During the week covered by this review, we received 29 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, May 19, The Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2017
Virtually all of the 90 embassies maintained in Israel are located to the west of Jerusalem, as far in that direction as geography of the land will allow. These articles state this fact is an “Orwellian” response to the argument that transferring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would be good for peace. “It is the most comprehensive, the longest-lasting and the most diplomatically influential of all the diverse boycotts ever mounted against Israel,” and effectively leaves Israel without a capital, the only country in the world to be so. If U.S. President Donald Trump decides to preserve the status quo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will welcome it as a “rare” diplomatic victory for the Palestinians. The article disagrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “curt” response to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s remarks apparently pulling back from a possible embassy transfer (see last week’s MR). If Trump means to work for Israeli-Palestinian peace, this may force Netanyahu to choose between “…working with Trump on a peace push and maintaining the support he has among the right-wing both in Israel and overseas.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. members of Congress has called upon Trump to move the embassy. The article quotes various representatives who spoke on the subject at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification at the U.S. Capitol, hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), congressional co-chairman of the Israel Allies Caucus, said, “The American Embassy belongs in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem.” CIAC co-chairman Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado), said, “I don’t know any other country in the world that isn’t able to name its capital.” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) “…called for all members of Congress to understand that Jerusalem is the undivided, indivisible capital of the Jewish state of Israel.”
Haaretz (four articles), The Jerusalem Post (three articles), May 22, Maariv, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, May 23, Israel Hayom, Yedioth Ahronoth, May 24, 2017
On Monday, May 22, U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia, having spoken in Riyadh to 50 Arab world leaders on issues such as combatting radicalization, vanquishing terrorism and Iran. Trump told the leaders, “America is prepared to stand (with you) in this battle, but the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for America to crush the power for them.” An analysis of the speech found that while former president Barack Obama devoted about a third of his speech in Cairo to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump gave much less time to it.
During his two-day stay, Trump visited the Western Wall, Yad VaShem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Israel Museum, where he gave his primary address. He met with President Reuven Rivlin at Rivlin’s residence and with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel. Trump visited the Western Wall privately. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, custodian of the Western Wall and Mordecai Eliav, head of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, accompanied him, rather than any senior politicians. Analyses, generally positive, were especially favorable regarding this visit since it constituted a break with U.S. protocol.
Trump’s speech at the Israel Museum speech received special coverage, the full text printed in two of the articles with relevant parts highlighted. The speech focused on issues including the need to destroy the ideology of terror, as well as the importance of living in an environment where everyone may live according to the dictates of their faith and conscience. Trump promised that his government would always stand by Israel and said that the U.S. is determined to prevent Iran going nuclear. He described his goal of “…forming a coalition of nations who share the goal of eradicating extremism and violence,” and called upon Israel and the Palestinians to be ready to make hard decisions for the sake of peace. He ended by saying, “Jerusalem, unmatched in the world, represents the longing of the human heart to know and worship God.”
One analysis of this speech noted that despite its warm tone, “Trump evaded the embassy transfer issue and did not side with Israeli demands for sovereignty.” The writer disliked the fact that Trump mentioned asking God for wisdom while he visited the Western Wall while not wishing Netanyahu or any other senior politician to accompany him. By speaking about everyone’s right to pray in Jerusalem, the writer says, Trump “…may be signaling his readiness to accept Palestinian demands for east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.” Trump is sending a message to both Israel and the Palestinians that “…parameters for a solution to the conflict must come from the sides themselves, and the US won’t do the work for them.” Trump’s message to the Arab world is that they must recognize Israel’s essential role in the region, while and his message to Iran is “…they cannot go on threatening to destroy Israel and if they hurt Israel, they will need to deal with him.”
Trump left Israel on Tuesday, May 23. His next destination was scheduled to be the Vatican, followed by the NATO summit in Brussels and a G7 meeting in Sicily.
Maariv, The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2017
On Tuesday, May 23, the Czech parliament decided to call upon the government in Prague to cease payments to UNESCO because of the latter’s anti-Israel resolutions. The parliament also called upon the government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This decision is due to the lobbying of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. A special Jerusalem Day event took place as well in St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague, organized by some pro-Israel organizations, including the ICEJ, and attended by Czech minister for culture Daniel Herman and officials from the Israeli embassy. Daniel Meron, Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, said that the parliament’s decision “…is a reflection of the unique relationship between two countries, the two peoples, and the two capitals.”
