During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Conversion to Judaism
Maariv; Israel Post; Haaretz, December 6, 2015
The Maariv and Israel Post articles cover the stories of three victims of the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California.
Nicholas Thalasinos (52), a father of two, worked as an inspector in San Bernardino’s health department. Thalasinos was a Messianic Jew who wore a Star of David on his tie and tzitzit [the fringes on the corners of a Jewish prayer shawl]. Thalasinos was acquainted with Syed Farook, the perpetrator of the shooting, and generally had good work relations with him, but another acquaintance of the two reported that Thalasinos had an argument with Farook about politics, religion, and Islam, and that Farook said that “Israel did not belong to the Middle East and was Muslim land.” A few hours before the shooting Thalasinos posted on his Facebook page that he had received a threatening message from a doctor saying, “You’ll never make a state for the Jews because you are criminals and cowards. You will die and never see Israel as a country.”
Bennetta Betbadal (46), a mother of three, worked as an environmental health specialist. Born in Iran, she left at age 18 to escape Muslim extremism. Her family stated that “they find it a perfect irony that Betbadal should have been robbed of her life by what looks like the same extremism she escaped from many years ago.”
Tin Nguyen (31) worked as a health inspector as well. Born in Vietnam, she had escaped to the US with her mother and grandparents at age 8. She had planned to marry next year, and her fiancé had celebrated his birthday the day before the shooting.
The Haaretz article calls the San Bernardino shooting the most serious terror attack on American soil since 9/11, despite the disparity in size, as it has been declared by the FBI to be connected to the Islamic State (IS). However, the article goes on to state that the shooting has caused a resurgence of Muslim-hatred, and cites examples of Republican presidential candidates who “lost no time in making the incident into a cataclysm,” such as Donald Trump talking about dealing with terror decisively, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie saying that “we are standing before a world war.” The article also considers President Obama’s comments on IS to be “wretched.” The article concludes by saying that it is too early to see if all this will cause a change in US Middle East policy, but in any case most US residents “are unlikely to show much understanding towards the fact that our conflict has reached their backyard.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Israel Hayom; Haaretz (English and Hebrew); Makor Rishon; Yediot Ahronot, December 11, 2015
The Vatican has stated in a document published on December 10th—marking the 50th anniversary of the second Vatican council—that “Catholics must not try to convert Jews” but rather “bear witness of their faith in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s word.” As Judaism and Christianity are “intertwined with each other,” “Christianity has Jewish roots,” and “Jews believe in the one God,” Jews “should be treated differently than people of other religions and views.” For this reason “a Christian can never be an anti-Semite,” and “Catholics must work with Jews to put an end to any anti-Semitic activity.”
This is the first time the Vatican has issued a plain statement forbidding missionary activity among Jews. However, this does not constitute formal policy unless Pope Francis takes additional steps for it to be doctrinally accepted.
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim “expressed satisfaction with the announcement” but also noted that it bears no authority for Protestants, “who continue to dedicate millions to missionary activity in Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2015
This article analyzes the controversy surrounding Coptic Pope Tawadros II’s recent visit to Jerusalem in order to attend Archbishop Anba Abraham’s funeral. It states the Coptic Church’s ban on visits to the Holy Land, as well as quoting Abdallah al-Senawi’s statement that Tawadros’ visit would “increase sectarian tensions and damage the position of the Coptic Church” and Abdel Moneim Abdoul Fotouh Abdel Hady’s statement that the visit “is a crack in the public’s resistance wall against the Zionist enemy” as examples of the opposition to Tawadros’ visit. However, the article says that in view of the numerous Copts who have “flouted the ban,” the Egyptian personalities who have visited Israel, to say nothing of the peace treaty, the Coptic Church must “review its stance” since “it is every man’s right to visit holy sites in accordance with his religion, regardless of their whereabouts and the entity in charge of them.” The skeptics “need to solve their problem without prejudice to Coptic rights.”
