During the week covered by this review, we received 32 articles on the following subjects:
On Wednesday, December 6th, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a speech at the White House in which he declared that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and put forth plans to transfer its embassy to the city. He said that Israel, as a sovereign state, retains the right to determine its capital. He added that the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a statement affirming the reality of what Israel has already declared. Trump spoke of a future peace agreement, noting, “The U.S. is not taking a stand concerning such final agreement issues as the borders of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem” but said those involved must come to a settlement on those matters. He also said, “The U.S. will support the two-state solution if both sides agree to it.”
The announcement was met with praise across the entire Israeli political spectrum. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for his words and called the declaration “an important milestone,” calling for other countries to follow Trump’s lead. Netanyahu emphasized, “Israel will keep the status quo in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and ensure freedom of worship.”
The Arab community, however, met the speech with fury. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ diplomatic bureau and Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, were unified in stating, “Jerusalem is Arab in identity and the capital of Palestine.” Haniyeh and Nasrallah emphasized that they would back their opinion with blood.
A private citizen named Athman quoted in one of the articles said, “The whole country, including Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Jaffa, is Palestine. Jews should go back to where they came from – Germany, Morocco, Europe, Russia, Ethiopia.” However, an anonymous Palestinian Christian said that she supported the declaration, because she felt the Israeli government is better for her people, adding that many more people think like her than the public realizes, but they are afraid to express it.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British premier Theresa May and Pope Francis have also expressed various levels of concern – ranging all the way to complete condemnation – regarding this change in policy. The Reform movement in the U.S. and the heads of all major Christian denominations in Jerusalem have voiced their opposition as well. The Christian clerics sent an open letter to Trump expressing their views.
The analysis articles focused chiefly on Trump’s timing and possible motives for the speech. Various ideas were suggested in these pieces. One possibility is that the declaration was made to bolster Trump’s standing with Americans, given the approaching mid-term elections and the presidential elections in three years. A second possibility is that pressure from Evangelical Christian organizations led to Trump making the speech at this time. A third possibility is that the declaration was made to deflect attention from the issues surrounding Robert Muller’s investigation of the Trump administration. One article said the European opposition to Trump’s decision is a sign of its surrender to growing Islamic colonialism. One article writer wonders about the possible price Israel might have to pay for the change in policy from the U.S., and another piece noted that Trump’s speech did not declare both east and west Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital.
The opinion pieces against the declaration focused chiefly on its possible ramifications. Negative opinions stated that the speech “changes nothing on the ground,” and is “largely symbolic.” However, these pieces affirmed that this changes the status quo of the international community, as “…it dissolves Washington’s support for the partition agreement of 1947 reserving Jerusalem as an international city and the consensus since 1967 that Jerusalem’s fate must be decided by negotiations.” One writer noted, “…most of the world sees it as Trump’s latest provocative decision.”
The opinion pieces in favor of the declaration focused chiefly on the decision being both “a miracle,” as well as a long overdue “statement of reality.” One article called it “…an historic move, that will eventually join the declarations made by Cyrus, Balfour, and the UN in 1947.”
Yedioth Ahronoth, December 3, Haaretz, December 8, 2017
A conference entitled “Memory and Hope” recently took place in Toruń, Poland. The conference aimed to honor 1,170 Poles, most of whom are not on the list of Righteous Among the Nations, whom the Nazis allegedly murdered after the 1,170 saved Jews. The main organizer was Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a controversial figure who, with his radio station Radio Maria, had been a symbol of anti-Semitism in modern Poland for the last 25 years. However, Rydzyk “…appears to have experienced a change of heart after a private meeting last year with Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland.” Beata Szydło, outgoing premier of Poland, was present, along with Communication Minister Ayub Kara (Likud) and Vice-Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp) representing Israel. Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the ruling Law and Justice Party, wrote a letter to the attendees stating that the former portrayals of Polish assistance to Jews were “forged and false,” and that his party intends to correct the picture.
This conference is a controversial subject for Poland’s Jewish community, many of whom see it as the Polish government’s latest attempt at “…portraying Poles as victims of the Nazi regime, rather than collaborators, as well as exaggerating Polish assistance to Jews during World War II and minimizing crimes Poles committed during that time.” On the other hand, those who support the government’s initiatives say that honoring those who saved Jews sends a message against anti-Semitism, and as such, its efforts deserve praise and support.
Globes, December 4, 2017
The residents of Abu-Ghosh and its environs are concerned at the prospect of two building plans, one to the west of the village, between it and Yad HaShmona and Kiryat Ye’arim, and the other to the north, between it and Kiryat Anavim and Ma’ale Ha’Hamisha. Those proposing the plans emphasize “…they will not injure valuable natural land, or touch the historic area at the center of the village.” However, Salim Jabar, the municipality head of Abu-Ghosh from 1998-2013, calls the plans “a knife in the back,” saying that the residents want the area for their children, rather than strangers. Adv. Eyal Mamo, the representative of the objectors from the Yehuda Regional Council and Ma’ale Hahamisha, says, “The plans are unnecessary, and are purely for the benefit of the planning managers.”
Daniel Ronen, farm manager at Yad HaShmona, said the area was planned to be a green area between Gush Dan and Jerusalem. Ronen added, “If the rumors are true and the expected new residents are people from east Jerusalem, this would change the character of Abu-Ghosh since the current residents support Israel while most of those in east Jerusalem do not.”
