During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:
Christians and the Holocaust
Conversion to Judaism
Shvi’i, February 3, 2017
During the last week in January, the annual event of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus took place at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria hotel (see MR January 2016 #4, Christian Zionism). Members of Knesset and heads of the World Jewish Congress were present, as well as leaders and members of Christian organizations. “As long as the UN and the EU continue to choke and be dumbfounded concerning condemnations of terror against Israel, the free world will continue to be threatened,” said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who delivered the keynote address. “I appreciate President Trump, who as the leader of the free world understands this. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem must only be the beginning,” she added.
Hed HaKrayot, February 3, 2017
Jehovah’s Witnesses activists distributing material on Achi Eilat Street in Kiryat Haim were attacked by a passerby, and the police stated that the suspect was detained, investigated and “released under limited conditions.” The head office of the Jehovah’s Witnesses stated that the activists who man mobile public relations stations “give explanations to any who ask, and do not force their faith on anyone,” and that “they are grateful to the police for their immediate response, providing protection of the rights of peaceful citizens.”
Israel Hayom, February 10, 2017
This article is an opinion piece by Prof. Amnon Rubinstein of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzeliya on separate burial as it pertains to the death of IDF soldier Vyacheslav Gragai (20). Gragai, who was serving in the Golani Brigade, died in an accident on the Golan Heights. He was followed at his funeral by some 2,000 people, who answered the call by Gragai’s mother on Facebook to attend the event, “as he had no family in Israel.” Most of the attendees were unaware of that Gragai wasn’t Jewish and that the funeral service would be a Russian Orthodox one. However, attendees stayed out of respect, and “the ceremony was carried out without protest.” Rubinstein sees this as “another testimony of the fact that the IDF is an island of welcome multiculturalism.” He stated further he “greatly appreciates the army’s consideration of ‘others’.”
In many cemeteries, the plots are divided into Jewish and non-Jewish areas in accordance with an ancient ruling of Jewish law on the subject. Eventually, the Knesset reached a compromise on the issue, which decreed that non-Jewish fallen soldiers would be buried in the same plot as other soldiers, but 2 meters from the nearest Jewish grave. Gragai is the first non-Jew to be buried in a Jewish plot. Rubinstein quotes MK Yoel Rezevozov (Yesh Atid), who stated that “even such a compromise still preserves the discrimination.” He noted that it is the State of Israel that drafts soldiers into the IDF, rather than the IDF rabbinate, thus, “the interpretation of the Jewish law ruling is irrelevant, and is in contravention to the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Law: The Dignity and Liberty of Man.” Rubinstein calls for the appointment of “religion officers” from other faiths as well as Judaism, and calls for the scope of their authority to be clarified in order to “apply to the IDF rabbinate the principles in the Declaration of Independence regarding the prohibition of racial and religious discrimination.”
Rubinstein is a former Education Minister, member of Knesset and winner of the 2006 Israel Prize for legal research.
The Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2017
This article covers the background and current progress of the restoration of the rotunda and aedicule inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (see MR November 2016 #1), begun in 2015 after the police barred entrance to pilgrims after determining “the structure was near collapse.” The funding for this project has come from “disparate places such as Greece’s Aegean Airlines, the World Monuments Fund in New York, and King Abdullah of Jordan.” Prof. Antonia Moropoulou of the National Technical University of Athens, who has also led restorations on sites such as Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Egypt’s Temple of Luxor, has been appointed to head the project. The two most notable discoveries by the team so far are a circular carved area and engraved channels in the bedrock of the tomb itself, along with traces of perfumes and oils rubbed into it by pilgrims and priests; and “a series of vibrant medieval frescoes which had been obscured by centuries of candle smoke, high above the burial site.”
The first church on the site was built by Constantine around 325 CE, but this was destroyed in 1009 CE by the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. The church was then rebuilt and renovated by the Crusaders in the 12th century. In 1808 the ceiling of the rotunda collapsed onto the aedicule as a result of a fire. Most of the resulting damage was to the exterior of the aedicule, which was rebuilt in 1810 by Greek architect Nikolaos Komnenos. The aedicule was again damaged in 1927 as the result of an earthquake, and the British put up a “cage” of iron girders to support it. Additional damage came from water seepage from the leaky roof into the foundations and slapdash sewage systems.
Christians and the Holocaust
Yediot Haifa, February 3, 2017
The non-profit organization Yad Ezer L’Chaver, which operates the shelter for Holocaust survivors in Haifa, marked the International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a conference at which some 1,500 people were present, including government ministers, members of Knesset, and other public figures. A Holocaust museum on Yad Ezer’s compound was dedicated at this conference, a memorial torch was lit, prayers were sung and the students from Jezreeliya school performed musical numbers in Hebrew and Yiddish. David Parsons, spokesperson of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said, “Evangelical Christians around the world will do everything so that the memory of the Holocaust will not be lost and that it will never happen again anywhere in the world.” Parsons added that the ICEJ will be donating a collection of survivors’ testimonies, and multimedia presentation, a Torah scroll and ritual articles saved from ghettos and concentration camps to the museum.
