During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Christian / Jewish Holidays
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, January 3, 2020
This was an interview with a Catholic priest for a column devoted to incoming and outgoing tourists at Ben Gurion Airport. The priest was in Israel with a group of 12 people from his church, on a pilgrimage organized through Opus Dei. The priest said that his favorite part of the trip was exploring the Old City of Jerusalem. He further relayed, with regard to his vocation, that the God of Christianity is a God of love, and that many people are searching for love. His job is to show people that love, and to be a servant.
Christian / Jewish Holidays
Shabaton, January 3, 2019; Kochav Tzafon, January 3, 2020; Shavua Israeli, January 1, 2020; Yedioth Ahronoth, January 8, 2020
The first article was about the popularization of Christmas symbols in Israel. The author said that even just a few years ago, there was greater hesitation around overt Christmas decorations and celebrations, but that in the last two to three years, decorations and trees have become common. The author argued that it is important to remember that it is forbidden for Jews to visit churches, because they are places of foreign worship. However, he conceded that in some cases, the decorations and festivities are long-established traditions of Russian immigrants who celebrate Novy God, a secular welcoming of the new year.
The second article was about a gathering of 350 people for a multi-religious celebration hosted by lawyers of the Northern District of Israel. There were speeches in Hebrew and in Arabic. Christians spoke of the love and light that Jesus brought into the world, and expressed the hope that the new year would be free of violence. One Jewish speaker brought up the theme of light, connecting Christmas and Hanukkah.
The third article discussed the popularization of New Year celebrations in Israel, but noted that for 78% of Israelis, New Year’s Day is just a regular day, and only 6% say that it is the real new year. 4% of Israelis put up a holiday tree for the New Year, and 8% celebrate the holiday with friends. Among Russian immigrants, 3 out of 4 celebrate Novy God in some way, but 4 out of 10 Israelis do not know what Novy God is.
The fourth article reported that the Dan Panorama Hotel in Jerusalem hosted a delegation of 45 Santa Clauses from North America, Norway, China, Germany, and Romania.
HaMevasser, January 9, 2020
An anti-missionary explanatory conference was set to be held in Ashdod, organized by Yad L’Achim in response to the rise in missionary activity in the city. The conference was to include a screening of a documentary about missionaries who dress up in Haredi clothes in order to proselytize.
The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2020
This was a piece about Passages, an Evangelical Christian organization that brings Christian students on visits to Israel (similar to Birthright, which is intended for Jewish students). Founder Robert Nicholson said that by the end of 2020, Passages will have brought 10,000 Christian students to Israel. He noted that younger Evangelicals are less familiar with the bible, and that this in turn has produced more ambivalence towards Israel. Support for Israel tends to come from Christians who read the bible literally. It follows then, that when familiarity with literal readings of the bible is diminished, so is support for Israel. Nicholson also said that Israel should be doing more for its own Christian population, and that the way in which the state treats its Christian population will have an impact on Israel’s image amongst younger American Evangelicals. For example, when Israel initially denied permits to all Gazan Christians during Christmas, this had a negative impact on its image. Nicholson also highlighted the fact that Christians in Israel do not have their own education system, but are often lumped in together with Muslims, and therefore are not being exposed to their own story and history. Israel should not take American Evangelical support for granted, but reciprocate by improving the lives of Christians living in Israel, he said.
Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, January 10, 2020
Pope Francis invited the Pontifical Biblical Commission to put out a report on biblical interpretation in light of contemporary issues. The recently published report, Che cosa l’uomo è, spans 300 pages, and deals with a number of issues, including the interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The report argued that the primary sin of Sodom was not its homosexuality, but its hostility and violence towards strangers in its midst. The report noted that this kind of attitude towards the stranger was a sign of social disintegration.