During the week covered by this review, we received 18 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Community
The Pope and the Vatican
Arab Believing Community
HaModia, November 1, 2019
Within a larger article listing significant past events and their relation to current issues, a sub-section discussed Christian Arab emigration. In the 1950s, Christians comprised 20% of the Arab population, a number that today is down to single digits. Tens of thousands of Christians have left Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Galilee in the past fifty years. In the Middle East more broadly, the article noted, Christians comprised 20% of the population 100 years ago; today that number is down to 1%. The article stated that “the great flight” is due to Muslim oppression.
The Jerusalem Post, November 1, 2019; BeKitzur, October 31, 2019; The Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2019
A team of 200 archaeologists and volunteers from 11 universities around the world has been working on an excavation site in ancient Shiloh under the direction of Dr. Scott Stripling. The team, which included scientists, historians, and biblical scholars, discovered a horn believed to be one of the four corners of an ancient altar. The article cited 1 Kings 2:28 as an example: “When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar.” In 2018, the team also found a ceramic pomegranate – a sacred motif. Dr. Stripling said: “The only sites in Israel where we have found pomegranates like this one have been Levitical sites.” The article noted that the high priest’s robes were adorned with pomegranates. The high priest would have served in Shiloh for more than three centuries before moving to Jerusalem.
The second article was about the discovery of the Church of the Glorious Martyr in Beit Shemesh. The author speculated about the identity of the nameless martyr to whom the church was dedicated in an inscription in the crypt’s floor. The church’s latest expansion took place in the Byzantine period. It was frequented by pilgrims up until the seventh century. The crypt contains the remains of the martyr, who would have been visited by many people – as evidenced by the fact that there are two entrances to the crypt (ensuring a streamlining of pilgrims in and out of the crypt). The inscription only names the “glorious martyr”, indicating that the martyr was so well-known it was not necessary to include a specific name (i.e. the martyr). So which martyr is that important? The author speculated that the unnamed martyr is Stephen, who is considered the first martyr of the Christian faith. He was stoned to death by the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem, but Rabbi Gamliel (who was Stephen’s teacher) is said to have taken his body to be buried in Gamliel Village, which is today identified with Beit Jamal Monastery – mere kilometers away from where the Church of the Glorious Martyr was found. Others speculate that the unnamed martyr is Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist.
Finally, the third article was a letter written by Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold, in response to a previous article in the Jerusalem Post from October 31 (“A Lost Temple – New Findings Might Shatter Biblical Archaeology Paradigm”). That article presented the views of Dr. Tsvi Koenigsberg, who has argued that the Bible’s repeated line: “the place the Lord your God will choose” is not Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, but Mount Ebal in the West Bank. In response, Dr. Gold said that the vague description of “the place the Lord your God will choose” is clearly meant to conceal the name of the place. Yet, in Deuteronomy, both Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim are mentioned by name. Dr. Gold asked: “Did the fictional editor not realize that at the beginning of the parsha he reveals the name of the place that he goes on to conceal 15 times?” Dr. Gold noted that even Wellhausen believed that the nameless “place” was in Jerusalem – a consensus amongst early biblical critics.
The Pope and the Vatican
A delegation from the Jewish organization “Rachashei Lev”, which helps children with cancer and their families, was invited to visit with the Pope at the Vatican. The delegation included three of the children assisted by the organization – all three from different faiths (Christian, Jewish, Muslim). One of them, Eva (8), said: “The meeting with the Pope was fun and special. I was excited when he gave me a necklace as a gift.” Yuval (19) said: “This was a once in a lifetime experience, and I hope the power of our message to the Pope about coexistence and the friendship we have in the ward is an example to other kids around the world.”
Matzav Ruach, November 1, 2019
Similar to an article from last week’s Media Review, this article reported about a historic gathering of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim representatives at the Vatican. The group met to sign a joint declaration calling doctors to refrain from assisting in ending lives, even of the terminally ill. The document noted the importance of continued life, and the impact of murder on the patient, their family, and the doctor who has to perform the act.
Kol Ha’ir, October 30, 2019; HaShavua BeRechovot, October 30, 2019
These two articles reported again about the Jehovah’s Witnesses missionary campaign which took place in various cities around Israel. Missionaries were seen going door to door, asking passersby to watch videos on their tablets, and taking personal information to add to their database.
HaMevasser, November 7, 2019; Mishpacha, November 7, 2019
These two articles reported that in a southern city in Israel, missionary activity was taking place in the city center, drawing in the city’s Jews. The missionaries presented themselves as Jews, and the services were led by a “Rabbi Shimon Pliner”. Six months after opening its doors to the public, Yad L’Achim found out about the operation by sheer coincidence, when a local resident told his Haredi neighbor that he had been attending the new synagogue under Rabbi Pliner. The neighbor knew Pliner’s name, who has been active as a missionary in the city for many years. After two years, the number of Jews attending Pliner’s services dwindled, and the center closed its doors. The landlord had been renting out the space to Pliner at a premium price, and initially did not want to reduce the rent to market cost. But eventually he did, and now the center will be turned into a synagogue by Yad L’Achim.
The Jerusalem Post, November 5, 2019; Haaretz, November 7, 2019
The Friends of Zion Museum hosted a gala to launch its new media center. This was an article by the founder, Mike Evans. He wrote that the event included 150 media outlets, world leaders, ambassadors, politicians, and military personnel. In the media center’s first broadcast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “There is the sharing of common values, and that’s what we have here today… the alliance of those who believe in [the] great Judeo-Christian tradition. We have no better friends in the world than our great Christian friends, and I want to thank each of you for your friendship…” Evans noted that the goal of the new center is to combat anti-Semitism. He also said the Friends of Zion Museum considered President Donald Trump “one of our greatest friends and supporters”. The new center will “take back the news and take back the internet from those who abuse it and use the platforms for slander, delegitimization and ‘fake news’.”
The second article reported on the same event, noting that Foreign Policy Advisor and National Security Council Deputy Director, Reuven Azar, said in a speech that the return of Jews to Judea and Samaria is a blessing to every resident in the area, and that the return of the Jewish people to Israel is a fulfillment of a divine promise. He further called on the mostly Evangelical audience to fight those who say settlements are not legal.
Shavua Israeli, October 30, 2019
This was a piece about Jordan Marcellino, who founded the organization “The Beautiful Land Initiative”. Marcellino, originally from California, moved to Israel in 2014, and after a hike in the Carmel where he was shocked by the amount of trash around, decided it was his mission to clean the country. In 2015, he founded his organization, which has since brought in 5,000 volunteers from 42 countries, who have together collected 90,000 kg of trash. About 75% of the volunteers are Evangelicals, and 25% are Israelis. Marcellino said he could not understand how “this people, with exceptional accomplishments in science, technology, and medicine, does not take responsibility for its environment, for its country”. He said he hoped more Israelis would take part, and noted that a group of Israeli Arabs from the Galilee had joined the most recent cleanup. When asked how locals respond when they see the volunteers cleaning up, Marcellino said that some laugh, some ask why they are doing what they are doing, and some are embarrassed. The volunteers, meanwhile, express dismay and do not understand why Israelis trash their country, at the same time viewing their clean-up work as a privilege.