During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Israeli/Jewish Attitudes towards Christianity
Globes, March 22, 2018
This year, Passover and Easter fall on the same week. The 30th of March marks both Passover Eve and Easter’s Good Friday, the day that commemorates the suffering of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Judas betrayed Jesus on Good Friday. Jesus was then sentenced to death, tortured, and nailed to a cross. This is why it is customary to fast and mourn on Good Friday. So why is it called “good”? Because Christians believe that by sacrificing himself, Jesus ushered in salvation for those who know and believe in him.
It is no coincidence that the two celebrations take place at a similar time of the year. The last supper, after all, was a Passover Seder. Jesus blessed the matzah and the wine, declaring them to be his body and his blood, “poured out for the forgiveness of many.” For Christians, this act parallels the Exodus story, where the blood of lambs painted on door posts caused the angel of death to pass over Israelite firstborns. Just as Israel passed from slavery into freedom, so does Jesus promise freedom from the slavery of sin to his followers. Jesus thus called on his followers to mark themselves with his blood – which is what takes place during the celebration of the Sunday mass, when the bread and wine miraculously turn into Jesus’ body and blood.
Christians long for the end of history and the end of days, when the Son of God will return to earth, to judge humanity and restore order. Eternal life is promised to those who believe in him, while others will be sent to hell. Till that day comes, Christians continue to renew their ongoing covenant with Jesus by celebrating weekly masses and recreating the central moments of his life.
The climax of this recreation happen during Holy Week and Easter, which is celebrated all over the world. But there is no place with greater emotional weight than the actual places where Jesus worked and lived. One just has to witness the excitement on the faces of pilgrims in the Old City to understand this. Pilgrims march along the Via Dolorosa, a path that recreates Jesus’ journey to Golgotha, where he was crucified. There are 14 stations along the way. Each station marks an event, such as the flogging of Jesus, or the place where he met his mother. The final five stations are found in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many pilgrims will celebrate Easter this season.
Yedioth Yerushalaim, March 23, 2018
A creative solution to the Church lands crisis has been proposed by Nayot, the private company that purchased leased lands from the Greek Orthodox Church. The investment group has offered a significant discount to residents renewing the lease, so long as the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (the Jewish National Fund) agrees to give the private buyers access even now to vacant properties. This will provide Nayot with the opportunity to develop the land 30 years earlier than anticipated. Nayot claims they approached KKL with this offer at least twice. KKL has not yet responded affirmatively to the potential deal.
Christians in Israel
Nofshim, March 23, 2018
This article describes a recommended tour through the American Colony, a neighborhood adjacent to Florentin just South of Tel Aviv. The American Colony, or “the Moshava” (as it’s known), was established 1866 by a group of 157 Protestant Christians from the United States. This group of pilgrims wanted to start an agricultural colony in the Holy Land as a means of hastening the return of Jesus. The group faced many problems, such as cholera, failing crops, and poor leadership. Eventually the inhabitants returned to their home country, and the Moshava was sold to Christian Templars from Germany. The Templars developed the Moshava, building community centers, a hospital, a pharmacy, and a flour mill, among other things. During that time, the Moshava became a tourist hub, attracting even Keiser Wilhelm II and his wife in 1898. The neighborhood thrived until World War II, after which time the residents were expelled from the country by the British. If you tour the Moshava, make sure to visit the old houses and the Grand Hotel. Jean and Reed Holmes, descendants of the first colonists, restored one of the old houses and established in its place the Maine Friendship House. Take a tour of the museum and heritage center there. The Moshava is also home to Beit Immanuel, a Messianic Jewish hostel, and to Immanuel Church, built in 1904. The church, also called “the Evangelical German Church of Yaffo,” first served the Templars. After they were forced to leave, and after the establishment of the State of Israel, the church was given over to the Scandinavian Lutherans. It has special decorations, and windows that beautifully depict the Moshava’s ties to Yaffo.
Israeli/Jewish Attitudes towards Christians
HaShabbat BeNetanya, March 23, 2018
Those who travel to pray at the graves of various tzadikim (“the righteous” – normally rabbis and those learned in Torah), and who purchase keychains with a prayer and a picture of the tzadikim, should be wary. One woman was “horrified to the depths of her soul” when she found a Christian cross inside the keychain. It turns out, the keychain manufacturer took old Christian keychains with a cross on them and simply overlaid a picture of a tzadik and a prayer on top of the cross. Innocent Jews are therefore carrying a cross around with them. If you have such a keychain at home, “make sure to remove it immediately, and to expel the evil from your midst.”
