During the week covered by this review, we received 25 articles on the following subjects:
The Pope and the Vatican
Christians in Israel
Christians and the Holocaust
Mishpacha, HaDerech, October 19, 2017
The first article is a survey of the political success of 31-year-old Sebastian Kurtz (People’s Party-OVP), newly elected chancellor of Austria. Rabbi Nehemiah Rotenberg interviewed Kurtz, who told Rotenberg although he intends to invite the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) to join his government, Jews have nothing to fear from this connection. “Our European culture as we know and appreciate it is closely connected to Jews and Judaism,” said Kurtz, adding, “Attacking Jews and Judaism is like an attack on me and the Austrian people.” Kurtz opposes free immigration, Muslim headscarves and paying salaries to imams. He said he doesn’t consider a person’s geographic origin to be as important as “…whether or not he can learn our language and share Austria’s democratic values.” He admits that Austria must act to prevent Palestinian terror and incitement against Israel, but also says things become complicated when there is a desire to help Palestinian institutions “not connected to terror.”
FPÖ’s possible role in the new coalition in Austria is still a concern for the Jewish community in the country, as the OVP and the FPÖ both have a Nazi past. While the Jewish community extended cautious congratulations to the new government, they also expressed hope Austria would preserve its commitment to personal and religious liberties as she had in the past. Kurtz has hosted the Council of European Rabbis during his term of office as foreign minister and spoke to them of the measures being taken to combat anti-Semitism. “We will continue to nurture close relations between Austria and Israel because much work is before us,” said Kurtz, “also the representatives of Austria’s Jewish community are always invited to visit me.”
Archaeological evidence has dated the Jewish community in Vienna to the 3rd century BCE, making it one of the oldest in Europe.
Kalkalist, October 24, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, October 26, The Jerusalem Post, October 27, 2017
These articles cover various issues related to the Greek Orthodox Church land controversy.
The first article covers a recent appeal made by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III in the Jerusalem District Court, demanding that the Jerusalem municipality end the delays and give him a statement saying he owes no taxes on the lands that were sold. The municipality stated that the delay was unavoidable due to the size of the deal, the financial debts on the properties resulting from appreciation and the other legal complexities involved. The article noted, “The court adopted the municipality’s position and issued a restraining order.” This court ruling means that the municipality now has three months to formulate their position, and the Nayot Komemiyut entrepreneurial company must wait until that time to make the formal transfer of ownership at the lands registry.
Theophilos met with Pope Francis on Wednesday, October 25. During this meeting, he described a Jerusalem District Court ruling from August saying that the right-wing Ateret Kohanim organization’s purchase of three central compounds in the Old City was carried out legally, as well as a bill proposed by MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) to nationalize church lands in west Jerusalem in order to prevent the exploitation of residents living on these properties. Theophilos called these “a disturbing new situation in the Holy Land” and claimed that they are undermining the “historic rights of the Christian community”. He asked the pope to assist in seeking a reversal of the court decision and subsequent legislative efforts.
The Vatican responded, “The Holy See follows with attention and concern all issues and actions which affect the Old City of Jerusalem and the status quo…(noting) it is available to follow the matters in the most appropriate manner.” This meeting with Pope Francis is part of Theophilos’ international diplomacy campaign regarding the management of his church’s lands. He met with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and is to meet the Greek prime minister and the head of the Anglican Church next week. In addition to the Ateret Kohanim ruling and the Azaria bill issues, Theophilos is also “waging war” on Christian communities in Israel which oppose the sales.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem city council opposition leader Fleur Hassan-Nahoum (Yerushalmim), responding to an open letter issued by heads of churches in Jerusalem in September, said adding a “religious element” to their criticism further complicates the situation. The letter stated that the Ateret Kohanim ruling and the Azaria bill are “…a systematic attempt to undermine the integrity of the Holy City of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and to weaken the Christian presence.” Hassan-Nahoum, on her part, said that the letter’s aim was “…to ‘soften the blow’ of the [Greek Orthodox] selling lands to Jews,” adding, “(She) can’t understand how you can do a deal with private people or companies [in which lands are being sold]…and then have the gall to say that we- the State of Israel- are undermining your presence in the Holy City.” Hassan-Nahoum helped to establish the Jerusalem Church Land Task Force as an attempt to unionize residents from different neighborhoods who “…might be harmed from the deals and advanced finding legal solutions.”
