During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Yedioth Ahronoth, October 14, 2018; Haaretz October 14, 2018
The much-publicized marriage between a well-known Muslim Arab news anchor to an Israeli Jewish actor has spawned debate over interfaith marriage. The first article was an opinion piece arguing that opposition to interfaith marriage does not constitute racisim. Many different groups in Israel – Muslims, Druze, etc., do not agree with interfaith marriage. The Druze, for example, assimilate into Israeli culture in all sorts of ways, but marriage is where they draw the line. Israeli Jews who oppose interfaith marriage are not racist; they are simply concerned about ‘hitbolelut’ – assimilation to the surrounding culture and the consequent watering down of Judaism. While in the US this phenomenon is quite common amongst American Jews (where nearly 50% of marriages are mixed), in Israel it is still a rare occurrence. 81% of Israeli Jews oppose any type of interfaith marriage, a percentage that includes left leaning secular Israelis.
The second article was an opinion piece critical of the harsh response the aforementioned marriage has received from many segments of Israeli society. The author recalls how as a child growing up in Tel Aviv, he was taught to think of ‘hitbolelut’ as tantamount to the destruction of the Jewish people. He and his friends would cross themselves as a joke – as a means of testing fate. It was a sort of “dare,” – no different from putting one’s finger in fire or jumping from a roof. In Jaffa there was a school belonging to the “mission.” There were rumors that a child had be taken there and was never seen again. “Mission” was as scary a word as “Gestapo.” Now, continued the author, attitudes have changed, and it has become more common for Jews in western societies to enter into interfaith marriages. But in Israel the fearful national narrative remains: Mixed marriages are seen as an existential threat. Even most secular Jews oppose ‘hitbolelut.’ Why? This amounts to a form of racist nationalism, argued the author, a belief that the purity of the Jewish bloodline needs to be maintained. Society will only be enriched by children who come from mixed marriages and multicultural families.
Yedioth Ahronoth, October 2018
After part of the wall of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre fell, a budget of 400 thousand Shekels was passed by the Jerusalem Municipality in order to fix the problem. The budget did not pass without some controversy, however. Members of Orthodox Jewish parties opposed the initiative, even though the Municipality is required to maintain major tourist sites that may cause danger to the public. Mayor Nir Barkat managed to get enough votes from the opposition to pass the budget, even as members of Orthodox Jewish parties left the vote or voted against. Orthodox member Arieh King, who opposed the budget, said the Ministry of Interior cannot become a contractor for jobs that oppose Torah. Member Laura Verton, however, who voted for, said: “the refusal to approve the budget would have been an embarrassing and shady act of religious zeal, as well as a total disregard for human life.”
Haaretz, October 18, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, October 14, 2018; Haaretz, October 16, 2018
The first two articles reported that the first woman to be denied entry to Israel because of her perceived support of BDS, won her case against the Ministry of Interior, who was given 60 days to issues a new decision, and was forced to pay 3,000 shekels towards the woman’s legal fees. Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, a Malawian theologian, and deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) was barred from entering Israel in 2016, initially accused of wanting to illegally immigrate. Later that charge was dropped, and Phiri was accused of supporting BDS. The judge overseeing the case decided in Phiri’s favor on the grounds that Phiri was banned before an amendment to a law was passed that barred entry to BDS activists. The judge decided the amendment could not be applied to her retroactively. Furthermore, said the judge, Phiri was initially given false information as to the reason behind her ban. Phiri had come with four other members of the WCC but was the only one barred from entering. Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, argued that the WCC has a long history of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hostility. Its branch EAPPI in particular (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel) serves as a vehicle for training BDS activists, he said. EAPPI brings thousands of volunteers annually to witness life under the occupation. However, Phiri’s lawyer, Michael Sfard, said that the evidence brought against Phiri included a picture she posted of an Israeli soldier pointing a gun at a Palestinian. Sfard said given that the photo is not doctored, it cannot be argued that Phiri was spreading false information. Instead, she was “expressing a political opinion,” which is not the same as BDS activism. Sfard further said: “they barred a high-ranking church representative… on the basis of an investigation riddled with errors.”
The third article reported that Australian Prime Minister, Christian Evangelical Scott Morrison, talked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to say he was considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Morrison also said that when the time comes, he would also consider recognizing East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
BaKehila, October 11, 2018; Iton Shacharit, October 17, 2018
The first article reported that Yad L’Achim received dozens of calls to its hotline when Messianic Jewish missionaries took advantage of the Jerusalem March to preach conversion to thousands of Jews. Yad L’Achim said the incident was not spontaneous, but well-planned. The missionaries came with matching shirts and thousands of pamphlets.
The second article reported that Yad L’Achim turned to the Jerusalem Municipality, without formal response from Mayor Barkat, to attempt to bar a known “missionary church” from the ‘Batim MeBifnim’ – and open house event wherein landmark sites open up to the public. Yad L’Achim was horrified to find that the Municipality even recommended the church as part of the tour. Yad L’Achim planned to put a team in front of the church during the event in order to warn passers-by of the danger. The article never mentioned the church by name, but a picture of the entrance to Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem was included in the piece.
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, October 18, 2018
The cemetery of a monastery near Beit Shemesh was vandalized and headstones were smashed. This is the second time the cemetery of Beit Jimal has been vandalized since 2016. In 2013 the monks found graffiti on the walls and a firebomb was thrown at a door. In 2017 vandals smashed statues in the prayer house. The police say they are investigating the matter, but the monks of Beit Jimal say that previous attacks did not end in any arrests. Gadi Gvaryahu, director of Tag Meir (an organization that supports victims of hate crimes) visited the monks in order to express his sympathy.
The Jerusalem Post, October 18, 2018
150 broadcasters, publishers, and journalists, together with Dr. Mike Evans (director of the Friends of Zion Museum), gathered in Jerusalem for a media summit. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was in attendance. Rivlin said the relationship between Israel and Christians is an important one, and that alliances must be strengthened. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made an appearance at the summit, together with Mayor Nir Barkat, and American Ambassador David Friedman. Dr. Mike Evans praised his museum for “strengthening the alliance between Israel and her Christian friends.”