During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, November 14, 2016
This article presents to the reader four past instances showing US vice president–elect Mike Pence’s likely stance on Israel. The first of these is an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2010, when Pence stated his opinion that by not sending a clear message that the US supports Israel the Obama administration was “departing from where the hearts of the American people are at.” In another interview in 2010, Pence “called Obama out for ‘bullying’ Israel into freezing settlement activity.” In 2014, during his term as governor of Indiana, Pence and his family “headed a high-level business delegation” on a visit to Israel, and the bill for both Pence and his wife was footed by Christians United for Israel. During the recent presidential campaign, Pence “actively tried to engage American voters in Israel” by things such as posing with a “Make America Great Again” poster in Hebrew.
The Jerusalem Post, November 14, 2016
On Tuesday, November 8, Eric Greitens was elected the first Jewish governor of Missouri. Greitens, 42, is a former US Navy SEAL whose awards include the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He is also a former Rhodes scholar and the founder of a non-profit organization “that helps veterans integrate themselves back into their communities through volunteer work.” In an interview with JTA in 2015, condensed and quoted in the Post article, Greitens said that “part of the reason he joined the SEALs was his Jewish upbringing.” Holocaust survivors’ testimonies he heard in synagogue led him to volunteer in working with children in refugee camps in Bosnia. In his latest book, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life, Greitens quotes the medieval scholar and poet Solomon ibn Gabirol, who said, “Wisdom and peace lie in being reconciled to the uncontrollable.” Another role model is Hannah Senesh, who was executed for trying to rescue Hungarian Jews during World War II and who said, “One needs something to believe in, something for which you can have whole-hearted enthusiasm.”
Haaretz, November 18, 2016
Saying that “there is no real distance” between the standpoints of US president-elect Donald Trump and Marine le Pen of the far-right French National Front party, this article analyzes the reactions of Jewish element in the US as well as governmental elements in Israel to the US election, citing such examples as Prof. Alan Dershowitz’ statement that “one should not conclude that someone is an anti-Semite based on his political standpoint.” The article is mystified by how “support for Israel” appears to make these elements “forget what is likely to rise as a result of Trump’s ‘xenophobia, hostility toward women and denial of the US’s foundational liberal values,’” and that “they appear to prefer Israel’s security over that of US Jews.”
Israel Hayom, November 18, 2016
This article covers the controversy over the Rachel’s Tomb structure, claimed by the Palestinians as the “Bilal Ibn-Rabah mosque.” The structure was recognized by UNESCO as a mosque some five years ago, but rather than being connected to Ibn-Rabah, it draws its Muslim connection from the fact that the older room in the structure was used by them to prepare deceased for burial in the nearby cemetery, and venerated at the same time by Jews as Rachel’s Tomb. The continued friction caused the building of the newer room in 1841, through Moses Montefiore’s contact with the Turks, and a mihrab was placed in it as well, to give Muslims a place to prepare their deceased outside the room of the tomb itself. Today the structure and the access to it are heavily fortified, but bottle bombs and pipe bombs still occasionally come over the walls, particularly when many Jewish visitors are present.
Nashim, November 18, 2016
This article surveys Messianic Jewish activity, perceived by some as “missionary activity,” citing such examples as a man praying for fellow patients at a hospital oncology ward with the intent to “make souls”; attendees coming to an event thinking it is a subsidized fun trip; guesthouses; coffeehouses; publishing houses; a substance abuse rehabilitation center; phone messages; and flyers, all “with an intentionally obscure message, intended to draw people in.” It is “people in economic or spiritual trouble and young people at a crossroads” who are the missionaries’ “target,” as well as “people with a weak Jewish background.” Calling the whole system “religious fraud,” one of those interviewed for the article stated that the Christian content is intentionally hidden, and only revealed “much later.”
According to the article, Adv. Dimitri Kogen’s research for the Hebrew University has shown that “high-level US pressure prevents the law against proselytizing, especially to minors, from being effectively enforced.” However, the state attorney’s office and the police reject this view entirely. The Jews for Jesus organization responded that any material given to minors was done so against the organization’s express instructions. A Jewish person working with one of the organizations also stated that “freedom of religion should be preserved in a democratic state,” adding, “Is Judaism so weak that it can’t depend on its members to repel proselytizing on their own?”
The Pope and the Vatican
Yediot Haifa, November 11, 2016
Vice Minister Iyov Kara, functioning in the prime minister’s office, has recently returned from a visit to the Vatican, during which he met with Pope Francis and with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. Kara is convinced that a significant change in the Vatican’s relation to the recent UNESCO resolution has been reached, as the Vatican “intends to reconsider its position on it.” He states that the UNESCO resolution has caused a warming in the relations between Israel and the Vatican, and that a Vatican delegation will be sent later this year to view ways to finalize the 1994 treaty between the two countries.
