During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Yediot Ahronot, May 18, 2016
Speaking to Yediot Ahronot, Manuel Valls, prime minister of France, stated that “France is concerned for Israel’s safety” and that “the status quo is working against Israel, the Palestinians, and peace.” Valls is to visit Israel shortly to promote a cross-Middle East peace conference, a French initiative intended to “prevent a new deterioration to violence and war between Israel and the Palestinians.” He calls upon the Arab states to recognize Israel and intends to call for a halt to violence and incitement from the Palestinian side during his upcoming visit to Ramallah. He has stated his regret for France’s support of the recent UNESCO resolution regarding Jerusalem, but also calls for “a halt to the call to Jews to leave France since they are no longer safe there,” saying that “French Jews need France and France needs the Jews,” and that they “are working strongly to guarantee their safety and fight all appearance of hatred and anti-Semitism.”
The Jerusalem Post, May 13, 2016
This article reports a general apathy and resignation in Bethlehem on Nakba Day, traditionally held by the Palestinians on May 15 to observe what they consider to be a national catastrophe. Some of those interviewed were confused as to the exact date, and although small clashes did take place, no extended protests were held and the official protest in Bethlehem ended by mid-afternoon.
The Jerusalem Post, May 17, 2016
A recent report by Army Radio states that a new curriculum for the study of Jerusalem, “prepared at the initiative of Education Minister Naftali Bennett,” “ignores the city’s Arab-Palestinian population of more than 250,000,” citing such examples as the word “Arab” being mentioned very few times, the word Palestinian being “omitted altogether,” Jerusalem’s holiness to Christians and Muslims being barely mentioned, and the conflict over Jerusalem only being given “a short mention for high school students.”
An Education Ministry spokesperson has stated in response that the Army Radio report is incomplete, since it “was privy only to a segment” of the material. The ministry has stated as well that “an entire section of the curriculum is devoted to the diversity and multiculturalism of Jerusalem,” particularly “the human, social and multicultural mosaic”; that section has yet to be released.
The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2016
The United Methodist Church recommended withdrawal from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation organization in a nonbinding vote at its general conference in Oregon on May 17. It remains to be seen whether the church would act on the recommendation.
In January the Methodists’ pension fund decided to end its investment in five Israeli banks, stating that it wished to remain true to its policy of not investing in high-risk countries and to remain committed to human rights.
Kol Israel, May 13, 2016
This six-page article tells how John Hagee, leader of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, founded the Christians United for Israel organization some ten years ago. Since its founding, CUFI has held an annual “Night to Honor Israel,” as well as raising some $85m. for Israel and holding an annual conference in Washington to inform the Christian world on the dangers besetting Israel and the Jewish community. The article covers the different techniques the organization uses to fight anti-Israel feeling in its various manifestations, as well as their dedication to support Israel with no thought of missionary activity. Hagee stated that he supports Israel since “it is the right thing to do. Supporting Israel is not a political issue; it is a biblical issue.”
Maariv, May 19; Yated Ne’eman, May 20, 2016
Hundreds of Christian leaders from some 40 countries have recently signed the “Capetown Declaration” in a conference in the city organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The declaration defines the signatories’ support for Zionism, the theological reasons for this support, and their political concerns resulting from international persecution of Israel. “As representatives of millions of Christians worldwide, we are here to confirm that Zionism is the legitimate national freedom movement of the Jewish people’s return to their ancestral homeland, and the realization in our day of the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile, and this is a deed of historical justice.”
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, one of the ICEJ’s leaders, stated that Capetown was chosen as the location for this declaration since it was attendees at the 2001 Durban conference on racism who compared Zionism to apartheid. “This is the right place to end this defamation, and end the hate activities of BDS, especially in the churches,” said Bühler.
The Jerusalem Post, May 19, 2016
The Church by the Sea in Bal Harbor, Florida, has recently “rejected the United Church of Christ’s 2015 resolution to support BDS, and has quitted the group.” The church has published an open letter stating that “it unequivocally repudiates and rejects the [UCC] call to boycott and divest [from Israel].” It has also “withdrawn all of its investment funds from the UCC.”