Mabat Mekomi, March 22, 2018
Armed with maps, Jehovah’s Witnesses rolled their suitcases into various Israeli towns, attempting to convince Jewish families to listen to a lecture on Christianity and take a New Testament. Yad L’Achim has warned that there is a massive campaign underway in an attempt to convert Jews. This cult is considered dangerous, and was even recently outlawed in Russia on the grounds that it “destroys families” and “preaches hate”. Yad L’Achim has expressed dismay that the group is allowed to enter Israel under false pretense, lie to security guards, and get away with it. Law enforcement has thus far done nothing to stop them. Yad L’Achim calls for increased vigilance.
Haaretz, March 28, 2018
Israel plans to limit the number of Christians coming from Gaza to Jerusalem for Easter. Only those above the age of 55 will be allowed to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Christian leaders in Gaza say the restriction is not justified. According to them, only 120 people meet the criteria, and many of the elderly cannot travel without the help of family. George Anton, active in the Christian community in Gaza, told “Haaretz” that there are 1,200 Christians in Gaza. He says no permits have been issued yet. For Eastern Christians, Easter is the “great holiday” – in contrast with Western Christians who tend to emphasize Christmas. In response, Israel has stated, “Israel is a sovereign state and it reserves the right to decide who comes through its gates. Foreign residents do not have rights to enter Israel, especially Palestinians and Gaza residents.” It is argued, in response, that this is an infringement on the right to worship, as well as another example of collective punishment.
Haaretz, March 28, 2018
President of France, Emmanuel Macron, condemned the murder Mireille Knoll, a Jewish grandmother living in Paris who was stabbed to death by two men. The murder is being investigated as a hate crime. One of the suspects is reported to have said that “the Jews have money and for this reason we attacked her.” Knoll was stabbed 11 times, which investigators say is evidence for a crime done out of hate. A march in memory of Knoll has been organized by the mayor of Paris. Earlier this month, France unveiled a plan to fight racism and anti-Semitism, with a special focus on social networks and schools. The government plans to change the law in France, forcing sites to take down inciting content. Anti-Semitic and Anti-Muslim occurrences in France dropped in 2017, but had previously gone up by 26% in 2016.
Yedioth Ahronoth, March 29, 2018
Knesset Member Yoav Gallant believes the Israeli skyline overly represents Christianity and Islam, due to the presence of crosses, churches, and minarets. To fix this, Gallant has unveiled a plan to put up dozens of Stars of David around the country in prominent locations. Gallant has no intention of taking down Muslim and Christian symbols.
Maariv, March 29, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2018
On the eve of the holiday of freedom (a Hebrew term for the Passover), it is worth examining the meaning of this freedom. Even now, Jews all over the world are hated and threatened. Synagogues, private residences, and businesses are targeted and vandalized. Parallel to this global threat, we also experience the greatest miracle of our time: the ingathering of Jewish exiles. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, every Jew from the around the world has the right to make aliya and establish a home here. This is a great freedom, and during times of crisis, more Jews will choose to avail themselves of this option. But there is one Jewish group that is not allowed to make aliya – Messianic Jews. Most of them have one or two parents that are Jewish according to halakha. They should be entitled to Israeli citizenship regardless of their political, spiritual, or religious views. In fact, their beliefs have nothing to do with the validity of the Judaism passed on to them from birth.
The right of return was established after World War II as a result of the lessons learned from that time. Millions of Jews died simply for being born Jewish. Messianic Jews have been pushed outside of the boundaries of Israeli law, and the basic right that has been extended to Jews from all over has been taken away from Messianics, due to their belief that Jesus is the Son of God. Messianics also keep Shabbat, serve in the military, and celebrate Jewish festivals as an inseparable part of their Jewish identity. Extending the gift of freedom and the right to return to Messianic Jews is a moral obligation within a Jewish and pluralistic society. We must consider the contribution made by Messianic Jews and allow them to live with us in honor and full liberty. At the moment, they are treated with disrespect and are sometimes even kicked out of the country. Such was the case of Rebecca Floer, a 64-year-old Messianic Jew and daughter of Holocaust survivor, who was forced to leave. It is time to open up our doors to all Jews who are willing to abide by the laws of the country and contribute to society. The holiday of freedom means “reconciling with the fact that Judaism never was and never will be unified and homogeneous.”
The second article is an English rendition of the same argument by the same author.