During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
The Jerusalem Post, May 7, 2017
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu of Romania visited Israel for the first time last week. He arrived on May 3 for a two-day stay, during which he met with Israeli politicians and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall, and Yad VaShem. He did not visit the Palestinian territories. During a joint news conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Grindeanu stated, “The fight against terror is what unites us.” Although Romania does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in east Jerusalem, Grindeanu spoke against the recent UNESCO vote rejecting Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem by saying that he believed he was in Israel as he sat in the lobby of the King David Hotel in the western part of the city. He noted that in 1948, Romania was among the first nations to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel. In a speech in Yad VaShem, Grindeanu said, “It is my pledge that Romania will always be on the front line of combatting anti-Semitism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination.”
Haaretz, May 9, 2017
Turkey and Israel have recently clashed in the most serious incident since the rapprochement agreement in 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a conference on Jerusalem in Istanbul, called upon Turks and Muslims across the world “…to visit the al-Aqsa mosque and voice support for the Palestinian struggle.” Erdogan also said, “Turkey backs Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and attributes significant importance to it…each day Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us. Israel’s policy toward Palestinians in the West Bank is racist, discriminatory and reminiscent of apartheid.” He warned the US that moving its embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem would be an “extremely ill-advised move.”
Emanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, stated, “Those who systematically violate human rights in their own country should not lecture and take the moral high ground over the region’s sole real democracy. Israel is unequivocally dedicated to preserving religious freedom for Jews, Muslims, and Christians – and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander.”
The Prime Minister’s Bureau had considered not responding to Erdogan’s statements, but the wide domestic and international coverage they received caused Prime Minister Netanyahu to instruct the Foreign Ministry to respond after all.
The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2017
President Reuven Rivlin has reiterated his invitation to Queen Elizabeth II to come to Israel for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Rivlin issued the invitation to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. This visit, if it were to take place, would be the first official visit to Israel by a British royal.
Welby is completing his tour of the region, having visited Gaza City, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, as well as Israel. Welby, who is known for his opposition to anti-Semitism, called his visit to the Western Wall and Yad Vashem “emotional”. He spoke of the plight of Christians in the Middle East and said that Christians in the region “…are always seeking peace, but as a weak minority that goes back to Christ, they are caught by greater forces and greater need to seek peace.”
Iton Shaharit, May 12, 2017
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim called a protest assembly in Dimona against a coffee shop run by the colleague of a Christian couple from the Netherlands. The demonstration took place on the evening of May 10th in front of the couple’s home. Demonstrators demanded they leave the residents alone to live as kosher Jews. During the demonstration, a municipality representative announced that he had been told by the local police station that the missionary decided to close the coffee shop due to public pressure.
Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, May 7, Makor Rishon, May 12, 2017
Benny Elon, a leader of the religious Zionist movement, former Knesset member and cabinet minister, died of throat cancer on Friday, May 5. He was 62 years of age. Born in Jerusalem, Elon was ordained as a rabbi after his military service and was known in the 1990’s for his opposition to the Oslo Accords. He served as a member of Knesset from June 1996 to February 2009 representing the Moledet party, both on its own and after the party’s absorption into the National Union. Elon became minister of tourism to replace Rehavam Ze’evi after the latter’s murder in 2001 and served in that position until the 2003 election. He retired from politics after being diagnosed with cancer. Elon founded the Israel Allies Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is to “work with Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize political support for Israel based on Judeo-Christian values.” The Israel Allies Foundation built strong connections with groups such as the Japanese Makoya and Israel-loving Christian groups in the US, Europe, Africa and the Far East.
President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement calling Elon “…a great man with an enormous heart, who dedicated himself entirely to public and educational activity…whose commitment to Israeli society and the state was deeply rooted and uncompromising.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Elon was “…a man of principles and values, a true friend, who loved the people and the land.” Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, called him the grandfather of faith-based diplomacy, noting, “(Elon) would be mourned by millions of Christians and Jews around the world.”
Yediot Yerushalayim, May 12, 2017
Some two months ago, the Greek Orthodox Church complained to the Jerusalem municipality that people celebrating Lag Ba’Omer with the customary bonfires had caused vandalism on private church property. The residents responded that the area in question is public. The municipality forbade the fires following the church’s complaint and noted that people preparing for the celebrations had been removed from the area by police. Boaz Cohen, a store owner on Mount Zion, met with David Koren, the mayor’s advisor on Arab affairs, and requested permission to carry out celebrations as usual, but was refused. Cohen then sent a letter to Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, stating that the Jewish Quarter residents committed to collecting trash after the celebrations and keeping passage clear for emergency vehicles. Following talks with the Greek Orthodox on Wednesday an agreement was reached, and the municipality will allow bonfires as usual.
The Jerusalem Post, May 7, 2017
On May 23, many churches in the US will screen Faithkeepers, a film about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, produced by the controversial Clarion Project. The article noted, “The film features chilling testimonies from Christian refugees from Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt about the horrors they endured, interspersed with experts discussing the history, context and decline of Christianity in the Middle East…The film seeks to draw connections between attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East.” Of note is the fact that the majority of speakers in the film called the persecution of Christians a genocide.
The film is produced by Paula Kweskin, who has produced Honor Diaries (2013) for Clarion, as well. Clarion’s films have garnered attention and controversy in the past from entities such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the New York Times editorial board. The NY Times, in particular, took exception to the films’ material and their treatment of it, but Kweskin said that the goal of Faithkeepers is “…to bring awareness to the injustices being done to Christians in their ancestral homeland.”
Haaretz, May 9, 2017
An ancient tomb has been discovered in the remains of a church in Hippos by the Sea of Galilee. The tomb, a marble sarcophagus faced with marble and crosses, was located at the head of the chancel and exposed above the floor. A hole bored in the top of the sarcophagus may have been used to pour lime on the remains. However, Dr. Michael Eisenberg, leader of the dig for Haifa University, and Professor Mark Schuler of Concordia University in Minnesota have raised the possibility that visitors to the church inserted a rod into the tomb as a holiness conduit, which would mean that the tomb may have been that of a saint. Hippos was destroyed by an earthquake in 749, and by that time most of its churches were no longer in use.