During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
The Pope and the Vatican
Maariv; Haaretz (English and Hebrew); HaModia; The Jerusalem Post, July 31; Haaretz (English and Hebrew), August 2; The Jerusalem Post, August 4, 2016
These articles cover Pope Francis’ Friday visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, made on foot and in silence, at his own request, “as silence was the best way to honor the dead.” Francis first visited the Block 11 torture structure, then the cell of St. Maksymilian Kolbe, who was killed after offering his life in place of another prisoner who had been picked to die of starvation. Francis placed a candle at the Death Wall, where prisoners were shot to death, and prayed for them. He met with Holocaust survivors, including one who played the violin in a camp orchestra and another who delivered babies in the camp. At Birkenau, Francis met with Christian Poles “who risked their lives to save Jews” and have been recognized by Yad VaShem as Righteous Among the Nations. His commemorative book signature said, “Lord have mercy on your people! Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty!”
However, responding to the visit, some of the articles wonder if by staying silent, Pope Francis was taking “an elegant but fair way of avoiding the difficult questions the Catholic Church still faces and must answer,” namely the reason for Pope Pius XII’s silence during World War II and the fact that the Vatican archives still remain closed. These articles ask why Francis chose to remain silent on the subject of the pogroms in Jedwabne and Kielce, and instead chose to remember the controversial Friar Kolbe, an anti-Semite who believed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These articles say that “to an outsider, it looked like the pope was coming to Auschwitz as the representative of a persecuted religion, not a persecuting one that has yet to come to terms with its own contribution to the murder of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.”
During his visit Francis also spoke on human cruelty to a group of young people who gathered outside the archbishop’s house where he was staying, and met with a group of Jewish public figures, including Michael Freund, head of Shavei Israel—“an organization which attempts to find lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities”—and Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland. During his visit Francis also obliquely criticized the Polish government’s stand on refugee immigrants, saying that Poles “should honor the complicated immigrant phenomenon” which “calls for great mercy in order to overcome fear and gain the good of all.” Also, in a speech before 2,000 Polish churchmen, he criticized their lifestyle and called upon them “to not remain enclosed within themselves, out of fear or convenience” and “to live more simple lives.”
Francis is the third pope to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Haaretz, July 31, 2016
This article is a letter to the editor on Rabbi Eyal Krim’s position in favor of burning New Testaments. Although Krim was appointed chief rabbi of the IDF on the strength of his controversial positions being “theoretical and related to philosophical discussion” rather than practical action, the article cites different situations in Israel in which people were penalized for burning New Testaments, and connects this to the burning of books in Nazi Germany when these did not fit the Nazi ideology. However, the article takes care to mention that, unlike in Nazi Germany, any burnings of the New Testament “took place without any instructions from the government.”
Haaretz, August 3, 2016
Haredim L’Medinah, “a program that targets Israelis interested in effecting political and social change,” recently held a trip to Nazareth for ultra-orthodox Jews, jointly sponsored by the Israeli Berl Katznelson and the German Friedrich Ebert foundations. During this trip the group, whose tour guide was Muslim, visited various Nazareth sites and met with local representatives on the subject of “workplaces issues,” as both Arabs and ultra-orthodox “are known to be among the poorest sectors of Israeli society.” Altogether, the two groups appear to have found a significant amount of common ground as relates to everyday issues and challenges, and the article is optimistic about possible continued dialogue.
HaPeles, July 29, 2016
This seven-page article tells of two cases in the 1850s in which young Jewish children in Italy were baptized into Christianity, without their parents’ knowledge, by Catholic servants in their homes. The servants then informed the police of this, and consequently the police removed the children from their parents’ care in accordance with the church law then in force, which said that “Catholic children could not remain in the care of non-Catholic people.” Neither of the children ever returned home.
Matzav HaRuach, July 29, 2016
A study of the Alliance Church International Cemetery on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem offers a unique look at the history of Israel, as the visitor can find in one place the tombs of such people as Max Wittman and Dola Ben-Yehuda, daughter and son-in-law of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda; John Stanley, a Christian minister who joined the Haganah and was on board the Exodus 1947 ship; Rolla Floyd, among the first tour guides in Israel; Reuben Morgan, a noted director of radio drama; Rene Inbal, chef to Anwar Sadat during his visit to Israel; and Jamil Hashweh, an Israel-supporting Arab who translated Braille into Arabic.
Makor Rishon, August 5, 2016
Prof. Moshe Garssiel of Bar-Ilan University is of the opinion that the name “Eshba’al ben Bada,” recently found in an inscription on a clay pitcher in the Sha’arayim excavation at Khirbet Qayafa, is the name of none other than “the commander of the Sha’arayim fortress during David’s period, and one of the founders of the [elite] unit.” Garssiel bases his opinion on 2 Samuel 21 and 23; their parallels in the book of Chronicles, where the “chief of the thirty” is called “Ishavam ben Chacmoni”; and the corresponding passages in the Septuagint and early manuscripts of Samuel, where the original name is preserved as “Ishba’al.” Garssiel explains that the various permutations of the name as found in the different manuscripts were meant to either prevent the element “Ba’al” being used in the name, or if the element “boshet” [“shame” in Hebrew] was used, to change it to something that would not disrespect the elite commander. According to Garssiel, the clay pot on which the name was found contained provisions sent to the garrison at Sha’arayim.