During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:
Christians and the Holocaust
Arab Believing Communities
The Jerusalem Post, December 12, 2019
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order which calls for the official adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Recent surveys have shown that about half of American Jews aged 18-29 have experienced anti-Semitism in the past five years. The order, therefore, is meant to combat anti-Semitism specifically at the university level, where criticism of Israel will be considered anti-Semitic if it involves “intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment against Jews”. Director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer, expressed reservations, noting that Trump lacks the necessary credibility to tackle anti-Semitism, as he himself is “partially responsible” for the rise in anti-Semitism in his emboldening of white nationalism. Other Jewish representatives expressed concern over the push towards the curtailment of freedom of speech. The order, however, received support from some Christian organizations, including Christians United for Israel, which in a statement praising Trump said that “one cannot defeat that which they are unwilling to define”. Dr. Mike Evans also praised the order, arguing that the underlying issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not land but anti-Semitism.
The Jerusalem Post, December 10, 2019; Zman Mevasseret, December 12, 2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a delegation from the Israel Allies Foundation which consisted of Evangelical Christian lawmakers from 25 different countries. Most who attended are members of the Israel Allies Caucuses in their respective governing bodies. They have made it a goal to “advance pro-Israel legislation and combat anti-Zionist bills”. In the meeting, Netanyahu stressed the importance of the alliance between Israel and the Israel Allies Foundation, which is based on shared values, and is only secondarily based on interests.
The second article was about the work of ARISE, which, under the direction of founder Calev Myers, organized a “shark tank style” business meeting between Israeli startups and mostly Christian foreign investors. The meeting matched 650 local businesses with businesspeople from 50 different countries. It was estimated that the resulting investment will total $100 million. Myers has organized the event in response to BDS. The article noted that Myers is from Yad Hashmona.
Christians and the Holocaust
Israel Hayom, December 11, 2019; Iton Shacharit, December 12, 2019
Both articles were about 94-year-old Paola, who lives in Venice, Italy, and who has recently decided to formally return to her Jewish roots. Paola was born in 1925, and was baptized as a child by her father, as a means of protection against the Nazis. Paola and her sister were hidden in a monastery, where they participated in its Christian life. But Paola said she never really connected to Christianity. She later married a Jewish man, and they had two daughters. Recently Paola decided to formally return to her Jewish roots and was helped in the process by a rabbi in Venice.
Arab Believing Communities
Olam Katan, December 6, 2019
This was a lengthy, in-depth piece about the Aramean community in Israel, and in particular about Shadi Khalloul, father of two, who served as an officer in the paratrooper brigade of the IDF. Khalloul has become known as an advocate for the Aramean community. Through his Aramean heritage center, he is attempting to promote closer relationships with the broader Israeli society, encourage military service among Aramean youth, and preserve the Aramean culture and language. Khalloul is also active in fighting BDS, noting that as Christians, it is easier for Arameans to do so in international settings. In the article, Khalloul recalled attending a “Bible as English Literature” class while he attended university in the USA. At the time, Khalloul had wanted to find a way to remain abroad. But in this class, the professor made a comment about Aramaic, the language of the New Testament, having become extinct. Khalloul raised his hand and pointed out that he is Aramean, speaks Aramaic, and knows a whole community of people like himself. The professor invited him to give a lecture on modern day Arameans, the following week. During the lecture, Khalloul cited the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. He said that a few students in the class were moved to tears upon hearing the prayer. It was then that Khalloul understood that he needed to return to Israel and help to preserve his heritage and language.
Khalloul noted that Arameans have faced difficulties from all sides. They have historically been persecuted by Muslim Arabs, are a minority amongst Christians, and have been betrayed by Israel, twice. The first betrayal took place in 1948, when the Aramean community was expelled from their village in northern Israel. They were told that they would be allowed to later return, but in 1953, then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion permitted the bombing of the village for security reasons. Only the church remained standing. In the second instance, Lebanese Arameans who had been supporting Israel in the fight against Hezbollah were forced to flee their homes and migrate to Israel or abroad when the IDF pulled out of Southern Lebanon in 2000. To this day, Arameans refer to that event as “the betrayal”. Even so, many Arameans choose to serve in the IDF, and Khalloul insisted that Arameans share more in common with Jews than with Arabs. He noted that Arameans are the sons of Isaac, not Ishmael. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and the first followers of Jesus were Jews and Arameans. It was only with the Muslim conquests centuries later that Arabic became the official language of the region, and Arameans were persecuted. Khalloul said he does not like to be called a “Christian Arab”, arguing that the term is offensive, and akin to calling Jews who lived under the Turks and spoke Arabic “Arab Jews”. He said his grandfather had been burned in front of his wife and kids by Arabs on account of being Aramean, and asked, “if we are Arabs, why do they persecute us?” Khalloul said most of those who would identify as “Arab Christians” are in fact Arameans who belong to the ancient Maronite-Aramean Church.
Yedioth Ahronoth, December 13, 2019
This was an article with information about Christmas events around the country. In Jerusalem, the YMCA is hosting a Christmas market, and in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, one can find decorations, lights, Christmas trees, and events. Dormition Abbey is hosting a Christmas concert on December 21, as well as a midnight mass on December 24. Midnight masses will be held in other locations as well, for example at the Notre Dame Monastery by New Gate, and the Benedictine Monastery in Abu Gosh. The article noted that these events have become popular, and advised an early arrival to secure a seat. Similar events can be found in Nazareth, where the tallest Christmas tree in the Middle East can be found, as well. In Haifa and Jaffa, too, there will be markets, decorations, trees, and Christmas events and masses. The Lutheran Immanuel Church in Jaffa will be hosting concerts.