During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Report, September 27, 2017
This article discusses the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party. Beatrix von Storch, deputy chairperson of AfD, explains that the AfD’s position is against the EU and in favor of a community of sovereign nations joined by shared economic interests. However, von Storch takes care to emphasize that AfD “stands for patriotism that promotes peace and good-neighborliness.” Although some see the rise of AfD as the result of the Christian Democrats’ ideological shift towards the political center, others see it as part of “a broader European anti-establishment wave.”
Although the party does attract neo-Nazis, Dr. Marcel Lewandowsky, a political scientist at Helmut Schmidt University, says they are not the majority in the party. However, Lewandowsky noted there is some secondary anti-Semitism in the party, as some of its supporters are “…in favor of getting rid of the culture of guilt, thereby implying a relativization of the Holocaust.”
Von Storch, who is the granddaughter of Adolf Hitler’s last finance minister, stated, “We have learned from our history that we must defend the principles of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.” She also noted, “Islam, as a political ideology, and Sharia law are not compatible with the principles of a free society. Muslims must separate their religion from its political implementation such as calling for sharia law.” Of particular interest is Von Storch’s statements on her party’s current support for Israel. She was a founding member of the organization Friends of Judea and Samaria in the European Parliament, shortly after the EU decreed the labeling of Jewish-owned products from Judea and Samaria. She said, “As Israel is founded on a solid ideology and has formed a free and pluralistic society that makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions, it could be a role model for Germany.”
Christians in Israel
The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, September 24, Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz, September 25, Haaretz, Maariv, September 27, 2017
On September 20, the Church of Saint Stephen at the Beit Jimal monastery near Beit Shemesh suffered its third price-tag vandalism attack in four years. The vandals broke stained glass windows, destroyed a statue of Mary and damaged furniture. Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, the patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem, called the act “…an action against the sacredness of the holy places and the faith of people,” and called for tolerance. The Council of Catholic Churches in Jerusalem has demanded that the suspects be brought to justice, noting their acts could lead to “serious and unpredictable consequences.”
One of the Haaretz articles notes that from 2009 to July of this year, fifty-three Christian and Muslim houses of prayer or holy sites have suffered attacks. Seven people have been declared guilty of involvement in these attacks, nine have been indicted, and forty-five files were closed. The rest of the investigations appear to be ongoing. According to Tag Meir, an organization founded to foster interfaith dialogue and connection specifically following price-tag attacks, the sole incidents solved since 2009 were the Christian seminary arson near Jerusalem’s Dormition Abbey and the arson at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha. Gadi Gvaryahu, head of Tag Meir, has stated that “this situation results from faulty police prioritizing.”
When Domestic Security Minister Gilad Erdan was asked by the Knesset for information about arson and deliberate destruction of Christian and Muslim holy sites, he said, “…investigations show a variety of motives, from mental instability to carelessness to actual arson.” Gvaryahu notes that no one has been entered a psychiatric hospital in recent years after committing arson at a holy site and that most of the attack sites included graffiti saying “price-tag” or “revenge”. Another Haaretz article accuses Erdan of negligence, calling on him to “do his job”, and asks Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to press the police “…to take more action to eradicate this shameful phenomenon.”
One opinion piece noted that the attack received minimal media coverage, and added that damage in cases like these is “more than physical.” The writer is puzzled that the police have not arrested anyone in connection with the previous attacks, and suggests that the circles from which the attackers must have come are likely known in this small country. Another opinion piece calls for all education systems to include teaching on the religious principles of all the faiths in Israel, along with tours of churches, monasteries, and mosques. A third opinion piece accuses the religious-nationalistic faction in the government of being controlled by the price-tag perpetrators and their ideology.
Maariv, September 24, 2017
The IDF aid delegation acting in Mexico after the recent earthquake has been received with great acclaim. The delegation included medical, search-and-rescue and engineering personnel. Most of the work was search-and-rescue, but at the time the article was written, Israeli engineers had been able to allow residents of twenty-five buildings damaged by the quake to return to their homes. Lieutenant-Colonel Elad Edri, second in command of the delegation, stated, “Our task has been pre-defined for seven to eight 24-hour periods, but we will remain as long as our help is needed.”
Globes, September 26, 2017
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III has accused the Keren Kayemet L’Israel of attempting to plunder the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel of millions of dollars. This accusation comes as a result of an ongoing legal battle regarding a sting carried out by two Israeli lawyers targeting both KKL and the Patriarchate. The sting consisted of a deal that was supposed to give KKL a 999-year lease of church lands. KKL transferred some ILS20m. to the lawyers, apparently for the patriarchate. When the deal proved to be a sting, it was declared null and void by the courts, the perpetrators were jailed, and KKL attempted to sue the patriarchate to return some of the monies it had received for the deal.
The two sides had tried to negotiate a compromise, according to which the patriarchate would pay ILS13m. to the firm acting for KKL in return for a cancellation of all further obligations. However, no formal document was signed. Eventually, it became apparent that the patriarchate did not intend to keep the agreement, saying it had not reached the stage of an obligating contract and nothing had been signed by any of the sides. Now, Theophilos is accusing KKL of acting as a tool of the government “…to make cynical use of the Patriarchate’s position as a body without power in public life and Israeli media, obligated to preserve good relations with government institutions.” Theophilos states the demand was given in full knowledge of court rulings (excluding the Supreme Court) that the patriarchate had not received one penny of the monies.
KKL responded that Theophilos decided to not sign the compromise agreement “…since he was carrying out negotiations to sell the church lands to private entrepreneurs at the same time and that the purpose of the lawsuit is to enforce the agreement that had already reached its final draft.”
