During the week covered by this review, we received 22 articles on the following subjects:
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Conversion to Judaism
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Haaretz, November 20, The Jerusalem Post, November 21, The Jerusalem Post, November 23 (two articles), 2017
Psychologist Rebecca Floer (64) of Gothenburg, Sweden is the daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor and applied to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return about two years ago. However, the Population and Immigration Authority rejected her application and subsequent appeals on the following grounds: her father converted and lived for years as a Christian, he married a Christian, she was baptized as a baby, and she currently belongs to the Svenska Evangeliska Alliansen organization as a “…Messianic Jewish psychologist who believes in Jesus.”
Floer has denied this claim, saying that though the Holocaust distanced her father from Judaism, he never denied it. In addition, she noted she appeared once as a guest at the Swedish organization’s event and is not a member of it, and claims that her baptism was because he father believed it would ease her way in society. She states she has left the church and considers herself Jewish. Floer is slated to leave Israel by Sunday, November 26. Floer told both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post that she fears what her life in Sweden will be like in light of the rise of neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism in the country. She draws a parallel between her Jewish grandparents’ situation in Vienna in 1938, and her own current situation, asking rhetorically whether she had to be murdered in order for Israel to recognize her as Jewish.
One article in response to this article condemns the Interior Ministry’s “bureaucratic cruelty” and cites how immigrants constitute one-third of the country’s annual suicides. It quotes MK Avraham Neguise (Likud), chairman of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee, who has said that the reason for this statistic is “…lack of a supportive environment, the stresses of adjusting to life in Israel, and the burden of finding a livelihood.”
Three letters to the editor respond to this issue. The first expresses its outrage at “how cruel Israel has become” by this action taken against Floer, calling it a shame and an embarrassment. The second condemns the “label libel” that says all Messianic Jews are missionaries, and therefore a danger to the state. The third letter acknowledges this is a complicated issue, but states that embracing another messiah is the same as embracing another religion, adding that a person who does so “…has in effect turned his back on the Jewish people, for whom Judaism is the common bond.”
Haaretz, November 19, 2017
In this article, Rabbi Noa Sattath, director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, states, “…implicit collaboration is taking place in Israeli society between law enforcement authorities and the far-right organization Lehava,” an anti-missionary and anti-assimilation organization. According to the article, Lehava is known for day camps to train for incitement, open threats against Arabs and Christians, including calls to burn down churches, and arson against the bilingual school in Jerusalem. Sattah says this collaboration is obvious in “…the gross disregard for evidence, the police’s blindness in not responding to violence, and the erasing of the stories of the violence’s victims.” He claims the worst collaborators are the attorney-general and prosecutors, who only decided to follow the police’s recommendation to indict Lehava head Bentzi Gopstein “…after numerous statements of incitement to violence and racism, and a call by the action center to justify the years-long delay.” Sattat states that Lehava disgusts most Israelis, noting, “The decision to try Gopstein gives such people an opportunity to demand that the police, prosecution and attorney-general stop ignoring the racist incitement spread by the organization.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 23, 2017
The article reports U.S. vice president Mike Pence will address the Knesset on December 18, after first meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. Edelstein’s office announced the event “…as President Donald Trump’s administration is working on an outline for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” It notes that as the U.S. vice president presides over the Senate, he is considered to be on the same diplomatic rank as the Israeli Knesset Speaker, and added that President Trump, who wrote the book The Art of the Deal, calls his administration’s peace outline “the ultimate deal”.
Yedioth Ahronoth, November 22, 2017
This article highlights how “…formal Israel and liberal U.S. Jewry have been on a collision course regarding state and religion issues, issues to do with ‘the quality of Israeli democracy’ and the question of ‘occupation’.” It quotes former president Barack Obama, who said, “In the battle against anti-Semitism, we are all Jews.” The piece notes that the government of Israel and those Jewish Americans who hold to right-wing views wish to differentiate between Obama’s statement and the statement “We are all Israeli”. Obama’s statement was meant to communicate that “…anti-Semitism and Holocaust memorial are universal issues”, suggesting that right-wing Israel is “on the problematic side of the universal battle for values.” This piece highlights the fact that alt-right figure Steven Bannon was present at the Zionist Organization of America’s 2017 gala, which testifies to the Israeli alliance with “Zionist anti-Semites“. This alliance causes centrist U.S. Jews to feel as if Israel is “pushing them out of the Zionist consensus,” despite the widespread condemnation drawn by the event.
