During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
HaModia, September 25, 2016
Yad L’Achim activists are “moved and amazed” by the fact that some third of the attendees at “the missionary destruction event in Caesarea” left the venue when the preaching began (see last week’s Review), and others did not get on the buses to the event to begin with. As the event was apparently geared towards Russian immigrants, Yad L’Achim plans an urgent meeting to discuss their situation to prevent their being “a target audience for missionizing.”
The Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, September 28, 2016
On Monday, September 26, a World Jewish Congress delegation headed by Ronald S. Lauder visited the Vatican and was received by Pope Francis. In the meeting, the pope told the Jewish leaders that “Christians and Jews must speak out against brutality in the world, and ‘go on a joint journey together to make the world more secure,’” and “addressed the issues of world peace and the refugee crisis, specifically regarding Europe” as well. Lauder responded by saying that “Jews have all been immigrants” and “understand the situation the immigrants find themselves in,” adding that “we pray for peace.”
The Jerusalem Post, September 30, 2016
Karen Goodkind of Britain is the chairperson of the Ethiopian Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program (EBBM) of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, which “twins 80 kids a year from around England with their Ethiopian peers.” EBBM operates in Kiryat Bialik, coming alongside the city’s other efforts “to integrate Ethiopians into mainstream education” and “to co-opt Ethiopian parents to night patrols to try to stem drunkenness and vandalism.” The program includes a trip to Jerusalem and the parties include lots of “sunshine, singing and drumming together to a hypnotic, happy beat,” but weekly workshops ensure the children learn about their parents’ home culture as well. Describing the program as a “powerful medicine,” children say that “learning about their own identity gave them self-confidence they lacked before,” and that they learned “to listen and to love”; parents say that “they learned to talk to their children.”
Yediot Haifa, September 23, 2016
North American and East Asian religious leaders recently visited Israel for an interfaith conference organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Jewish-American Committee, in order to further contact between such leaders and their counterparts in Israel. This conference is the first of its kind to take place, and discussed subjects such as religion’s place in modern society, preservation of the Earth, advancement of human dignity, individual rights and social justice, and religion’s place in advancing world peace and welfare. The leaders met with Muslim, Christian, and Druze leaders and visited sites holy to all three religions.
Among the attendees were leaders from India, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Myanmar, the United States, and Canada, some 20 of them representing Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, Jain, Sikh, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.
Time Out Tel-Aviv, September 29, 2016
This nine-page article includes interviews with eight Tel-Aviv religious personnel—two rabbis, two Christian ministers, an imam, a Buddhist monk, a scientologist, and an atheist—on faith-related issues.
Although each participant was asked personal questions relating to their background, life in Israel, and their opinion of Tel-Aviv, the one question asked of them all was “whether or not God exists, and why.” The Eritrean Christian Orthodox priest said that the proof was “God’s creation, his love and his mercy”; the Jewish orthodox rabbi talked about “having a feeling of conviction”; the Buddhist monk asked “What is God?”; the scientologist said that God is the force behind material things, but that “scientology doesn’t define God in an exact way”; the Greek Orthodox priest said that God exists, but that “faith is a complicated thing”; the rabbi from the congregation comprising multiple streams of Judaism said that God exists, and that “there are things that don’t need to be explained”; and the atheist said that one should answer by saying “I don’t know,” and “go on researching.”
Haaretz, September 25, 2016
This article presents the story of Rabbi Elias Barzilai, chief rabbi of Athens, whose flight from the city on September 25, 1943, just ahead of the Germans appears to have inspired the rest of the community to go into hiding, leading to the preservation of most of its members. The intriguing fact about the whole affair is that it is not known if Barzilai left voluntarily or was kidnapped in order to prevent him revealing the identities of the Jewish residents of Athens to the Nazis. In any case, Barzilai appears to have been aware of “something ominous” that had already happened to the Jews of Thessaloniki—90 percent of whom were sent to Auschwitz by the same SS unit which then arrived in Athens—and determined to do what he could by asking Greek Orthodox archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou for help. Papandreou replied that he could not prevent the Germans from doing what they wished nor give refuge en masse in churches, but he did offer to send out an order that clergy were to do whatever they could to help individuals. According to Barzilai’s account after the war, he then returned home, having decided to send out the order to all the community to flee to the hills. However, that weekend members of the resistance took Barzilai to the hills in central Greece, where he spent the rest of the war. Thousands of others then fled as well, and many of those who were arrested and deported were those “whose physical condition wouldn’t have allowed them to go into hiding.”
