During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2017
On Friday, July 22, a Palestinian entered a house in Halamish, killed a 70-year-old man and two of his children, and severely injured the man’s 68-year-old wife (ed.).
People and organizations all over the world continue to issue reactions. One condemnation came from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called upon people “to refrain from any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation.” Sweden, France and Egypt have requested that the UN Security Council discuss ways “to support de-escalation in Jerusalem.” Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon called upon the Security Council “to immediately condemn this despicable terror attack,” and continued to urge the UN “take action against the Palestinian Authority for paying stipends to terrorists who kill Israelis.” Danon also noted that these payments consist of 7% of the PA’s yearly budget, and 30% of the foreign aid it receives from UN member states. The World Jewish Congress called on the PA “to take immediate action to curb incitement.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called the attack “a heinous, immoral crime, inexcusable in the name of any faith.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the World Council of Churches, which “demanded a return to the status quo on the Temple Mount.”
Yated Ne’eman, July 25, 2017
On Friday, July 22, a demonstration took place in front of the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, protesting the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount. The demonstrators threw stones, kicked the building’s doors and tried to force entry. Kürşat Mican, a local leader of the Turkish National Union party, spoke at the demonstration, accusing Israel of “harassing our Palestinian brothers and hindering their freedom of worship.” He also said, “either the Zionists take themselves in hand, or we will come back.” Other demonstrators chanted, “If you don’t let us into our holy place, we won’t let you into yours.”
The Jewish community leaders in Istanbul have called upon the Turkish prime minister and interior minister “to put an end to this phenomenon.” Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hitrik, one of Istanbul’s rabbis, told Yated Ne’eman that although the demonstrations “are a cause of great concern,” they did not cause any alteration in the Jewish community’s way of life, as they did not take place during prayer services. Also, the security forces in Turkey appear to have increased their presence around synagogues and Jewish institutions.
The Jerusalem Post, July 23 (two articles), The Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2017
The 12th annual conference of Christians United for Israel began on Monday, July 17, in Washington D.C (see last week’s MR). Some 5,000 activists were present, who “heard speeches from top Jewish, Israeli and political leaders; lobbied for legislation and celebrated the new political climate in Washington.” The article notes, however, that despite the evident relief at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, “a full-throated endorsement of US President Donald Trump, at least from the leadership, was missing from the proceedings.” Pastor John Hagee, head of CUFI, “voiced concerns about Trump’s commitment to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.” However, CUFI representatives also praised Trump for his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and the fact that his administration has friendlier relations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government than had that of Obama.
The second article consists of Jewish reactions to the content and atmosphere of the CUFI conference. Tuly Weisz of Israel365 called the event powerful and moving, yet confusing. He wonders if Hagee’s comment about “I am an Israeli” being a boast in his speech was “merely a more political and high-profile form of missionary activity.” However, he concludes that this was not the case, and that “Jewish-Christian relations have seen a major shift over the past few years.” For Weisz, this change was most evident at the latest Israel365 conference in Jerusalem, where Yaakov Hayman, executive director of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, told an American attendee asking about Christian Zionists supporting Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, that “Christian pilgrims who visit the mount should wear a Jewish kippah as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people’s struggle for prayer rights there.” Saying that “we have entered a golden age of Christian-Jewish relations,” Weisz praises Hagee for having taken public positions against proselytizing Jews. “In this new era, we can form relationships without the fear of hidden agendas and should no longer feel threatened when Christians impersonate Jews by wearing a kippa,” says Weisz.