The Jerusalem Post, September 28, 2017
The Israel office of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation Center at Tel-Aviv University’s Dayan Center, and Kivun, a research, strategy and communications company, has recently conducted a survey which found that some 60% of Arab citizens of Israel had a favorable view of the state, and 37% said their view was unfavorable. Among Arab Muslims, the view was 49%-48% in favor, and among Christian Arabs the view was 61%-33% in favor. Among Druze the view was 94%-6% in favor.
However, 47% of respondents said they “felt unequally treated” as Arab citizens, and most said Arab citizens get an unfair distribution of tax revenues. Of particular note is the fact that when asked, “What term best describes you?”, 28% replied “Israeli Arab,” 11% said “Israeli,” 13% said “Arab citizen of Israel,” and 2% said “Israeli Muslim.” 15% said “Palestinian,” 4% said “Palestinian in Israel,” 3% said “Palestinian citizen in Israel,” and 2% said “Israeli Palestinian.” 8% said their preferred identification was Muslim. Another intriguing find is that 63% of respondents said Israel is a positive place to live, and 34% called it negative.
“The bottom line is that there is more identification with Israel than with a possible Palestinian state,” said Michael Borchard, Israel director of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. However, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said that the survey’s findings are too positive, and that although the Arab community wants to participate in the government and make decisions, “…the government excludes us and has this campaign of de-legitimization,” adding that the concerns he encounters most often in his community are focused on the future, specifically, surrounding discrimination, racism, socioeconomic status, and an absence of jobs and housing.”
Matzav HaRuach, September 29, 2017
Joel Osteen has invited the Beit Yeshurun synagogue in Houston to make use of his church’s auditoriums for prayers between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, as the synagogue’s structure was damaged during Hurricane Harvey.
HaMekomon Tel-Aviv, September 28, 2017
This article describes some of the famous heritage sites in Jerusalem, to mark Wikipedia’s annual photography competition called Wikipedia Loves Heritage Sites. The sites mentioned in the article as affording good photo opportunities are the Crusader-era Mouristan market; the Garden of Gethsemane’s Church of All Nations; the Trumpeldor cemetery in Tel-Aviv which is the resting place of many public figures from the early days of Jewish life in Israel and the state itself; The Anglican St. John’s Church in Haifa; the Negev Museum of Art in Beer-Sheva, originally the seat of Ottoman government in the region; and the khan and estate house ruins at Khirbet Yarda.
Yedioth Ahronoth, September 25, 2017
This article describes some of the exhibitions soon to be seen at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., including some of the items donated or loaned from the Israel Antiquities Authority. It describes the state-of-the-art technology as well as lavish detail used and takes care to note that the museum does not preach a Christian agenda. “Our goal is to show and teach the audience about how the Bible influenced American society, not only historically but in terms of human rights, social justice, and even fashion,” said Steve Bickley, the project’s marketing director. The museum will have seven floors and include some 40,000 exhibits.
The museum will open to the public on November 17th. Entrance to the museum will be free of charge, although there is a suggested donation of $15.
The Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2017
In this article, Efraim Zuroff describes this year’s alternative Holocaust memorial ceremony in Lithuania, held at Naujaneriai by the “Here Lie Our People” initiative initiated by author Ruta Vanagaite. The official Holocaust memorial day in Lithuania is September 23, the day the Nazis evacuated the Vilna Ghetto in 1944, and is held at Ponar. Zuroff said, “Official commemoration in Lithuania is plagued by a failure to mention Lithuanian complicity, the fact that 96.4% of the Jews living in Lithuania were murdered, the fact that a Lithuanian murder squad killed close to 20,000 Jews in Belarus. At the same time, assistance given to Jews by brave Lithuanians is greatly exaggerated.”
Vanagaite began her initiative in order to humanize victims and draw attention to neglected Holocaust mass graves with the purpose of revealing the truth about Lithuanian complicity with the Nazis. Philippe Jeantaud, the French ambassador, Simon Gurevich, the new leader of the Vilna Jewish community, playwright Marius Ivaskevicius, and TV journalist Indre Makaraityte were present. These individuals were “…the most prominent public figures to urge Lithuanian society to face its Holocaust past honestly during the past year.” A group of students from the Laisves Gimnazija high school was present as well. This group produced a commemorative film last year entitled The Forgotten and initiated a memorial service with their entire school at Veliucionys, where 1,159 Jews were murdered in a forest near Vilna.
Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs. He has recently written a book with Vanagaite entitled Our People; Journey with an Enemy, already published in Lithuania and Poland and scheduled to appear in Israel and Russia this coming year.
The Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2017
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of nine headless toads in a jar in the 2014 excavation of a 4,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem’s Nahal Refaim basin. They are intrigued by this find, as well as by discovering evidence of the cultivation of date palms and myrtle bushes. Sediment from the clay jars has been determined to have come into contact with date palms and myrtle bushes before they were sealed. This combination has shed new light on Canaanite burial customs, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Scholars involved with the project added, “The florae may have been part of an orchard planted in an area where funeral rites were held, during which offerings of food and objects were made to the deceased.” Research and analysis of the excavation will be presented on October 18th at the “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region” conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The event is open to the public.
The Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2017
The Center for Israel Studies’ Arch of Titus Project at Yeshiva University, headed by Professor Steven Fine, has recently been able to reconstruct using noninvasive spectrometry readings, literary sources, evidence from other Roman paintings and sculpture, archaeological evidence and scholarly intuition, “…that there were flakes of the original yellow polychromy on the menorah on the arch.”
Fine recently presented the project’s findings to date at the City of David’s 18th annual archaeology conference, this year entitled “Titus in Jerusalem.” The project aims to discover and reconstruct the rest of the original colors as well.