During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Matzav HaRuach, December 30, 2016
This article considers it to be utterly pointless for Jews to celebrate “Sylvester Night,” (a Germanic name for the final night of the civil year), noting, “Hanukkah’s basis is opposition to Hellenization, while celebrating the Christian holiday shows Hellenization and assimilation,” and historically “the night was often a pretext for spilling Jewish blood.” The article admits there are some Israel-loving Christians, but states that “in most cases, Christianity’s historic bottomless enmity towards Judaism exceeded that of the Islamic loathing,” citing the examples of Knesset Member Basel Ghattas’ cell phone smuggling, Greek Catholic priest Hilarion Capucci’s terrorism, and the fact that “The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” was founded by Christian Arabs.
Maariv, January 1, 2017
In May 1974, a bomb consisting of three bazookas as well as three Katyusha rockets aimed at central Jerusalem was found by the Shabak (Israel’s domestic intelligence service). Investigations revealed a smuggling route leading to Syrian-born Christian priest Hilarion Capucci, once Greek Catholic Archbishop of Caesarea and Israel and notorious for his anti-Israel views. Capucci was arrested in August 1974 with four Kalashnikov rifles, explosives, three Katyusha rockets and other weapons in his vehicle. During the investigation, he demanded he be released due to his diplomatic immunity, but he “made no secret of his hatred for Israel during his trial,” and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his activities. In 1977, Pope Paul VI exerted heavy pressure on Israel to release Capucci due to his health. Capucci was pardoned by then-President Ephraim Katzir, and deported to Italy. On January 1, 2017, the Vatican announced Capucci’s death at age 94.
The article says “Knesset Member Basel Ghattas should have consulted with Capucci before risking smuggling cell phones to terrorists. Capucci, too, deceived himself into thinking that the Shabak didn’t see everything he was doing, while they were documenting his activities and knew who he was meeting with in Lebanon and Jordan.”
Haaretz, January 2, 2017
The IDF has “sent letters to young Bedouin Arabs inviting them to volunteer for the army.” “Volunteering for military service is a way you can give and contribute to both yourself and your country and even get something in return,” said the letter, which was signed by Brigadier-General Eran Shani, head of the Manpower Planning and Administration Brigade. The IDF is offering any Bedouin who volunteer a reduced two-year service, as well as the opportunity to receive a truck driver’s license from a school on base.
This new initiative joins the older initiative in place since 2014 directed toward the Christian community, which was halted during that year after the military decided that the letters “weren’t having much of an effect.” The effort was renewed this year but numbers are still low, due to the dispute in the community over military service.
Christians in Israel
Makor Rishon, January 6, 2017
This article is a rebuttal to the interview with Wadia Abu-Nasser, media advisor to the Catholic churches in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza (“Bells of Warning,” Yishai Friedman, Makor Rishon, December 23rd, 2016, reviewed in the December 28, 2016 MR). Of particular note is the writer’s objection to Nasser’s statement that “he has more of a common language with Hamas than with Israel,” citing five examples of fire, beatings and disappearance of monies and antiquities as examples of the “lack of any common language.” Another objection of note is the one concerning Nasser’s characterization of the “price-tag” problem, and how the writer cites three examples of Muslim crimes against Christian sites, saying that “accusing a Jew of one crime while not raising a finger when the criminal is an Arab is the height of flattery and obsequiousness.” Yet another objection of note is given in response to Nasser’s statement that Jordan’s treatment of Christians is better than that of Israel, as the writer mentions how King Abdullah “forced Christians to celebrate Easter on one day only, which is neither the Gregorian nor the Julian day”, how Christian university students aren’t allowed to eat in public during Ramadan, how the Christian university students aren’t allowed to be absent on Christian holidays and make up examinations at a later date, and how Christmas was not marked by large parties, but only by liturgical church services. To conclude, the writer says that he doesn’t wish to present life in Israel like “than on Olympus,” but that “there is an immense gulf between distorting the facts and presenting them accurately.”
