During the week covered by this review, we received 3 articles on the following subjects:
Israel Hayom, July 25, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, July 26, 2018
The first article was an opinion piece written by Maronite Christian Shadi Halul, who addressed in it the controversial nation-state law recently passed by the Israeli Government. Halul began by discussing how Maronite Christians in Lebanon went from 80% of the population in the 1930s to 35%, today. The Maronite Christians wanted to establish a nation-state of their own in order to protect their culture and language. This vision, however, was not shared by the Muslim Lebanese population, and in the end the plan was dropped and Lebanon became a “country for all its people.” But this did not solve religious and cultural tensions. Lebanon descended into civil war, and the Christian population dwindled. “What can we learn from Lebanon?” asked Halul. “I believe that a law undergirding the explicit Jewish nationality of Israel actually guarantees its existence as a democracy, and therefore secures my existence and my security as a religious minority.” Halul argued that the majority of people in Israel value democracy and abide by its principles. If Israel, like Lebanon, were to become a “country for all its peoples,” it could not guarantee that these democratic principles would be held by all, and therefore strife will abound – much like it did in Lebanon. “Muslim Arabs will look to unite with their Palestinian brothers, and then with the Muslim Middle Eastern population more broadly.” Halul therefore expressed the hope that the controversial nation-state law would provide the conditions under which the Maronite Christian community could thrive and retain its identity, culture, and language.
The second article reported that 5,000 South African Christians, led by the South African Friends of Israel, protested in Pretoria in order to demand the reinstatement of the South African ambassador to Israel. The protestors handed over a petition signed by 40,000 people in support of this demand. African Christian Democratic Party leader, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, addressed Israel, saying: “Those who told you that South Africa is against you, they were wrong… The majority of Bible believing Christians love you.” South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, addressed the marchers, saying: “The bible says that we should choose life and choose the path of blessing, and we want our country, South Africa, to choose the path of life and the path of blessing… South Africa is a democracy, and in a democracy the government listens to the people. And what do the people say? We love Israel.”
Haaretz, July 26, 2018
An archaeological dispute about the true whereabouts of Bethsaida was reported in this piece. An archaeological dig in Beit Habek, north of the Sea of Galilee, headed by Professor Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Academic College, and Professor Steven Notley of Nyack Christian College in New York, claims to have found the real location of Bethsaida-Julias – the birth site of the apostles Philip, Andrew, and Peter. Professor Aviam said the dig unearthed a bathhouse, a structure “typical of an urban and not a rural culture.” Amongst the artifacts unearthed were Roman coins, as well as a late Second Temple lamp. Aviam and Notley also believe they have unearthed the foundation of an old church once known as “the church of the apostles,” where the remains of the three apostles would have been kept. However, Professor Rami Arav, who is in charge of the excavation at the Jordan Park site, the conventional location for Bethsaida, disagrees with the findings. He said: “We have known for the past 30 years that Bethsaida is in the Jordan Park. We’ve identified it correctly.” Arav said that the artifacts at the Jordan Park site are older, while the findings at Beit Habek are “more suitable to a Roman army camp of King Agrippa II, who besieged Gamla.”