During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, June 27, Yediot Yerushalayim, June 30, 2017
These articles report on two significant issues that have arisen recently regarding Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
On Monday, June 26, politicians across the spectrum vigorously protested a government decision to give the Chief Rabbinate the monopoly on determining conversion to Judaism, and the decision to freeze the building of an egalitarian prayer plaza at the southern end of the Western Wall. One notable protest was given by Knesset Member Michael Oren (Kulanu party), who declared his intention “…to violate coalition discipline and vote in the Knesset against these decisions,” noting his fury over the matter and his concerns over alienating Diaspora donors. “The Kotel belongs to the Jewish people as a whole,” Oren said, adding that freezing the building project is tantamount to abandoning Zionism. Another notable protest was that of MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid party), who told his faction that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has become “…a puppet prime minister of the ultra-Orthodox,” rather than the prime minister of Israel. A third notable protest was that of MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid party), who sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, asking him to investigate the passing of the Western Wall decision.
The second article reported a possible Jerusalem municipality plan to build a second prayer plaza at the Western Wall underneath the current one. Mayor Nir Barkat told Likud activists on a city tour that the project includes extensive renovations of the site itself – to uncover and preserve archaeological artifacts – as well as the transportation to the site. The plan also provides educational activities for children, military, and university students. The municipality stated, “The plan is in its early conceptual stages, and when it has been completely formulated it will be passed through channels appropriately and transparently, taking all the sensitive issues under state jurisdiction under consideration according to the status quo of decades.”
The Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2017
This article by Adnan Oktar surveys this year’s A9 TV Iftar (fast-breaking) banquet, which took place in Istanbul on June 8. Speaking about the banquet’s intercultural, interfaith mission, Oktar mentions as present Jewish and Christian clergymen from Israel, France and the U.S., in addition to those coming from Turkey. Also present were politicians, diplomats, academics and celebrities from within and beyond Turkey. Of particular note was the video greeting sent to Oktar by Knesset Member Yehuda Glick (Likud party) in celebration of Ramadan. This greeting called Oktar “a champion of religious tolerance, champion of love to all human beings, champion of God in the world.” The article ended with the expressed hope that the banquet and other, similar events will help build unity and solidarity among people, bringing them one step closer to peace.
The Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, June 30, 2017
The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation recently awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Medal to Archbishop Corrado Lorefice of Palermo for transferring ownership to the Jewish community a church-owned property built above the ruins of the city’s Great Synagogue. Lorefice, speaking to an audience celebrating at his home, said, “This is the first step on the long path that we are called to together, to reach God on the day when all people will be together in paradise.” He noted, “It is important to rediscover the beauty of the roots of our identity,” and added that it is equally important for Jews to recognize the Christian community.
The Sicilian Institute of Jewish Studies together with the non-profit Shavei Israel requested the transfer of the building in 2016, and Lorefice agreed to it twenty days later. Rabbi Pinhas Punturello, the community’s spiritual leader and Shavei Israel’s emissary to Sicily, will lead the congregation as they renew the synagogue’s operation.
Makor Rishon, June 30, 2017
This seven-page article is a biography and interview with Mike Evans, well-known for his newspaper articles and books. He is particularly well known for his Christian Zionist activities, one of which is the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Evans told Makor Rishon that he realized his calling to defend the Jewish people after seeing his Christian father show anti-Semitism towards his Jewish mother on a regular basis.
During the interview, Evans covered his support for U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he called “a man of moral clarity.” He went on to explain how he has noted both an increase in support for Israel and, simultaneously, a rise in anti-Semitism. He said, “Israel is the jewel of the Middle East in everything to do with technology and medicine, and she has obtained everything imaginable.” Evans described his lack of support for a two-state solution, calling Gaza “a terror country”, but noted that Palestinians would “…begin to lose their sense of feeling shamed” if visible investments were made in sources of income for them. He said, “Jerusalem should not be divided since it unifies Jews all over the world.” Although Evans is proud of having known Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since 1981, he declined to comment on domestic politics when asked about the various controversies with which Netanyahu’s name is currently connected.
The article ends by describing some of the visitors to the museum, and how both support and opposition for the museum’s message have come from unexpected sectors of society.
