During the week covered by this review, we received 32 articles on the following subjects:
Christians and the Holocaust
Christians in Israel
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen visited Israel from January 21-23. Pence’s visit to the region began in Egypt, where President Abed Fatah al-Sisi said, “It is important for the U.S. to continue to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” Following that, Pence visited Jordan and met with King Abdullah.
The Pences then arrived in Israel. Pence met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, gave a speech before the Knesset plenum, visited Yad VaShem, and prayed at the Western Wall, this last without any government officials accompanying him. Pence did not visit any Christian sites due to the Palestinian Authority boycott of his visit. Pence’s Knesset speech was noted for promising that the embassy would move to Jerusalem by the end of 2019 and that U.S. President Donald Trump would not approve an “uncorrected” nuclear deal for Iran.
The analysis articles in favor of the visit focused on Pence’s faith, his history regarding Israel, and his Knesset speech. These articles showed a spectrum of opinion ranging from support to cautious optimism. One article focused on the importance of Pence’s Christian faith and his visit being a pilgrimage, contrasting it to Catholic replacement theology. A second article relates Pence’s pro-Israel history, such as his function as one of the past heads of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. Congress. A third analyzed Pence’s speech regarding “both its honey and its sting”, remembering that the speech still included reference to the two-state solution. One article compared Barack Obama’s 2013 speech to students at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center to Pence’s Knesset speech, finding Pence’s speech to have contained more explicit pro-Israel content. Another article focused on how Israel-loving Christians are sincere, while emphasizing “…if peace is achieved, it will be as a result of Israeli efforts rather than US intervention.”
The analysis articles against the visit focused on Pence’s faith along with the possible political implications of his statements. They showed a spectrum of opinions ranging from considering the visit useless, to it consisting of hubris, to describing Pence as “…a troubler of Palestine, the worst of all worlds and an enemy to the liberal and democratic sector in Israel.”
Joint List head Ayman Odeh announced his party’s boycott of Pence’s Knesset speech, calling him “a dangerous man with a vision to destroy the whole region.” Hamas condemned the visit as well, saying there was no justification for any officials of any sort to meet with him. One article writer considered it extremely inadvisable for Israel to support Trump, and was not able to find any viable alternative for the two-state solution. Analysis against Pence’s Knesset speech chiefly considered it to be either another step towards a death knell for the peace process or an expression of latent Christian supersessionism and support of Israel to serve Christian eschatology.
Pence had been scheduled to visit Israel in December, but his visit was postponed due to domestic controversy on the U.S. government’s tax plan.
Christians and the Holocaust
Haaretz, January 25, Haaretz, January 26, 2018
The Christian LESZ group was to hold a mass at Budapest’s Main Parish Church of the Assumption on January 27th honoring Nazi collaborator Admiral Miklos Horthy. Sandor Lezsak, deputy speaker of the parliament and a member of the ruling Fidesz party, and Sandor Szakaly, head of the Veritas Historical Research Institute, were to attend. However, the event has now been canceled, following protests from Hungarian Jews and especially the World Jewish Congress, which called the planned mass “a provocative measure honoring an unabashed anti-Semite.” Zoltan Osztie, the priest of the Budapest church, told szemlelek.blog.hu that the church had a tradition of honoring Horthy annually, and that “…the significance of January 27th was ignored due to an oversight.”
The second article notes that a parliamentary election will take place in the country on April 8. It also notes that current Prime Minister Viktor Orban “…has an ambivalent track record on anti-Semitism,” citing Orban’s previous remarks on ethnic homogeneity and his attacks on Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros on the one hand, and his repeated pledges of zero tolerance for anti-Semitism on the other.
Israel Hayom, January 26, 2018
On January 4th, Efraim Zoroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, sent a letter to the Finnish government demanding an investigation of Finns who volunteered in the Waffen SS and murdered Jews during World War II, so that they may stand trial if they are still alive. On Wednesday, January 24, he received an answer from the bureau of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, pledging an investigation in response to public concern, and action if necessary.
Zoroff’s letter was sent consequent to Finnish historian Dr. Andre Swanström’s finding of a 1941 letter from Finnish SS soldiers “…complaining that they were being ordered to murder Jews and repair automobiles, rather than fight Russians, which is what they were trained for.” The official Finnish narrative is that the Finnish Waffen SS volunteers did not commit any war crimes.