The patriarchate has responded to Hassan-Nahoum, stating, “As a large religious institution…it runs its properties with only one goal – to support the day-to-day existence of its community.” Therefore, it sees the Ateret Kohanim ruling and the Azaria bill as a breach of the status quo because it may have significant impact on the rights of churches on their lands and properties.
The Pope and the Vatican
Globes, October 26, The Jerusalem Post, October 27, 2017
An Israeli delegation headed by Professor Yosef Klafter, president of Tel-Aviv University and Professor Yaakov Frankel, chairman of the board of trustees, met with Pope Francis this week. Francis called universities to develop a “culture of wisdom,” through which these institutions may develop leaders for the future “…capable of striking out on new paths in the effort to meet today’s needs without prejudice to future generations.” Klafter spoke about the universities’ role in advancing research and forming knowledge for the good of humanity. Local media outlets covered the meeting, and Klafter noted coverage of such meetings is important today “…against the backdrop of the anti-Semitic incidents and the enduring calls for an academic boycott of Israel.”
To mark the occasion, Klafter presented the pope with a sculpture of a ‘dove of peace’ by Israeli artist Anat Meir.
The Jerusalem Post, October 22, Israel Hayom, October 27, 2017
After briefly covering the history of the Balfour Declaration, approaching the centennial anniversary of its issuing, the first article recognizes the contribution Christian Zionists made to the cause. The article quotes Professor Shalom Goldman, who says that the declaration was due to Lord Arthur James Balfour’s religious belief that modern Israel would be a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. It then focuses on the efforts of Holger Paulli (1644-1714) of Denmark, who underwent a mystic experience and proclaimed himself to be King of the Jews. He wished to convert all Jews to Christianity, and lead them to Israel. Although Balfour’s motives were not clear to the author, he noted, “… (Balfour’s) actions enabled Jews to enter the family of nations and return to build up and grow Israel as it is today.”
The second article analyzes the phrases “national home,” and “in the land of Israel,” used in the declaration. It concludes that Jews are spoken of as a majority at the time because they were unified, while the Arabs were not. The article cites the current opinion held among many Arabs that Jews belong to a religion rather than a nationality, and are therefore ineligible for national self-definition, and have no right to the country. The article notes while Jewish emancipation was being discussed in Europe, anti-Semites were saying that as Jews were “a country within a country,” they were inherently incapable of being loyal national subjects, an opinion still held by some today. The article notes that no matter what anti-Semites today may say, their intent remains the same – “opposition to the return to Zion and the Jews building a life in their ancient land.” Finally, the article notes since Balfour was part of a philo-Semitic tradition which saw Christian culture as owing an incalculable debt to the Jews, he wished to bring about the realization of the biblical prophecies, “…and by so doing to lessen this debt.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 22, 2017
A delegation recently visited Israel consisting of people from the Zion Christian Church, the South African Zionist Federation, and South African Friends of Israel. During their time in the country, the group visited holy sites, but met with President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Gil Haskel, deputy director-general of MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Foreign Ministry, and other organizations and individuals. The delegation leader, Bishop Dr. Barnabas Lekganyane, “…wished to use this opportunity to convey a message of dialogue and continued engagement between Israelis, Arabs and South Africans and continued efforts for peace and stability in the world.”
Makor Rishon, October 27, 2017
This article describes the activities of HaYovel, which brings Christians to volunteer for Jewish agriculture in Judea and Samaria. Latest statistics mention some 400 volunteers from 25 countries who picked 420 tons of purple grapes, from which one can make 316,000 bottles of wine. Caleb Waller, HaYovel’s public relations director, says that his work with the organization is his way to do the right thing at a critical time. His brother Joshua, HaYovel’s work director, adds that although they are called “Evangelicals” in Israel, they prefer to be called simply “Israel-loving Christians.” Steve Wirp, one of the volunteers, described how he began his pro-Israel activities with working to strengthen the memory of the Holocaust. Wirp concluded that if something similar were to happen, he would not sit on the sidelines. He added that when the EU decided on marking made-in-Israel merchandise, “It seemed to him like a big yellow star.”
