During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christian and Jewish Feasts
Matzav HaRuach, December 9; Haaretz, December 11, 2016
The first article surveys a statement made by US vice-president elect Mike Pence in a conversation with Tzvika Brot, Donald Trump’s strategic advisor in Israel, saying that Trump’s team in Israel “brought about a turning point among millions of American voters in the US, especially in key states.” The US team appears to have agreed that the inclusion of an Israel team as well as a Jerusalem conference broadcast in the US was aimed at evangelicals in the US who may have been undecided about whom to support.
The second article is an opinion piece about how, in a recent press conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears to have called anti-Semitism in the US “marginal,” and said that “there is no question that [Trump] has warm feelings towards the Jewish state, the Jewish people and Jews.” While the article admits that “from a narrow realpolitik viewpoint concerning Israel’s interests” Netanyahu’s praise “may have been appropriate,” by his statement he was in fact saying to the Jews in the US who are worried over the election’s outcome that they “are being hysterical for no reason.” The article cites anti-Semitic stereotypes used by Trump when he appeared before the Republican Jewish Coalition; how he “allowed his campaign to distribute a photo of Hillary Clinton with piles of money and a Star of David behind her”; that he “didn’t object clearly to endorsements of him by David Duke”; and that he appointed Steve Bannon, who has made clear anti-Semitic statements and “given a platform to the alt-right,” as his “close advisor.” When the US and Israel have their first disagreement, “Netanyahu will understand that Trump has no ‘warm feelings’ for anyone but himself,” says the article.
The Jerusalem Post, December 13, 2016
Adi Timor of Timor Consulting has stated that Ghana president-elect Nana Akufo-Addo “is a strong supporter of Israel.” Timor added that Akufo-Addo’s support for Israel comes from “deep religious Christian conviction,” and that she herself has received numerous expressions of support while acting as an advisor for Akufo-Addo during his campaign, even seeing “Welcome to Jerusalem” and “Welcome to Israel” in various villages. Akufo-Addo, an “elder statesman” who is “respected internationally,” is likely to become “one of the main moral leadership voices” in West Africa and to “have an impact in international forums,” and this is “very important for Israel,” added Simon Davies, also of Timor Consulting.
Haaretz, December 11, 12, 2016
On Monday, December 5, Dr. Isabel Phiri of Malawi was refused entrance 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” (see last week’s MR). Phiri was arriving in Israel to attend the WCC’s Kairos Palestine 2016 conference.
The first article sees the refusal of Phiri as an ominous forerunner of “the coming of McCarthyism to Ben-Gurion Airport.” It compares the refusal of Phiri to the refusals of entry given to Noam Chomsky in 2010 and Norman Finklestein in 2008, saying that such refusals will “cause more damage that any ‘Breakers of the Silence,’” and that “since the only way to fight such policies is by ‘measure for measure,’” an Israeli from beyond the 1967 borders should in future expect to be interrogated at Kennedy Airport or at Charles de Gaulle Airport. “Only when this starts happening will Israel become a more open country.”
While admitting that the WCC in general, and its Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) in particular, “endorse boycotting settlement products,” the second article is of the opinion that since WCC’s combined membership is some 500 million people, it is unfair to relate to them all in the same way. It says that Phiri’s refusal of entry was “a knee-jerk reaction without checking facts,” as “no connection between Phiri and BDS” can be found on the Internet dated before the current controversy. The article also is of the opinion that the media coverage of the incident ranged from “misleading” to “despicable,” not only “smearing Phiri’s reputation” but possibly “opening her to being targeted by extremists.” As “the historical role of the fourth estate is to question the establishment, not to be its stenographic mouthpiece,” by their actions the media has “perpetuated lies and helped suppress freedom of speech,” and should rather “commit to distinguish fact from demagogic fiction, in order to properly serve the public and protect unfairly targeted individuals.”
Haaretz, December 16, 2016
Emek Shaveh, a group of archaeologists “seeking to prevent the politicization of archaeology,” has filed a petition with the High Court of Justice regarding how the Western Wall tunnels “have been declared a holy site for Jews and not for Muslims and Christians,” causing the rules that govern the Western Wall to apply in the tunnels as well, even though artifacts belonging to other religions, such as a Christian chapel and a Muslim school, have been found there. Adv. Eitay Mack, acting for Emek Shaveh, says that the current status of the tunnels violates the Basic Law on Jerusalem, “which states that the holy sites of all faiths must be respected.”
The petition is to be heard on February 1.
The Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2016
The Knesset has recently hosted a group of Texas legislators who wished to learn more about the BDS movement, preparatory to the proposal of legislation “that would make it illegal for the state to do business with entities that back the BDS movement.” MK Robert Ilatov, head of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, told the group that the purpose of BDS is “to eliminate the existence of the State of Israel,” to “demonize it” and “to spread lies and falsifications.” During their trip the group also met with Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, and with Likud and Zionist Union MKs. Their trip was sponsored by the Israel Allies Foundation, Stand With Us, and the Israel Project.
Globes, December 15; Haaretz; Israel Hayom; The Jerusalem Post, December 16, 2016
These articles describe how Christmas in 2016 looks in various Israeli cities, and mentions some of the events to be held marking the holiday.
Although Bethlehem is decorated for Christmas, the article presents a bleak picture of hotels and souvenir shops mostly empty of tourists. Using as an example the state of the Jacir Palace Hotel, to which the writer came to cover the Kairos Palestine 2016 conference—at which Dr. Isabel Phiri was not present (see above under “Israel”)—it states that the reason for this appears to be the separation fence, the IDF’s use of the hotel for five months in 2000 and another two weeks in 2002, and the proximity of both Rachel’s Tomb and the al-A’ida refugee camp that cloud its atmosphere and its chances for a good recovery. In view of the foreign atmosphere, the writer asks his readers, “What right does Israel have to continue to manage people’s lives here?”
The articles on Christmas in Nazareth and the surrounding villages of Mi’iliya, Eilabun, and Fassuta begin by describing some of the culinary traditions, such as the main dish for Christmas dinner being chicken with red vegetables and the table being decorated with spurge. It continues with the Christmas markets, tree-lightings, band performances, parades, fireworks shows, and a variety of children’s activities. Of particular note is the concert hosting pianist András Schiff (see below under “Miscellaneous”).
In Usfiya on the Carmel a Festival of Lights will take place, marking both Christmas and Hanukkah, with a light procession, a concert, guided tours, and children’s activities at the community center.
Christmas festivities in Jaffa will begin on Friday night, December 16, with a Viennese Christmas Ball at the St. Nicholas Armenian Church. A tree-lighting will take place on December 18, and both St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and the Lutheran Immanuel Church will be holding midnight services. Jaffa will also be hosting a Christmas market during the month of December.
Christian and Jewish Feasts
The Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2016
This article analyzes the Christmas tree tradition from various Jewish perspectives, focusing specifically on people who live in places where Christmas is widely celebrated and “face the dilemma of whether or not to incorporate the celebration in their lives,” and if so, in what form. The opinions appear to be as varied as the people considering them, ranging from simply seeing a tree as a decorative object expressing festivity, to making it a “Hanukkah bush” with Jewish themed decorations, to actively objecting to it. Rabbi Joshua Davidson of Temple Emanu-el in New York stated that “pretending the Christmas tree is not a Christian symbol does a disservice both to Christmas and Christianity on the one hand and the Jewish identity of a family that incorporates it into their own practice on the other.” He therefore recommends that people enjoy their friends’ trees, while “trying to draw the distinction between what [they] are celebrating and what we are celebrating.”
Yediot HaGalil, December 9, 2016
The Polyphony Foundation was founded in Nazareth by Nabil Abud-Ashkar in 2012 “to bridge divisions between Arabs and Jews and find a common base through a common sound.” Students at the foundation have made good connections and lasting friendships, some even performing abroad together. This year, on December 19, the foundation and the Galilee Chamber Orchestra will host pianist András Schiff, who will be performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. “We are working hard with the Nazareth Tourism Foundation, the Orpheus Foundation, and the Nazareth Industrial Park to hold as many musical events as possible that would draw people to Nazareth and give the local residents cultural events of the highest level.”
Maariv, December 12, 2016
An almost-2,000-year-old coin found in the City of David was presented in a government meeting by Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev. The coin “belongs to the series of coins minted during the Jewish war against the Romans,” and is stamped with a vine leaf and a “Liberty of Zion” inscription on one side, and a goblet and “Year Two of the Great Revolt” on the other. It was found by a ministry staff member during preparations for the jubilee celebrations of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem, which will open during Hanukkah this year with the inauguration of the “‘Way of the Pilgrims’ which the Maccabees took to Jerusalem.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that since its unification, “Jerusalem ceased being a peripheral city and became the broad, established, vigorous capital of Israel—this is a huge event in Jewish and Zionist history, and we will mark it accordingly.”