During the week covered by this review, we received 5 articles on the following subjects:
HaMevasser, February 9, 2021; HaMevasser, February 11, 2021
Yad L’Achim has launched a new information center called “JMap” (“Jewish Map”) whose purpose is to help Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants locate communities that speaks their language, and that will assist them both spiritually and materially. The goal of the new initiative is to prevent Russian-speaking Jews from falling into the “nets” of missionaries who are said to take advantage of the vulnerabilities of immigrants. Yad L’Achim said that missionary communities often present themselves as warm and inviting, offering immigrants Hebrew lessons, food, and spiritual support in order to then proselytize.
The second article reported that a resident of Ashdod was caught proselytizing to Haredi minors and was brought in by police for questioning. The article said that the man has operated many times before without being apprehended, but that recently was caught on a security camera of a store while talking to a child. Yad L’Achim turned over the security tape to the police. It is illegal to proselytize to minors.
HaShavua BeYerushalayim, February 10, 2021
This article included excerpts from member of Knesset, Eliyahu Baruchi, who called for support and donations to be given to Or L’Achim in order to “save souls”. Baruchi said that missionaries “hunt souls”, and do so by singling out Jews in vulnerable positions. Or L’Achim works to prevent this from happening on a global scale, and is furthermore at the forefront of the battle against mixed marriages (“hitbolelut”).
Haaretz, February 11, 2021
Former member of Knesset, Erel Margalit, has been involved in a hotel development project, approved by the Ministry of Tourism, in the village of Ein Kerem. The project has drawn criticism from both local residents, as well as church representatives, as the hotel is to be situated mere meters away from Mary’s Spring, where, according to Christian tradition, Mary the mother of Jesus drank water on her way to give birth in Bethlehem. Representatives of the Franciscan Order in Israel have objected to the project, noting that a hydrological report has shown that any digging or drilling in the allotted area would cause damage to the spring’s water source. Mary’s Spring is a site of Christian pilgrimage, and the place’s holiness is embraced also by Muslims, who built a mosque over the spring. Christian pilgrims used to drink from the spring, until it was discovered that the spring was contaminated. It was recently cleaned up and made available again to pilgrims. The hotel was initially meant to have 104 rooms, but after local protest, Margalit said he would compromise down to 34 rooms. Local residents argued that the hotel would not significantly contribute to vacancies in the city but would do significant damage to the feel of Ein Kerem. Margalit has said that he is committed to preserving Ein Kerem for all its residents and pilgrims.
Haaretz, February 11, 2021
The pandemic has increased the number of Christians interested in taking online Hebrew classes. That, at least, has been the experience of the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, which in the past few months has had to hire more staff to accommodate the increasing number of those interested in learning Hebrew, perhaps having more time on their hands during lockdown. The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies was established twenty years ago, and now offers classes on Zoom to students from over 100 countries. The majority of students are Christian, and of those, most are Evangelical. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg said that Christians show interest in Jewish studies and in the Hebrew language because they believe that understanding the bible’s Jewish context, and reading the Hebrew bible in its original form, will help them to understand their faith better. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg also said that Hebrew classes strengthen political ties between Christians, the Jewish people, and the State of Israel.