The second half of the article discusses political issues and Christian Zionist stances connected to them. It quotes William Koenig, author of Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel, who makes a connection between the U.S. pressuring Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, and natural disasters such and Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, and Irma.
Yedioth Ahronoth, October 25, 2017
This article describes anti-Semitic incidents in six different European countries.
The first example is that of Sebastian Kurtz, newly elected chancellor of Austria, who has invited Heinz-Christian Strache and his far-right Freedom Party to discuss joining his coalition. The Freedom Party was founded by Nazis in the 1950’s and is considered to have racist and anti-Semitic characteristics. Kurtz and his People’s Party have themselves taken a nationalistic, anti-immigration stance.
The second example is that of Viktor Urban, prime minister of Hungary, who is noted for his controversial statements against immigrants, refugees and especially the European Union. Urban said this week, “The E.U. has been taken hostage by an empire of financial speculators, which has conspired to flood Europe with millions of new immigrants and initiated a plan to make Europe a mixed continent.” It is supposed that the financial speculator to whom Urban was referring is Holocaust survivor billionaire George Soros, “whom he considers a public enemy.”
The third example is that of Polish historian Masz Panpil, who published an article this month saying that “Jews weren’t in a terrible position after the Nazi invasion.” Panpil recently received an award from the Polish education ministry for his “special contribution to the quality of education.”
The fourth example is that of the Lazio football club in Rome, which recently distributed photos of Anne Frank in the uniform of their rival team. However, Lazio president Claudio Lotito visited the Great Synagogue in Rome following the incident, and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of anti-Semitism as well as condemning the incident. Lotito declared that the club would send 200 youth annually to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau “so that they learn and remember.” The football union has said that before the opening whistle of the cycle games of the Italian league a chapter of Anne Frank’s diary will be read in the stadiums, and everyone in the fields will spend a minute in silence.
The fifth example is that of Andrej Babiš, billionaire and tycoon, newly elected prime minister of the Czech Republic. Babiš is a fierce opponent of immigration and is considering adding Tomio Okamura’s far-right party to his government. Okamura’s party wishes to make Islam forbidden in the country, suggests to the public to “take walks with pigs and dogs next to mosques,” and wants to dispossess the Roma of all their social benefits.
The sixth example is the election of the far-right Alternative party to the Bundestag in Germany, known for its anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant views.
HaMevaser, October 25, BaKehila, October 26, 2017
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim wishes to alert the public to a CD of “a famous missionary from abroad,” currently being distributed by post in many cities in Israel. Yad L’Achim’s activists placed material opposing this CD in as many mailboxes as they could manage. The organization has also asked Israel Post, the police and the Communications Ministry to halt the distribution, especially “…as there is no way to confirm that children will not be exposed to it.” Adv. Moshe Morgenstern of Yad L’Achim’s legal department noted that although the CD itself states that its material is for people above the age of 18, they want the public to remember that exposing a child to missionary material is punishable by law. The organization, therefore, calls upon the government to enforce the law restricting missionary activity.
The Jerusalem Post, October 22, Yedioth Ahronoth, October 25, Haaretz, October 27, 2017
These articles survey the history, implications, and consequences of the Protestant Reformation.
The first article’s includes detailed description of the attractions of Luther Country in Germany. It quotes Jochen Birkenmeier, director of the Luther House Museum in Eisenach, who notes that the division between the factual and legendary parts of Luther’s history is no longer apparent and that Luther was an anti-Semite by the end of his life. However, says Birkenmeier, “…clearly Luther’s Reformation ideas had a profound effect not only on Christianity but the entire Western world.”