HaShavua B’Ashdod, November 27, 2015
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim warns against missionary volunteers who have been clandestinely distributing material in Ashdod mailboxes in the middle of the night, and recently in Jewish orthodox neighborhoods (see previous Review). Yad L’Achim has asked citizens in the area to notify them if any such material is found, and to destroy it at once. Rabbi Binyamin Volkan, director of field activities in Yad L’Achim’s department for fighting missionary activity, has stated as well that in his opinion the rare fact of material distribution in orthodox neighborhoods is “an intentional provocation and an act of revenge against the sectors of the city which are preventing them [the missionary factions] from increasing their influence.” Yad L’Achim has additionally stated that “this cult gives out blankets and food with one hand and material connected to the New Testament with the other, and its members call themselves Jews even though the Supreme Court has ruled that whoever believes in Jesus is a Christian.”
Yediot Haifa, December 4, 2015
A delegation from Endtime Ministries, headed by Irvin Baxter, recently visited Rambam Hospital in Haifa. It is of particular note that the delegation spent time in Rambam’s underground armored departments, and gave the hospital a contribution of thousands of dollars.
Kivun Chadash Gimla’im, December 2, 2015
This article tells the story of the American Colony in Jaffa. The original settlement attempt was made by Protestant Christians from Maine in 1866, but most of the settlers returned to the US after their crops failed. The next settlement attempt was somewhat more successful, as German Templars purchased some of the structures that remained and made them a tourist attraction. Although one may see many buildings that form a mosaic of historical interest due to the past presence of so many nationalities in the neighborhood, of particular note is the mention of another building—the “Hotel de Parc”—which was built by the Americans, purchased by the Templars as a school, and eventually purchased by Baron Ustinov, but is now called “Beit Immanuel” and functions as the home of a Messianic Jewish congregation.
Kan Darom, December 4, 2015
The Nature Reserves and National Parks Authority plans to turn Tel Ashdod and the nearby Roberts’ Pool in to a national park and a nature reserve, respectively. Tel Ashdod is noted for having been an important city during the Bronze and Iron Ages (including remains of fortifications, industry and temples), as well as a center for dying textiles. Roberts’ Pool, named after the Scottish painter David Roberts, is a winter pool between Tel Ashdod and the nearby sand dunes. “The purpose of these new parks is to restore and preserve the archaeology and history, to make the place ready for visits from the public, and to make the many species of flora and fauna known to the public as well,” said Mira Holder (Avneri), district planner for the parks authority.
Conversion to Judaism
Beit Mashiach, December 10, 2015
Rabbi Amitai Schiff of Ramat Gan became a Messianic Jew after a chance meeting with some “Jews for Jesus” activists, but began to question his faith after his grandfather showed him a genealogy of the rabbis in his family. His doubts grew stronger after he began to study at Bar-Ilan University. Schiff made a particular study of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament, and came to the conclusion that “he had been deceived.” He contacted the anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim, and after ten theological discussions with them decided to become an orthodox Jew.
B’Sheva, December 10, 2015
The entire executive committee of the United Kingdom branch of Keren Kayement L’Israel recently visited Israel. They visited the projects KKL-UK contributes to, and pledged NIS 30m. in assistance to the south of the country in the coming year. “We bring with us from England the commitment and appreciation of the Jewish community in Britain, and of many Christian organizations, to the State of Israel and particularly to the pioneers in the south, who continue to build the country with boldness and courage.”
Among the visitors was one of the organization’s patrons, Lord Simon Isaacs, fourth Marquess of Reading. Lord Reading’s great-grandfather was involved in raising the initial electricity infrastructure in Israel, and the Reading power station in Tel-Aviv is named after him.
Mabat Mekomi, December 3, 2015
A rare first-temple era figurine of a fertility goddess has been found in Tel Beit Shemesh by Itai Halperin (8) of Pardesiya, whose family immediately reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority (see previous Reviews). “I saw a movie about Indiana Jones and decided to be like him when I grow up,” said Itai, “this figurine I found is a dream come true.” Alexander Glick, the IAA archaeologist for the Sharon and Hefer Valley region who received the figurine from Itai, praised him for his good citizenship in reporting the find immediately. Itai and his family will be awarded a certificate of thanks, and his school class will be invited to participate in an IAA dig.