During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Yediot Haifa, December 2, 2016
The Tax Authority has stated that the fires in Haifa, as well as in eight other places, were caused by fires originating in “acts of enmity,” with the result that the fire victims will be compensated by the state rather than by the insurance companies. The article quotes Dr. David Bukay, professor of Middle East studies at Haifa University, as saying that “the wave of arson proves that there never was coexistence with the Muslim population in Israel,” and that “arson has become a Palestinian Islamic ethos, replacing the knife intifada with a fire intifada.” Bukay added that he is of the opinion that “arson should be treated like a murder attempt, with the perpetrators punished accordingly.” Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav responded to Bukay’s statements by saying that they had nothing to do with the actual situation on the streets, and that “Haifa has been an international model of multiculturalism, tolerance and mutual responsibility for more than 100 years.”
Yated Ne’eman; HaPeles, December 7; Haaretz, December 8, 2016
On Monday, December 5, Dr. Isabel Phiri of Malawi was detained and interrogated at Ben-Gurion Airport due to her activism for the World Council of Churches, which supports BDS and “has been sending activists to Israel to carry out anti-Israel activity since 2002.” After consultation between Interior Minister Arieh Deri, the Population and Immigration Authority, and the Strategic Affairs Ministry, Deri decided to refuse entrance to Phiri, and she was returned to her country.
Phiri, speaking to Haaretz, stated that during her interrogation “the issue of BDS never arose,” and that she was therefore “surprised to see that her refusal was connected to BDS,” and that she feels that “the interior minister was misled.” Phiri also said that she was asked many questions about the WCC, and particularly about the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), a WCC program the avowed vision of which is “a future in which the occupation of Palestine has ended and both Palestinians and Israelis enjoy a just peace with freedom and security based on international law,” and the avowed mission of which is “to witness life under occupation, engage with local Palestinians and Israelis pursuing a just peace, to change the international community’s involvement in the conflict, urging them to act against injustice in the region” by “presence at vulnerable communities and reporting human rights violations.” Phiri added that she explained to the border officials that since she is at a management level she “didn’t have the practical details they wanted.” When asked by Haaretz if she “supports the boycott of Israel,” Phiri stated that “she acts in accordance with the views of the World Council of Churches.”
The Population Authority statement said that “this is the first time the State of Israel has openly refused entry to a tourist because of activism against Israel and activism to advance economical, cultural and academic boycotts against her.” The Authority further stated that contrary to Phiri’s statement, the reason for her refusal was “explained to her explicitly.” The decision of the border officials as given to Phiri stated “prevention of illegal immigration” as the reason for the refusal.
The WCC has protested the decision to prevent Phiri’s entry, and called it “unprecedented.”
Christians in Israel
Yediot Yerushalayim, December 9, 2016
A controversy is going on at the moment among members of the Armenian Christian community and its leadership, the residents of the Walaja village and the state over a proposal to turn 50 dunams of land belonging to the Armenian Church surrounding the Ein Haniya Spring into a national park. Members of the community say that such a move would “injure the sanctity of the site,” which has been an Armenian baptismal site for many years and is visited by many pilgrims, since they fear that it would become a ritual bath site for ultra-orthodox Jews. The residents of Walaja are angry as “most of the land on which the park is planned belongs to them,” the separation fence runs between the houses in Walaja and the lands they use for farming, and part of the village was annexed to Jerusalem. The Nature Reserves and National Parks Authority stated that “the fencing was done to preserve the restoration of the spring which is an archaeological site in a declared national park, and in order to prevent anyone from drowning. The Authority has ongoing contact with church officials and there will be no interruption to any actions arising from the religious needs of the church members.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2016
Roy Chen and his wife Yuk Lynn Chen Woo believe that God has sovereignly shown them in the Bible that they are to take part in bringing the Jewish people back “from the four corners of the world,” and specifically from Ethiopia. They therefore sponsored 1,372 Ethiopian immigrants to Israel through Operation Wings of the Dove from 2012 to 2013, and their SEEDS foundation has also “provided scholarships for higher education to a number of promising youth from the Ethiopian community already in Israel.” They have decided to continue to contribute through the Keren HaYesod–United Israel Appeal, as the government has decided to bring the remaining 9,000 Falash Mura to Israel over the next seven years.