Maariv, January 26, 2018
Representatives from the FSU study organization, the Committee of Suits Against Germany, the March of Life and the Holocaust Cellar non-profit organization held a memorial ceremony for Oskar Schindler and hung a commemorative plaque in his honor in the Holocaust Cellar Museum in Jerusalem for International Holocaust Day. Yad VaShem honored Schindler as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for saving 1,200 Jews during the World War II.
Maariv, January 23, 2018
Ran Bar-Yoshafat, 34, the vice-CEO of a firm for economic research and a Ph.D. student in history, has been active in Israel advocacy for some 12 years. He first became involved in the field in 2005, when he served as a counselor in a Jewish Agency summer camp and found that in many places in the U.S., he – as an Israeli – was considered to be the villain. He began by meeting with visitors to Israel who held anti-Israel views. He then spent some six months in the U.S., and has so far spoken to some 70,000 people in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. “I will always prefer a situation where people hate me and demonstrate against me, where I can protect myself against terror, over a situation where the world is sympathetic to me but I can’t protect myself,” says Bar-Yoshafat. He added, “While the most effective thing is for people to see Israel with their own eyes, the next best is to get on stage abroad and say, ‘Hello, I am Ran, and I don’t look like the devourer of children that was just introduced to you’.”
Haaretz, January 24, 2018
A recent Pew survey appears to have found a significant difference between the levels of Republican and Democrat support for Israel (79% and 27%, respectively). Of all respondents, 42% considered U.S. President Trump to be acting in a balanced way concerning the Middle East, while 30% felt him overly supportive of Israel. Half the respondents were of the opinion that the two-state solution could be implemented, while 39% said this is impossible. The highest level of support for Israel appeared to be among the Christian Evangelical community (78%). Shalom Lifner, a research fellow in the Brookings Institute, stated his opinion that due to the polarization of U.S. society, Israel’s support for Trump is a significant factor in the waning of Democrat support. Lifner added, “This factor could become a boomerang if and when the Democrats return to power, or if voices less supportive of Israel rise among the Republicans.”
Yediot Modiin, January 26, 2018
Pope Francis appears to have requested that Catholic clerics coming to study in Israel get to know Israeli and Palestinian youth. Accordingly, a delegation of 40 bishops from Ireland, France, Italy, South Africa, and other countries visited the Mor High School and met with the students in the diplomatic studies division, as well as with Palestinian youth and students at the Jerusalem University. During their time at Mor, the bishops and the students discussed leadership, cooperation, responsibility, universal values, and recruitment to the IDF. The bishops responded that the visit “…gave them much new knowledge, as the students spoke without a political agenda.” They said they were impressed by the strong values and the significant involvement of the Israeli youth.
The visit took place in partnership with the Rossing Center for Education and Dialogue.
Christians in Israel
Kalkalist, January 26, 2018
This article describes the economic endeavors of the German Christian Bethel Community since its founders, sisters Emma and Elsa Berger, came to Zichron Yaakov in 1963 “…to realize part of the Christian mission by assisting the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.” Originally consisting of jam making and operating a guesthouse, the community’s endeavors now include agriculture, foodstuffs such as health bread and chocolate, duvets, but most particularly air filtration systems and plastic items for use in hospitals and by air companies such as Boeing and Airbus. The community members receive living stipends only and hold no property, and the factories’ profits are reinvested into Israel.
The community’s ninth and newest factory places protective coating on electronic chips, the final stage in their manufacture. It is located in Sapir in the middle Arava, giving residents of Sapir and the surrounding area much-needed employment opportunities.
Haaretz, Maariv, January 22, 2018
Dr. Eshbal Ratzon and Prof. Yonatan Ben-Dov of Haifa University’s Bible department have succeeded in piecing together some 60 parchment fragments, originally considered to belong in six different scrolls, to show a single Dead Sea scroll, previously undeciphered. The content proved to be connected to the 364-day Essene calendar, which was already known but revealed the special name the Essenes gave to the days between the four seasons. Additionally, the scribes appear to have commented on, and corrected each other’s work, which “…not only gave the researchers a window into their craft, but aided in reconstructing the puzzle.”
Only one scroll of the more than 900 that have been discovered now remains undeciphered.