During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
The Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2017
Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, recently spent a week in Israel with other officials from the United States on a trip sponsored by the Christian U.S. Israel Education Association (USIEA). As USIEA tours are not considered official visits, they can include visits to settlements. Thornberry’s delegation visited Hebron and Ariel. Thornberry told the Jerusalem Post, “Some of the assumptions regarding the necessity of the two-state solution are now being questioned in Congress,” adding that there is no consensus around any specific solution. Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), who also attended the trip, said “…a solution to the Israel-Palestinian issue will take a generational shift”, rather than an agreement by political leaders. Rep. Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma) noted that whereas Israel is willing for either accommodation or “forcing the other side to assimilate,” the only option for which the Palestinians wish is elimination.
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2017
On Tuesday, August 29, a special panel of the rabbinical court in Tel-Aviv rejected a Messianic Jewish couple’s request to be married in a Jewish ceremony, saying they were apostates from Judaism. The ruling states, “If the couple declares to the court that they are leaving their faith, which is entirely Christian; if they end all association with Tiferet Yeshua, their Messianic congregation, and its missionary activity; and immerse in a ritual bath, the court will re-examine their case.” The couple had initially submitted their request at the rabbinate in the Shoham local municipality and demonstrated Jewish status and heritage.
The articles note that this is the first time the rabbinical court has dealt with the standing of Jews who believe in Jesus according to Jewish religious law. Accordingly, the judges in the case were of appropriate seniority, and the decision “…included consultation with an expert on Christianity and missionary cults.”
According to religious law, a Jew who has converted to another religion remains a Jew. However, according to the Law of Return, a Jew who has converted to another religion is not eligible for citizenship. Therefore, the final ruling was based not only on religious sources such as the Talmud but previous Supreme Court decisions as well.
The Jerusalem Post, August 31, 2017
The African Leadership Summit, hosted by the Institute for Christian Leadership Development, has recently concluded its sessions. The theme for this year was “Africa Celebrates Jerusalem,” and it aimed to strengthen ties between Israel and Africa through connecting the African Christian leaders with different sectors of the country. Nigeria-born Pastor Segun Olanipekun, summit coordinator and CEO of the Institute, stated that what led it to call the summit was the leadership crisis in Africa. He said that they wish to learn from Israel and “reconnect to the covenant of Abraham.” Pastor Ben Naude, a delegate from Johannesburg, added, “Giving Israel positive exposure and educating people about the truth was essential for countering BDS.”
The summit has taken place in Jerusalem biennially since 2013.
Haaretz, August 28, 2017
A committee appointed by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and headed by historian and political theorist Ofir Haivry will soon publish a recommendation “…that Israel create a new status for individuals around the world who have Jewish roots or belong to ‘emerging Jewish communities’, but are not eligible for immigration or spending any length of time there.” This new status would give these people the time they need to explore their heritage and learn about the country. The report does not recommend changes to the Law of Return, but may eventually make such changes more likely if it is adopted by the government. The panel also recommended that cultural centers be established where individuals may learn about Judaism and Israel.
It is calculated that millions of people around the world, currently eligible for citizenship only if they converted, could benefit from such a visa status. Among them are tens of thousands of people in Poland and Hungary who have Jewish roots, descendants of Crypto-Jews forced to convert under the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions, and those who claim descent from the “lost tribes,” such as the Bnei Menashe in northeastern India.
The Jerusalem Post, August 27, Maariv, August 29, 2017
The first article tells the story of the ten Christians who attended the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 at Theodor Herzl’s invitation. One such example is Switzerland’s Henry Dunant, recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 for his role in the foundation of the Red Cross and the formation of the Geneva Convention. Dunant had called for the establishment of a Jewish colony in Palestine as early as 1866. Another example is Britain’s Rev. William Hechler, an Anglican minister who had served with his country’s embassy in Vienna.
Although some Jews were uneasy at Herzl’s connection to Christian Zionists, he continued with what he saw as strategic relationships, and by so doing, “…demonstrated his belief that Christian Zionists could provide invaluable assistance in the historic return of the People of Israel to the Land of Israel.”