Shimon Sabag, son of a Holocaust survivor family from Saloniki, founded the organization 20 years ago. The shelter it operates is “the first one in Israel and the only one operating on contributions only.” It provides warm meals, medical, psychological and pharmacological care and social activities. Sabag promised at the conference, “We will continue to locate the Holocaust survivors who suffer want, and I promise to continue to assist them as much as we can.”
Conversion to Judaism
BaKehila, February 2, 2017
Samuel Gordon, originally from a small village in Nigeria near Port Harcourt, became a bishop of a Christian denomination and came to Johannesburg to complete his studies. He continued serving there until some five years ago, when “he dreamed of a man who fought him and called upon him to ‘choose Israel’.” He founded an organization of Christian Africans who support Israel and began public displays of support until he came across a book written by a Jewish rabbi, and came to the conclusions that “all his life he had been living a lie.” Eventually he left his Christian church and founded a congregation which “calls upon Gentiles to keep the commandments to the sons of Noah.” He has since suffered persecutions, but is determined to continue the process and convert to Judaism completely. He feels that “if Africa follows the way the Torah instructs, a great light will shine upon her and she will get out of her crisis.”
Haaretz, February 9, 2017
As part of the liturgical series performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra together with the Israel Opera, a concert featuring Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Haydn’s Nelson Mass will take place next week. Also to be performed are the “New Jerusalem” movement from a symphony by Andras Uibo and Orphan’s Kaddish by Avi Berman.
The program will be performed at the Mann Auditorium in Tel-Aviv on February 14th and at the Jerusalem Theater on February 15th, as well as being broadcast live on The Voice of Music radio station. Andres Mustonen of Estonia will conduct the concerts.
Zman Mevasseret, January 26, 2017
During recent years, the Dr. Israel Goldstein Youth Village of HaNoar HaTzioni has been carrying out exchange programs with students all over the world. The village hosts guests for short term study programs about Jewish identity and the Israeli experience, and sends some of its students for study programs abroad as well. For instance, six students from the village’s communications department have recently spent 10 days in Berlin, producing video clips on human rights and peace then broadcast on local German television. Pini Cohen, the village’s CEO, said that “one of the important values taught at the village is multiculturalism and knowing the other, and the many international visits contribute to this among the students.”
The youth village was founded in 1949 on 60 dunams of land, and includes a French high school, a study center, a center for youth who immigrated to Israel alone, ad well as many other projects.
Haaretz, February 10, 2017
The Leo Baeck Institute for the Study of German and Central European Jewry is to hold its annual international conference from February 12-14, 2017. The subject of this year’s conference is Jewish-Protestant relations since the Reformation. The final event, entitled “Luther, Bach and the Jews,” will include lectures by Prof. Guy Meron from the Leo Baeck Institute and the Open University, Prof. Samuel Feiner from the Leo Baeck Institute and Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Moshe Slokhovsky and Dr. Aya Elida from Hebrew University, and Prof. Lars Fisher from the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations at Cambridge. A chamber music trio will perform excerpts from the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The event will be held at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 20 Radak St., Jerusalem, on February 14, 2017, at 19:30.
The Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2017
Rabbi Raymond Apple is shortly to launch his book, New Testament People: A Rabbi’s Notes, in Jerusalem. Apple, who is known for his interfaith activities in Sydney, has “risked the wrath of both Jews and Christians.” He has pointed out “that even though the New Testament is a Christian holy book, many of its authors were Jewish, and it therefore is a work of Jewish interest.” Additionally, he states in the book’s preface that rather than being a Christian who worshiped in a church, “Jesus was a Jew who would be more at home in a synagogue,” and that “whatever others made of his life, death and teachings, he himself believed he was within the Judaism of the time.”
The launch will take place at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai, on Monday, February 13th.
Israel Hayom, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, HaModia, February 9, 2017
An archaeological excavation carried out this January near Qumran by a team from Hebrew University has uncovered what researchers are calling the Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 12. The finds include a number of pottery jars typical of the Second Temple period, organic material such as olive pits, flints and arrowheads, but one particularly notable find is a large pottery jar which contained a rolled piece of leather. This piece appears to have been a scroll “in preparation for writing, but was still blank.” All other jars were found empty, “the scrolls in them presumably having been looted by Bedouins in the mid-20th century, as testified by two iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s.” The other notable find is an elaborate carnelian stamp seal.
The excavating team was led by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia with Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia. “The excavation was supported in part by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Its findings are now part of the new ‘Operation Scroll,’ launched by IAA director-general Israel Hasson to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.”