015
This is the fourth year that a group of fourth-grade children from the Nofit school in the Haifa area have visited the Carmelite convent at Stella Maris. The children, who had previously read the novel Abduction from the Convent by Ora Morag, were able to meet the nuns and hear about Jews who were saved by Christian churches in Europe during World War II. The nuns also spoke of the value of human life, regardless of “religion, race or gender,” and the children showed knowledge of the subjects.
Israel Post, May 5, 2015
The recent MIPTV television fair in Cannes is remarkable for a few different reasons. One is that four planned television series with biblical themes were presented; one of these is to be produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator). Several Israeli television producers were conspicuous on the scene: Nadav Palti of Dori Media, with his advertisement of Israeli and South American film products; Avi Armoza, one of the leading marketers of Israeli television formats; but particularly Yossi Uzrad of Yasmine TV, with his new Dog Channel geared to help dogs with separation anxiety and depression while their owners are away.
The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2015
The left-wing Emek Shaveh organization and the right-wing Elad Foundation are currently in conflict over the management of a tunnel being excavated, which leads from the Silwan parking lot to the Western Wall. Emek Shaveh’s position is that no private organization should operate on an archaeological site, especially one with a political agenda and especially on a site of such importance, and that the management should therefore be returned to the state. Elad’s position on the matter is that Emek Shaveh’s allegations are unjustified, since they “seek to undermine Israel’s right to excavate within the City of David” and, moreover, that the excavation is being carried out with the highest scientific standards.