During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2017
This article is an analysis and opinion piece on the Taylor Force Act, currently being considered in the U.S. Congress. The act, which was introduced and co-authored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), seeks to freeze U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority for as long as the PA continues to pay salaries to terrorists. However, it also says, “…the Palestinian security forces would continue to receive assistance for continued cooperation with Israeli security agencies to ensure stability for the PA and security for Israel.” As the funds currently being given are being used for terrorism rather than humanitarian aid, failing to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used as they’re intended constitutes indirect support for terror and “…undermines the moral authority of the US as the leader of the free world in its fight against terrorism.”
The article notes that the act is bipartisan as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) has signed on as an official co-sponsor, and other Senate Democrats such as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (New York), Ben Cardin (Maryland) and Bob Menendez (New Jersey) have expressed vocal support.
Israel Hayom, July 21, 2017
This article is an interview with Heinz Christian Strache, head of the far-right Freedom Party in Austria, which has moved from being a fringe party to a major player in Austrian politics after it became the second largest party in the Austrian parliament in 1999. Strache’s predecessor, Jörg Haider, gained notoriety for having praised “the Third Reich’s employment policy.” Strache, who became the party’s leader in 2005, has made significant attempts to get closer to Israel, visiting the country no less than four times, including going to settlements, hosting members of Knesset and making statements expressing an uncommon level of support for Israel.
Among the subjects covered in the interview were whether the party, in fact, incites against Islam, or merely expresses criticism; what the differences are between Strache and Haider; and whether Strache had in fact been a member of groups “with a problematic ideology” in his youth. Other subjects were whether Austria “…was, in fact, a victim during World War II or committed to the Nazis willingly” and what Strache’s opinion is of Israel.
In his answers, Strache emphasized how the accusations of incitement leveled at his party are slanderous, and that although he had had connections with far-right groups in his youth, he claimed he was an adolescent searching for his path and told the reporter he quickly discovered that he didn’t agree with them. He stated Austria was both a victim and a collaborator with the Nazis during World War II and that her current responsibility is “…to make sure that such a thing [as the Holocaust] doesn’t happen again.” Strache was particularly impressed by the friendly welcome he received in Israel and how the settlements are places “full of life.” He stated that the Arab countries must recognize Israel’s right to exist and that on principle, he rejects all calls for boycotts of the country.
The Jerusalem Post, July 18, 2017
A group of 28 Assyrian Christian youth leaders from North America has recently completed a trip to Israel. Their visit was part of an initiative by the Philos Leadership Institute for the purpose of “…(encouraging) leadership skills among members of this Middle East diaspora community, to connect them to Israel and to teach them about the conflict.”
Being immigrants to North America, some of the group members described cultural complexities resulting from the differences between their country of birth and North America. However, they all agreed “…the story of Israel’s founding has a message for a possible way young Iraqi Christians can come together in the future,” and find the similarities in the two people’s stories to be inspiring. At the same time, they also admitted that some of the possible hurdles facing the Christian communities are the questions of who will rule Nineveh and whether Christians will receive more autonomy in the country. They noted there is competition among various Christian groups who don’t agree on the vision for the future.
Makor Rishon, July 21, 2017
This article surveys the ties between the Druze community and the State of Israel in light of last week’s terror attack on the Temple Mount, in which Master Sergeant Haiel Sitawe and Master Sergeant Kamil Shnaan were killed. It details how political parties and activists, left-wing anti-Zionist organizations, Christian church denominations and international entities, are attempting “…to divide the Druze from the state and increase conscientious objection.” Some of these organizations say that Druze officers and soldiers in the IDF have been highlighted in the media with the goal of increasing hate. Others say that Druze youth have been “brainwashed by the Zionists.” Still others say, “Israel is a danger to the free world because of her sophisticated weapons industry.”
The article notes the actions of the Quaker American Friends’ Service Committee, whose pacifism appears to have caused them to become enthusiastic supporters of BDS in general and conscientious objection in Israel in particular, both in the Druze community and elsewhere. These attempts by the Committee do not appear to have borne significant fruit so far, but those to whom the connection between the Druze community and the state of Israel is important “…will not be able to ignore the attempt to undermine the old covenant between Jews and Druze.”
The Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2017
An event took place this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the S.S. Exodus’ arrival at Haifa Port. Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society of Historic Preservation, initiated the raising of a monument to the event, which was unveiled at the ceremony. American Christian Zionist Rev. John Stanley Grauel, a Haganah agent who was on board disguised as a journalist, was also honored at the ceremony. The article noted, “Grauel’s report on how a British naval destroyer rammed the Exodus, how its sailors seized it and what the 4515 passengers had experienced after surviving the Holocaust and being returned to Germany, was instrumental in the passing of the November 29, 1947 resolution on the partition of Palestine.”
The event was co-sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Executive Director Jürgen Bühler told the assembled audience, “The story of the Exodus is dear to Evangelicals all over the world.” He also said, “Millions of Christians stand with the Jewish people and understand its need for a secure Jewish state.” The ICEJ also brought a group of Holocaust survivors to share their experiences with some of the other people who were present.
Iton Shacharit, July 19, 2017
US Vice-President Mike Pence, speaking at a conference of Christians United for Israel on July 18, promised that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem. “It is only a matter of time,” said Pence.
The Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2017
On Tuesday, July 18, the St. Sergius Mission was reopened after extensive renovation. The ceremony included a dedication and a sanctification of the compound, which will not be insulated but be open to those from countries with which Russia has good relations. The article covers the main events in the history of the compound, particularly the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries after 1967, but goes on to mention how perestroika and glasnost in 1989 enabled the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society to renew its administration of Russian Orthodox affairs in Israel. In 2003, Ariel Sharon told Vladimir Putin that Israel would cede ownership of mission lands in exchange for Russia’s promise not to sell weapons in the Middle East. The final transfer agreement was signed in 2009, and in 2011 renovations began. Russian Ambassador Alexander Shein said that the transfer of the property “…contributed greatly to the advancement of bilateral relations and friendship between the two countries.”
Christians in Israel
Index HaGalil-Tverya, June 23, 2017
The IDF has recently rejected the applications from 100 out of a total of 140 Christian volunteers, some due to a criminal record or other reasons not mentioned in the article. Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Israeli Christians’ Recruitment Forum expressed amazement at this response, and said, “…it pained him as one who made a covenant with the IDF, Israel and the state of Israel.” The IDF responded by saying that the numbers quoted in the article are inaccurate, that it is working to increase the numbers of Christians in its ranks, and that they will investigate in detail each case about which the public wishes to inquire.
Haaretz, July 20, 2017
Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Canadian-Armenian actor Arsinée Khanjian, Brazilian filmmaker Anna Muylaert, and American director Todd Solondz have currently signed up to collaborate on a film project entitled The Quarters. The project will include four stories connected with the Old City’s historic Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters. The four will “…showcase the Old City’s complexity through an outsider’s view…and will not necessarily express blind love for the city.” Makhmalbaf said that his purpose is to understand the city better, “…since when you know the other side there is less hostility and at least a possibility of friendship.” Khanjian said that her purpose is to tell the world about the Armenian community, as visitors often ignore it. Solondz stated that he doesn’t discuss projects until they’re completed, but did say that his plot will be about an American-Jewish adolescent who is forced by his parents to celebrate his bar mitzvah in Israel, and what happens to them while they are in the country. Eran Riklis, the Israeli director-producer who will serve as the project’s artistic director, talked about how the issue of leaving the four plots as separate units or connecting them by a common thread is both an artistic and political question. “Although Jerusalem is divided, it has a long history of unity,” noted Riklis, admitting that the question still needs to be decided. He does not want the project to avoid addressing current issues, but recognizes these issues require careful handling as they are “highly incendiary and sensitive”.
The project was initiated by Green Productions and by US producer Scott Berry (Impulse Pictures).
HaModia, July 17, 2017
This year, the Ets Haim Jewish library in Amsterdam is celebrating its 400th anniversary. Originally founded by Portuguese Jews escaping the Inquisition, it served the Jewish community both for consultation and research as well as education. During World War II, the Nazis sent the books to Offenbach in Germany, but, inexplicably, they remained untouched until Allied soldiers discovered them in 1946 and returned them to Amsterdam once they had traced the books’ provenance.