The Jerusalem Post, November 24, 2017
Thoko Mkhwanazi Xaluva, chairwoman of the Cultural Religious and Linguistic Commission in South Africa, noted at a recent symposium, “If South Africa downgrades its embassy in Israel it will unfairly impact on the ability of African Jews to practice and identify with their religious and cultural heritage, and as such, it would probably be unconstitutional.” At the same event, prominent Jewish community leader Rabbi Dovid Hazdan said, “Downgrading the embassy would have a devastating and far-reaching impact on Jewish life in South Africa,” adding that his studies in Israel motivated him to return to South Africa so he could make a positive difference for the Jewish community. Kingdom of God Church Apostle Linda Gobodo noted possible negative effects downgrading the embassy could have on Christian pilgrimage, as Israel might choose to retaliate and shut down its embassy in South Africa. Gobodo also said both Israel and South Africa “…need to consider an upgrade, rather than a downgrade.” Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, agreed with Gobodo, and added that such a move on South Africa’s part would nullify any South African peace-building efforts in the Middle East, which would be a tragedy.
In July, the African National Congress, South Africa’s current ruling party, called for a downgrade of the South African embassy in Jerusalem to a liaison office, saying that the party was “…concerned by the lack of commitment from Israel to finding a resolution to the Palestinian question.”
Iton Shacharit, November 21, 2017
On Tuesday, November 14, security cameras recorded a man and a woman vandalizing the Bnei Israel synagogue in Norfolk, Virginia. Jeffrey Brook, the congregation’s president, said his congregation was very sad about having to report the break-in and theft. Brook noted that steps have been taken to improve security at the synagogue, and that congregants appreciated the seriousness with which the police were taking the incident.
Daniel McNamara, a non-Jewish neighbor of the synagogue, told a local television reporter, “Whoever did this atrocity does not represent the rest of this community.”
Haaretz, November 24, 2017
The Supreme Court has ordered the state and the Elad non-profit organization to find open spaces “…to be cultivated for the Palestinian population of Silwan,” as a condition for closing archaeological spaces within the City of David National Park. This ruling comes as a result of a 2015 appeal against Elad’s move that was submitted by Silwan’s Palestinian residents. Joad Siam, the residents’ representative, has previously stated, “So far, Elad has destroyed areas and not contributed to the village.”
Elad responded, “The City of David places some of its lands at the service of the public as part of the site’s development.” They hope the neighborhood’s residents will place some of the lands their own at the service of the public as well, a move which has already been suggested in court.
Israel Hayom, November 24, 2017
This article gives the public a “first peek” at a photo exhibition now on display on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, which honors the city’s tradespeople. One example is that of Bilal Abu-Kalef, whose textile shop is known for the wide variety offered, including rare merchandise imported from India and Damascus. Another example is that of Vik Lapijan, an internationally known artist of traditional Armenian ceramics. A third is Yaakov Sara, who founded his pizza shop some years ago as a place “to connect people,” and who takes care to use only ingredients bought in the Old City for his food.
The Jerusalem Post, November 22 (two articles), 2017
These articles are opinion pieces on Thanksgiving.
In the first article, Tuly Weisz of Israel365 begins by describing that his work with the Christian Zionist community caused him to realize that although the Mayflower passengers referred to their voyage as an “exodus from oppression to the promised land,” they were not “…expressing a cute and harmless example of cultural appropriation” of the Torah, but rather their belief in replacement theology. He quotes Arthur Hertzberg, who wrote in The New England Puritans and the Jews, “In their own mind, (the Puritans) were the Jews, the ultimate and total heirs of the promises that God had made in the Hebrew Bible.” He goes on to explain the Puritan theory that Native Americans were the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and how “…this led to zealous conversion work in order to hasten the Second Coming.”
At Israel365’s recent conference, the panelists “…discussed how the rise and success of the modern State of Israel forced many Christians to question and even reject replacement theology.” Weisz says, “We must give thanks for how, with the founding of the State of Israel, more and more Christians have come to accept Hebrew Scriptures while embracing the land and the people of Israel.”
The second article highlights how important it is, especially for Jews, to appreciate how fortunate we are, noting, “We should do our best to understand what it means to experience oppression and poverty.” The piece suggest one way to do this is “…to come to the aid of the brave people who must live, alone, on the modern equivalent of the pilgrims’ ration of five kernels of corn during their first winter.” For this reason, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, together with partners such as the Claims Conference, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Jewish federations and others, are spending over $100 million a year in relief for 110,000 elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union, including 45,000 Holocaust survivors. The article notes, “This is the essence of Thanksgiving, a holiday of lives transformed even at the brink of despair.”
The Jerusalem Post, November 20, The Jerusalem Post, November 22, 2017
On November 17, the Museum of the Bible opened in Washington, D.C. Among the guests at the dedications were Steven Green, president of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores and the museum’s chairman of the board. Also present at the dedication were Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Yariv Levin, the Israeli minister of tourism and the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In his speech, Green said, “Visitors should come away realizing that the Bible has had a positive impact on their lives in so many different ways and when they leave they will be inspired to open it.”
