During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Pope and the Vatican
Makor Rishon, September 2, 2016
International pressure on Israel is increasing over settlements, specifically Amona and Susiya. This is exemplified by the US State Department spokesperson’s comment that “we are particularly disturbed by the policy of retroactive approval of settlements illegal according to Israeli law,” and a conflict which took place between UN representative to the Middle East Nikolai Maldanov and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which Maldanov attacked Israel in the UN Security Council meeting over building in Judea and Samaria.
Speaking to schoolchildren in Susiya on September 1, Defense Minister Liberman expressed his opinion that Yata residents’ infiltration into Susiya lands was in order to divide the new Jewish community from the nearby ancient synagogue. Liberman said that although the Supreme Court has instructed “more than once” that this illegal Palestinian construction be destroyed, he “is being pressured from all over the world” to not enforce this. However, Liberman emphasized that “the free world preaches a state with a law, and we must honor our legal system,” and attacked the US and EU positions, which say that the Supreme Court instruction regarding Arab Susiya should not be carried out, but that its instruction regarding Jewish Amona should be carried out. Liberman called upon the residents of Amona to accept the compromises offered them by the government, but emphasized that there will be no further extensions of a deadline regarding Amona beyond the three months already agreed upon.
Earlier this week, in an uncharacteristically stiff statement to the press, Netanyahu said that “Jews have lived in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for thousands of years, and their presence there is not the obstacle to peace. The obstacle to peace is the unceasing attempts to deny the affinity of the Jews to their historic land, and the stubborn refusal to recognize that they are not strangers there.” He also said that “the Palestinian demand for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the future Palestinian state is ghastly, and the United Nations must condemn, rather than adopt it.”
HaModia, September 2, 2016
Adv. Moshe Morgenstern of Yad L’Achim’s legal department has sent a letter to the state attorney’s office, protesting the police’s closure of the case regarding an incident of missionary material given to a minor in Modi’in some four months ago, on the pretext that “there was no criminal culpability.” Morgenstern stated as well that according to the evidence in his hands such files are closed as a matter of course, and Yad L’Achim has added that “since the enforcement agencies have no interest in holding legal proceedings on such a momentous issue, the State of Israel will not remain either democratic or Jewish,” that the proceedings of the state attorney’s office in this matter are “scandalous,” and that “they expect the orthodox parties to come to their senses and act upon the subject.”
Christians in Israel
Index HaEmek VeHaGalil-Nazareth Ilit, August 12, 2016
Father Gabriel Naddaf, head of the Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum and spiritual leader of the Aramean Christians in Israel, sent a letter to French ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonneuve, and copied to French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and other public figures, asking that the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) be expelled from compounds under French control, “as it is acting illegally” by bringing BDS activists who pretend to be tourists into Israel. The letter stated that the activism of these people under the auspices of an inter-church organization “hurts Jewish-Christian coexistence,” and that “the fact that the offices of such an organization are in a compound under French government authority is a serious thing, and inappropriate to the relations between friendly states.”
EAPPI, which belongs to the World Council of Churches, has been under recent investigation not only by the Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum, but the DMU organization, the Zionist Foundation to Israel, and NGO Monitor.
The Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2016
This article analyzes the positions in favor of and against the two Israel-related resolutions passed at the recent triennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in New Orleans. The first of the two resolutions “established an investment screen that will recommend where Lutherans should invest their money with regard to Israel and the Palestinians,” and the second resolution “urged a cutoff of US aid to Israel unless Israel meets a series of conditions, and calls for the immediate US recognition of ‘the state of Palestine.’”
The position against the resolution on investment—“The Lutheran Church has an outrageous obsession with Israel”—was stated by Dexter Van Zile, a Catholic activist working for the Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). David Brog, of Christians United for Israel, stated as well that “the resolutions blame Israel and only Israel for the conflict in the Middle East.” The position in favor of the investment resolution sees it as a positive development that an investment screen rather than a boycott should have been called for, according to Emily Soloff of the American Jewish Committee. Additionally, Rabbi David Sandmel of the Anti-Defamation League, while “not thrilled” by the resolutions, said that “whether the investment screen will lead to divestment ‘depends on how it is structured, and that is not spelled out.’”