In the third article, Dov Lipman, a former member of Knesset and current member of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, joins Weisz is expressing how moved he was to see the fervent Christian support for Israel at the CUFI conference. He declares “it is clear that we have no greater friends than the Christian Zionist community.” In his meeting with Hagee during the summit, Hagee asked Lipman to “help get the word out in Israel and among Jews worldwide that we are here for you,” as he “hears skepticism, suspicion and even fear from the American Jewish community.” Lipman, in this article, is, therefore, calling upon his fellow Jews and Israelis “to embrace our Christian brothers and sisters who love Israel and the Jewish people unconditionally.” Despite the long and tragic history between Jews and Christians; in view of the fact that Israel’s Christian friends “do not seek to shirk this history but rather to own up to it and seek forgiveness and reconciliation”; and in view of the fact that Israel doesn’t have many friends, “the onus is on us to accept their embrace with open arms and work with them towards achieving a safe, secure and thriving State of Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2017
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili recently visited Israel. He met with President Reuven Rivlin, who told him that “Israel has no war with Islam or Christianity, although there are fundamentalist Muslim elements creating provocations that would indicate otherwise.” Speaking about the different styles of worship in the various streams of Judaism, Rivlin added, “we are not talking about different gods. There is only one God, and we all worship Him in our own way.” When speaking regarding ISIS, Rivlin said that “it influences children and adults via the Internet and incites them to go out and kill infidels- non-believers in the Islamic faith,” but noted that at the same time “Shi’ites and Sunnis are butchering each other.” He also said that Iran is a continued concern to Israel, as “it not only funds terrorist organizations but is also building a tunnel from its border to the Mediterranean.”
Kvirikashvili noted that some of Georgia’s Muslim population is influenced by ISIS, but said that “we understand your challenges and we hope you will be able to resolve the issue.” He conveyed condolences to the family of the terrorist attack victims in Halamish on Friday, July 22, calling the attack “outrageous.” Kvirikashvili said that Israel and Georgia face similar challenges regarding adversity. He spoke about the difficulty in “keeping the international community aware of Georgia’s problems and at the same time assuring the investor community that it is worthwhile investing in Georgia,” adding that “Georgia had succeeded in striking a good balance between the two.” He is hopeful that the increasing Israeli tourism will lead to investments from Israel as well, and “was appreciative of the fact that Israel had supported Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
The Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2017
This six-page article describes the tireless efforts of the Galilee Medical Center to give medical care to some 1,700 of 3,000 Syrian refugees who have come over the border since 2013, some of the wounds of whom “are of a kind that doctors have never seen before.” The Galilee Medical Center, founded in the 1950s as a tiny hospital, has become a world leader in the treatment of severe war wounds. Although this story has been underplayed, the film The Syrian Patient (Racheli Schwartz, 2017) has been able to document both their story and the staff’s compassion and skill in such a way that the Syrian patients’ safety has not been compromised. The article notes that Dr. Masoud Barhoum, “a Christian Arab and fervent Israeli patriot,” has been largely instrumental in shaping the hospital’s culture of cooperation between doctors, and quotes Barhoum’s statement to Haaretz that the hospital admitted the Syrians “because they are human beings.”
Christians in Israel
Yediot Haifa, July 21, 2017
On Sunday, July 16, hundreds of Christians gathered in the Mar Elias Church at Stella Maris in Haifa to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Carmel. Wadia Abu Nasser, the spokesman of the churches in Israel, explained to Yediot Haifa that Stella Maris received its name from New Testament commentators “who compared Mary to a small cloud raining much rain after years of drought.” Abu Nasser added that Mary’s feast day as patroness of the Carmelites is July 16 because this was the day she appeared to St. Simon Stock, an early Carmelite prior-general, and gave him a brown robe “as a symbol that she is protecting him and the order from harm.” The article also states that “this is the last time Mary revealed herself in the Holy Land,” noting the instance of Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes in France in 1858, who saw visions of Mary in a cave nearby the city.
Kalkalist, July 27, 2017
This six-page article protests the inclusion of the school materials called The Bible in Augmented Reality and designed by David Green’s Museum of the Bible, in the curriculum for Israeli schoolchildren. It says that although the avowed purpose is making the Bible accessible to school students using innovative technology, its purpose is, in fact, religionization. Calling the mindset behind the books and the way it presents the material conservative Christian, the article quotes Dr. Tomer Persicco of the Shalom Hartmann Institute and Tel-Aviv University, who said that “there is a significant difference between the way the evangelicals read the Bible and the way Jews do. They take the Bible much more literally.” It is unclear whether the material has been approved by the Ministry of Education or not, but the books appear to be used in the school system of various cities due to the request of their mayors. The article “wonders if the intent of this dissemination of material is to support Jews, which according to Christian belief would lead to the building of the third temple, so that the war of Gog and Magog would begin, at the end of which Jesus would come.”