This move comes after Gabriel Groisman, a councilor for the Village of Bal Harbor, “refused to enter into a real estate development agreement with the church” due to the church’s BDS affiliation. Groisman, responding to the move, stated, “The Church by the Sea is to be applauded for its courage and moral clarity.” Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, has applauded it as well, saying that “it set an important precedent” and that “individual churches do not need to succumb to pressure to discriminate,” but can “act in good conscience.”
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2016
Father Gabriel Naddaf insists that all allegations of sexual harassment against him are false, reports this article from The Jerusalem Post. Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, May 17, Naddaf stated that “opposition to his work to promote enlistment to the IDF in the Christian Arab community is what is behind the allegations.” Naddaf has stated as well that “his family is behind him” and that he has received “messages of support from both the Jewish and the Christian community, people who believe in our path and know that there are terrible conspiracies here.”
Haaretz, May 16, 2016
A 640-square-meter interfaith prayer house is to be built on Berlin’s Fischerinsel, reports this Haaretz article. The building will contain a prayer hall for each of the three religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), and will also include a basement floor to showcase the archaeological finds of the site.
The Berlin architectural firm Kuehn-Malwezzi was awarded the design of the building in an international architectural design competition. The research for the design included not only a study of synagogues, churches, and mosques, but also of edifices which changed their purpose, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Cordoba cathedral. “Designing a structure like this is a unique task, since there is no model for it. It is a big challenge to make something architecturally which is more than a container, and we want to make a space that is full of content,” says Wilfried Kuehn, one of the structure’s designers.11
The Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2016
Peta Jones Pellach of the Elijah Interfaith Institute and Russell McDougall, rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, have co-founded Praying Together in Jerusalem, an interfaith prayer initiative which holds monthly meetings at Jaffa Gate or at the Tantur Institute. The meetings include “learning from each other in groups, praying together and eating together.” An average of some 60 people have attended past meetings, and one of the organization’s goals is to have attendees from all sectors of society. “Our hope is that the three members of the Abrahamic family can pray alongside one another,” stated McDougall.
Chayim Acherim, May 16, 2016
This article is a biography of Yigael Yadin (1917-1984), a military figure, politician, and archaeologist. It begins with describing Yadin’s childhood in the diplomatic and erudite atmosphere of Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood, his joining the Haganah organization at age 15, and how he became the de facto chief of staff during the War of Independence due to Yaakov Dori’s illness. Yadin later served a term as chief of staff in his own right, becoming the youngest chief of staff until that time, having been chosen at age 32.
Yadin dedicated his life to history and archaeology after his retirement from military life, and is noted for having belonged to the school that holds the biblical accounts to be reliable; he used his knowledge of military tactics to support the account of the conquest of the country in the book of Joshua. Although he followed his father, Prof. Elazar Lifa Sukenik, in researching the Dead Sea Scrolls—even receiving the Israel Prize for his research—and excavated other important sites such as Megiddo and Hazor, he is best known for his excavation of Masada in the 1960s, one of the most important discoveries in which were potsherds bearing names of people, which Yadin held to be the lots cast after the rebels had decided to commit suicide.
Israel Hayom, May 17, 2016
Landmines in the baptismal site known as Qasr al-Yahud near Jericho are to be removed in a project financed jointly by the Ministry of Defense and all Christian denominations present at the site. The project will begin at the end of 2016, and is planned to open some 1,000 dunams of the site closed since 1967.
Qasr al-Yahud is traditionally held to be the site where the Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan and also where Jesus was baptized by John.
Haaretz, May 20, 2016
The ruins of a 3,600-year-old town have been found at Tel el-Ajjul in Gaza. Elaborate gold jewelry, distinctive pottery imported from Cyprus, and some 1,300 scarabs from different centuries have led archaeologists to conclude that more than 500 years of trading took place at this town, which may in fact have been the main trading center of the region.
The tel was first excavated by Sir William M. Flanders Petrie from 1930 to 1934. The latest excavation was led by Prof. Peter Fischer of Gothenburg University.