Makor Rishon, January 6, 2017
This article consists of two responses to Rabbi Pesach Wolitzky’s article about how Christmas trees are not idol worship (see January 8, 2017 MR), and Wolitzky’s rebuttal.
Baruch Ben-Yosef says that both Wolitzky and the rabbis he was criticizing are “missing the essence,” since the point at issue is “tolerance towards the symbols of a religion whose motto throughout history was murder of Jews as murderers of their messiah.” Ben-Yosef says that he considers displaying a Christmas tree in public to be “like displaying a swastika,” since “the Church called for the murder of Jews no less than the Third Reich,” adding that placing a Christmas tree in a public place is Israel “despises the memory of the millions of martyrs who gave their life for God in the face of our Christian haters.”
Moshe Gantz says that the non-censured Gemaras call Christianity idol worship, and that Christianity is a “spiritual enemy” of Judaism. For this reason any postmodernist argument that “there is no truth” is invalid in the face of “the expression of the truth given us from the Creator.” He concludes that Christians should display their symbols in their own houses and villages only.
Wolitzky responds to the two opinions given above, saying that not all the “first rabbis” considered Christianity to be idol worship, and that in any case in the last hundred years or so other rabbis have ruled that Christianity has changed over the past 800 years to the point that it is no longer idol worship. Wolitzky is puzzled that Gantz and others cannot recognize the “essential changes in Christianity and “the positive attitude toward Israel of part of the growing Christian world.” He adds that although “there are threats to the identity of our Torah-Jewish society, these threats do not come from the 2% of the country’s residents who are Christian.”
HaMevaser, January 4, 2017
A number of families, former members of the “Christian missionary cults,” participated recently in a trip organized by the anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim. The article emphasizes that the trip had been organized in such a way that “its immediate influence could be seen already by the end of the evening, as all the participants made good resolutions including keeping Shabbat, learning more Torah, sending their children to orthodox schools and making their kitchen kosher.”
BeSheva-Mitchalef Yerushalayim, January 5, 2017
Notifications from the public have been received by Yad L’Achim about a Bible story book for children, published by the Bible Society in Israel, and offered for sale at the Stalactite Cave souvenir shop. Additionally, parents appear to have reported having been asked questions about Christianity during their visit. Binyamin Volkan, Yad L’Achim’s field coordinator, stated in summary, “This is an apparent breaking of the law, since preaching and proselytizing of minors is forbidden.”
The Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2017
Britt Lode of Norway has recently become known for her activity of making rabbinical commentaries available to non-Jews. Her journey began with attending pro-Israel meetings in Norway, and later by Bible study and coming to believe herself to be descended from the lost tribe of Joseph, although she “considers herself to be independent from any movement” such as the Hebrew Roots movement or that of those who “have left Christianity and reclaimed the biblical status of ger toshav (resident alien). Upon discovering the rabbinical commentaries, Lode began translating articles on the weekly portion from English into Norwegian and distributing them by email. She was asked by her readers to make a book, and asked 12 different rabbis to write weekly portion commentaries and holiday lessons for her non-Jewish audience. This book, entitled The Light from Zion, has recently been published and the proceeds will go to needy families in Israel. “I believe this is part of the redemption,” says Lode.
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
HaChayim HaTovim, January 2, 2017
This article is a biography and interview with Israeli filmmaker, producer, entrepreneur and author Doron Eran (61) regarding his upcoming film A New Spirit. The film is based on his previous documentary The Messenger about Yaakov Damkani of the Messianic Jewish community. Eran first met Damkani when he was interviewed for a film Eran was producing for the Jerusalem Institute for Justice. Eran was favorably impressed by the people he met during that job, since they were “good Jews” who reminded him of his parents, “people without cynicism who came to build the country, from love.” He admitted “he is not a great believer” nor “a religious person,” but noted that the people he met, who “were charming, without personal motives,” made him “become a believer in people.” Damkani’s story drew Eran for both its dramatic quality as well as for the “true metamorphosis” it showed. “The beauty of this community leaves its mark on whoever meets it: welcoming people, who raise their children well, give a helping hand to each other, and live their life with an abundance of positive energies,” says Eran. “We live in an ultra-orthodox dictatorship under the guise of a democracy…but the film came out, and the responses were wonderful and full of emphathy for these people, who only want to believe in peace.”
