During the week covered by this review, we received 5 articles on the following subjects:
Haaretz, November 30, 2018; The Jerusalem Post, November 30, 2018
Both articles reported that a ring which was found at the Herodion dig nearly 50 years ago under Professor Gideon Forster was recently cleaned, and discovered to be Pilate’s ring. The findings were published in the latest edition of the Israel Exploration Journal. The ring dates between the first century BCE and the mid-first century CE, and includes the inscription “Pilatus” next to a wine vessel. “Pilatus” is the name associated with the one commonly known as Pilate of the New Testament, the leader under whom Jesus was executed. Professor Danny Schwartz said, “I don’t know of any other ‘Pilatus’ from the period and the ring shows he was a person of status and wealth.” The researchers believe the ring would have been used for day-to-day matters of business.
The Jerusalem Post, November 30, 2018; Haaretz, December 7, 2018
The first article included a picture of Dr. Mike Evans, the founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. Evans was the recipient of the Lion of Jerusalem Award from Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO of the Jerusalem Post Group, and Mayor Moshe Lion.
The second article was a longer expose on the relationship between Evangelicals and settlements in the West Bank. Various organizations have sought to strengthen the ties between settlers and Christian Zionists, some of whom come to the West Bank in order to volunteer, the work often consisting of picking grapes in the vineyards. This type of volunteering used to happen rather secretively, as religious Jews tended to be suspicious of Evangelicals and their desire “to convert Jews”. However, the relationship has become much more mainstream and acceptable. Evangelicals are increasingly seen as allies. It is estimated that “hefty” Evangelical investments go into settlements. Beneficiaries include regional councils, NGOs, and illegal outposts. Haaretz estimates that over the last 10 years, between $50-65 million have been invested by Evangelicals. Organizations which facilitate this type of investment often appeal to such terms as “fulfillment of biblical prophecy” in order to harness support. Tomer Persico, a visiting professor at the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies, noted that “many rabbis have overcome their resistance to Christian outreach efforts because the Evangelical community has been so helpful in promoting their agenda.” However, one critic, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the spiritual leader of the settlement Beit El, wrote a manifesto two years ago calling Christians who love Israel “the world’s biggest scam,” and warned Orthodox Jews not to be deceived by “statements of love, hugs, and kisses.” Aviner believes Evangelicals are dangerous because, in the end, they see Israel as a “stepping stone to the Second Coming,” and also believe that those Jews who are not killed will have to convert. But Aviner’s views are increasingly in the minority. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed has ruled that it is fine to employ Evangelicals as long as they do not proselytize. While Jewish settlers do not agree with Evangelical eschatology, they are happy to benefit from the relationship. One farmer said: “What’s really important is that these people eventually become goodwill ambassadors for Israel around the world. And they also benefit because doing this work makes them happy. So let’s just say each of us needs the other. Thank God we have them, and I hope it continues another 200 to 300 years.”
Globes, December 6, 2018
Christmas is celebrated everywhere, but “nowhere like in Jerusalem,” began the article. Until recently, the various religious traditions in Jerusalem kept their celebrations to themselves. But recently, these celebrations have become open to the public, and Israelis have started to learn about, and enjoy, the festivities of their neighbors. The YMCA is the only place in the western part of Jerusalem that celebrates Christmas. There is a tree lighting as well as a Christmas market. On Christmas Eve, the YMCA will also host a musical concert. The Christian Quarter is another major area to visit during Christmas. The ancient alleyways are decorated. In mid-December there will be a tree lighting near New Gate, followed by fireworks and a concert. In the Old City there will also be a children’s party with a gift exchange, as well as a visit from “Papa Noel,” the Santa Clause of the Old City. Two years ago, a group of three Jewish Israeli friends started an organization called “Hagim MeBifnim” (known as “Open Holidays” in English) in order to encourage Jerusalem residents to learn about their neighbors by attending the celebrations of other religions. Different Christmas celebrations around the city can be learned about and attended through the organization.