Dr. Jürgen Bühler, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, commemorates Hechler’s legacy. Hechler, who became acquainted with Herzl during his time in Vienna, became an ardent advocate of Zionism after reading Herzl’s Jewish State. Hechler used his connections to the German royal family to open doors for Herzl all over Europe and accompanied him on his second meeting with Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hechler also served as a special envoy from the British government to the Zionist movement and attended the First Zionist Congress in this capacity. He received words of thanks from Herzl in his speech at the First Congress and was eventually called “The Zionist Movement’s Foreign Minister.” Although the work of Christian Zionist organizations such as the ICEJ is inspired by Hechler, his story has for the most part remained unexplored.
Makor Rishon, September 1, 2017
This article surveys some of the various Christian churches in Israel where significant anti-Israel activity takes place. One example cited is that of the Swedish Church in Jerusalem, which works to advance the Kairos Palestine document, “…which calls for Israel-boycotting, denies the connection between Jews and Israel and calls Palestinian terror ‘armed opposition’.” Another example is that of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City, which holds numerous activities with the Breaking the Silence organization as well as the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), whose activities are centered at the Lutheran Augusta Victoria compound on the Mount of Olives. A third example cited in the article is that of Sabeel, one of whose purposes is advancing among Western churches the idea of boycotting Israel. Dr. Naim Ateek, one of Sabeel’s founders, has been quoted as saying, “If Jews have a right to a homeland, it should be Germany, not Palestine.”
Iton Shacharit, September 1, 2017
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim is jubilant to announce a successful demonstration in the form of a prayer service in Arad’s industrial center at a Messianic Jewish “missionary church” that recently had launched in that location. The article notes that Yad L’Achim received information “…that the missionaries had chosen the building due to its remote location, hoping that demonstrators would have trouble getting there on foot.” However, some one hundred people came on foot despite the heat, held a prayer service, and emphasized to those arriving for worship services at the congregation that “…this was a missionary cult and not a stream of Judaism,” at which point many Jews left.
HaModia, August 29, HaMevaser, August 31, 2017
Yad L’Achim wishes to announce the success of a field trip it organized for twenty-two “…survivors it had saved from the claws of Christian missionary cults in Israel.” The group visited various sites in Tzfat, including prayer at the tomb of Rabbi Isaac ben Solomon Luria Ashkenazi and a lesson on sharing “Torah light to as many Jews as possible” at the grave of Abaye and Rabbah. The participants were apparently so moved that they “…called their acquaintances who were still members of missionary cults, and had discussions with them to return them to Judaism.”
The Jerusalem Post, September 1, 2017
Friday, September 1, marked the 78th anniversary of the beginning of World War II, which began with the Nazi invasion of Poland. The article mentions three Polish people who stood against Nazi rule. The first is Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who was smuggled twice into the Warsaw Ghetto, eventually escaped and found his way first to Britain and then to the U.S., where he reported what he had seen, specifically about the systematic plan to exterminate the Jews. His reports fell on deaf ears, and even prominent Jewish figures doubted what he had seen. Yad VaShem recognized Karski in 1982 as one the of the Righteous Among the Nations, and in 1994, he was made an honorary citizen of Israel. The second is Aleksander Lados, Poland’s ambassador to Switzerland from 1938 to 1945, who, together with Dr. Julius Kuhl, the Polish consul in Bern, approved thousands of Polish passports to Jews stranded in Switzerland. The article noted, “Although there was undeniable widespread anti-Semitism in Poland, it must be acknowledged that, by far, the largest number of Righteous Among the Nations were Polish citizens.”
Haaretz, August 29, 2017
Israel Museum analysts have discovered that the silver coin recently found at Neve Tzuf/Halamish (see last week’s MR) was not a half-shekel from the Second Temple era as previously declared by Prof. Zohar Amar of Bar-Ilan University, but merely a souvenir for children minted by the museum each year at Hanukkah. The discovery of the coin was covered by various news outlets in Hebrew and English, as well as by a post on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page. Yonatan Orich, the page’s editor, stated that the post has been removed from the page till the issue is resolved.