Matzav HaRuach, November 11, 2016
The Santo Domingo Square memorial to the 4,000 Portuguese Jews killed in a pogrom in Lisbon in 1506 has been defaced by a Communist hammer and sickle, as well as slogans in praise of Communism. The Lisbon municipality removed the slogans but left the symbol, “perhaps as a sign of infamy against the defacers.”
Gal-Gefen, November 9, 2016
This article reviews Mel Gibson’s film Hacksaw Ridge (2016), called in Hebrew “The Conscientious Objector.” The film is a war drama about the life of Private Desmond Doss, an army medic who received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for saving more than 70 people during the battle for Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. The first part of the film describes Doss’s childhood, and continues with his training after he enlists and the abuse he undergoes as people attempt to change his mind about conscientious objecting. The article has an overall positive view of the film and its actors and recommends it to the readers, but is of the opinion that the Christian themes are portrayed in a way that is “sometimes ridiculous,” and that the part about Doss’s childhood is overly long.
BaKehila, November 10, 2016
This article covers the holocaust that the Jewish community in Indonesia went through during World War II. The origins of the community were with Jews who left Holland to live in Indonesia as clerks for the Dutch East India Company. Others emigrated from places such as Baghdad or Bazra. Indonesia recognizes Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, and formally allows people to choose their religion, but in fact each citizen must be registered as belonging to one of the six.
In the 1930s and 1940s refugees attempting to escape Nazi Germany came to live in Indonesia, but after the Japanese conquest most of the Europeans were incarcerated in camps. By 1943 all Jews were imprisoned, apparently because of pressure from Germany rather than as a result of Japanese policy. Eventually the state of local anti-Semitism was such that the Jews were placed in concentration camps, forced to wear a red star, and “sentenced to death by torture and starvation.” It is intriguing to note that while the Japanese persecuted other minorities in the countries they conquered, in Indonesia the Jews were the only ones to be persecuted. The imprisonment included hard labor with very little food, sometimes as little as one tablespoon per day. Many fell ill with malaria, dysentery, and hepatitis. When the war was over many could not leave the camps immediately, since they were in danger from other Indonesians who, wanting independence, “were ready to murder white people.”
Today, the few who are left do their best to preserve the community, but are ready to leave at any moment because they feel the situation worsening around them.
Makor Rishon, November 18, 2016
In 2016 a collection of documents was found in a cave in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan. These documents, which are written in Hebrew, Persian, Judeo-Persian, Arabic, and Judeo-Arabic and include letters, legal documents, merchants’ documents, songs, Bible commentaries, prayers, and rabbinical discussions, are an important testimony to the life of Jewish communities along the Silk Road in the Middle Ages. It is surmised that the writers of the documents were descended from the Babylonian Jewish community.
The article describes the antiquity of the Jewish community in China, and how well connected to the rabbinical authorities the communities remained. It describes how the traders would not carry silver or gold in their caravans for fear of bandits, but bore a note that would give them payments at the end of their journey. Although the fate of Jewish trade along the Silk Road is not known, it appears to have suffered the same fate as other trading communities, being halted because of the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the Black Plague in Europe.
Makor Rishon, November 18, 2016
This article lists a number of new books published by a variety of publishing houses. Of particular note among them is For the Word of God Is Living (Magnes Press), a transcription of eight conversations between Bible scholar Yair Zakovich and New Testament scholar Serge Ruzer on the Epistle to the Hebrews, following “the reasons for the writing of the epistle, its concepts, its mysterious audience, its commentaries and their connection to the forms of Jewish commentary.”
Haaretz, November 15, 2016
A variety of 3,600-year-old gold and silver items has recently been discovered at Gezer. The items, which include figurines of Canaanite gods, were found inside a clay jar placed in the foundation of a building, leading archaeologists to surmise that they were placed there “as an offering to the gods to bless the building.” “We have been digging here for seven seasons, and this is the highlight,” said Zvika Zuk, leader of the excavation team. Other items found in the cache are a silver pendant carved with an eight-pointed star with a sphere in its center, and a scarab dated around 1650 BCE. “These items show Canaanite culture, with a clear Egyptian influence,” said Zuk.
Other recent finds from Gezer include a palatial building dated to King Solomon’s time, a layer of Philistine pottery, and a previously unknown Canaanite city dated around the 14th century BCE beneath Canaanite Gezer, the finds in which included “several pottery vessels, cylindrical seals, and a scarab with the cartouche of King Amenhotep III.”
Israel Hayom, November 17, 2016
On Wednesday, November 16, a ceremony was held in the Jewish Quarter in which a 1,500-year-old Byzantine arch and the second “Jerusalem of Mosaics” work were revealed by Yoav Galant, the minister of construction. The mosaic is a new work by David Harel, the purpose of which is to show life in the Jewish Quarter as it was 1,500 years ago. Galant also viewed recent finds from the cellar of the “Tiferet Yisrael” synagogue, including a stone weight apparently belonging to the Qatros priestly family. During the tour Galant said, “Stones that have survived 2,000 years, that our forefathers walked on and felt, are an exciting testimony to the non-severable connection of the Jewish people to this place.”