During the week covered by this review, we received 18 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Jewish Attitudes Concerning Jesus
Iton Shacharit, November 3, 2017
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently met with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London. Netanyahu told May, “Israel remains committed to the peace process, while the Palestinians are making problems.” Netanyahu also spoke about the Iran nuclear deal and the shifting alliances in the Middle East due to the threat from radical Islam.
May will participate in the ceremony marking the centennial of the Balfour Declaration, and is expected tell the audience that there are no excuses for anti-Semitism, just as there are no excuses for hatred of Muslims or Christians, nor should there be discrimination of any kind against people because of their place of birth or skin color. She will mention new forms of anti-Semitism, such as using criticism as a tool to delegitimize Israel, and will call for a new definition of anti-Semitism that will include those who use criticism to justify their hatred.
Matzav HaRuach, November 10, 2017
The article noted the right-wing in Israel fears that U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence’s visit to the country “…intended to prepare the ground for an inclusive diplomatic move that is likely to bring about a thawing of relations with different countries in the Middle East, but is also likely to cause Israeli concessions.” An anonymous source said despite the fact “…(U.S. president Donald) Trump’s administration is much better than that of (former president Barack) Obama”, the shift in diplomacy is tied to a U.S. president in search of striking an agreement. The article writer encouraged people to stay alert so Pence’s pressure “…doesn’t influence the Israeli leaders more than it needs to.”
During his visit, Pence will visit holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He will meet with the prime minister, the president, Adv. Marc Zell, who is the head of Republicans in Israel, and the Israeli team that acted as consultants to Trump’s campaign last year.
Haaretz, November 5, 2017
This article reports that the right-wing Ateret Kohanim non-profit organization had agreed initially to buy a building in the vicinity of Jaffa Gate for nine times the price it ultimately paid. The building in question is one of three which the organization purchased from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in 2004. This transaction led to the ousting of former patriarch Irenaeus, saying that he had corruptly advanced it and sold the buildings for less than their value. The patriarchate submitted an appeal this week on a court ruling from last year, which determined that the deal was legal. This Haaretz piece informs the public of new information it has received, which “strengthens the assertion that the sale of the Petra Hotel was not ‘reasonable,’ as the eventual price was so different from the initial agreement.”
The documents which reached Haaretz allegedly show that in 1996, Ateret Kohanim agreed to pay 4.5 million dollars for key money to the building, but the deal was not executed. However, eight years later, Ateret Kohanim received an adjacent building without paying any additional cost. This was not a part of the original terms of the 1996 agreement. The paper possesses documents that appear to show that Ateret Kohanim had agreed to pay $225,000 in agent fees.
Current patriarch Theophilos III is carrying out a widespread campaign against the court ruling, apparently due to growing criticism of the deal among his congregation because of Ateret Kohanim’s political affiliations and the location of the building. Ateret Kohanim offered no response to this article.
The Jerusalem Post, November 5, 2017
The Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, Massachusetts (UUCM) decided to show the film The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States. This film concludes “…the Israeli government, the US government and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor.”
The film has drawn the protests of more than 100 residents and area organizations. Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez of Temple Sinai said, “Showing the movie is the wrong way to address the message of peace right now.”
The Anti-Defamation League notes that the film’s narrator, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, joined the BDS movement in 2011 and has continued to boycott Israel actively over recent years. Debbie Coltin, the executive director of the Lappin Foundation and one of the protestors, said that the film tries to delegitimize and vilify Israel. “It’s not accurate, it’s not true, and it lacks any historical context,” said Coltin. Other protestors said “…the film is filled with interviews by anti-Israel individuals, lacks transparency, presents a factually incorrect and distorted account of the Israeli-Palestinian situation and will fill people’s minds with lies about Israel and America.”
Von Courter said the UUCM has no political position on the conflict. She stated that her congregation is distressed by the amount of criticism it has received over the viewing. She rejected the idea that any critical inquiry of Israel’s practices and policies is anti-Semitic. She emphasized the church’s “…commitment to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people, including both our Jewish and our Palestinian siblings, is unwavering.” She added, “Given the pressure to cancel the showing, it seemed ironic that a central message of the film is that U.S. citizens are prevented from hearing more than a single narrative about the conflict…We hope the film is well attended by people who arrive with open minds and a commitment to respectful engagement.”
Haaretz, November 8, November 9, 2017
This article describes how the residents of Jerusalem’s Ein-Kerem neighborhood are protesting five building projects that would harm the integrity of a unique village in Israel. Some of the structures in question range in age from 100 to 800 years old, and contain churches, monasteries, synagogues, and a mosque. The projects in question include a hotel next to Mary’s Well, a large military base, a large water pump, 1,600 living units in a former boarding school, and a train line 50 meters away from a Russian Orthodox church. The article writer interviews Pnina Ein-Mor, one of Ein-Kerem’s notable residents. Ein-Mor describes how, if executed, these plans would irreparably harm a grove of trees with stone quarries, barn caves, winepresses, terraces, guard buildings, and ancient water structures, which show all the agricultural history of the area from the First Temple through the Crusader periods. Also, the site serves as a pilgrimage site for Christians, and the houses in the village show Crusader, Byzantine, and Arab architecture, with European and other influences. The village boasts rare interfaith relations.
