During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the following subjects:
Shvi’i, December 18, 2020
Bentzi Gopstein, director of the anti-assimilation organization Lehava, has called for a more extensive ban on Christian proselytization in Israel. Gopstein said that missionaries should be banned from preaching and encouraging conversion for people of all ages, and not just minors. He said that the real victory that Hanukkah celebrates is the triumph of Judaism over Hellenization, and that is the fight his organization is still fighting today.
Maariv, December 21, 2020
This was an opinion piece written in response to Meir Uziel’s article from last week, in which Uziel apologized to Trump for the fact that American Jews did not vote for him. The author, Shlomo Shamir, noted that not only did American Jews not vote for Trump; they despise Trump and overwhelmingly voted for Biden (75%). Uziel’s piece, which argued that Israelis feel bad that Trump did not get reelected, shows how deep the disconnect is between Israeli and American Jews, said Shamir. Regarding Uziel’s “love for Evangelicals”, Shamir said Uziel needs to remember that American Jews also dislike Evangelicals, and that other Christian denominations dislike Evangelicals as well.
The first article was written by a Jewish American, noting that in the US, Christianity is still the host culture, and Jews are still guests to some extent. He argued that American Jews are increasingly compelled to celebrate Christmas, but should be wary of falling for the idea that there is something called “Judeo-Christianity”, as if Judaism and Christianity share so much in common that they can be melded together. These are very different religions. Jews, however, sometimes struggle to separate Jewish culture from Christian culture, especially when Jewish kids want Christmas trees or to watch Christmas specials during the holidays. The author wrote that he feared for the future of Judaism in the US: “Will the next generation of US Jews be strong enough to simply enjoy the Christmas spirit, to hum along with carols but not go out caroling? Will they be able to separate Jewish tradition from Christian tradition?”
The second article, written by an Israeli, similarly expressed concern about Jews who incorporate Christian traditions into their homes, like putting up a Christmas tree. He said that even though the decorations look nice, it is “not our holiday”, and that it belongs to a religion that historically killed many Jews in the name of Jesus. To put up a tree is to deny history, or to be unconcerned with Jewish roots.
The third article argued that there is a trend in Western media around Christmastime to portray Christians in the Holy Land as under assault. The story of the nativity is used to make Israel look like it is persecuting Palestinians in the way that Mary and Joseph were forced to flee Herod. Israel is demonized and made responsible for the demise of the Christian population in the Holy Land, but the author argues that the real culprits are the Palestinian Authority and radical Islam. The Christian population in the Middle East has declined from 20% a century ago to 4% today.
The fourth article noted that Christians will be allowed to celebrate Christmas, despite the fact that Israel is heading into its third lockdown. Christians will be allowed to pray in groups of up to 100 in open spaces, or up to 10 inside churches. The rule will apply to Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox people celebrating Christmas later in January.
The Jerusalem Post, December 25, 2020; The Jerusalem Post, December 22, 2012; The Jerusalem Post, December 22, 2012
The first article was about the work of archaeologist Ken Dark from the University of Reading. Dark argues that Christians were likely making pilgrimage to the sites upon which the major churches were later built (such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity). Christians already associated these sites with Gospel events, and carved out caves to mark the sites. Church historian Eusebius wrote that three of the great churches were built over caves. This means that caves are “some of the earliest specifically Christian structures known to archaeology”. If Dark’s thesis is correct, Christian pilgrimage began earlier than is commonly supposed.
The second article reported that archaeologist Assaf Avraham and other archaeologists have teamed up with masons to recreate a replica of the Temple floor, like the one that Jesus would have walked on.
The third article reported that a cooperative archaeological dig between the Custody of the Holy Land, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, and the Israel Antiquities Authority has uncovered 2,000-year-old ritual bath near the Church at Gethsemane. Archaeologist Amit Re’em says the discovery likely confirms that the site is Gethsemane, which in Hebrew means “oil press”. It is likely that there was agricultural industry there, and that workers would have been required to purify themselves in the local public ritual bath. The Custody of the Holy Land has plans to develop tourism in the area by building a visitor’s center (which could include recent archaeological discoveries), and by constructing a tunnel that would connect the site to the Kidron Valley. According to Re’em, “the excavation is a prime example of Jerusalem’s archaeology at its best, in which various traditions and beliefs are combined with archaeology and historical evidence. The recently discovered archaeological remains will be incorporated in the visitors’ center being built at the site and will be exhibited to tourists and pilgrims, who we hope will soon be returning to visit Jerusalem.”