During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
Christian / Jewish Holidays
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, January 12, 2020; Kol Golan, January 10, 2020
These articles were about the recent trip to Israel made by a Santa Claus delegation. The trip was organized by Issa Kassissieh, a resident of Jerusalem, who coaches basketball and is also the certified Santa of Jerusalem. Kassissieh studied at a special Santa school in Denver, Colorado, as well as in Michigan. Every year, he delivers Christmas trees to needy families, as well as presents to children in schools and hospitals. Kassissieh brought 50 men and women who have also been certified by the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan. Together, they toured the country, visiting Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Galilee, and the Dead Sea.
Three articles covered a report published by Yad L’Achim claiming that 4 billion shekels have been invested by missionary organizations and churches into mission projects in Israel over the past five years. The report further claimed that 170 churches and organizations from around the world invested the money, and estimated that Israel is the biggest hub for missionary activity worldwide. The report also noted that missionaries tend to hone in on communities from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Another three articles reported that as a result of increased missionary activity in the city of Ashdod, Yad L’Achim hosted a conference aimed at exposing missionary tactics and raising awareness. The conference included a talk by a former missionary, and a documentary screening about missionaries who dress up in Haredi clothing.
Haaretz, January 13, 2020
This was a piece about the question of what it means to be Jewish in the eyes of the state. The article reported on the case of Brother Daniel, a Jew who converted to Christianity, and who has appealed to the Supreme Court saying that he should be allowed Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Brother Daniel has argued that he is Jewish by nationality, Christian by faith. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal. The author gave a couple more examples of the complicated question of Jewish identity, noting the case of a Polish woman who, during the Holocaust, had saved a woman of Jewish origin and her two children. The Jewish woman had converted to Christianity prior to World War II, and so Yad Vashem argued that the Polish woman’s actions did not make her eligible to be counted as a Righteous Among the Nations. This despite the fact that the Third Reich determined Judaism by blood rather than by practice. The same argument had been made against designating Dietrich Bonhoeffer a Righteous Among the Nations. (Bonhoeffer helped to smuggle converted Jews out of Germany.) The author concluded that the political conversation needs to shift away from the question of who is Jewish, and toward who is Israeli. There needs to be a clear separation of religion and state.
Messianic Jews (Individuals)
Yedioth Ahronoth, January 13, 2020
This article reported on two tours. The first was a guided photography tour of Jerusalem, which included stops in churches in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. The second trip was a trip to the American-German Colony in Jaffa. The tour included a stop at Immanuel Church, which was founded in 1904, and is currently pastored by Yoel Ben-David. Ben-David spoke of his spiritual journey, explaining how he went from “being Jewish” to “being a pastor”. Ben-David said he sees himself as a Messianic Jew, a “Jew and a Christian at the same time”, the article reported.
Kochav HaTzafon, January 10, 2020
This was a plea made by a political party leader in Northern Israel to build a small airport in the Galilee. The author noted that most Christian tourists will spend, on average, three to four nights in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, respectively, but only one night in Tiberias. And yet the Galilee has so much to offer Christian tourists. The author made a case for a small northern airport, which would be an investment of 200 million shekels, and would receive low-cost flights from Europe. This would bring in more tourists to northern Israel, and would boost the Galilee economy.
Kivun Hadash LaGimla’im, January 9, 2020
This was an article about the Saxon Friends of Israel, an organization that brings German volunteers to help Holocaust survivors in Israel. Volunteers help to fix houses and to fill fridges with food, among other supportive activities. The article noted that a third of Israeli Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line.
Christians in Israel
Zman Mevasseret, January 9, 2020
Music majors from Harel High School in Mevasseret Zion made a trip to the monastery in Abu Gosh, where they heard Brother Olivier sing a Gregorian chant and learned about the ancient worship form. Brother Olivier is a Benedictine monk from France who has been living in Israel for decades and speaks Hebrew. He describes himself as a Christian monk living in a Muslim village located in a Jewish country. Some of the high school students also prepared a song to sing before the congregation. One student said that it was “like a dream” to sing in front of an audience with the church’s acoustics.