On Wednesday, May 24, former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke in the Senate, calling upon President Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Cruz noted the importance of Jerusalem Day and Israel’s battle for the city in 1967, and said that Jerusalem Day “…is a day where we must also reassert historical truth: the historic connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel did not begin in 1967.” Expressing his solidarity with Israel and the Jews, Cruz added, “Now, more than ever, America stands strong with our unshakable friend and ally, the nation of Israel.”
Christians in Israel
Makor Rishon, May 26, 2017
The Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum may need to close its doors at some point during the coming year, after five years of activity, due to a lack of financial assistance from the government. The article cites the example of former interior minister Gidon Sa’ar, who allowed people to register their ethnicity as Aramean if they wished to do so. Other ministers have offered to help, but the article noted that there is a lack of strategic planning in this area. Some forum activists appear to think that this lack stems from the absence of a desire to help. They say that this is a missed opportunity since the young people who enlist sometimes act as advocates as well and ignoring them might push them back into the Muslim political camp.
Father Gabriel Naddaf, the founder of the forum, has become an ambassador for Israel as well as a voice for Christian integration. He has spoken at the U.N., the U.S. Congress, and European parliaments about the secure lives and religious freedom Christians enjoy in Israel. He has also given the Israeli perspective in various South American pro-Palestinian countries. In Chile, he spoke to the local Palestinian Christian community on Israel’s vital place in the Middle East, politically and theologically. However, Naddaf has suffered persecution and harassment for his activities, some calling him a traitor, a “Zionist collaborator” and so on.
The essence of the response received from the relevant government offices, such as the ministries for social equality, strategic issues, and education was that they are doing all they can to help, citing concrete examples. Some noted that the scope of the assistance they can give is limited to the sphere of their ministries.
HaMekomon Obyektivi, May 19, 2017
On Sunday, May 28, the Ashkelon municipal retirees’ group and the Netzach Israel synagogue will host the Shalom Yerushalayim Korean cultural festival for the first time. The Christian organization Korean Christians for Shalom Jerusalem (KCSJ) is coordinating the event, which will include a play based on the book of Ruth in Hebrew, a folklore presentation, tae kwon do, and presentations of traditional crafts, games, music and dance and drumming. KCSJ is giving the festival to the state of Israel as a gift to honor Jerusalem’s jubilee.
The festival’s events are appropriate for all ages, and entrance is free of charge.
The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2017
This article covers “the heroic Christian support for Jewish Jerusalem over the past half-century,” and the stories of Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in particular.
It tells the story of Georgina and Dr. G. Douglas Young, who came to Israel in 1963 and founded the Israel-American Institute of Holy Land Studies. The Youngs decided to stay and assist when the fighting broke out, and Young himself drove his ministry van as an ambulance, despite the heavy shelling of the city. Students in the institute served sandwiches to soldiers stationed in the street outside and filled sandbags to protect the nearby hospital. The Youngs established Bridges for Peace after the war, a pro-Israel Christian organization the headquarters of which are still in Jerusalem today.
The ICEJ was established by Christian representatives when 13 embassies moved their offices to Tel-Aviv in protest of the Knesset declaration that the entirety of Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Today, the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles is the largest annual tourist event in Israel, with 5,000 representatives from over 90 countries each Sukkot.
Hundreds of Jewish and Christian Zionists will be rejoicing together in a special gala dinner to honor Jerusalem’s Jubilee. The article noted, “Perhaps it is the greatest miracle of all that so many non-Jews have indeed come from distant lands on account of what has transpired in Jerusalem over the past 50 years.”
The Jerusalem Post, May 26, 2017
Father Erik Ross, a Dominican monk from Wisconsin, first came to Israel in 2009 to study at the École Biblique in Jerusalem. During this trip, he conducted research in the institution’s vast library and saw sites all over Israel. Ross was not entirely content with his visit, however, since “the Israeli world seemed like it was behind glass.” He returned to Jerusalem to study Hebrew in 2010 and 2013, having fallen in love with Israel. He stated he wanted to witness the holy thing that is happening in Israel. Today, Ross explains to Jews how Israel looks through Catholic eyes and teaches Catholics about Judaism. Using teaching tools such as visits to synagogues, Ross shows his colleagues that God at work among the Jewish people. Although Ross cannot thoroughly explain his personal connection with Israel, he says his motivation “…is not entirely rational. It is really about love, love for the Jewish people and love for God, who loves the Jewish people.” He is “overwhelmed” by the generosity and courage of the Jews who have invited him into their homes.
The Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2017
In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem is a docudrama produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network and directed by Erin Zimmerman. It will be screened in theaters across the U.S. on May 23rd only. The film follows the 55th Brigade, the unit which penetrated the Jerusalem’s Old City through the Lions Gate, ultimately reaching the Western Wall. The film was shot in Israel in 2016 over 17 days after in-depth research and interviews with veterans as well as experts such as historian and Knesset member Michael Oren (Kulanu).
The movie honors those who sacrificed. “Jerusalem resonates with everyone,” said Zimmerman, speaking on her choice to focus on the 55th Brigade, and described how the unit was supposed to fight in the Sinai but was suddenly relocated into an urban warfare situation for which it was not trained. “It was amazing to me that they ended up victorious despite the odds,” said Zimmerman. Although the film runs for 101 minutes, she notes it is not a comprehensive documentary telling the complete story of the war. Rather, “…it is about the survival of the Jewish people, which yet again escaped annihilation.” Yoram Zamosh, a company commander in the 71st Battalion, says in the film, “We are finally at the Western Wall. I see this as the main legacy of our story… the story of the Jewish people, who rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust, who rose up and were able to come to the Western Wall forever.”
In Our Hands is the third film Zimmerman has created about Israel.
Maariv Mekomonim, May 19, 2017
The Association for Restoration and Development of the Jewish Quarter has recently revealed some new projects and sites to mark the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem’s unification. One of these was the memorial to the Jewish Quarter’s fighters in 1948, which includes an exhibit on the battle based on the photographs of John Phillips, an American journalist who documented the last ten days of the action in the quarter. Another site was the fourth mosaic in the artistic Jerusalem of Mosaics project, depicting a spice shop, and exhibited in the closed Cardo plaza. A third site is that of a new lighting installation above the Hurva synagogue, designed by Dan Skira and brought from the Iguchini factory in Italy, emphasizing architectural details in the building without overlapping shadows. Lastly, a new tourist center has been opened, offering a wide variety of services to visitors. The article also mentions a new subterranean passage between the Cardo and the Hurva Synagogue. Pedestrians using this passage may see an original Byzantine arch, which connected the Byzantine center of the city to the Cardo street.
Yediot Achronot, May 22, 2017
This article recommends the Good Samaritan Inn for the historical, archaeological and cultural experience it offers to visitors. Although the museum boasts a wide variety of artifacts in its collections, of note is the richness of the beautiful Byzantine mosaics both within the museum and in the open air outside it.
Index HaEmek VeHaGalil-Nazareth Ilit, May 19, 2017
A group of high school students, on a class trip to Jerusalem, met with Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia Atallah Hana, who spoke to them on the importance of the holy sites they had seen, and on Jerusalem in general. During his speech, the archbishop also emphasized the importance of “…solidarity with the prisoners who are on a hunger strike, as their goal is that of all the Palestinian people.”
Haaretz (Hebrew and English), May 26, 2017
These articles interviewed three travelers departing from Ben-Gurion Airport – Daniel Courny from Hyderabad, Jim Thornton from Tennessee and Zephania Mel from San Diego. Courny, a self-described missionary, was discharged from U.S. military service after being beaten in Israel for his evangelistic activities. He then moved to India, built an orphanage, and was giving food to people on the street. Courny was explicit in his opinions, saying, “Israel has a preferential status but that from those who received a lot, a lot is also demanded…Jerusalem was destroyed because Israel rebelled against God’s authority.” Thornton, an Old Testament professor, added, “There have been many curses since Mount Sinai because Israel did not obey God.” He said for the blessings to be realized “…Israel must atone for her sins and repent,” suggesting that one way to do this is to “have a lot more love for the Palestinians,” as they are “the stranger in the land”.
Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post, HaModia, May 26, 2017
To mark Jerusalem’s jubilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority is revealing new evidence of the battle for Jerusalem 1947 years ago, found in the excavations at the Stepped Street in Jerusalem’s City of David. These artifacts include ballista stones, arrowheads, and oil lamps. Nahshon Szanton and Moran Hagbi, who are directing the dig on behalf of the IAA, are of the opinion that Roman catapults fired the ballista stones, and Jewish rebels used the arrowheads. Advanced digging technologies appear to reinforce the understanding that the street dates to the time of the Roman procurators. Therefore, Herod was not the chief monumental builder of the period.
The team has uncovered an area some 100 meters long and 7.5 meters wide, and it plans to complete the excavation within five years. Not only is the street itself being excavated, but the shops along its sides as well. The team expects that including this area in the dig will enable them to answer questions such as the food eaten during the siege, the urban nature of the lower city, and what the main street leading to the Temple looked like.