During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Haaretz, 18 February, 2018
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made the claim this week that during the Holocaust there were Polish criminals just as there were Jewish criminals. This opinion piece agrees that, yes, there were Jews who cooperated with the Nazis, murdered other Jews, turned in their neighbors, and behaved in a generally cruel manner. However, none of this is news. In 1946, there were Jews who were willing to admit this, and a judicial committee was set up to deal with Jews who cooperated with the Germans. These Jews were a minority, and were in situations where they had to choose between their lives and terrible betrayal. The difference with the Poles, argues this commentator, is that they were not forced to cooperate, but did so willingly, in much larger numbers, hunting down Jews as a matter of course. The writer contends it is wrong not to take context into account and to treat all human behavior equivocally. Given the wide chasm that has opened up between Israel and Poland in the wake of the Holocaust law, and the increasing difficulty to come to a mutual understanding, it is best that politicians refrain from making historical claims.
Haaretz, 19 February 2018
The Icelandic Parliament is expected to pass a law that would result in a six-year imprisonment for those who circumcise their sons (except in medically necessary cases). Critics say the law would make the lives of Jews and Muslims in Iceland impossible. German Cardinal Reinhard Marx has also said the law is an attack on religious freedom. The initiator of the law, Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, of the center-right Progressive party, has said the law is not about religion but about the rights of children. Circumcision, she says, often takes place without medical supervision, in unsterile locations, which heightens the risk of infection and even death. “The rights of children,” argues Gunnarsdóttir, “are greater than the right to believe.” The law reportedly enjoys wide public support. Local religious leaders warn that if the law passes, Jews and Muslims will simply have to travel elsewhere to perform the rite.
The Jerusalem Post, 18 February 2018
This article argues that given the prominence of evangelicals within Trump’s administration, and the strong relationship between Evangelicals and local Messianic Jews, it would behoove the Israeli government not to discriminate against Messianic Jews. Evangelical support for Israel is crucial. Financially, they have donated billions of dollars through organizations such as the International Christian Embassy. Israel’s security also depends on Evangelical support. Both Nikki Haley and Rex Tillerson are devout Evangelicals, working on behalf of Israel’s security – either through advocacy in the UN or through scrutinizing the Iran nuclear agreement.
The problem is, however, that Messianic Jews are discriminated against in Israel, despite the very strong ties between the Evangelical and Messianic communities. The article states, “It would be quite a challenge to find any significant business of NGO in Israel that is funded by Christians, which does not have local Messianic Jews in its executive leadership.” Furthermore, Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, is a Messianic Jew. As such, argues this commentator, “It would behoove the Israeli government to recognize that the small Messianic Jewish community in Israel, which seemingly numbers less than 20,000 people, has become, since the election of Donald Trump, disproportionately influential and important to Israel’s security and diplomatic standing.” The article goes on to list Messianic grievances, including the difficulty they face when trying to make Aliyah. For example, Messianic Jew Rebecca Floer, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was prevented from immigrating under the Law of Return because of her connections to the Messianic community. But this same scrutiny does not extend to other Jews who want to immigrate – even if they subscribe to Reform Judaism, Buddhism, or are atheists. This double standard is a risk the government should not be willing to take, given the alliance between Messianic Jews and Evangelicals.
The Jerusalem Post, 21 February, 2018
Two letters were written in response to the above article on Messianic Jews. The first, written by Jack E. Friedman from Jerusalem, argues that Evangelical support for Israel should not be affected by the status of Messianic Jews, given that “…Evangelical Christian support of Israel is rooted in a recognition of the Bible’s promises to the Jewish people… not in a missionary effort to achieve the Jews’ conversion.” The second letter, from Stephen Cohen of Ma’aleh Adumim, critiques the Ministry of Interior for its behavior. He writes: “The huge loss of Jews by simple assimilation or absorption into non-observant status dwarfs the few who join Messianic groups… In an increasingly anti-Semitic world, we can ill-afford to reject one group we can count on for support.”
Israel Hayom, 16 February, 2018
This is an interview with Dr. Mike Evans, founder of The Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Evans, born to a Jewish mother, is credited with turning Trump’s campaign into a success amongst Evangelicals. Evans says Trump told him there are two reasons he became President: God and Evangelicals. In this interview, Dr. Evans calls Trump a “modern-day Cyrus” who landed in the White House because God wanted a leader who would protect the Jewish people. When asked about the Israeli perception that Evangelical support is born out of self-interest and the desire to bring back Jesus, Evans says that Evangelicals are operating under the Genesis commandment to bless Israel and have no other ulterior motive: “Their intentions are pure… They want to bless Israel so that they too will be blessed.”
As noted, Evans has founded a heritage center, and plans to open up a research center as well. The goal is to tell the story of Israel from the perspective of Jewish-Christian relations. The center highlights those figures who have helped Israel, such as Churchill and Harry Truman. From Evans’ perspective, real Christians are those who have helped to support Israel as God’s people, and “fake Christians” are those, like the crusaders, that persecute the Jews. Evans has also been very active on social media. His Facebook group, “Jerusalem Prayer Team” has 34 million followers, and Evans claims it is the largest digital Christian community in the world. Evans has made it his goal to try to unify Evangelical support for Israel, which he claims numbers 750 million people worldwide.
Kore BaKineret, 16 February, 2018
Rabbi Rafael Cohen, head of the “Committee for the Rescue of our Ancestral Graves,” has attacked the Scottish Church for cleaning up a thorny field within its own territory and adjacent to its hotel. Cohen claims the land owned by the Church is an ancient Jewish cemetery. Cohen believes the effort to clean up the field is part of a “conspiracy” on the part of the Scottish Church to build on the cemetery in the future. The hotel, in turn, says it acted innocently and only wanted to clean the field in order to beautify it. Knowing the sensitivity associated with the grounds, the Church sought out official permission for the task, and even paid for supervision on the designated work day, in order to make sure regulations were strictly followed. Cohen, however, has not backed down. He has involved all the ministers from Shas, and says he plans on involving international sources as well. The Scottish hotel claims this is a dangerous provocation that is meant to ignite emotions without good reason.
Merkaz HaInyanim, 19 February, 2018
Yad La’Achim, the organizations devoted to fighting Christian missions, were “shocked” to find out that “missionary soul hunters” have adopted a new way of trying to convert Jews. A missionary band from Russia arrived in Israel, planning on giving subsidized concerts around the country. Yad La’Achim mobilized and gathered to demonstrate outside several of the events, warning concert goers against the missionary danger. Yad La’Achim says their efforts were a success: “Dozens of Jews were prevented from going in because of our warning, and many others who went understood afterwards that indeed they had fallen into a missionary trap.” The concerts appear to have had local municipal approval. Yad La’Achim wants to investigate if the approval advertised was fake. If it was genuine, the organization wants to know how it happened that authorities agreed to cooperate with missionary activity.
Maariv, 22 February, 2018
Evangelical pastor Billy Graham, the most famous religious leader in the USA, passed away at the age of 99. Graham served as spiritual advisor to many presidents, and was considered a friend to Israel. He made his first visit to Israel in 1960. In his autobiography, Graham wrote that he always believed that Israel was God’s special people, chosen to preserve the Hebrew Scriptures, and to prepare the way for Jesus. Graham was reportedly offered the position of ambassador to Israel by President Lyndon Johnson, but refused, saying, “The Middle East would explode if I went there.”