During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Communities
Kol HaIr, December 14, 2018; Haaretz, December 16, 2018; HaDerech, December 13, 2018
The first article reported that the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem hosted a special Christmas market, which included a tree with 30,000 candles and 3,000 ornaments. Also free to the public was entry to the enchanted house of Santa Clause, or “Papa Noel,” where children got the opportunity to have their pictures taken. The celebration also included fireworks, and a children’s party with games and a DJ.
The second article told the story of a group of weavers gathered at the Christmas market of Nazareth. The weavers embroidered in a centuries-old form of cross-stitch called “tatreez,” a pattern commonly found in Palestinian towns throughout Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Violette Khoury, director of Nasijona, a women’s association running Christian embroidery workshops, said: “There is a feeling that we, the Palestinian citizens of Israel, are starting to lose our identity, our language, and our heritage.” This feeling has been amplified by the controversial “nation-state” law passed in 2018, which stated that only Jews have the right to self-determination in the land, and which eliminated Arabic as one of the official languages of Israel. Nazareth attracts many pilgrims and tourists during Christmas. Efaf Touma, president of the Community Council of Nazareth, said of the Christmas tree that it is a “sign of peace.” Christmas, he said, “is a very important event, for Christians and residents of Nazareth and the Galillee region. It symbolizes our presence, that we are still living here.”
The third article reported that the shopping center “Big Fashion” in the city of Ashdod, which had previously been embroiled in controversy when it decided to open to shoppers during Shabbat, once again upset residents when it erected a Christmas tree. Many residents of Ashdod are conservative Jews. Interim mayor, Avi Amsalem, said: “this is not an issue of Orthodox vs. secular, Shabbat vs. workday. This is something that is meant to hurt anyone who self-defines as Jewish.” He asked “Big Fashion” to respect the feelings of residents and to remove the hurtful symbol.
Haaretz, December 20, 2018
There is a growing trend amongst Evangelical Christians who desire to study the Bible from rabbis in so-called “Yeshivas for Christians.” Rivkah Lambert Adler, an Orthodox Jewish educator, said: “It’s become a phenomenon. What we’re seeing is a profound hunger and thirst among Christians for authentic Torah teaching.” A number of such yeshivas have emerged recently, many of them as partnerships between Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians. Some offer online learning, others involve face-to-face education in Israel. The demand is high, but there are few teachers, and the different yeshivas often share teaching rosters. Lambert Adler said this is because “the pool of teachers who are Jewishly knowledgeable, who are English-speaking and who are willing to engage with non-Jews is relatively small.” When asked why Orthodox Jews are reluctant to teach Christians, Lambert Adler responded: “The Jewish people, by and large, are very defensive about Christians. We tend not to trust them, we tend to think they have a missionizing agenda 100% of the time, and we tend to want them to just leave us alone.”
Arab Believing Communities
The Jerusalem Post, December 20, 2018; Haaretz, December 21, 2018
The first article was an opinion piece, in which the author argued that it is time to evacuate Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Christians need to be transferred because “the cost of them staying where they are is simply too high.” The author goes on to describe the way two or so prominent Christians from Gaza have downplayed the actions of Hamas in order to vilify Israel. He then argued that one-sided narratives are the “cost of doing business in the Gaza Strip. In order to stay there, Christians and their benefactors must bear false witness against the Jews.” If this is the cost, he argued, “then it’s not worth it. For everyone’s sake, it’s time to evacuate every last Christian from Gaza so at least one group of Christians can stop lying about Israel just to stay alive.”
The second article published a top-secret letter from the state’s archives. The letter, written in 1949, just months after the War of Independence, was sent from Walter Eytan (then Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry) to foreign minister Moshe Sharett. In the letter, Eytan wrote to inform Sharett, at the time in New York, of a plan that was hatched to “expel the Arab residents from a number of places” in the Galilee and the North of Israel. The letter lists villages mostly inhabited by Christian Arabs. The plan was to force about 10,000 Christian Arabs (as well as Druze and other minorities) to leave their homes. The plan was justified on the basis of “security reasons.” The letter does not state where these residents were expected to go. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion had approved the transfer by force, but the plan needed Sharett’s approval, as well. In the letter, Eytan expressed his disapproval of the plan. The expulsion was ultimately never carried out, but in the years that followed there raged a debate as to whether Christian Arabs should be forced to go to Argentina and Brazil. Moshe Dayan was in favour of such a plan. Sharett, for his part, insisted that Arabs in the Galilee should be recognized as equal citizens. Ben Gurion opposed Sharett, and instated marshal law in the area which was only cancelled in 1966.