The second article calls the Reformation “…no less a watershed moment between the Middle Ages and the modern era than the discovery of America.” It compares the Reformation to a contemporary person who realizes the pope appears more like a Roman emperor than the humble rabbi from the Galilee, or like a person who “…realizes he can get direct insurance rather than appoint an agent.” It quotes Luther’s famous pronouncement “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise,” stating “…sometimes, when you know where you stand, when you refuse to sell your conscience, the world changes.”
The third article notes Luther’s dialogue between the authority of one’s personal conscience on the meaning of the Bible, as well as the foundational need for a religious institution and collective law. It states, “Luther’s original intent was to correct, rather than bury, the church.” However, his statements to the Diet of Worms regarding the authority of his conscience eventually resulted in “nothing sure or permanent remaining in Christianity,” as predicted by Johannes Eck, one of Luther’s opponents at Worms. The theological contradictions within Protestantism, the readiness to allow a person to be mistaken in faith issues, the idea that religious coercion was theologically illogical, and the idea that faith was validated by a spiritual position rather than outward observance “… (made) the individual the final authority is what allowed a multiplicity of faiths and finally the abandonment of faith for other frameworks of meaning.”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, October 27, 2017
This week the Custodia Terra Sancta, the papal entity responsible for holy sites in Israel as well as the Franciscan order of Jerusalem, marked the 800th anniversary of its presence in the city. It first arrived in 1217, during the Crusades. Commemorative events will take place over the coming two years, and will include conferences and visits from senior Catholic officials. The article describes both the danger facing the Christian community in Syria, as well as how the Christian population in the Gulf States is growing. “As Franciscans, we see the 800 years we have been here as an expression of divine providence,” said Custos Father Francesco Patton.
Christians and the Holocaust
Yated Ne’eman, October 22, HaModia, October 27, 2017
Last week, centenarian Aleksandra Czybulska of Poland, together with her deceased husband Kazimierz, was recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for saving 8-year-old Sonia Berkowicz after her family was sent to the ghetto in Kelzek near Minsk. The Jewish Museum in Warsaw said that Czybulskys and their parish priest provided Berkowicz with false identification papers under the name of Sofia Playov. Berkowicz remained with the Czybulskys until 1943, when she was sent to other relatives near Pinsk. Berkowicz’ relatives were murdered in the Holocaust.
Ruth Cohen-Dar, Israel’s vice-ambassador to Poland, presented the certificate. According to the Jewish Museum, so far 26,513 persons have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, 6,706 of them from Poland.
Maariv, October 27, 2017
On Thursday, October 26, Giro d’Italia Big Start president Sylvan Adams met with Pope Francis and invited him to launch the race. Adams brought with him a letter from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, which said that the fact the Giro will begin in Jerusalem and end in Rome is “greatly symbolic.” The letter also said, “The launch of the race will be one of the climaxes of the 70th-anniversary celebrations of Israel’s independence and part of a joint effort to deepen dialogue and advance peace.”
HaTzvi, October 4, 2017
The city of Arad held an art festival during Sukkot week, during which attendees could visit the homes of various of the city’s artists. Of note was sculptor Rick Wienecke’s Fountain of Tears installation, a “breath-taking” work of bronze and stone, five meters high and 18 meters long, “…which connects Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and Jesus’ crucifixion in an original way.”
Yediot Yerushalayim, October 27, 2017
In light of the Greek Orthodox Church land controversy the Ministry of Tourism has decided to hold supplementary workshops on the subject for tour guides. The workshop will be held on November 19th, and will cover the history of some of the more notable buildings as well.
Yedioth Ahronoth, October 26, 2017
Artist Yardena Wissoker has completed the reconstruction of a huge Byzantine mosaic, discovered in 1917 in the Eshcol Park by an Australian cavalry unit before the conquest of Beer-Sheva. The unit’s chaplain dismantled the mosaic and shipped it to Australia, and it was housed in a Canberra museum since that time. Wissoker’s copy has been displayed to the public and to the descendants of the cavalry unit, who visited Beer-Sheva to commemorate the battle.