During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Political Issues (& Christian Zionism)
Messianic Judaism (individuals)
Political Issues (& Christian Zionism)
Globes, May 24, 2018; Haaretz, May 25, 2018; Yated Neeman, May 29, 2018; Israel Hayom, May 25, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, May 29, 2018
The debate over whether Israel’s political alliance with evangelicals and Christian Zionism is for good or for ill has continued to receive attention in the media. The first article gives a historical overview, arguing that Israel is now benefiting politically from the missionary endeavors of Protestant Christians. It is to the global phenomenon of Protestant missions that “we owe a debt,” it is argued, because that’s how the bible spread to places such as Fiji, China, Brazil, etc. The bible has been translated fully into 670 languages, and partially into 3,312 languages, which in turn has meant that the Zionist project has been helped by Protestant mission, who gave the story of Israel global recognition. “This has benefited Israel tremendously – sometimes without costing Israel a dime.” Unlike other countries who spend quite a bit of money to export cultural artifacts such as literature, festivals, food, and belief systems, Israel has had to rely mostly on evangelicals to do the work for them. There is, however, a cost. The growing identification between Israel and hardline conservative evangelicals, who oppose certain human rights, distances Israel from the liberal secular wing of western society. Meanwhile, the percentage of non-religious westerners grows. Israel may thus be forced to decide who it wants for its friends and how it would like to be identified.
A second article comments on how little Israeli right-leaning media has engaged seriously with the question of this evangelical alliance with Israel, dismissing, at times, the eschatological agenda of evangelicals. Evangelicals, instead, have been painted as sincere supporters of Israel with no ulterior motive. But recent polls have shown that 52% of evangelicals said that one of the reasons for their support is that “Israel is important to the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.” It is true, says the author, that evangelicals are a diverse group, and many do not keep Israeli politics at the forefront of their religious convictions. However, President Trump invited to the opening ceremony of the American Embassy precisely those most extreme evangelicals who follow developments in Israel quite closely. Robert Jeffress has started a countdown to the apocalypse; meanwhile, John Hagee has predicted that tensions with Iran will escalate towards Armageddon. “That these leaders who are wishing war upon us were invited is an illustration of how messianic politics is affecting not only Israel, but the US as well,” it is argued.
A third article, written from the perspective of religious Judaism, tentatively agrees – but for different reasons. It is admitted that the support of evangelicals has been a massive asset to Israel. However, “we cannot forget that at the end of the day, they are still Christians.” The author worries that the differences between Judaism and Christianity will begin to be eroded, and that “amongst our secular brothers,” Israel will begin to be identified as a place of evangelical belonging as much as Jewish belonging. The author points to the newly established Jewish-Christian party now approved to run for the Knesset as proof that the lines between the two religions are being blurred for the sake of political gain.
A fourth article disagrees. The author attacks left-leaning journalists for making much of evangelical eschatology even while these journalists don’t themselves believe in God or in the end of days. Given that left-leaning journalists see religious belief as illusion, “what do they care what [evangelicals] believe?” Evangelicals should be judged by their actions, not their beliefs. Yet herein lies the problem, it is argued. Left-leaning journalists are not actually bothered by evangelical beliefs; rather, they are bothered by evangelicalism’s association with President Trump. The author, however, is not troubled by this alliance. He goes on to describe a meeting with John Hagee, who is described as “very impressive.” John Hagee recounts saying to President Trump: “Mr. President, you are standing at the edge of history in the year of Jubilee, and this would be a wonderful time to announce that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel… You will march into eternity, and you will be politically immortal.” Hagee believes that it was these words that pushed Trump to promise, and to follow through on his promise, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The author goes on to argue that, “In front of our eyes we are seeing paradigms change, both in terms of our place in the Middle East, and in terms of what we’ve known about Christianity.”
Finally, from the perspective of an American Christian, a piece is written against president emeritus of Fuller Seminary, Richard Mouw. Mouw has been critical of the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem, and of Israel’s response to the protests in Gaza. The author contends that Mouw is “unaware” of important things – that 80% of those killed were Hamas soldiers on their way to kill Jews, that the protest was not peaceful, that what was being protested was not Israel’s policies but Israel’s right to exist, etc. The author then argues that Palestinians have been the recipients of vast amounts of aid, and had leaders not used that to line their pockets, “Palestine would be the Middle Eastern equivalent of Singapore.” The author concludes: “I trust that if President Mouw had been aware of these things, he would have turned his attention to those truly responsible for defrauding laborers and oppressing widows and orphans.”
Israel Hayom, May 28, 2018; HaModia, May 28, 2018
It is reported that a poll in France indicates that 53% of the French believe that Zionism is an “international organization” that works to influence other countries in favor of Jewish interests. Half of the respondents said that Zionism is a racist ideology, and 38% said that the very fact of Israel’s existence feeds anti-Semitism. 26% believed the operations of BDS were justified. The poll also showed some ignorance on the part of the public, as a quarter believed Israel was established sometime after 1980, and did not know that Jewish holy sites were located in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The second article reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has initiated a weekend of participating in Sabbath events together with members of the Jewish community. This is an event that was organized in response to a recent wave of anti-Semitic activity in the country. The purpose is to express solidary, to make Jewish life in Germany more visible, and to show that anti-Semitism will not go unanswered by the Christian Democrats.
Messianic Judaism (Individuals)
HaShavua BeAshdod, May 25, 2018
Ashdod’s rabbinate and chief rabbi will be forced to pay the owner of Pnina Pie a sum of NIS 350,000, plus extra legal expenses, on account of having revoked the confectionary’s kashrut certification due to the owner’s identification as a Messianic Jew. The rabbinate had been ordered to pay the sum already back in February, but appealed the decision. The Supreme Court held up the original ruling.
Pnina Pie opened in 2001 and was immediately targeted by Yad L’Achim, which warned the public not to enter the bakery, stating that the owner, Pnina Conforti, was a “Messianic Jew who wanted to baptize Jews.”