November 8 – 2017

During the week covered by this review, we received 30 articles on the following subjects:



Interfaith Dialogue

Christians in Israel


Jewish Attitudes Concerning Jesus


Christian Tourism





The Jerusalem Post, October 30, 2017


Rosario Murillo, Nicaragua’s vice president, recently told local media that Modi Ephraim, head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Division to Latin America and the Caribbean, will hold a series of high-level meetings with local officials. According to Murillo’s statement, the meetings are to cover issues including reestablishment of relations, post-harvest production, and exchange between both governments. Notable is the fact that Murillo called Ephraim ‘hermano,’ (brother), in her statement.


Nicaragua severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2010 in protest of the IDF’s raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara when it attempted to break the Gaza blockade. The two countries re-established diplomatic relations on March 28th of this year. There are some Israeli investments in Nicaragua, but trade between the two countries is not extensive.


HaModia, October 31, Zo HaDerekh, November 1, 2017


These articles survey the history of the Greek Orthodox church land controversy from the 1930’s onward. The first also quotes Jerusalem Municipality CEO Adv. Amnon Merchav, who emphasized to an Architecture Week gathering that no resident will be forced to leave their home, and told them not to succumb to fear. Merchav also called on the elements in question to consider transferring apartment ownership to the residents. The second article describes how the Greek Orthodox Community Council organized a demonstration in Haifa against the asset sales, in which hundreds participated, saying that the deals constitute a breach of spiritual and practical duty on the part of the church leaders.


The Jerusalem Report, November 1, 2017


This article surveys the activity of Jewish Agency emissaries in South Africa in promoting aliyah to Israel, the welfare of both Jewish and non-Jewish local communities, the Jewish community’s connection to Israel, and the introduction of non-Jewish population to Israel. The emissaries operate chiefly within the framework of Project TEN, dubbed “the Jewish Peace Corps,” which invites young Jews from Israel and the Diaspora to volunteer in underprivileged areas around the world. However, Aviad Sela, head of the Israel Center in Johannesburg, is also concerned about anti-Semitism and BDS. Events held for the so-called Israel Apartheid Week have required a specific response, consisting of workshops held in private homes to discuss the situation in Israel, travel to Israel, and seminars conducted by attendees on their experience once they return. Both Sela and Hagai Dagan, until recently emissary to Cape Town, consider the local Jewish community to be very Zionist. However, they are also concerned about their future in South Africa as well, since many community members are moving to Israel.


The Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2017


On Thursday, the Economic Freedom Fighters, South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, marched against Israel in protest of the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Some 800 EFF supporters marched to the Israeli embassy in Tshwane, carrying signs, chanting anti-Israel slogans and one even flying a Hezbollah flag. Some 2,400 Christian supporters of Israel planned to arrive from all over Tshwane to counter the EFF’s message, but they were turned away, some being impounded by police and others apparently obstructed by EFF protestors. South African Zionist Federation Ben Swartz said it was “absurd” that EFF should spend their resources on “…pursuing a highly emotive and polarizing issue when South Africa is in the midst of seemingly insurmountable challenges.” Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Lior Keinan, posting on Facebook, thanked the thousands of supporters who showed up to demonstrate friendship and love to Israel, adding that their message was “loud and clear” despite the fact that they could not reach the embassy. “We are humbled to call you our friends,” said Keinan.


Interfaith Dialogue

Ma’ariv, Yedioth Ahronoth, October 30, 2017


The World ORT and Scholas Occurrentes educational organizations have signed an agreement to hold an international interfaith dialogue conference in Argentina next year. World ORT Board of Trustees chairman Dario Werthein and José María del Corral, world director of Scholas, signed the agreement at the Vatican last week, in Pope Francis’ presence, for their respective organizations. “World ORT and Scholas have a joint purpose of turning the world into a better place using education,” said Werthein.


