During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, April 11, 2016
A senior Shin Bet security service official, briefing the weekly cabinet meeting, stated that “there has been a marked decrease in the number of terror attacks,” as evidenced by 20 “significant attacks” during March, compared to October’s 78. Since 2015, the security forces have managed to foil some 290 significant attacks, including 25 kidnappings and 15 suicide attacks. This, as well as the success in uncovering the Jewish terror ring responsible for the attacks at Duma and Tabgha, have contributed to the increasing calm, including “the sense among Palestinians that the escalation has achieved nothing.”
Haaretz, April 14, 2016
Jan Jambon, Belgian Interior Minister (N-VA), has recently caused widespread controversy for having compared the Muslim terrorist cell members who hid in Brussels for many months to the Jews who hid in the city during Nazi rule. Jambon’s spokesperson, Olivier van Raemdonck, has stated in response to the numerous reactions that Jambon “had no intention of insulting the Jews of Belgium” but “was speaking only of the technical way of finding a place to hide.”
Jambon, who acts as vice-premier as well, has caused controversy in the past when he took part in a commemorative event of the organization of Flemish Nazi war veterans, and when he stated with regard to collaborators with the Nazi regime after the conquest that “it was a mistake, but people then had a reason for doing so.”
Gaderton, April 8, 2016
Missionary flyers, once again distributed in Gan Yavne, have caused various responses, ranging from residents throwing the flyers away, to one resident who decided to burn them, document the burning, and post it to social media. The Gan Yavne municipality has responded to residents’ comments regarding the phenomenon by stating that “it is acting according to its legal powers” and that “no legislation exists that gives the municipality power to act against the distribution of flyers on any subject.”
The Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, April 13; Haaretz, April 14, 2016
These articles relate to Pope Francis’ recently published treatise on family and marital relations. The Jerusalem Post article states that by being “deliberately ambiguous” and “preaching in favor of the truce” between the two sides, Francis is in fact building a bridge, “but not one that is likely to permanently hold.” The Haaretz article goes further and says that “there are ample grounds for accusing Francis of hypocrisy,” since his words “hardly resolve the anguish of those who want to continue in a faith which regards them as sinners.”
Bayit Cham, April 1, 2016
This article advertises a tour to take place on June 17th and 20th, exploring various Christian sites to be found on the road to Jerusalem. The sites to be visited are the convent of the Sisters of Zion, Sataf, the Yad HaShmona moshav, and the Benedictine monastery at Abu-Ghosh.
Yediot HaEmek-Afula, April 8, 2016
The Beit She’arim National Park, near Kiryat Tivon, was formally declared on Thursday, April 7, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. President Reuven Rivlin and Environment Protection Minister Avi Gabai were present. The ceremony comes about as a result of the decision taken a year ago at UNESCO’s 39th conference.
Beit She’arim was an important Jewish center during Second Temple times. Noted among the remains found there are an ancient synagogue, a basilica, an oil press, and a necropolis containing some 30 burial caves. Additionally, Jewish tradition holds that Beit She’arim was where Rabbi Judah the Prince lived, compiled the Mishnah, and was buried. “Few are the places whose history is intertwined so closely and deeply with the history of the Jewish people,” said Rivlin at the ceremony. “Here, seemingly, was Rabbi Judah the Prince buried, and his rulings shape the life of the Jewish people even today.”
Beit She’arim is the ninth UNESCO site in Israel, after Masada National Park, Akko, the White City in Tel-Aviv, the Spice Trail, the biblical tels, the Baha’i Gardens, the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, and the Beit Guvrin National Park.
Israel Hayom, April 15, 2016
This article reports the findings of NGO Monitor concerning the activities of Who Profits from the Conquest?, an Israeli-registered non-profit organization, much of whose activities consist of gathering information on corporations invested or acting in Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. This information is then used by the BDS movement, providing them with a “target bank.” Who Profits? is funded largely by various European organizations, and the fact that it is Israeli “gives it credibility among BDS supporters worldwide.”