The defense ministry has responded that the heart of Ein-Kerem is important and will be preserved. The city has promised that any building will be done responsibly, has insisted that court rulings have been respected, and said that the residents’ fears are groundless. The Ein-Kerem council insists that insufficient care has been taken and that the projects are carelessly planned and will ruin the village.
The Jerusalem Post, November 9, 2017
A group of 32 students from the Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn, New York, and Hatikvah International Academy in East Brunswick, New Jersey have visited Israel. Among the sites the group visited were Machon Ayalon in Rehovot, a secret ammunition factory set up by the Jewish underground, Jaffa, Independence Hall in Tel-Aviv, and the Taglit-Birthright Innovation Center at the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange. Alexia Newell, who is from a Christian family, said she attends the school since it “offered something that none of the others did”, adding that her mom thought it would be a good opportunity. Group member Zachary Kraft was struck by the diversity and modernity of Israel. Amanda Quinones Rodrigues, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, said she is determined to continue her study of Hebrew after she graduates. Since her mother discovered that she has Jewish blood, she is interested in joining her daughter in learning, although the family does not practice any religion.
Many of the schools in the Hebrew Public network to which the Brooklyn Academy and Hatikvah belong have a majority of non-Jewish students from African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities. They are state-funded and have no tuition fees or special requirements. Hebrew is woven into all subjects other than English study. The school network was founded in 2009 by several Jewish philanthropists, including Michael Steinhardt of Birthright, and has the vision that many Americans would grow up speaking Hebrew and understanding Israeli geography and culture.
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, November 5, 2017
Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi, head of the Maronite Church, said he sees no reason why Christians from Lebanon should not visit Christian holy sites in the Holy Land and Jerusalem, noting, “such a visit did not signal a normalization but rather a pilgrimage.” The patriarch was responding to the Friday headline in the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar newspaper, which was based on the Thursday article in Haaretz about the subject (see last week’s MR). Al-Akhbar warned that although Israeli Arabs should be allowed to visit Christian holy sites in Lebanon, “This could be taken advantage of to let Lebanese Christians visit Israel, which could indirectly lead to a normalization,” adding that this was the purpose of the Haaretz article. The patriarch’s comments have garnered mixed responses, and have been translated by leading Arab media outlets such as the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram and the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television.
Jewish Attitudes Concerning Jesus
The Jerusalem Post, November 5, 2017
Rabbi Yehuda Lave responds to the results of the Jews for Jesus survey (see last week’s MR) in this letter to the editor. He said, “Publishing a study funded by Jews for Jesus is like publicizing a fox’s study on whether or not he believes the chickens like him before he eats them.” He believes Jews for Jesus “has an agenda,” making its surveys “non-independent.” He says the Jerusalem Post has played into the hands of Jews for Jesus by publicizing the survey results.
Haaretz, Maariv, November 10, 2017
The first article surveys anti-Semitism in France, noting that anti-Semitic incidents appear to be decreasing in the country. However, 5,000 French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2016, and an additional 4,000 are expected to follow suit this year. The government is carrying out a campaign against anti-Semitism in schools in suburbs of Paris, but many Jews are leaving these areas, and these schools are almost entirely non-Jewish. This demographic means that children in these schools have a preconceived notion of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but also “tend to consider Jews exotic.” The article concludes that the pressing issue is “…preventing silent acquiescence between the old anti-Semitism and the new.”
The second article discusses the “destructive process” occurring among Jewish leaders in the U.S. An example of this is the recent hearing in the Capitol regarding a proposed bill to limit the rise of anti-Semitism on U.S. university campuses. The bill would require university heads to use the 2011 State Department definition of anti-Semitism, “…which includes accusing Jews of having a higher loyalty towards Israel than their own country, delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, demonizing the state of Israel by such things as comparing it to Nazi Germany and using a special standard to judge Israel, such as in the UN or other international forums.”
However, half of the witnesses called to testify at the hearing concerning the bill appear to have opposed it, one saying that this issue needs to be resolved in ways other than through legislation. Another noted that passing this bill would injure academic freedom. Others quoted in the articles said passing the bill would limit the individual’s right to freedom of expression. The article’s author sees this as collaboration with BDS, indicating the rise of radical and anti-Israel elements in the U.S. left has resulted in “…intensive activity to put anti-Israel Jews in leadership positions.” The articles writer calls upon the Israeli government “…to support the activities of pro-Israel Jews in the US, as well as their attempts to prevent the appointment of anti-Israel activists to leadership positions.”