Maariv, The Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2017
A new exhibition entitled Jesus in Israeli Art and curated by Dr. Amitai Mendelssohn has opened at the Israel Museum. “The result of extensive scholarly research,” the exhibition “presents unexpected and at times subversive artistic responses to the man Christians regard as their savior.” It consists of some 100 works by 40 different artists, including Marc Chagall, Maurycy Gottlieb, E.M. Lilien, Reuven Rubin, Menashe Kadishman, Michal Na’aman, Sigalit Landau, Adi Nes, Igael Tumarkin, Moshe Gershuni, and Motti Mizrachi.
The Jerusalem Post, January 4, 2017
This article reports on a one-week visit to Israel recently made by a group of celebrities including Mark Pellegrino, Sonequa Martin-Green, Daniel Dae Kim, Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin. Among other things, the trip included a visit to the City of David, Yad VaShem, a meeting with the Black Hebrew community in Dimona, and the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Pellegrino said that he “had been impressed by the breadth and scope of the Israel he had seen,” adding that for him, “if you stand for freedom and the right of people to live under a structure that promotes liberty, you have a good moral compass, and there’s nothing I’ve seen here [in Israel] that contradicts that.” Pellegrino also said that the trip “balances out what people ingest [about Israel] on a daily basis in the States,” and that the best way to counter that is “to get intellectuals here,” since “these are the guys that tell the culture what to think and what to say.” Franklin called the experience something that “starts the journey,” – something that for Christians “brings what we believe to life.”
The group was hosted by America’s Voice for Israel, an organization that “brings delegations of celebrities, athletes and taste makers to Israel,” in order to “counter distortions and misrepresentations about the Jewish state.”
Pnima, December 27, 2016
This article is a biography and interview with archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. Her scholarly, Zionist family is known particularly for its contribution to archaeology, as her grandfather, Prof. Binyamin Mazar, was “one of the most important archaeologists in the country” and a former president of Hebrew University; and her cousin, Prof. Amihai Mazar, won the Israel Prize for Archaeology in 2012. Mazar herself is known for having discovered the large stone structure in the City of David, which she considers to be King David’s palace; fortifications in the Ophel, which she considers to have been built by King Solomon; a Byzantine gold treasury, including a 10-centimeter gold medallion inscribed with a menorah, a shofar and a Torah scroll; and a seal impression of King Hezekiah. Mazar admits that digging in Jerusalem, as she has done most of her life, is complicated, but that “the scientific benefits are immense,” as “we have a rich, glorious past that must be uncovered.” Over the years, Mazar’s research has been called into question, particularly by those of the Tel-Aviv school of archaeology. This school contends “David never ruled in Jerusalem and that Jerusalem only become important after the 10th century BCE.” However, Mazar says “practical criticism is good,” but that she is “determined not to let criticism deter her from continuing to uncovering new findings.”
Haaretz, December 4, 2017
Engravings of a menorah, a cross and other figures were recently found by hikers while spelunking in an ancient water cistern in south-central Israel. A columbarium was found nearby as well. The menorah is particularly interesting, as it has a three-footed base, rather than a solid stepped base, such as the one depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome. The Israel Antiquities Authority tentatively dates the menorah to time of the Bar Kochba Revolt (133-135 CE) and the cross to the Byzantine period, most likely the 4th-century CE. Remains of buildings and hiding places dating to both periods have been found at the site.