During the week covered by this review, we received 5 articles on the following subjects:
Maariv, December 27, 2020; Haaretz, January 1, 2021; Haaretz, December 31, 2020
The first article reported that Nazareth Municipality spokesperson, Salim Ghumeid, said that the coronavirus has tragically “stolen” the Christmas holiday from Nazareth. Many in the city are going through a difficult time, as the Christmas season is usually busy with many pilgrims. Ghumeid said that this year, Nazareth resembled a ghost town. The mayor of Nazareth has been vaccinated and has urged the people of Nazareth to follow suit. Other areas that normally celebrate Christmas, like the Germany Colony in Haifa, have been similarly empty. In the city of Sakhnin, two Christmas trees that had been put up in a public place were set alight by unknown perpetrators.
The second article argued that Israelis are “more Christian than they know” in that they are heavily inundated with popular cultural Christian media from abroad (for example, Christmas specials on Netflix). While the agenda of Israeli education is still to demote Christianity as a religion inferior to Judaism, children encounter a different argument from popular culture, where Christianity is dominant. While some will argue that Christmas has been secularized and therefore Jews are able to participate in it, the author says, “this is an illusion”. It is not that Christianity has been secularized, but that it no longer poses an existential threat to Judaism, which is why Jews are more willing to consume it now than ever before.
The third article provided a history of Jewish participation in the celebration of New Year’s Eve. The author argued that New Year’s Eve has been a battleground for Jews, with some saying that the holiday has little to do with Christianity and can be celebrated, while others argue that it is Christian. In Hebrew, the name for the holiday is “Sylvester”, which goes back to December 31st being the martyrdom day of Pope Sylvester I. Some Jews believe that Sylvester was anti-Semitic, and there is even a rumor that he murdered many Jews, which is why Jews are forbidden from celebrating that day. However, the article argues that we in fact know very little about Pope Sylvester I, and there is no evidence that he took any actions against Jews, though “being a Christian leader in the 4th century, it is fair to assume he wasn’t a fan of Judaism”. What we do know is that he took office right after Constantine the Great issued the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity, and was Pope during the First Council of Nicaea.
HaShabbat BeNetanya; December 24, 2020; Mabat LaGalil VeLaGolan, December 25, 2020
Both articles reported that Rabbi Benayahu Bruner organized an interfaith prayer meeting for religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze, and Cherkess communities. The occasion for the joint prayer initiative was the pandemic, and the leaders prayed for the health and strength of all the residents of Israel. They said that the difficulty of the pandemic is shared by people of all faith.
BeKitzur, December 24, 2020
This article reported on ritual baths discovered in Gat Shmanim, which date back to time of Jesus. The baths seem to confirm that the site is indeed the Garden of Gethsemane, as workers would have been required to purify themselves to work in the agricultural industry (the oil press). Remnants of a Byzantine church were also found in the dig, which was conducted by the Custody of the Holy Land, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, and the Israel Antiquities Authority.