The ECLA Middle East Strategy, an official church report from 2005 covered in the article, “recommends making consumer decisions that favor support to those in greatest need, e.g. Palestinian providers as distinct from Israel settlers on Palestinian territory”; “accuses Israel of fostering an environment of oppression”; and “complains about the ‘destructive effect’ of Israeli policies on ‘the ability of Palestinians to marry and raise families.’” It is this last that led Prof. Elihu Richter, director of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention, to caution that the Lutheran church “may falsely allege, or at least imply, that Israel is guilty of genocide,” in view of the definition of genocide adopted by the United Nations in 1948, part of which includes “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a targeted] group.”
The position against the resolution on unilateral recognition and US aid sees these terms as “blatantly one-sided.” Elliot Abrams, former assistant secretary of state, notes that the call to halt construction in East Jerusalem refers only to construction done by Jews. The article cites the US State Department’s annual report on global human rights, which found that the Palestinian Authority “carries out arbitrary arrests based on political affiliation, engages in torture and abuse of prisoners, restricts freedom of speech and press, discriminates against women, accuses victims of sexual harassment of provoking the harassing behavior, and rarely punishes perpetrators of family violence.” Sandmel said that no Lutherans mentioned these violations in his interfaith workshop.. Soloff, who attended the Lutheran conference, said that while she heard no discussion of these violations in the sessions at which she was present, “in the larger picture the ECLA did demonstrate a much more nuanced and balanced approach between Israel and the Palestinians than some other mainline Protestant churches have done.” Other supporters of this second resolution “see the ECLA’s positions as consistent with the pro-BDS stance of other churches,” with some calling them “economic acts of conscience in support of Palestinian freedom and human rights,” and saying that the investment screen is “an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from Israel’s nearly half-century-old military occupation of Palestinian lands.”
The Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2016
A series of lectures held by the Bible Lands Museum and the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) is attempting to clarify theological differences and increase interaction between Christians and Jews, “seeking to take the Christian-Jewish relationship beyond sympathizing with the Jewish state.” David Nekrutman, director of CJCUC, says that the relationship between Christians and Jews has reached a historic point, adding, “Unity is not sameness. Salvation will be worked out by God, but in the interim we have a mission to repair a broken world.” CJCUC is trying to reciprocate Christian support for Israel, and “to educate … the Israeli-Jewish community” about Christianity beyond the medieval Catholic understanding of it. Both Nekrutman and Dr. Brad Young, a biblical scholar and one of the lecturers in the series, “feel that a belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has the potential to overcome any obstacles along the way.”
Israel Hayom, September 2, 2016
This article is an interview with Chacham David Menachem, an intriguing figure in the interfaith scene in Jerusalem, as he is a synagogue rabbi, a musician, a teacher at the secular yeshiva, a translator of Umm Kulthum’s poetry from Arabic, a feminist, winner of the Jerusalem Prize for Israel Unity, and a leader of the Jewish section of an interfaith prayer house shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Music Center in the Hinnom Valley. When asked how a keeper of Jewish law could pray with Christians, “who by Jewish law are considered idolaters,” Menachem answered that Judaism’s universal destiny is not furthered by isolation, adding that “the idolatrous element in Christianity comes from Greek mythology.” When asked if in 200 years everyone will believe the same way, Menachem answered that Judaism has a responsibility to Christianity and Islam, “its younger brothers,” but that all have the responsibility to “witness to the one God” rather than “leaving it to ISIS.” When asked about bloodshed, Menachem said that one cannot ignore this and that he tells the Muslims he meets with to their face that “they are responsible for bloodshed.” However, quoting Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, Menachem says that love of one’s fellow man and honoring the religions close to Judaism is the element to aim for in one’s life.
The Pope and the Vatican
Matzav HaRuach, August 26, 2016
Archbishop Antoine de Rochebrune, substitute for the pope and vicar of the Opus Dei in France, recently met with vice-minister for defense Eli Ben-Dahan. In the meeting Rochebrune stated that “Israel is a good and safe place for Christians, contrary to neighboring countries in the region,” adding that “it is important that Jews and Christians should join together in the fight against radical Islam, and assist the Christians in Iraq and Syria to survive the war against ISIS.”