Dermer “…celebrated the museum as a signifier of the Jewish claim to Jerusalem.” Levin read a letter from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who sent greetings from Jerusalem, “the eternal and undivided capital of Israel.”
The articles call the museum “…a five hundred million dollar extravaganza, celebrating Jews and Judaism as the noble, beloved and even feared antecedents to Christianity, and arguing that its best modern expression is in the State of Israel.” One of the exhibitions currently on display is a 30-minute stroll through the story of the Hebrew Bible. The museum has a floor dedicated to artifacts contributed by the Israel Antiquities Authority. A third exhibition organized by Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum, shows finds from Khirbet Qayafa, and especially a replica of the Tel Dan Stele, containing the oldest reference to King David.
The second article devotes particular attention to a fourth exhibit, Beit Shemesh scribe Rabbi Eliezer Adam, who has been contracted to ply his craft and speak to visitors at the museum for the next year. Adam describes how his family and friends’ skepticism of the museum’s avowed motives, but says that since the museum directors did not give him any instructions of limitations on what to tell guests. He also said the exhibitions are extremely thorough, and he is not concerned at all about a hidden motivation or agenda.
The articles note that although the museum “shows deference to Judaism” in such things as its logo design and its offering of kosher food in the restaurant, it also “…makes the Bible unmistakably American” by having a permanent exhibit dedicated to the biblical underpinnings of the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement.
The second article expressed skepticism about the museum’s stated goals, however, saying that it appears that “…since the approach is closer to seminary than religious studies department, it could be that the goal of the newfound knowledge the visitor would leave with is not to encourage critique but belief.”
The Green family, “one of America’s leading evangelical families”, gifted the museum to the National Mall.
The Jerusalem Post, November 23, 2017
This article describes the model of coexistence presented by the example of Jaffa, and interviews several of the city’s residents about it. Soli Zopri, a Muslim businessman, said, “The reasons for this successful coexistence knowing each other one’s whole lives, treating the other with respect, not getting involved in politics and the fact that the city’s inhabitants make no distinction based on religion.”
Einat Yeini, a Jewish Orthodox nanny, agreed with Zopri, adding that her friends are Muslim, Christian and Jewish, and all are involved in one another’s lives. Nael Hamid, who commutes to Jaffa from Beit Hanina, said, “The two sides don’t appear to dehumanize each other as they do in Jerusalem, they are not separated from each other as they are in Jerusalem, and that there is an unspoken rule not to discuss loaded subjects.” Samia Chamy, originally from Bethlehem and a chef at a Jaffa restaurant, said, “Jews and Arabs live and work together and avoid political discourse.” Guy, a 30-year-old stock trader, said, “Coexistence is primarily reinforced by economic necessity.” Doron Ben Shimon, a tour guide, said the key to peace in the city is the absence of religious and political extremists, adding the secret is “Live and let live.”
Conversion to Judaism
The Jerusalem Post, November 21, 2017
This article recounts the stories of some medieval Christian clerics who abandoned Catholicism and converted to Judaism, despite the danger of doing so. One such cleric was Deacon Bodo, who converted to Judaism in 838 CE, after having served as a chaplain at the court of Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne. Bodo escaped the court by pretending to go on pilgrimage to Rome, but instead headed to Muslim-ruled Andalusia, eventually becoming known as Eleazar. He later argued vigorously for the conversion of Catholics to either Judaism or Islam. In 840 CE, Bodo held a debate with Pablo Alvaro, a Jewish convert to Catholicism from Cordoba. Both were unable to convince the other to abandon their adopted religion. The article writer is of the opinion that Bodo left his powerful position because of “…theological scruples and the moral laxity of the Frankish court,” and perhaps because of contact with Jewish merchants and tradesmen as well.
Another such cleric was Johannes of Oppido, who converted to Judaism in 1101. He, too, fled to the Muslim world, later becoming known as “Obadiah the Norman Proselyte.” According to findings from the Cairo Genizah, Johannes assembled a prayer book, a memoir and the first primitive notation of synagogue music. Johannes’ reasons for conversion are not clear. Some speculate he was either “…following other Christians clerics who converted to Judaism…or he was repulsed by Crusader violence attacks on Jewish communities.” The article also speculates that these clerics may have converted because of “…their encounter with what they were taught was an ‘Old Testament’ but that they believed was a divine truth that could not be replaced.” It calls upon the public to take another look at the role Judaism played among Christians in the medieval world, rather than assuming that Judaism was without appeal because it was “the religion of history’s losers”.