However, the “real connection of the heart” came in November, when the Chens visited Ethiopia and Israel to get to know the communities in both places. They felt “incredible love,” especially for those still in Ethiopia, and told the assembled audience in Gondar that they are “God’s sons and daughters, that He will never forget them and that He will bring them back—every last one.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2016
This article by Rabbi Tuly Weisz expresses gratitude for the assistance offered by Christian Zionists after the recent forest fires, citing the generous amounts contributed by the Christian readership of Israel365 for assistance after the fires, including the notes from people who could not contribute but were praying for rain; the generous amounts from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; and the numerous offers of assistance received by the Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Cooperation, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
Weisz speaks against the “suspicion” shown by many Jews in the face of such an “outpouring of love and support,” and says the holders of such opinions “are still living in the past.” He says that just as Israel “learned valuable lessons” in firefighting from the tragic 2010 Carmel Forest fire—so that this year “not one Israeli lost their life—so also Israel should “learn another lesson,” which is “to say thank you to our Christian friends” since “there are hundreds of thousands of reasons to appreciate what Christian Zionists have done for Israel in this past week alone.”
Weisz is the director of www.Israel365.com, “a Bible-themed newsletter that connects 150,000 people to Israel every day,” and the editor of www.TheIsraelBible.com, “the only Bible to highlight the significance of the Land and the people of Israel.”
Maariv, December 2, 2016
The tourism situation in Nazareth, which was heavily impacted by Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and the wave of Palestinian terror acts in 2015, appears to be recovering at last, as indicated by the number of hotel room reservations. Tariq Shakhada, speaking for the Nazareth Organization for Culture and Tourism, states that the issues preventing full recovery are the security situation and the general international economic situation. Shakhada also said that the city infrastructure needs upkeep and the old city needs to be preserved. However, Dr. Sharif Safdi of the city municipality responded that while a grant had been received from the Ministry of Tourism for this work, professional differences between the municipality and the ministry regarding the entity that would carry out the restoration and the infrastructure upkeep led to a delay in using the grant. The consensus appears to be the Nazareth has much to offer the visitor, including a real foreign feel, and that good marketing is needed in order to make people aware of the city’s pleasant, hospitable character and the sites to be seen there.
Makor Rishon, December 9, 2016
This article reviews Nadav Shragai’s book The Hidden Wall: The Story of the Small Western Wall, Beit El Library, 2016, 336 pages, Hebrew.
One of the most famous works on the Western Wall was written by Conrad Schick in 1887, in which he presented his findings on the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. Since he was one of the only non-Muslims permitted access to the mount, Schick drew detailed plans of it during his time, including the Western Wall, which he stated to be 488 meters long. However, only 57 meters of it are visible in the prayer plaza and an additional 81 meters because of archaeological excavations, but except for the Western Wall tunnels area, the additional 350 meters are unknown or are covered by other structures.
In his book Shragai seeks to explore the reasons why the standing of the Western Wall is “different and unique.” He begins by exploring the history of the Wall, including Torah, historical and archaeological details, and continues to the current situation. He also states the fact that in 1967, 143 meters of the length of the Wall and 1 meter in width were registered in the Land Authority office as the property of the state, and asks why the entire length was not registered. Shragai states that he is “not an uninvolved bystander” and that his purpose is “to bring the public near to the smaller Wall plaza as ‘robes’ for the future Temple,” but his writing “is still scientifically sound and well researched. The wealth of detail sometimes make reading difficult, but generally speaking the book is fluid and orderly.”
Haaretz, December 8, 2016
This article reviews Dieterich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri, composed in 1680 and performed on December 6 by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and the Ensemble Phoenix, conducted by David Shemer. “Considered to be the first Lutheran oratorio,” Membra Jesu Nostri consists of seven small cantatas, each dedicated to a different part of Jesus’ crucified body, as seen by the believer who “is looking on and is filled with compassion and pity.” The article calls the piece “a classic of captivating simplicity,” adding that “the connection between the words and the music captures every heart, with or without faith,” and that the live performance is not to be missed.
The performances took place on December 6 at the Tel-Aviv Conservatory hall, on December 8 at the Jerusalem YMCA, and on December 10 at the Catholic Mar Elias Church in Haifa.