BaMachane, August 25, 2016
Lydia Sol, whose family are Jehovah’s Witnesses, began to doubt her faith when she was humiliated by her father and chastised by congregational elders for being in a romantic relationship with someone outside the group. After reading literature questioning the Jehovah’s Witnesses and “realizing that her father’s example was hypocritical,” she decided to leave the group. Being 16 at the time, she hid her intention till age 18, when she would be able to join the IDF, and in 2015 she was accordingly formally ostracized by the community and all connection with her family was severed. She now serves as a security guard on an army base in the center of the country, and “her family are the fellow residents in the army housing provided for her.” Although she grieves for the lost connection with her family, especially her sister, she says she “is stronger now”; that seeing what ostracizing does has made it harder to hurt her; and that “you need to work to insult me, I’ll never get to the point where I won’t talk to someone.”
Matzav HaRuach, August 26, 2016
Over 4,500 Jews have now received Spanish citizenship, after having proven their ancestral connection to the Jews expelled from the country in 1492, “the estimation being that hundreds of thousands of Jews are eligible for this.” The law on the subject was passed by the Spanish parliament one and a half years ago, and the Spanish government is not requiring the recipients to give up their other citizenship or move to Spain.
The Portuguese government has passed a law on the subject similar to that of Spain, but there was not much demand for it until after the Brexit referendum, when British Jews of Portuguese ancestry applied for citizenship in order to hold an EU passport.
Haaretz; Sha’a Tova, September 1, 2016
On Tuesday, September 6, an exhibition on the Qayafa dig will open at the Bible Lands Museum. Of particular interest is the Aramaic Tel-Dan inscription, mentioning the “house of David”; another inscription, currently thought to be the oldest Hebrew inscription found so far; a stone “carved with architectural details resembling the temple in Jerusalem”; weapons; tools; and a reconstruction of the city. According to Prof. Yossi Garfinkel, head of the dig, Qayafa was a frontier fortress before the Philistines, and the traditional location where the battle with Goliath took place. Garfinkel is also of the opinion that the artifacts found on the site—which, aside from those exhibited, include a fortified wall, two gates, and a public building—together with the stone vessels [which do not take on impurity] and absence of pig bones contradict the assumption that a Philistine city stood there. Also, the artifacts’ dating to King David’s time appears to have somewhat “reignited the discussion about David himself and the importance of Jerusalem,” the “minimalists” holding that David was no more than a tribal chieftain, and the “maximalists” holding that the biblical description of a unified strong kingdom ruling a large territory is accurate.
Haaretz, September 2, 2016
This article presents the ongoing controversy in Israel regarding the scientific investigation of bones, in light of the Philistine cemetery recently found at the Ashkelon National Park and the relevant photographs published on it, which Israel Hasson, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, called “shocking.”
By law, bones are not considered an “antiquity,” and according to regulations, archaeologists must immediately refrain from conducting laboratory tests on human bones but rather report the finding to the Ministry of Religious Services, so that the deceased may be moved to appropriate burial. Although IAA digs are “mostly done according to regulations,” many academic digs are carried out by foreign groups all over Israel, and the area “becomes more gray.” Many archaeologists confessed that they bend or ignore the rules in favor of scientific research, and stated that “the time has come to find ways to make the study of bones possible, while still preserving the dignity of the deceased.” Others have said that they “do their best not to dig where graves are likely to be found, but will research bones if they do find them.” In practice, conflict has mostly arisen when Jewish orthodox elements consider that Jewish graves are in danger of defilement.
The dialogue on the degree to which this policy regarding bones impairs scientific research continues. Prof. Aharon Meir of Bar-Ilan University, for instance, calls the law a “scandal, something political that befits Iran or the Middle Ages,” and says that because of it the whole area of study is “in danger of extinction.” Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University says that osteology could be used to determine the “riveting question” of “whether the ancient Israelites really were different from the Canaanites, or [grew] up from among them.” Dr. Yuval Baruch, head of the Jerusalem division of the IAA, on the other hand, says that “while grave research is very important in archaeology, the damage [to the discipline] is not mortal” and that “archaeology must take into account the environment in which the research is done.”