Chadashot Haifa VeHaTzafon, April 13; Kolbo, April 15, 2016
A delegation of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze clerics recently marked the Jewish Passover, the Christian Easter, the Muslim Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, and the Druze Feast of Jethro by visiting the Carmel Hospital to bless the patients and pray for their recovery. The hospital manager, Dr. Avi Goldberg, said, “The hospital is proud of being a symbol of the coexistence present daily in all its departments. Carmel’s policy is to connect between the patients and between the workers regardless of religion or race.”
BaMachane, April 7, 2016
This article surveys the IDF’s volunteer assistance program, Sar-El, particularly from the point of view of its current members, who range in age from 16 to 80. Although their connections to Israel are different—ranging from a simple desire to wear the uniform but realizing that “Israel is too important to do half a job,” to Christians and Jews coming and realizing that “this is a much more spiritual place”—their common denominator is a love for Israel and a desire to help the IDF. Rodney Walker (62), a volunteer from the US, said, “I could have stayed at home and gone to conferences about Israel, but that’s not really doing anything. This is a good way to learn things about yourself. And after you’ve taken care of tank batteries for three weeks, you get good at it. I like the work. So what if it’s not a significant ability for a social worker?”
Maariv, April 10, 2016
Olga Misho, the founder of DEISI (Defend, Embrace, Invest, Support Israel), is a young South African woman who has taken it upon herself to contend against the theory that Israel is an apartheid state. “When people in the world hear the lie about apartheid in Israel, they form a stand against Israel which is based on fraud.” She wishes to make people ask questions, since “the moment that people start asking questions and search for the answers they will reach the correct understanding, and then we have won the fight.”
Kolbo, April 8, 2016
The University of Haifa recently held a study event marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry Baker Tristram’s book The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine, Undertaken with Special Reference to Its Physical Character (1865). The book includes descriptions of 400 species of flora and fauna, among them 119 species of birds, and is generally considered to be the starting point for research of the region (see previous reviews).
Members of Tristram’s family from Britain were present, as well as Dr. Robert Dixon, the British vice-ambassador. The study event also included an exhibition of stuffed animals first defined by Tristram, and skulls of a bear and a tiger native to the area during Tristram’s 1864 visit that have since become extinct.
Yediot Modi’in, April 8, 2016
Archaeology and tourism have recently risen to the forefront in the minds of various civic and resident elements in Modi’in, in light of the important remains found in many of the salvage digs in the city. In particular, Alex Weinrib, former vice-mayor, is convinced that the remains found would make Modi’in internationally recognized for Christian tourism, due to the Crusader and Byzantine remains found, and internationally recognized for Jewish tourism, due to the region’s importance in Hasmonean times and during the Bar-Kochba revolt. The municipality has stated in response that “it is well aware of the archaeological remains in the city, and construction is planned with full knowledge of the Antiquities Authority.”
Haaretz, April 12; The Jerusalem Post, April 15, 2016
A team of researchers at Tel-Aviv University has recently come to the conclusion that the literacy rate in the kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BCE “was much higher than previously supposed.” A computer algorithm checking the handwriting on more than 100 of the ostraca discovered at the small military fortress of Tel-Arad concluded that there was a high probability of the inscriptions having been written by some six different people. Although there is no way to prove that all six writers were in Arad at the same time, all 18 inscriptions were in fact written within a short time period, and by southern Judah military personnel, proving that the kingdom of Judah was an organized entity, “apparently with schools and an education system for military personnel and bureaucrats, and even in peripheral stations like Arad orders were given in writing.”
This discovery has also aroused international interest since it appears to disprove the theory that “the main body of biblical literature could not have been written down in anything like its present form until after the destruction of the First Temple, because literacy was previously not high enough to support such an undertaking.” However, others, while admitting the conclusions on literacy, nevertheless are skeptical as to the bearing on the dating of the Bible, as the content of the ostraca differs considerably from the kind of literary skill that would have been necessary for composing biblical content.