During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:
Globes, May 18, 2020
This was an article about what President Donald Trump will need in order to win a second term in the White House. Firstly, he will need the support of conservative Jews, who make up an important part of Trump’s donor base. Secondly, Trump will need the support of Evangelical Christians. There are 80 million Evangelicals in the United States, and they were an important voting bloc during the last elections, especially in swing states. Evangelical support is contingent upon a number of issues, but prime among them is Trump’s support for Israel in general, and of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular. Evangelicals tend to consider the return to Zion and the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel as integral to their faith. Since the time of Ronald Reagan, there has never been a Republican President who won the presidency without the broad support of Evangelicals. The biggest hurdle Trump will have to overcome, however, is the economic crisis facing many of his voters.
Controversy has continued over “Shelanu TV”, the Christian broadcasting channel belonging to God TV, which signed a seven-year deal with Israeli cable company, HOT. The channel has been accused of engaging in missionary activity and attempting to proselytize Jews. CEO Ward Simpson has said that there has never been an opportunity to broadcast the gospel on cable television in Hebrew, and that he was happy to take the message of Jesus to all of Israel. HOT has said that the channel is an independent religious channel, not unlike other religious broadcasting channels that have received licenses. The situation has led to some tensions, as Evangelicals see Israel’s clamping down on the channel as an infringement upon the right of free speech. But at least one prominent Evangelical, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who hosts “Focus on Israel”, has said that “… any attempts to convert Jews or downgrade their religion will only sow undue hatred at a time when we should unite in the face of darkness.”
One opinion piece, written by Michael L. Brown, host of the daily radio broadcast, “The Line of Fire”, argued against the notion that the Christian message is “toxic” and “destructive” for Israelis. Brown, who identifies as a Jewish follower of Jesus, wrote that he understands that the history of anti-Semitism makes a Christian channel in Hebrew a sensitive matter. However, he argued that most Evangelicals today are not anti-Semitic, and that “they love Israel because they love Jesus.” He also said that nevertheless Christianity has always been a missionary religion, offering “eternal life through the Messiah’s death and resurrection”. Jews are allowed to reject this message, he said; however, Jews cannot ask Christians to keep their message to themselves while still welcoming Christian money, support, and political influence.
In response to Brown, Avi Bell, professor at Bar Ilan University and the San Diego School of Law, insisted that God TV must stop branding its “hatred” for Jews as “love”. Bell argued that Jews were not offended by God TV’s missionary activity because of the history of Christian anti-Semitism: “we understand that there is more to the Christian faith than millennia of anti-Semitism – we don’t judge your faith solely by the worst actions of its followers.” Instead, offense has to do with the “supersessionist” attitudes of Brown and God TV, who continue to say that the gospel is the fulfilment of Judaism, and that Jews are interpreting their Torah in the wrong way. This supersessionist attitude, wrote Bell, is anti-Semitic. Bell wrote: “We respect your choice to abandon the religion of your people, now respect our choice to stick with the religion of ours.” He further said, “… don’t expect a free pass for attempting to defraud Israeli regulatory authorities just because most evangelical Christians are wonderfully philosemitic unlike you and your ilk at God TV.”
Haaretz, May 20, 2020
This was a translation of a piece that originally featured in the New York Times. It was about diverse depictions of Jesus in art. The author began by asking who it is we imagine if we think of Jesus kneeling to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Is Jesus Chinese? Nigerian? A woman? Americans mostly imagine a middle-aged blue-eyed, chestnut-haired white man. The author recalled being a child in his grandmother’s black church and seeing pictures of a white Jesus. However, Christianity’s center of gravity has been moving from Europe and North America to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As such, depictions of Jesus in art have increasingly become less white. Multi-ethnic depictions of Jesus are important, as it is crucial to show that holiness is not antithetical to different ethnic or racial identities, he argued. In the run-up to Easter, the author decided to go on the hunt for diverse depictions of Jesus. He collected 12 images from around the world, which express Christianity’s universal ethos. The article went on to list these images and give information about them.
Kol Ha’Ir, May 22, 2020
This was a piece about the history of the presence of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, which goes back to the 7th century. The community was small and unprotected until the 19th century, when with the support of different Ethiopian emperors, Ethiopians were among the first to settle outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Ethiopians have a long tradition connecting them to the Holy Land and to Jerusalem. As the tradition goes, the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, who then gave her the flag of Judah with a lion on it, which became the flag of the royal house of Ethiopia. When the emperor of Ethiopia converted to Christianity in 334 CE, a cross was added to the flag. From the 13th century onwards, Ethiopians began building churches and monasteries in Ethiopia, with names of holy sites in Jerusalem, strengthening the view that a new Jerusalem was being built in Ethiopia. In the 19th century, emperors purchased land in Jerusalem and raised money to build a church, a monastery, and a hostel for pilgrims.