Haaretz, November 5, 2017
This article presents the opinion of George Adam Smith (1846-1942), author of “The Historical Geography of the Holy Land,” about the Balfour Declaration. It concludes that Smith thought “…Palestine is emphatically a land of tribes, the idea that it can ever belong to one nation, even though this were the Jews, is contrary both to Nature and to Scripture.” Smith saw the declaration as “the most momentous factor in the Zionist movement,” but said at the same time “….however deserving of our sympathy, the Jewish claims have not been so thought out in the face of the present facts of Palestine as to command our unqualified support.” He warned that the question of preserving holy places is “more dangerous” than the mere question of rule. The article notes that the declaration was drawn up with “insufficient respect for regional expertise and languages,” and says that in this respect the declaration was a “harbinger” of uninformed Western military intervention in the Middle East.
Ha’Ir Tzomet HaSharon-Raanana, November 3, 2017
Arieh Friedman, head of Raanana’s religious council, posted on Facebook an objection and criticism of missionary material distributed to city mailboxes. Friedman’s post said he planned to demand that the police take action and asked parents of minor-age children who wish to join him in the complaint to do so . The volume of material and the fact that it is not addressed to a specific person indicates systematic attempts at proselytizing, “which cannot be ignored.”
BaKehila, November 9, 2017
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim reported a story of a 70-year-old new immigrant from Italy, whom two Christian women had begun visiting after her arrival in Israel. Their visits continued after the woman’s health deteriorated and she was hospitalized. An Italian-speaking activist from Yad L’Achim “…was amazed to hear that the two missionaries had already come to the hospital, pressuring the woman to convert before she passed away.” At the funeral, the woman’s husband told the activist that his wife had asked him to call the missionaries and asked them to leave her alone, saying, “I am a Jew, and I will die as one.” Yad L’Achim wishes to bring this story to the attention of the public “…as a painful but tangible testimony of the fact that it is never too late and that one should not despair of any Jew.”
Makor Rishon, November 10, 2017
This article responds to Makor Rishon’s recent article on the activities of HaYovel (see MR October 2017 #4), whose members come to serve the Jewish people in response to a religious commandment. However, 11 families living on the hill on which they were working objected to HaYovel being there as well, and some left. The article quotes an interview with one of the staff members of HaYovel, who said that one of the purposes of the organization is “…to share the passionate desire for the near coming of the jubilee in Jesus Christ with the people from Israel.” The HaYovel people also use the word “ministry,” notes the article. All this seems to indicate radical Christianity intent on “penetrating Israel and stealing Jewish souls,” the article notes.
HaMevaser, November 8, 2017
This article discusses the way in which “…Christians not only turn their back on Jews but on their brethren who live in Arab countries.” The article writer accuses the media, the Vatican, the European Christian community, and the UN of making peace with “…the violent Muslim zeal of oppression, persecution, destruction and murder of Christians, continuing to sacrifice the Christian minorities in Arab countries in favor of naive appeasement and ‘political correctness’ as well as fear of Muslim terror.”
The article includes the cases of Beit Jala and Bethlehem, both in Palestinian Authority areas, which have become 80% Muslim and 20% Christian. The Christian minority is “tolerated” for operating Christian holiday events, hotels, and gift shops. According to the article, despite the fact that in Israel Christians have the most secure situation of all, even in Nazareth, the ratio is now 70% Muslim, 30% Christian.
Haaretz, November 5 (Hebrew and English), 2017
These articles cover recently discovered mosaics dating to some 1,600 years ago. According to archaeologists, “Christianity won over the pagan locals very fast, and strongly.” Dr. Mordechai Aviam, one of the leaders of the dig for Kinneret College, told Haaretz that a little more than a century after the Roman Empire converted from paganism to Christianity, each of the villages they’d explored in the Western Galilee had at least one church and its own bishop. Aviam, together with Jacob Ashkenazi, have been researching three churches, one of which was previously unknown. All of them had elaborate mosaic floors with a total of seven new inscriptions. One of the seven was the largest discovered in the region. It is five meters long and bears the name of Irenaeus, bishop of Tyre, as well as names of local bishops and local people who donated money to build the church. The building even had a date – August and September 445.
As the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in about AD 330, the building appears to indicate that faith in Christianity had penetrated the remote Galilee hills in 115 years, said Aviam. The team surmises “…the prosperity the villages would have needed to commission a mosaic would have come from the production of olive oil and wine for export.” The mosaics were not figurative and depicted geometric designs, but Aviam does not suspect any spiritual prohibition. He says even if the villages were prosperous, “…they would not have been able to afford artists who could depict animals.” The two exceptions are the five-meter mosaic, which features a peacock, and another, which depicts the branch of a pomegranate tree. The inhabitants of these villages appear to have been locals with Syrian and Phoenician roots, rather than Jewish. The location of the mosaics remains secret for the moment in order to protect it from damage or vandalism.