During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Communities
Messianic Jews (individuals)
Religious Freedom and Rights
Arab Believing Communities
Makor Rishon, June, 2018
This was a long expose on 22-year-old Arab Catholic Luna Saliba from Shfar’am, who made history by becoming the first Arab soldier to serve with Galei Tsahal (the Israeli Defense Force’s radio station). Luna’s segment, “Arabesque,” exposes listeners to music from all over the Arab world – from Egyptian to Kurdish artists and beyond. As part of the segment, Luna highlights the hidden political messages embedded in artists’ work, such as the critique of violence against women, or mockery of ISIS. Luna’s decision to join the IDF was not uncontroversial, both because of her Arab identity, as well as her gender. Nevertheless, she explained that taking part in the IDF meant more than holding a weapon; it meant taking part in a community. Luna was supported by her mother as well as by her Arab boyfriend, who had also enlisted in the IDF. Luna said she has encountered racism in the IDF, where the term “Arab” was used as a slur around her. Fellow soldiers have also asked whether she would be willing to convert to Judaism and take part in the IDF’s conversion classes. She responded: “Why would I want to become Jewish? I am an Arab. I am a Christian. I am not trying to be something that I am not.” Luna and her boyfriend got engaged during the rehearsal for Israel’s 70th anniversary celebration in a video that went viral. Luna was happy that the video spread, for once, a positive news story about Arabs, and brought awareness to the fact that Christians serve in the IDF.
For one of her segments, Luna had the opportunity to interview a Holocaust survivor, Berthe Badihi, who works at Yad Vashem and with whom she has remained in contact. Luna recalls that Badihi immediately noticed the cross Luna wears around her neck. Badihi told Luna: “You know that the family that saved me was a Christian family? I know how to say all your prayers by heart and every Sunday I went to Church and learned the Mass.” Badihi also told Luna, “The first time that I felt free was here in Israel, in my home.” She then put her hand on Luna’s and said, “our home, together.”
In the interview, Luna said that it is important for the public to broaden its understanding of what it means to be Israeli, and that she hoped she has done just that with her radio segment. “I was the first Arab to be accepted to Galatz (Galei Tsahal),” she said, “and I believe I will be the first in many other things down the road.”
Haaretz, June 10, 2018
Police arrested two teenagers suspected of the murder of Fadia Kadis in her home in Jaffa. Kadis was the 52-year-old widow of Gabriel Kadis, the chairman of the Orthodox Christian Association in Jaffa, who himself was murdered over a real estate dispute in 2012. The two murders are not thought to be related.
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Ze Ma Yesh, June 8, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2018
A swearing in ceremony for new Givati fighters, one of the IDF’s infantry brigades, included a Messianic Jew from North Carolina, Simon Zauber. Simon decided to come to Israel at the age of 19, believing that God was calling him to make aliya. Simon believes serving in the IDF is his way of following in Jesus’ footsteps. He said that he’d been raised to believe in Jesus and follow in his footsteps and “… what he did was serve so for me it’s very important to serve.” Simon is one of 12 children, six of whom have volunteered to serve in the IDF. His brother, Asher, who was recently discharged from Givati, echoed Simon’s sentiments and said that his belief in Jesus “just adds onto the love that I have for Israel.” The second article about Simon Zauber noted that there are 20,000 Messianic Jews in Israel, but that due to their beliefs they are often subject to discrimination. Simon said he hoped to become an officer, and that his serving in the IDF “… will help other people understand the love Jesus has for Israel.”
Religious Freedom and Rights
Yedioth Ahronoth, June 13, 2018
The Attorney’s Office announced to the High Court that the IDF will stop forcing non-Jewish soldiers to attend conversion and Jewish identity courses. This columnist maintained that this is a welcome move, and that the decision to convert or not to convert should be a private decision. The freedom of religion and the freedom from religion are important foundations in any free society, it was argued, and the IDF, a neutral body, should not have gotten into the conversion business. The writer stated that a soldier is asked only to be a loyal citizen to the country and its laws – that is all. It is a soldier’s right to be a political leftist, or to take on any gender identity, to be religious without being forced to be secular, or to be secular without being proselytized. There should be no coercion on matters of identity. But in Israel, the author argued, there is still a dangerous confusion between loyalty to the country and adherence to a religious identity.
Maariv, June 13, 2018
Against the backdrop of anti-Israel demonstrations, and 17 years since the Durban Conference produced BDS, a series of initiatives in support of Israel have been undertaken in South Africa. About 1,500 Jews and Christians have participated in four events to support Israel. These events took place in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. The purpose was to encourage Christian leaders to support Israel, as well as to train the local Jewish community in how to respond to the ban. South Africa recently announced that it is recalling its ambassador from Israel as a result of Israel’s actions in Gaza as well as the move of the American Embassy.