Christians in Israel

Haaretz, November 2 (Hebrew and English), 2017


These articles report that hundreds of Israeli citizens have been visiting Lebanon’s Christian holy sites despite Lebanon being classified as an enemy country. These visitors appear to cross into Jordan near Beit-Shean, stay in Amman for two days and then fly to Beirut, where they spend a week traversing Lebanon in pilgrimage, visiting sites such as Harissa, the Saint Charbel monastery at Aanaya, Magdusa, Zahla, and Baalbek. An anonymous source speaking to Haaretz denied this was an underground infiltrating initiative, adding, “The tour has no political meaning, and that they are merely trying to keep a low profile due to the sensitivity of the issue.” A participant from the Galilee, speaking anonymously as well, said that the visit is very spiritual and crowded, that they have almost no free time, and are not allowed to visit unscheduled sites without the organizers’ approval.


Israeli citizens are not permitted to visit an enemy country even if they possess a foreign passport, but the state tends not to enforce this law for Arab citizens as long as there are no security risks to the state. One of the participants said, “The fact that there are minimal problems at the borders mean there is tacit permission from all sides.” A few articles covering the issue some weeks ago noted that Christians from Lebanon must receive the same permission to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity as Israelis must have to visit Lebanon. However, the issue appears even more sensitive in Lebanon than in Israel, as on one hand the Lebanese who visit Israel must stand trial, but on the other hand, Lebanon has no wish to prevent these visits.


These tours appear to have originated in an idea mentioned by Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.



Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post (three articles), October 29, Haaretz, HaMachane HaCharedi, November 1, 2017


These articles continue to cover the history of the Balfour Declaration, and include positive and negative analysis. One historical survey looks at the relations of the British to the Bible and the Jewish people. It says that the reason for the 180-degree turn from 1290’s Edict of Expulsion against the Jews is rooted in England’s renunciation of papal authority in the 1530’s, their growing interest in converting the Jews to Christianity, the land of Israel itself, and the restoration of the Jews to it.


One positive analysis sees the centennial anniversary as “…the right time to reflect on our appreciation for the Bible, the positive developments within Christian Zionism and how faith-based diplomacy can help secure the Jewish state for the next century…by recognizing the biblical background of the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish state can hope to nurture a new Balfour – or many new Balfours – among the growing numbers of Christian Zionists around the world.”


Another analysis states, “Christian Zionists made the Balfour Declaration possible, but that today most of this ‘line-up’ has disintegrated.” A third analysis places agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn at Weizmann’s side as he waited to receive the decision of the British government to adopt Balfour’s letter as British policy. Regarding eventual statehood, one article cited Leopold Amery, the parliamentary secretary in Lloyd George’s cabinet, “…who wrote as late as 1946 that the ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ was understood by everyone at the time to mean eventual statehood.”


Two letters to the editor object to the idea that the declaration “promised a land to those who didn’t dwell in it, without asking its inhabitants.” They noted that continuous Jewish presence in the land dates from the 9th century BCE “…and the declaration itself provides for the welfare of the non-Jewish population in the area.”


One negative analysis calls the British government of 1917 “racist” since it expressed the idea that “…Jews possessed a tremendous power around the world that could be used to bring about an Allied victory in World War I.” The desire of the British to make use of this influence far outweighed their concern for the future of Zionism in the Holy Land, and rather than giving the land to the Jews, the British wanted to keep it for themselves to protect the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf. They believed “…independent nationhood stood at the apex of human development, which was possessed only by white Europeans”, and assumed that the majority of Zionists did not want an independent state, as Jews “had not yet reached this point.”


The British, therefore, “…could wax lyrical about Balfour being the end of Jewish exile,” and consider the Arabs of Palestine to be “an impure mix of different races” rather than a distinct people, ignoring the fact that both Arabs and Jews wanted independent states. Another article, noting the anniversary, stated, “There is no Jewish nationality, separate from religion, as today’s government seeks to make it, but rather a Jewish people, concerning which the modern definitions are pointless, and that will continue to endure.”


