During the week covered by this review, we received 22 articles on the following subjects:
Chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef have published a letter calling for a boycott of the International Christian Embassy’s annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration (see previous review). While the letter admits that “the organizers of the gathering may be friends of Israel,” it says that in fact “the event is a spiritual danger and undermines the country’s Jewish character.” Other elements of the Jewish Orthodox community, together with representatives of the Yad L’Achim anti-missionary activist organization, met with Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi Aryeh Stern, who presented letters he had received both from the ICEJ, stating that since its founding the embassy had never done any missionary activity nor broken Israeli law, and from the Jerusalem municipality, stating that the event is entirely private, and that the organizers have promised a complete lack of missionary activity. An objection has been raised to the mention of Messianic Jews in the ICEJ’s letters, however, saying that the term is “dishonest verbal camouflage for a Jewish apostate who has converted to Christianity.”
The Feast of Tabernacles (some of whose private attendees are pondering the controversial “blood moon prophecy”) is a five-day event expressing support of Israel, and includes tours of the country and its institutions. The gathering was addressed on September 29 by President Rivlin. For the first time this year, the Feast of Tabernacles was attended by delegates from Egypt and Iraq, as well as a delegation of 25 members of parliament from Ivory Coast. “The thousands of Christian tourists who come to Israel come from different cultural backgrounds, but they are united in one thing: their love for Israel. This is a fact to be remembered, also when Israel is under international criticism,” stated Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ’s executive director. Bühler’s statement was supported by many of the Christian attendees at the Jerusalem March on Thursday, October 1, who added that they “identify with Israel’s struggle as a nation for survival,” believe that BDS is “hypocritical and nonsensical,” and that when coming to Israel annually to attend the march, they feel “like a bird coming home.”
The ICEJ is also known for its work in providing assistance to Holocaust survivors in Haifa.
The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2015
This article on the Bridges for Peace organization particularly surveys its goal to “build ties between Christian and Jews,” since “for many there is a cognitive dissonance between reading the Bible and understanding that the ancient Israelites are the Jews of today.”
Bridges for Peace is well known for its Jerusalem food bank and house repair program. “It is important to love what God loves,” states the organization’s website.
Israel Hayom, September 30, 2015
The annual conference of parliamentarians supporting Israel begun on September 29, at the initiative of the international lobby Israel Allies Foundation, and the main subject this year is the European Union’s recent decision to mark products coming from Israeli settlements. The European Parliament representative, Bas Belder of the Netherlands, stated that the decision is “unilateral, and demoralizing to the sides which support understanding between nations,” and stated as well that “this year Israel faces a number of deadly enemies.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2015
This article is of the opinion that Hispanic Americans are “the reinforcement that Israel’s defenders in the US need,” particularly as the group’s political and societal strength is growing. Some Jewish groups have been working on providing pro-Israel advocacy tools in Spanish, but the strongest bridge appears likely to be the possibility of Jewish descent for many of them. This is borne out by genetic research carried out in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Mexico, positing that a possible 15% of American Hispanics have some degree of Jewish descent. The article notes the founding of such organizations as the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition and the statements of Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Pastor Guillermo Maldonado, and ends by calling upon Israel “to grasp the Hispanic hand of friendship.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2015
A festive atmosphere could be felt in the Western Wall plaza as some 50,000 people from Israel and around the world gathered on Wednesday, September 30, for the recitation of the Priestly Blessing. Whether Christians coming to bless Israel or Jews coming to celebrate Succot, the attendees quoted by the article felt no hesitation in coming, despite the warnings of possible unrest. Some were even able to enter the Temple Mount.
Haaretz, October 2, 2015
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has decided to award a 10-acre plot of land along Route 60 to the Gush Etzion bloc. The purpose of the land appears unclear, as renovation of the existing buildings is in progress. This gives rise to the suspicion that it is planned to turn the compound into a residential area, but the avowed purpose is to build a hostel to accommodate Jews, Christians, and Muslims traveling in the area.
The compound had been owned by the Presbyterian Church until 2008.
Haaretz, September 27, 2015
This article is a survey of vacation costs for independent tourists, in light of the World Economic Forum’s opinion that vacation costs in Israel are the sixth highest in the world, particularly for accommodation and food. Surprisingly, however, the prices do not keep people from coming to Israel, as they have different expectations from their home countries, although with the higher price they do generally expect better service.
Olam Katan, September 18, 2015
On September 9, a group of 23 rabbis, gathering at David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, appear to have put on trial US President Obama, Pope Francis, and the five world powers signed on the treaty with Iran. Rabbi Israel Ariel, one of the court members, told Olam Katan that although the move is “a collection of evidence rather than a trial in the traditional sense,” it is in response to the command in Numbers 10:9 to “sound the alarm with trumpets,” as “the sounds heard in the world today are the same as were heard before World War II” and “the one who wishes to present their neck for the slaughter brings a holocaust upon himself.”
Hed Ha’Ir-Shephela, September 21, 2015
Rabbis and Jewish community leaders in Europe report that some 70% of the Jewish population habitually hide their faith. This includes keeping away from synagogues on holidays and not sending children to Jewish schools. The Union of Jewish Organizations in Europe presents these statistics as worrying, particularly as the children affected are likely to lose connection with their faith and heritage. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the union’s executive director, has therefore called upon the Israeli government “to strengthen Jewish education in the Diaspora.”
Makor Rishon, October 2, 2015
Many people in Poland have become interested in Jewish culture during recent years. This is particularly evident among university students, making the Jewish studies departments particularly popular. Some have discovered previously unknown Jewish roots, or are beginning to investigate Jewish roots previously uninteresting to them. Others, according to Michael Bilewicz of Warsaw University’s Center for the Research of Prejudice, cite a desire “to distance themselves from anti-Semitism and to find the variety in Poland’s history” as the reason for this burgeoning interest.
The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2015
Samuel and Anne Devasahayam, leaders of the Zion Torah Center of Erode in Tamil Nadu, India, having left their Christian faith, have succeeded in transforming their community from a church to a community which keeps a Jewish lifestyle. Devasahayam’s dream for the community is that they would convert to Judaism, make aliyah to Israel and live in the Negev. As the community has no extensive farming experience, the Devasahayams have purchased some 40 hectares of land which they have turned into a coconut farm, providing members with practical experience to prepare them for farming in the Negev in the future.
Israel Hayom; Haaretz, September 30, 2015
A beautiful 1,500-year-old Byzantine mosaic, depicting a map of the Egyptian town of Churtaso and discovered two years ago in Kiryat Gat during an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation, has now been returned to its original place after having been removed for restoration. Some 17 different kinds of tesserae were used in the mosaic, leading Sa’ar Ganor, one of the IAA archaeologists involved in the excavation, to comment, “The investment of raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel.”
The mosaic was originally made to be the floor of a Byzantine church. As Churtaso is traditionally held to be the burial place of the prophet Habakkuk, the archaeologists “postulate that the depiction may indicate the church congregation’s origin.”
Israel Hayom, October 2, 2015
The archaeological site at Kiryat Arbiyeh, near El Arov in Gush Etzion, has recently been destroyed by Palestinian tractors and bulldozers. A cave with many twisted tunnels at the site is notable for having been a campsite for Bar Kochba’s soldiers during his revolt against the Romans. “The destruction is reminiscent of the actions of IS,” said Yaron Rosenthal, headmaster of the Kfar Etzion Field School.