Haaretz, September 26, 2016
Some five years ago, the remnants of a stone building were discovered near the Western Wall plaza. The structure, which has been dated to the end of the first century BCE, consists of two rooms connected by a sophisticated water system with a reservoir, piping and fountains. Although this building is the largest Herodian structure discovered to date in Jerusalem, its purpose had not been clear, but now Prof. Joseph Patrich of Hebrew University and Dr. Shlomit Wexler-Bedolah of the Israel Antiquities Authority propose that this was the triclinium of the city council of Jerusalem, as indentations in the walls suggest the presence of sofa seating “which could have been used for dining and rest,” rather than “benches arranged in a U-shaped configuration, which might have shown it to be a council chamber.”
One of the building’s rooms had previously been studied by Charles Warren at the end of the 19th century, and it was known at the time as the Freemasons’ Hall, although, as far as it known, the Freemasons did not use it.
Iton Shacharit, September 26, 2016
Technology has at last allowed the CT scanning of a burnt scroll found in the ancient synagogue in Ein-Gedi. The scroll had remained untouched thus far, since any attempt at unrolling it could have resulted in it falling to pieces. The scroll has been dated to the first centuries CE, and contains chapters from the book of Leviticus.
The deciphering was made possible by a team from the computer sciences department of the University of Kentucky, headed by Prof. Brent Seales, an expert in digital deciphering of ancient texts, together with the laboratory for preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Bible department at Hebrew University.
Haaretz, September 27, 2016
As a result of the Haaretz article from September 14, as well as public complaint, the archaeological park in the Kirya army base in Tel-Aviv is to be opened to the public. It is yet to be determined how this will happen, as today only military personnel are permitted to enter, but a military official has emphasized that the entrance would be arranged in such a way that “would not harm security of information or the correct operation of the Kirya compound.”
The park, planned by Shilo Ben-Uriah architects, is to include exhibits from Jerusalem and Tiberias, as religious cities; from Caesarea and Ashkelon, as coastal cities; and from Avdat, Mamshit, and Halutza, as Nabatean cities.
Haaretz; Hamevaser; The Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2016
An Israel Antiquities Authority dig has found a Baal shrine the Lachish city gate, dated to the 8th century BCE, which appears to have been broken during King Hezekiah’s reforms. The gate, which has now been uncovered in its entirety, is preserved to four meters in height (originally 24.5 m. by 24.5 m.) and contains three chambers on each side, “befitting Lachish’s status as second in importance after Jerusalem,” says Sa’ar Ganor, IAA leader of the dig. The first chamber contained benches with arms, jars, scoops for loading grain, and jar handles stamped with the name of the official or a “lamelech” [belonging to the king] impression, which may have been connected with preparations for the war against Sennacherib. The temple was found in the third chamber, and it is intriguing to note that the horns of its altar were “intentionally truncated,” with a stone next to it carved as a toilet. Although the archaeologists initially did not realize the connection, reading about Jehu’s reforms in II Kings 10:27 has led them to surmise that placing the toilet in the temple was meant to defile it. However, as no phosphate remains were found the supposition is that these were symbolic acts, after which the room was sealed. Calling the find “a discovery that deepens our connection to our ancestors who walked this land,” Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev said, “It boldly commemorates the way of our forefathers, the prophets, the kings and the judges.”
The dig at Tel Lachish was conducted by the IAA in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, and the Environmental Protection Ministry “to further the development of the historic park.”