Haaretz, November 1, 2017


On Tuesday, October 31, Beer-Sheva marked the 100th anniversary of its conquest from the Ottomans. Thousands of Australian and New Zealand citizens attended. The day’s events included a memorial ceremony for the Australian, New Zealand and British fallen, the dedication of a memorial center to the ANZAC soldiers, and a parade. The climax was to be the reenactment of the battle, carried out by some 100 Australian and New Zealand cavalry and witnessed by the heads of state and their spouses. Although the reenactment consisted of two galloping maneuvers only, one planned and one unplanned, it was well attended. One participant said the events were wonderful, adding, “It was worth it to come and see the gratitude to the fallen.”


The battle for Beer-Sheva symbolizes for many the beginning of the downfall of the Ottoman empire in Israel, the British captured Jerusalem 40 days later.


Jewish Attitudes Concerning Jesus

The Jerusalem Post, November 2, 2017


A survey, commissioned and funded by Jews for Jesus and conducted by the Barna Group among 599 Jewish millennials has found that 20% of those surveyed think Jesus was God. The article noted the finding might be surprising to Jews, “….who, if they agree on nothing else, believe that Jews for Jesus and its ‘messianic’ philosophy are beyond the pale.” 28% said they saw Jesus as “a rabbi or spiritual leader, but not God.” 42% of respondents said they celebrate Christmas; a majority said that one can hold other faiths and still be Jewish, and one third believe that “God desires a personal relationship with us.”


The young adults surveyed describe themselves as religious and practice Jewish ritual, but are unaffiliated. They “…value tradition and family and are proud to be Jewish, but don’t plan on marrying only Jews and don’t feel their Judaism contradicts practicing other religions.” It is intriguing to note that the survey results found 80% of respondents self-identify as “religious Jews,” and nearly 50% says “being Jewish is very important to them.” A quarter of respondents “attend religious services once a week, and one in three pray every day.”


Susan Perlman, director of San Francisco’s Jews for Jesus branch, called the results “hopeful,” as “it indicates a spiritual generation with an open mind to engage with the Bible and the culture.”


However, Ari Kelman, a Jewish studies professor at Stanford University, said, “These don’t look like Jews I recognize,” adding that the study suggests a cohort distinct from all others. The article notes that various survey results will differ depending on each one’s definition of “Jewish,” for instance, whether it includes children of all interfaith marriages and Messianic Jews.



Israel Hayom, November 1, 2017


This article writer has the opinion that modern anti-Semitism originates in the combination of far-right anti-Semitism, which is rooted in traditional Christian anti-Semitism; Islamic anti-Semitism, which is rooted in hatred of infidels; and far-left anti-Semitism, which is rooted in viewing Jews and Israel as a sign of U.S. and Western imperialism. The article suggests the problem is explained by the intersectionality theory, “…which calls for groups that consider themselves to be discriminated against to unite.” Accordingly, the far-left and radical Islam are aligning together to cooperate against Israel. Radical Islam connects its views to intersectionality by wrongfully presenting Israel as a problem that all progressively-minded people must oppose, and Jews as “white tyrants.”


Far-right anti-Semites, however, view Jews as members of an inferior race. The alliance between the far-left and radical Islam “…presents university students with the choice to be boycotted from left-wing and human rights organizations, on the one hand, and joining the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel campaign, on the other.” This is the reason that most of the Jewish youth in the U.S. are becoming anti-Israel, says the article, adding, “Radical Islam and the far-left have made an alternative reality in which Jews have no right to self-definition and Israel is the greatest violator of human rights in the world.”


HaMevaser, November 1, 2017


The New York Police Department is searching for three unknown men who sprayed a swastika on the door of a synagogue on East 51st Street, near Third Avenue. This attack constitutes the second time in three months that a New York synagogue has suffered defacement.


