During the week covered by this review, we received 40 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
This week’s articles concerning U.S. President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem declaration focused on the decision’s timing, consequences to the speech, and the spectrum of opinion both for and against the decision. One article notes how the Czech Republic has decided to follow the lead of the U.S. and transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, and cites Russia’s April recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Other articles noted that mayor of Nazareth has decided to cancel the city’s Christmas celebrations in protest.
Most of the articles appear to support the opinion that it was pressure from Evangelical Christians such as Pastor John Hagee and Dr. Mike Evans which led to Trump’s decision. However, some of the article writers think it possible Israel may be pressured to pay a price for this support. Others underscore that Christian support for Israel is wholehearted and free, requiring no political “payment”.
Some writers wonder if the move was made to curry favor with those Evangelicals who see Judeo-Christian control of the Temple Mount as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Another article writer disagrees, however, saying that Trump was not attempting to curry favor, but demonstrates his distrust of “experts” and his willingness to break with the past on almost any issue. Another analysis piece stated that Islam considers Jews and Christians to have lost all rights to anything but living as second-class citizens under Muslim rule. Therefore, Christian Trump’s promise to Jewish Israel is like the Balfour Declaration, which was “…a promise from one who isn’t an owner given to those who have no right to it.” This article notes that the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, “…when the occupation meant Haifa and Tel-Aviv.”
Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s foreign minister, called upon the Arab countries to consider enacting economic sanctions against the U.S. Fourteen members of the UN security council have condemned the move. The Arab League stated that Trump’s declaration is “a dangerous violation of international law,” and the Palestinians may seek a UN general assembly resolution against it. An analysis piece is of the opinion that a possible source of the stiff criticism of the declaration in Europe is the widespread opinion on the continent that the religion is one of the causes of war and that European sophistication makes it the only valid arbiter of world affairs. Another says that Trump’s methodology regarding the conflict smacks of “auto-hagiography.”
The main points raised by supporters of the decision appear to be that Trump’s declaration is a simple statement of the reality on the ground in Israel and that the UN resolution designating Jerusalem as an international city was invalidated by the ensuing war. Another article writer sees the declaration as appeasement between Judaism and Christianity. This article denies Islam any connection to the issue, as “…both Jews and Christians declared Jerusalem a capital when they had the political and military power to do so, whereas the Muslims never considered Jerusalem to be equal to Cairo, Baghdad or Damascus.” One writer observed the declaration has repeatedly been compared to those of Cyrus and Balfour, as well as the founding of the state. Another piece noted “…opposing the decision is a product of an unreasoned approach to the conflict.”
Christians in Israel
Index He’Emek VeHaGalil-Nazareth Ilit, December 8, 2017
A new non-profit organization called “Covenant of Brothers – Christians Proud to Integrate” has been founded to encourage young Christians to volunteer to serve in the IDF, the Border Police and national service, as well as integrate into Israeli society. Carmeline Ashkar, one of the founders, has a son who serves in the IDF and another who has completed service in national service. Ashkar said she hopes the organization will build bridges between Jews and Christians and “…act for the State of Israel and the Christian community.”
Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, December 13, HaPeles, December 14, 2017
The Nazareth District Court has sentenced Yinon Reuveni to four years in prison and is requiring him to pay ILS 50,000 for damages caused by his arson attempt at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha. According to Judge George Azulay’s ruling, the imprisonment will be measured from the time of Reuveni’s arrest, and the remaining two years of the sentence will be conditional arrest. Reuveni was convicted last July. However, Adv. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Reuveni’s legal counsel, has announced that they plan to appeal both the conviction and the sentence in the Supreme Court.
Yedioth Ahronoth, December 13, 2017
Christmas celebrations have become more common in Israel, and shops selling decorations can even be found in Tel-Aviv. Although most of the market consists of foreign workers and people from the former Soviet Union, the native-born Israelis who celebrate the holiday appear to do so for the colors and festive feeling, rather than any religious meaning, report the shop owners. One father said they celebrate Christmas because his children wanted to do so, adding, “By celebrating holidays from other religions, the children learn to respect everyone.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2017
After first giving a brief history of Hanukkah, this article writer reminds the public, “The light of the menorah represents the restoration not only of Jewish sovereignty but Jewish values.” Noting that the events of Hanukkah remind us that Jews have been in Jerusalem for thousands of years, the article writer expresses regret that U.S. President Trump’s recent declaration concerning Jerusalem has caused so much outrage and violence. Denying that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel “…is like saying that the earth is at the center of the universe.” Therefore, the writer calls upon the public to celebrate Hanukkah with pride and joy.
Haaretz, December 10, 2017
Polish President Andrzej Duda has appointed Mateusz Morawiecki to succeed Beata Szydło as prime minister. Morawiecki, an enthusiastic Christian who has stated his purpose of “making Europe Christian again,” revealed at a recent ceremony honoring Poles who saved Jews in World War II that two of his aunts were Jews saved by Poles.
