During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Christians and the Holocaust
Israel Hayom, November 1, 4; Maariv, November 3, 2016
The controversy over the recent UNESCO resolution denying all but the Islamic connection to Jerusalem continues.
Two articles focus on Muslim mentions of the temple in Jerusalem. One such example consists of an ancient Muslim inscription found in a mosque in Kfar Nuba near Hebron calling the Dome of the Rock structure “Beit el-Maqdas” namely “the temple.” Archaeologists Asaf Avraham and Peretz Reuven, who presented the inscription at a recent archaeological conference at Hebrew University, stated that when added to other ancient Muslim sources, using “Beit el-Maqdas” was “not coincidental” but rather a central name for the structure resulting from “Jewish influence on Islam at its beginning.”
Other examples are the medieval figures of historian al-Maqdasi, scholar al-Mastoufi, and poet Jalal al-Din, who identify Solomon’s Temple with the al-Aqsa mosque in their writings; 15th century historian Mujir al-Din, who testifies that “Muslims who knew about the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount gave them maintenance jobs in the two mosques, such as filling the oil lamps and sweeping the carpets,” and a firman from Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent recognizing the Jewish connection to the Western Wall and giving permission for Jews to pray there in the first half of the 1500s.
More recent examples include those of Araf al-Araf, the late Palestinian historian, journalist, and politician, who wrote in his books that “the Temple Mount, ‘the place of the Haram al-Sharif,’ was on the Mount Moriah mentioned in Genesis”; the Ottoman Turks’ firmans recognizing the Jewish connection to Rachel’s Tomb, now defined by UNESCO as a mosque; a formal Jordanian Tourism Ministry map from 1965, calling the Temple Mount “Al Haram al Sharif” but adding that it is “on Mount Moriah”; and lastly the Waqf’s tourist guide to Jerusalem from the 1920s and 1930s, which says that “the site’s identification as the location of Solomon’s Temple is without a doubt.”
The third article mentions that Dr. Jürgen Bühler, head of the International Christian Embassy, has asked Christian leaders from all over the world to send Bibles to the UNESCO offices, “marked with the places mentioning the connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount and Western Wall.” Bühler stated that “the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem appears no less than 667 times in the Bible,” adding that “denying the Jewish and Christian connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is an insult to the 2 billion Christians all over the world.”
Christians in Israel
Index Ha’Emek VeHaGalil-Nazareth Ilit, October 21; Maariv, October 31, 2016
In the middle of October an event took place to honor Samar Grace and Naji Saliman, both of whom have recently been given the rank of chief superintendent in the Israel Border Police, making them the most senior Christian officers in the security forces. Vice-Minister for Regional Cooperation MK Iyov Kara, who represented the government at the event, said in his speech that “Christian recruitment to the IDF contributes to Israel, not only by security but through public relations, and shows Israel’s true face as the only country in the Middle East that embraces and protects its minorities.”
However, at the same time, many Israeli Christian IDF soldiers suffer violence, persecution and sometimes even death threats from their Muslim neighbors for siding with Israel and choosing to serve in the military. Although the article presents the opinions of many different service members, the consensus appears to be that on the one hand they are proud of their service and how they contribute, also recognizing that some of the opposition to them comes from the opposing elements feeling threatened, but on the other hand they are “sick” of the continual threat of violence against them, and are disappointed that the government isn’t taking more action. Adv. Eyal Paltak, who has been offering pro bono legal advice to the Israeli Christian military community, has also submitted a serious complaint to the commissioner for soldiers’ grievances, and feels that the commissioner is truly studying the situation and wishes to solve it.
Makor Rishon, November 4, 2016
The left-wing organizations B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and Checkpoint Watch are to hold tours in Israel for the Colorado branch of the “anti-Israel, practically anti-Semitic” organization Sabeel, states this article. Sabeel, listed as an Israeli non-profit organization, seeks “to convince Christian denominations in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere to support the boycott campaign against Israel” and supports “liberation theology,” according to which “the Palestinians are a modern representation of Jesus’ suffering.” The organization is headed by Naim Atik, a former priest at Saint George’s Church in Jerusalem and a signatory of the “Kairos-Palestine” document, which “justifies violent resistance to Jews, supports boycotting and refuses to recognize the historic connection between Jews and the land of Israel.” Atik has also been quoted as saying, “If Jews have a right to a homeland, it should be Germany and not Palestine.”
Maariv, November 1, 2016
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is a philanthropic organization seeking “to give financial assistance to a wide spectrum of sectors in Israeli society who ‘fall between the cracks.’” Most of the IFCJ’s donations come from evangelical Christians who “believe that their duty is to bless the Jewish people.” An average donation stands at 76 USD, but total donations amount to some 140m. annually; it is distributed for needs such as “immigration and absorption, welfare and poverty, and home front security in emergencies.” While the help is significant, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of IFCJ, emphasizes that what they do is a “Band-Aid,” that the problem is due to the government’s faulty priorities, and that “as long as one in three children is under the poverty line and goes to bed without food, and as long as one in four elderly people is hungry, it is a shame to the state of Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2016
The new Saxum Project aims to connect Christian tourists and pilgrims “with the Israeli aspects of their heritage,” thereby “enriching their faith.” This year’s events include a number of interfaith discussions, such as an inter-religion peace and understanding panel with former internal affairs minister Gideon Sa’ar, tourism minister Yariv Levin, and current and former ministers from Spain and Poland, as well as lectures on intersections between religious groups.
The Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2016
Reservists on Duty, a new Israel advocacy group, has recently carried out an initiative on the Columbia University campus together with Columbia’s Students Supporting Israel and Palestinian Media Watch. The goal, according to executive director Amit Deri, is “to expose the hate system against Israel on US campuses,” following the strategy of pro-Palestinian students during Israel Apartheid Week: to “talk about the misconduct of the other side.” As part of the initiative, the organization set up stations displaying signs about subject such as Palestinian treatment of women and Hamas’s oppression of Palestinians, “so that the average American student would ask himself if they want to be associated with the values of the leaders of Palestinian society.” Deri’s target audience is the person “who doesn’t know much about the conflict,” and in fact many people, both students and faculty, stopped by to ask questions and take flyers and photos of the posters displayed.
Christians and the Holocaust
Chadashot Haifa VeHaTzafon, November 2, 2016
On Sunday, October 30, 75-year-old Anna Griniss was crowned beauty queen of the Holocaust survivors by Sara Netanyahu and by Yad Ezer L’Chaver CEO Shimon Sabag. The event, which has been taking place since 2012, included speeches, poetry readings, songs, and comedy routines. Sabag emphasized that the contest was not about the women’s outward beauty but about their character and their story, in order to give the subject of Holocaust survivors exposure in Israel and around the world. Of particular note among the delegations present was the one from the International Christian Embassy, which has faithfully supported Yad Ezer for years. David Parsons, ICEJ media and public relations director, relayed greetings from Dr. Jürgen Bühler as well as giving his own, adding as a birthday greeting to Sabag that “he is a truly righteous man.”
Haaretz, October 30, 2016
On Wednesday, October 26, the marble slabs sealing the traditional site of Jesus’ tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were removed as part of a restoration being carried out in the church. “A large amount of fill material was found beneath the stone slab” as well as an additional marble slab dated to the Crusader period. So far, it seems that the restorers have not reached the actual slab where, according to tradition, Jesus’ body was laid. The slabs have now been returned to their place, and the tomb was reopened to visitors on Friday, October 28.
This is apparently the first time the marble slabs have been removed since the 16th century. The restoration was begun as the result of a historic agreement between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Catholic Custodia, and the Armenian Patriarchate. The last restoration of the church was in 1947, when the British laid down thick iron pipes to support the aedicule above the tomb, but did not touch the tomb itself. No restoration had been carried out since then, and a year and a half ago the Israel Antiquities Authority reported a worsening of the building’s situation. The police decided to close the building to pilgrims for a few hours, which caused a storm of protest, as elements in the church said the move had been taken without advance notice and without consulting with the denominations. However, the incident led to a speedy negotiation between the denominations, which led to an agreement that a team from Athens Technical University would undertake the restoration project—which is planned to be quite extensive—under the supervision of representatives from the patriarchates and the Custodia.
Haaretz, October 30, 2016
An exhibition entitled Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven has recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “attempting to reconstruct the history of the city through its aesthetic stamp on the period when it was most conspicuous on the world stage—the 400 years when it was considered the center of the world and the threshold of the gates of heaven.”
The exhibition curators chose the 200 artifacts according to their “pedagogical power.” Of particular note is a Kings’ Book from Ethiopia (1344), a Coptic-Arabic prayer book (17th century), an Armenian book of the gospels (1321), the four gospels in Arabic (1336), a guide to pilgrims (1486), a letter written by Maimonides (later Saladin’s personal physician) asking for funds to evacuate Jewish residents from Crusader Jerusalem in 1170, and a book containing Maimonides’ “sketches of a plan for the destroyed temple.”
Part of the exhibition is dedicated to commerce, and shows a 14th century Chinese porcelain plate covered in celadon enamel that came to Jerusalem from Egypt, printed cotton from western India, and a beautiful 11th– or 12th-century golden filigree necklace, the style matching both Islamic art and jewelry descriptions of Jewish brides’ dowries.
The different sanctuaries in the city are well represented as well, such as “the absent Temple,” the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa mosque.
The exhibition is to remain open until January 8.
La’Isha, October 31, 2016
This article on agrotourism covers the wine festival now going on in the Judean Hills, in which one can visit no less than 36 vineyards. However, of particular note are the nearby Christian and biblical sites such as the Trappist monastery at Latrun; the Beit Jamal monastery and convent; the Dir Rafat monastery near Zor’a, remarkable for its angel frescoes saying “Ave Maria” in 343 different languages; Moshav Yad HaShmona, founded by evangelical Christians and Messianic Jews; and Khirbet Qayafa, just south of Azeka, with its remains of a city from King David’s time.
Yated Ne’eman, October 30, 2016
This article reiterates the story of the Department for the Prevention of Antiquities Theft recovering an ancient papyrus document explicitly mentioning Jerusalem in Hebrew (see previous Review). The document has been dated to the 7th century BCE, making it the oldest extra-biblical mention of Jerusalem in ancient Hebrew writing. The Israel Antiquities Authority has stated that this is a notification of taxes paid or merchandise sent from Na’arata, on the border between Ephraim and Benjamin, to warehouses in Jerusalem. Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy head of the department, stated, “This document is a rare testimony of an ordered bureaucracy in the kingdom of Judah. It emphasizes Jerusalem’s centrality as the kingdom’s economical capital in the second half of the 7th century BCE.”
Some scholars dispute the find, however, saying it is no more than a forgery, and that its date has so far been insufficiently verified.