Israel Hayom, June 29, 2017
This article surveys anti-Semitism in Germany, particularly as shown by internal investigations of anti-Semitic incidents. The article cites an independent commission’s report to Germany’s Bundestag, which found “…fewer and fewer Germans hold classic anti-Semitic views, while more and more Jews feel anti-Semitism growing around them and fear that it will only continue to rise.” The article states, “…the problem is not classic anti-Semitism, which accuses Jews of things such as using the blood of Christian children for baking matzah, but modern anti-Semitism, which accuses Israel of murdering innocent Palestinians out of malice aforethought…Most Germans would prefer Jewish neighbors over Muslims, gypsies or Romanians, but 40% of Germans say that Israel treats Palestinians like Nazis treated Jews.” Israelkritik towards the whole country is legitimate, says Germany’s leaders, and should not be viewed as anti-Semitic in nature. The article notes that no other country but Israel draws a comparable amount of criticism. This refusal to recognize that anti-Semitism is still alive and well in Germany “not only prevents the development of its connection to Israel but has become a threat to Germany itself, as Islamic radicals do not differentiate between Jews and Christians.”
Maariv, June 29, 2017
This article mentioned some archaeological sites less familiar to Israelis that may be of interest to some, such as Tel Arad, Scythopolis, the Nabatean cities in the Negev, the Mameluke Nimrod’s Castle, and the Crusader-era Belvoir. The article described the first three in detail. It begins with Tel Arad, which preserves the ruins of a Canaanite city and fortresses from the times of the kings of Judah. Of particular interest is its temple, built following the same lines as the Temple in Jerusalem, even including a Holy of Holies.
The article next described the ruins of Scythopolis at Beit Shean, known as the capital of the Hellenic Decapolis federation and called “Pompeii of the Galilee” because it was destroyed by an earthquake. Three Nabatean cities have been discovered within the borders of Israel- Avdat, Memshit and Shabata. Avdat, in particular, located on the Spice Route, is known for its well-preserved acropolis and nearby farm, showing the use of water conservation systems to grow crops in the desert.
Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2017
A joint research project led by Dr. Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel-Aviv University has recovered fragments of 3000-year-old textiles containing traces of plant dyes discovered plant dyes from the ancient copper mining site in the Timna Valley. The IAA has stated that these artifacts are the oldest found in Israel to show traces of plant dyes. They were identified at Bar-Ilan University laboratories using HPLC advanced analytical equipment, revealing the use of madder for red and indigotin, probably produced from woad, for blue. Ben-Yosef stated that the fabrics were colored with true dye, “…characterized by a chemical bond between dye and fiber, attesting to professional knowledge and skill.” Sukenik noted that finding these fabrics at Timna appeared to indicate that Timnan society, identified with the Kingdom of Edom, was “…hierarchical and included an upper class that had access to colorful, prestigious textiles.” Sukenik added, “As smelting the copper required considerable skill, the metalworkers responsible for this appear to have been members of this elite, as borne out by the context in which the textiles were found.” She, therefore, considers the finds an innovation, as so far the research supposition has been that slaves operated the furnaces at Timna.
The project was carried out in cooperation with a research team from TAU and Bar-Ilan University. Its findings were published this week in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE.
Haaretz, June 29, 2017
Bethlehem’s 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity has been undergoing extensive restoration over the past few months. Restoring the large mosaics on the church walls has been the greatest preservation challenge so far, as only 7 percent of the original work appears to remain, and much of that had been covered with soot. However, the project has also found a previously unknown mosaic of an angel which had been covered by plaster. The largest engineering challenge was restoring the church roof, some of the beams of which dated to the 16th century. Most of the beams were surprisingly sound, but their age required that the pieces used for replacement be old as well. They were, therefore, taken from sites such as churches in Italy.
Father Francesco Patton, Roman Catholic Custos, said that the work has also had “…the symbolic value of unity and the restoration of relations between Christian communities” who have had a bitter and sometimes violent history among them.
The renovations are being carried out by the Italian firm Piacenti. The project’s work manager estimates a further three months are needed to complete the work.