During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the following subjects:
HaMevasser, May 24, 2020; Sharsheret Ha’Aspaka, May 22, 2020
Yad L’Achim reported that it has been following the intentions of Ward Simpson, the CEO of God TV, which launched a Hebrew Christian TV channel, “Shelanu”. Yad L’Achim said it found many quotes from Simpson which explicitly stated the true missionary intentions of the channel. It then took this information to the Israeli Minister of Communications, Dudi Amsalem, demanding that the channel be shut down. Yad L’Achim claimed the channel will serve as a joint platform for other missionary organizations in Israel, and noted that the channel is working in conjunction with two other known missionaries: Ron Cantor and Avi Mizrahi.
The second article reported that the president of the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) of Jerusalem, Dr. Jürgen Bühler, has called on Christians around the world to do more business in Jerusalem, and noted that the ICEJ is working to continue to strengthen the deep friendship between Israel and Evangelicals.
Haaretz, May 27, 2020; Haaretz, May 26, 2020
Both articles had to do with the possible unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel. The first article noted that there are two conversations taking place at the moment regarding the prospect of annexation. The first is between Israel and the American government, and has to do with President Trump’s domestic need to garner the Evangelical vote. The second conversation is internal to the security forces in Israel. In that conversation, the concern is that annexation will lead to terrorist attacks and loss of life. The author argued that Israelis need to be let in on the second conversation in order to know the real risks involved in unilateral annexation, because if and when terrorist attacks take place, it will be “soldiers who pay the price, as well as the citizens of Israel – not Evangelicals”.
The second article noted that unilateral annexation will lead to an international uproar, sanctions, and will damage progress Israel has made in its relations with the Arab world. It will also problematize Israel’s relationship to pro-Israel American democrats, such as Senator Joe Biden, who has already stated his opposition to annexation. In particular, said the article, annexation will “infuriate the great majority of American Jews, who will not understand why any remotely sane Israeli government would ever consider such an act.” The author noted that in laying the political groundwork for annexation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not court American Jewish support; instead, he went to the Evangelicals, because he knew Evangelicals would not challenge the wisdom of such a move. And yet, asked the author, “is not Zionism the national liberation movement of the Jewish people?” Why are Evangelicals wielding such influence, when, “after all, it is the Jews, and not the Evangelicals, who are the direct stakeholders in the Zionist enterprise.”
Makor Rishon, May 28, 2020; Haaretz, May 24, 2020
The first article was about the history of Bethlehem, noting that in biblical times the town was Jewish, and asked why it no longer has any Jewish presence. Jewish ritual baths have been found around Bethlehem, as well as Jewish burial caves. However, serious archaeological digs have never been done in Bethlehem. Jews tend to associate the city with Christianity and Islam and have largely neglected their own biblical ties to the place. Antoine, a Christian who lives in Bethlehem, said in the article that there is archeological evidence around the city that Jews once lived there. Historically, Christians fared well under the various rulers that occupied Bethlehem, so some Jews may have converted to stay safe. Eventually, their physical presence in the city would disappear. Antoine said that it is well-known in Bethlehem that some local Christian Palestinian families have Jewish roots. He also said that DNA studies show genetic proximity between Palestinians from Bethlehem and Jews.
The second article was about El-Araj, also known as Beit Habek, a site which some believe is the ancient Jewish fishing village of Bethsaida. Archaeologist Motti Aviam and Professor Steven Notley head the dig at the site. Aviam said that a rainy winter put the site under water. This includes a Byzantine structure which Aviam and Notley believe is the Church of the Apostles – a church built to mark the birthplace of the disciples Peter, Andrew, and Philip. Aviam argued that the recent flooding only strengthens the hypothesis that El-Araj is Bethsaida, because records show that the Kinneret levels around the time of Jesus would have been similar to Kinneret levels last year (between 211-215 meters below sea level, compared to this year’s level of 208.9). This would have put the village on dry land but in close proximity to the water, where the boats would have been kept.