David Green is a US evangelical Christian billionaire and owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores. The Green family is currently initiating the “grandiose” Museum of the Bible mentioned above, the intent of which is “to document the Bible stories and describe their influence.” The museum is to open this November, and its collection already numbers some 47,000 items. The Green family will be cooperating with the Israel Antiquities Authority, “who will be responsible for the exhibition of some of the Israeli national treasures in a central gallery of the museum.” At the beginning of the month, Hobby Lobby was allegedly fined some 3m.USD for importing some 5,500 archaeological items from Iraq, a large part of them smuggled through Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The fine appears to be the result of six years of federal investigation.
Gefen, July 14, 2017
A group of Jewish and Christian motorcyclists from Europe and the US set out from London on June 13, crossed Europe with the Maccabiah torch. They covered some 7000 kilometers over a month’s time, and each rode with both a flag of Israel and of their home country on their motorcycle. The group arrived in Israel on June 29, and participated in the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah, bringing the torch to the Maccabiah Village and then to Jerusalem.
They were sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Romanian center for the surveillance and eradication of anti-Semitism.
Kan Darom, July 21, 2017
Excavations are currently underway at a site on the southern coast of Ashdod. Previous digs have found traces of a 7th-8th century BCE city, as well as artifacts from many different periods, such as ancient buildings, fortifications, coins, arrowheads, ballista stones, a talisman against the evil eye and even evidence of a burned building. The current dig, however, is attempting to find written evidence concerning the ancient port, which they surmise has been covered by sand.
Dr. Alexander Pentalkin of Tel-Aviv University is leading the dig. Among his volunteers are Germans, Swiss, Italians, Americans, and Israelis.
Haaretz, July 21, Iton Shacharit, July 23, 2017
An Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) dig in Rosh Ha’Ayin has recently found a 2,700-year-old water system, the dimensions of which are uncharacteristically large, being some 20 meters in length and some 4 meters in height. Although the reason for the system’s size is currently unclear and its builders are unknown, it is elaborate, as it has human and abstract figures scratched on its walls, and its reservoir was carved out underneath a structure 50 meters square. Previous digs have found a courtyard and “robust” walls in the remains of this building, but Gilad Itach, leader of the dig for the IAA, surmises that its purpose was administrative, as its location would have been too remote for an Assyrian palace.
Archaeologists have determined that the water system remained in use until some time within the last 100 years.
Ma’ariv, HaMevaser, July 27, 2017
A dig, working at the eastern slope of Jerusalem’s City of David appears to have discovered evidence of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians in 586BCE. This evidence consists of 2,500-year-old houses covered with a stone avalanche. The archaeologists found among the stones other remains such as charred wood, grape seeds, potsherds, fish scales and bones, and rare and unusual objets d’art, “showing the riches of Jerusalem under the the kingdom of Judah.” Other clay pitchers used for storage bore a “rosetta,” which was characteristic of the administrative system of the time, replacing the inscription lamelekh (‘of the king’-ed.), which the previous system had used. “An ivory figurine of a nude woman wearing an Egyptian wig was found as well, and the detail of the carving speaks of the sculptors’ skill and the object’s high artistic level.”
Dr. Joe Uziel and researcher Ortal Kalef led the dig for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2017
Dr. Marcela Zapata-Meza of the Anahuac Mexico University has discovered that Magdala may have been inhabited by elite Jerusalemites fleeing Roman persecution in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Artifacts such as the Magdala Stone, Jewish ritual baths, chalk stone vessels for purifying water, and a shovel for incense embers appear to indicate the social and religious influence Jerusalem had on the city. Magdala is most famous for being the birthplace of Mary Magdalene and the headquarters of Josephus Flavius while he was governor of the Galilee during the Great Revolt. “As such Magdala was a gathering place for rebels, who would have come from other parts of Judea,” says Zapata-Meza, who also added that the ritual baths in Magdala “have similar archaeological context as the priestly residences uncovered at the Herodian quarter in Jerusalem.”
Zapata-Meza worked in partnership with Dr. Adolfo Roitman, director of the Shrine of the Book, who will help write a chapter in Zapata-Meza’s upcoming book. “The interdisciplinary and interagency project was developed by a team of several universities and experts from Mexico, the US, Spain, Oslo, and Israel.”