Yedioth Ahronoth, November 21, 2017
Kosovo’s broadcasting authority is planning to produce a film on the Holocaust. A team from Kosovo arrived in Israel to film the movie, which accompanies two survivors as they make a “roots trip” to Kosovo: Shaul Getanio, 84, who hid in a local monastery, and Yaffa Reuven, 91, who was sent from Pristina to Bergen-Belsen.
The catalyst behind this project is Florin Ze’evi, one of Kosovo’s last Jews, who convinced the broadcasting authority to produce the film. He joined with Moshe Klughaft, a strategist for HaBayit HaYehudi, after meeting Klughaft by chance while the latter was visiting Pristina. Additionally, Klughaft connected Ze’evi with singer Amir Banion, who had performed a song written by Klughaft about Holocaust survivors from Kosovo. Ze’evi has translated the song into Albanian, and Banion is to perform it in the movie.
HaMevaser, November 21, 2017
Andrew M. Cuomo, governor of New York, and Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, have approved the release of a total of fifty million U.S. dollars for the protection of schools and day care centers, including Jewish institutions such as yeshivas, synagogues, Torah schools and seminaries from hate crimes.
The proposed New York state bill was advanced by Agudat Israel in the U.S. It received bipartisan support in both state legislatures. The homeland security and emergency services departments belonging to each state will meet the sum, and will also release a further grant of up to fifty thousand U.S. dollars for additional needs such as guard training, advanced surveillance equipment, and upgrading lighting. “We thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the need to ensure the security of yeshivas and other private schools in today’s challenging reality,” said Rabbi Chaim David Zwibel, acting vice-president of Agudat Israel. “This is an initiative that could bring about real change.”
Haaretz, November 22, 2017
This article, which first appeared in The Guardian, states that it seems that the interest of “wealthy Evangelicals” in the Dead Sea Scrolls been responsible for both a million dollar trade as well as a significant number of forgeries. One researcher said, “The problem is acute enough that of the seventy-five scroll portions sold since 2002, 90% are forgeries.” Another says that six of the thirteen portions bought by Hobby Lobby’s Steven Green are suspected forgeries. The Dead Sea Scrolls, written mostly in Hebrew and dated approximately between 300 BCE and 100 CE, include Bible portions older by 1000 years than any other known copy of the Bible.
Experts such as Kipp Davis of Trinity Western University and Årstein Justnes of the University of Agder in Kristiansand agree that the portions are most likely forgeries. Justnes says that that two reasons for his analysis are the “hesitant” handwriting used, in places the text appears to have been “adjusted” to fit margins, and the fact that the number of portions containing biblical quotations has risen from 25% to 86% since 2002. Suspicions of forgeries rose as a result of checking that Davis, Justnes, and others performed on a collection purchased by Martin Schøyen of Norway around 2002. Their findings, published in the Dead Sea Discoveries magazine, included environmental elements under ink that should have appeared above it, as well as traces of common cooking salt. Justnes has stated to a committee of experts in Berlin that the majority of scroll portions sold since 2002 were connected to William Kando, whose family are the original scroll merchants.
No comments were received from Green on Davis’ and Justnes’ opinions. Although the Green family has not published the source of the 13 portions it purchased, it has been discovered that this source was William Kando and that Green visited the Kando safe room to inspect the portions. Schøyen and Dorothy Patterson, another collector, purchased their portions from Kando as well. Kando gave an interview in his Jerusalem shop and utterly rejected the notion that the portions connected to him were forged, even without his knowledge. He called those who doubted the authenticity of his portions “stupid,” adding that the allegations against him were “harassment.”
Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, November 24, 2017
A colorful mosaic floor, believed to have been part of a Georgian church or monastery and bearing a Greek inscription, was recently unearthed in Ashdod. The inscription is dedicated to Procopius, the bishop of the time, and states the date of construction as “…the month of Dios of the 3rd indiction, year 292.” According to Dr. Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this Georgian calendar date corresponds to 539 CE on the Gregorian calendar. Di Segni says that this would mean that not only is the inscription the earliest evidence of Georgian dating found in Israel so far but that the Georgian calendar was used in Israel even before it was used in Georgia.
Ashdod-Yam, the tel where the floor was found, was one of the most important cities on the coast of Israel in the Byzantine period and was known then as Azotus Paralios. Sa’ar Ganor, the Ashkelon district archaeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, noted that according to historical sources Peter the Iberian, the famous Georgian prince and bishop, lived in Ashdod-Yam before his death. Ganor added that the floor appears to be only the first uncovered remains of “…an extensive archaeological complex yet to be uncovered.” Dr. Alexander Fantalkin of Tel-Aviv University and Dr. Angelika Berlejung of the University of Leipzig are joint leaders of the dig.