Morawiecki is to serve as prime minister for the ruling Law and Justice Party, “…which has been leading a conservative, right-wing, patriotic line in recent years.” This line includes the controversial attempts to change the image of Poles from collaborators to victims of the Nazis.
Yedioth Ahronoth, December 14, 2017
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Israel from December 17th-19th. During his time in the country, he will meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. He will visit the Western Wall and Yad VaShem. Pence was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well. However, Abbas has refused to meet him. The Palestinians are “…boycotting the visit.” Pence will address the Knesset, and is expected to speak on advancing the peace process by means of compromises on both sides. The Joint List Knesset members plan to boycott the event.
The Jerusalem Post, December 14, 2017
On Wednesday, December 13, Munich passed a bill “to outlaw public funds and space for BDS campaigns.” The bill, proposed jointly by the Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party, passed with a solid majority. Charlotte Knobloch, chairwoman of Munich’s Jewish community, welcomed the move, calling it “…a signal against anti-Semitism that all Germany should heed,” and thanking the city for its sensitivity toward the different forms of anti-Semitism. Frankfurt and Berlin have enacted executive initiatives to stop BDS in city-funded facilities as well.
The Jerusalem Post, December 14, 2017
A twenty-four member interfaith delegation from Bahrain, consisting of Christians, Sunnis, a Shi’ite, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, and others recently visited Israel on a trip organized by the NGO This is Bahrain. Although the attendees insist the trip was not political, it has been criticized by elements both within and without Bahrain, who see it as paving the way for normalization between Israel and the Gulf States “…at the expense of the Palestinian cause.” Other critics say that Bahrain trying to “spread a message of peace” by means of the trip is disingenuous, as its Sunni government persecutes members of its Shi’ite majority.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is sending a delegation of Israeli business leaders to Bahrain next month for a reciprocal visit.
The Jerusalem Post, December 15, 2017
Following Rebecca Floer’s deportation last month (see MR November 2017 #4), the writer of the article asks whether Israel will ever accept Messianic Jews as eligible for citizenship. It describes the Law of Return on the subject, which states that those eligible for citizenship are Jews, their children and their spouses, as well as their grandchildren and their spouses. The article quotes Professor Barak Medina of the Hebrew University and Yehuda Scharf of the Jewish Agency, both of whom interpret the law as saying that those who are ineligible are those born Jewish, who “voluntarily changed their religion.”
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that Messianic Jews’ belief in Jesus makes them Christians. Rabbi David Rosen, an adviser on inter-religious affairs to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, adds his opinion “that the terms ‘Jews for Jesus’ and ‘Messianic Jews’ are a bit disingenuous.” Rosen also stated, “If people believe Jesus is one of the triune persons of God they should be honest about identifying themselves as Christian.”
Haaretz, December 12, 2017
This article writer asks why Israel has no museum focusing on Jesus, “the most famous Jew of all time.” The piece describes the Christian tourism scene as well as some of the political and religious complexities involved in such an endeavor and presents interviews with both religious and secular people on the subject. It describes how some elements in Israeli society believe it “unfitting” to have a representation of Jesus “…in the country built as an escape from the Christian world.” It concludes that since building a museum would necessitate choosing only one of the many Christian narratives present in the country, a museum would seem to be unwise at this time.
The Jerusalem Post, December 11, 2017
Singer Pat Boone, 83, is scheduled to give a concert at the Caesarea Amphitheater on May 13, 2018, to mark Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Other “celebrity friends and all-star musicians” will appear as well, and the concert will be broadcast on television.
Boone’s highest chart successes were in the 1950s and 1960s, with songs such as “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “Love Letters in the Sand.” He also wrote the lyrics to “This Land is Mine,” the theme song of the film Exodus (1960). Boone will be bringing two hundred guests with him during his trip.
Ma’ariv, December 14, 2017
Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, recently gave the Friend of Zion award to U.S. President Donald Trump. Also present at the event were Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
The Jerusalem Post, December 12, 2017
A Hebrew University excavation overseen by Dr. Katia Cytryn-Silverman has unearthed a basalt door, carved with a menorah, in a Tiberias mosque. The slab has been dated to between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE. According to Cytryn-Silverman, the door was taken from the nearby Jewish cemetery and built into the mosque’s foundation. Later, after the mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 1068 CE, the door was built as a tread into a flight of steps in a Crusader-era sugar factory.
Israel Hayom, December 15, 2017
Staff from the Kfar Etzion field school, visiting Herod’s Third Palace in Jericho, discovered that the Palestinian Authority is building residences around it, and the structure itself is being destroyed for an access road and a rock quarry. As the palace is in an area under complete PA control, the government is unable to act in the matter, but Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin is attempting to find an international delegation to excavate the site.