HaMevaser, HaModia, December 7, 2017
The anti-missionary activist organization Yad L’Achim is furious over the alleged baptism into Christianity of some minor-age boys at the Ashkelon beach. According to Yad L’Achim, the baptism took place “…as part of the conversion attempts made by a church in the center of the city, founded for the purpose.” The families of the boys appear to have contacted Yad L’Achim, who then assisted the parents in submitting a police complaint against the alleged missionaries. Meanwhile, the boys “…insist on remaining in contact with the missionaries, and threaten self-harm if they are prevented.”
Rami Sofer, the vice-mayor, said he will also personally submit a complaint against the missionaries for “shameful and cynical exploitation” of the youths. Rabbi Hanoch Gechtman of Yad L’Achim adds that his organization is attempting to close the missionary center, “…which is an annoyance and disturbs public order.” Yad L’Achim further states that one of the alleged missionaries was taken off a Lufthansa flight to Berlin after urging his fellow passengers to convert while they were all waiting to board the flight.
Haaretz, December 5, The Jerusalem Post (two articles), December 6, 2017
A recent survey among 2,000 U.S. Evangelical respondents appears to indicate that support for Israel among U.S. Evangelical millennials is waning. Three main points are of particular interest. First, 66% of millennial respondents agreed with the statement, “Christians must do more to show love and concern for the Palestinians.” Second, only 41% of millennial respondents affirmed the statement, “Palestinians have no historic right to the land of Israel.” Third, 42% of millennial respondents said, “It is important to support Israel, but not in everything Israel does.” Joel C. Rosenberg, who co-sponsored the survey along with Chosen People Ministries, said that the results appear to indicate “now we have a challenge.” He said if this challenge is not addressed, it will become a crisis in ten years.
Opinions differ as to why things have changed in this generation. Possible reasons named in the article include replacement theology, the fact that it is hard to understand the region, the gradual secularization of the Western world, or simply “…they are tired of believing in something that isn’t real to them.” In any case, the consensus of analysis appears to be that more must be done to reach out to millennials on this subject.
Kolbo, December 8, 2017
The Maronite community in Haifa invites the public to the Christmas Eve Mass at 19:00 at its church. Another event will take place on December 17th, when Rabbi Dubi Hayun of the Conservative Moriah Congregation will light the sixth Hanukkah candle in the Maronite church. The candle lighting will be followed by a symposium, where Hayun, Father Jacob of the Maronite community and Ahmadite community head Emir Muhammad Sharif Udeh will each speak.
Yediot Yerushalayim, December 8, 2017
An interfaith children’s event planned by the community center in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood for Christmas, Hanukkah and Muhammad’s birthday is causing controversy. Jewish Orthodox parents and politicians are objecting to the mixing of the Jewish celebration with those of other faiths. The community management responded saying their job is to serve everyone equally, no matter their religion, adding that threats to stop the community center’s funding will injure its capability of assisting the objectors as well.
Yediot Tverya, December 1, 2017
The Voice of Hope is a Christian radio station operating from Beit Gavriel by the Sea of Galilee and intended to reach Christians in Syria and Lebanon. The initiative for the station came from U.S. Evangelical Christians who wished to make a humanitarian gesture to the Christian community in Syria and Lebanon, many of whom have been expelled from their homes. The broadcast schedule consists of programs showing support, programs with Christian content and music, and even two Egyptian programs for Coptic Christians. The station broadcasts 24/7 in Arabic. Station manager Gary Hull said, “(The station is meant) to give them hope, tell them that life isn’t over, that they need to take care of themselves and that Israelis care about their situation.”
Yaki Dayan, the station’s Israel representative, said that he is working with the Communications Ministry to increase the station’s range as far as Iran, to serve the persecuted Christians there as well, adding, “The station gets numerous reactions on Facebook from Lebanon and Syria during the broadcasts, but there are always requests from Morocco and Algeria as well.”
HaMevaser, December 6, 2017
Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov recently stated that although he said the committee he heads is investigating if the execution of Czar Nikolai II and his family in 1918 was done for ritual purposes, “…he had no intention of accusing the Jews of the deed” (see last week’s MR). In his statements, Tikhon had in fact not accused the Jews explicitly. However, said Rabbi Baruch Gorin, head of the Jewish Federation in Russia, noted that these very words were frequently used for anti-Semitic purposes, thus, “…using the phrase ‘for ritual purposes’ is very worrisome.”
Israel Hayom, December 3, 2017
The Bible House in Frankfurt, Germany has cancelled an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, initially planned for 2019, due to the possibility of the Palestinian Authority submitting an ownership suit while the scrolls are in Germany. The scrolls “…are one of the most important historical artifacts about the Jewish presence in Israel and its influence on the formation of Christianity.” The German government refused to guarantee to the Israel Antiquities Authority that the scrolls would be immune from any legal proceeding regarding ownership, and returned the exhibition to Israel. Some years ago, the governments of the Netherlands and Austria gave immunity to Dead Sea Scrolls brought to the respective countries for exhibitions.
Yated Ne’eman, December 6, 2017
A construction crew, working on a new neighborhood in Rosh Ha’Ayin, discovered a new stalactite cave thirty meters below the surface. The cave’s present size remains undetermined. Other archaeological finds of interest have recently been uncovered in Rosh Ha’Ayin, the latest being a 2,700-year-old cistern for collecting rainwater, four meters in depth and twenty meters in width.