Makor Rishon, November 3, 2017


This article gives a short introduction of nine organization heads who are acting on behalf of Israel and fighting the de-legitimization campaign. The organizations represented are The Organization for Promoting the Standing of Druze Soldiers; the Anti-Defamation League; EINet; Stand With Us; The Israel Project; CAMERA; the Israeli-Jewish Congress; Beyond the Rainbow- the Zionist Movement; and the Israel Allies Foundation. The article gives a précis of each organization’s scope and the geographic area of its activities of those of its Israel branch. When asked, “Which Israeli activist should every BDS activist meet?” each activist gave their opinion, ranging from Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of Soda Stream, the late Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran, volunteers for Save a Child’s Heart and IsraAID. When asked “What is the most effective was to fight BDS?” the answers ranged from legislation to exposing lies and anti-Semitism while advancing Israel’s favorable position.


Makor Rishon, November 3 (three articles), 2017


The first article is an interview with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). Rubio told Makor Rishon how meaningful to his Christian faith his visits to Israel were, and noted the differences between what he saw on the ground versus how world media depicts Israel. He believed BDS is a modern form of anti-Semitism, and for this reason, “…fighting it is not only right but advances the national security of the US by ensuring that Israel stays strong.” Rubio considers the UN Human Rights Council’s planned “blacklist” of companies that act in greater Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria ”…a ridiculous additional way that BDS is trying to use to advance its anti-Semitic agenda.” He says that it is “absurd” to call Israel an apartheid state, as, in fact, Israel is a vibrant, true democracy which honors human rights and the rule of law.


The second article states that underneath the banner of BDS, classical anti-Semitism is evident in the social media posts of its supporters. It cites the example of Allison Weir, whose anti-Semitic statements both online and off grew stronger as her pro-Palestinian activism continued. Another example is that of Brandon O’Connell, tried and jailed in the past for persecuting Jews and currently posting YouTube videos “…warning the world of the danger it faces from the Judaism, the Jewish people, and Zionism,” and calling for support of BDS. A third example given is that of  Dr. Kevin Bart, of an online anti-Semitic community, recognized to be “…an avowed Holocaust denier and BDS supporter who has also accused the Jews of having caused 9/11.”


Others Israelis from “the heart of the radical left,” are Prof. Shlomo Zand of Tel-Aviv University, who has been interviewed by the Iranian media. Prof. Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor said, “…from the moment the anti-Semitic base exists which accuses the Jews of causing the troubles of the world, it’s effortless to adopt the BDS opinions and the opinions that Israel is responsible for butchery and war crimes against the Palestinians.” Carol Nuriel, head of the Israel branch of the Anti-Defamation League, says that the connection between BDS and classical anti-Semitic opinions is very close. She says that even when people discount their statements by saying that they are a valid criticism of Israel, in fact, the wording shows the statements’ real basis. “People identify Jews with Israel,” she adds, “so we see how criticism of Israel quickly becomes criticism of all Jews.”


The third article cites examples of BDS failures. One example given is that noting that half of America’s states have passed laws against BDS. The High Court of Appeals in France has declared those who promote boycotts against Israel are guilty of incitement or discrimination. The Bank of Ireland has closed the accounts of the local BDS organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The University of California Irvine has suspended SJP, the anti-Israel student organization, for demonstrating “too actively” against pro-Israel activists. On the other hand, the U.S. Southern Baptist Convention has chosen to support and pray for Israel and condemn BDS.


Christian Tourism

Haaretz, October 29, 2017


During November and December, the Tower of David Museum is to hold various tours on subjects related to the monotheistic religions. Of note is the “Holy Geography: Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem” tour, during which attendees will visit not only the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb but other lesser-known churches in the Christian Quarter. Further information is available at and *2884.



HaMevaser, October 31, 2017


The historic synagogue in Palermo was restored to Jewish hands and is now scheduled to reopen. The original structure was closed 500 years ago after the Jews’ expulsion from the city and fell into ruin. A church was built on the foundations, functioning since that time until ten months ago when the church authorities decided to give part of the property to the local Jewish community for a synagogue and community center.


The Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2017


Cardinal Kurt Koch will receive the Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award on Monday, November 6, at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The award “…acknowledges and rewards people whose deed reflect tolerance, hope, and vision- those aspects so essential to the survival of the human race.” Among other things, Koch is president of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews, established in 1974. The Commission is tasked with maintaining positive theological ties with Jews and Judaism.


Previous award winners include the Dalai Lama, Archimandrite Emil Shoufani, and Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. It was first bestowed in 1985.



Haaretz, October 29, 2017


This article discusses how archaeology “…has not been able to find material evidence of the children of Israel sojourning in Egypt; passing through a miraculously parted Red Sea; wandering in the Sinai Desert for any length of time, much less for 40 years; conquering the Land of Israel; dividing it among the twelve tribes of Israel, or undisputed evidence that the United Kingdom of David and Solomon existed.” This lack of findings had led some of the archaeological community, split among the “maximalists” in Jerusalem and the “minimalists” in Tel-Aviv, to conclude that the Bible does not reflect historical truths.


However, the fort of Qayafa has been dated to the precise biblical date of the Davidic era, although the identity of the fort’s inhabitants and its relationship with Jerusalem remain unclear. In Jerusalem, the fact that Jebusite, Canaanite and Judahite artifacts have been found but artifacts from the Davidic, United Kingdom-era remain lacking, has caused much debate among scholars. The monumental gates at Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo suggest a strong United Kingdom, but their dating has been disputed.


The final example is that of the copper mines at Timna, currently dated as contemporary to Qayafa, and featuring mainly shafts for mining copper ore, remains of furnaces and vast piles of rubble, but no monumental building, causing the identity of those who operated and controlled it to remain unclear. The article concludes by admitting that the argument is still unresolved, and notes that when the finds in Jerusalem are being discussed, identity and politics get involved as well.


Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, November 1, 2017


Archaeologists digging at the copper mines in Timna have discovered the 3,200-year-old remains of a woman in the early stages of pregnancy and with two glass beads near her, buried near an Egyptian temple to Hathor at the site. The tomb placement has led Deborah Sweeney, an Egyptologist at TAU, to suggest the woman may have been a cultic singer or musician who traveled there from Egypt.


“It is very rare to find human remains at Timna, and it is the first time we find a woman,” said Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef, leader of the Tel-Aviv University team digging there since 2012. Ben-Yosef added, “Human remains are rare at Timna due to the inhospitable climate and lack of water sources, which meant that no one settled there permanently.” The team has been able to estimate that the woman was in her early twenties when she died, although dating is difficult due to the lack of collagen in her bones, and since the skeleton is incomplete, they have not been able to determine a cause of death.


The Jerusalem Post, November 1, 2017


In this article, Lawrence H. Schiffman recounts the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls since their discovery between 1947 and 1956. He notes they’ve become “part of our culture” since that time. Schiffman said that although the Six Day War gave Israel control of the Judean Desert and the then-Palestine Archaeological Museum (now the Rockefeller Museum), access to the scrolls was severely limited until the 1990’s when the Israel Antiquities Authority removed John Strugnell of Harvard from his position as team leader of scroll research and replaced him with Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University. The article said, “Tov widened the research team to over 60 international and interconfessional scholars, as well as reorganizing the publication process and making the complete edition and translation of the scrolls is available in print and digital form.” This access had a profound effect on scholarship in the study of the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity. Schiffman describes some of the issues still debated, such as scroll authorship and “…the inner ferment and debate that took place in the Jewish community in the second and first centuries BCE and the early first century CE.” He also describes how “…the apocalyptic messianism in the scrolls is portraying the feeling that would propel the Jewish community towards two revolts against Rome.”


Schiffman is Judge Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and director of the Global Network for Advanced Research in Jewish studies at New York University. Scrolls scholars will celebrate 70 years of the scrolls discovery at New York University on November 16th–17th,  2017, and in Jerusalem from April 29th-May 3rd, 2018.