During the past two weeks covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Pope and the Vatican
Israeli Attitudes Towards Christianity
Two articles reported that a man was arrested in Ashdod after being caught on camera talking to a minor and distributing missionary materials aimed at children. The man had been on Yad L’Achim’s radar for over a month, with many calls being made to their hotline, reporting the man’s missionary activity. The man was caught after Yad L’Achim volunteers checked security footage from a store near to the spot the missionary had been sighted. The man was taken in for a police investigation, and Yad L’Achim is pushing for him to be given a restraining order. The article noted that this is the first time in over a decade that a missionary has been arrested.
Two further also reported that Yad L’Achim has distributed 250 Purim baskets to Jewish survivors who have exited missionary communities. Purim, said one article, represents the symbolic victory of Israel over those who would try to destroy it, who in this case are missionaries. The articles noted that Yad L’Achim has already distributed food, supplies, and vouchers to these families in an attempt to make their lives easier.
A final article accused the Attorney General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, of supporting missionaries. Mandelblit is said to have intervened on behalf of missionary groups after the Knesset’s Finance Committee prevented these groups from receiving tax exemption. Mandelblit reportedly wrote a 60-page document on the issue. The article called Mandelblit “untrustworthy” and said his reasoning was twisted.
Pope and the Vatican
Yedioth Ahronoth, March 3, 2021; Haaretz, February 28, 2021
Pope Francis has made a historic trip to Iraq, becoming the first Pope to visit the country after John Paul II’s trip was cancelled on account of terrorist threats in 2000. Francis insisted on making the trip despite the threat of violence and the ongoing pandemic. During his trip, Pope Francis plans to visit the birthplace of Abraham, as well as to visit northern Iraq, where he will strengthen Christian communities that suffered under ISIS. Thousands of Christians were murdered there between 2014-2017, and hundreds of thousands fled.
The second article was a letter that called Pope Francis a “good friend to the Jewish people”, noting the Pope’s commitment to the Jewish people dates back to his days as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Israeli Attitudes Concerning Christianity
Haaretz, March 3, 2021
Three Israeli researchers, Orit Ramon, Inés Gabel, and Varda Wasserman, published a book entitled Jesus was a Jew. The book surveys attitudes towards Christianity found in the Israeli public education system. Despite the fact that Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, it is barely included in the Israeli school curriculum (whether secular or religious). The authors note that despite the fact that the conflict between Christianity and Judaism is largely a thing of the past, Israelis still harbour a fear of Christianity. Textbooks teach very little about Christianity, and what is taught usually has to do with Judaism (pogroms, for example). Other aspects of the Christian faith or its history do not get taught. Relatedly, activities such as entering a church is still perceived as scary or dangerous, and the Holocaust continues to be seen as the climax of the relations between the two religions. Israeli educators present Judaism as a superior religion on account of its age, and often emphasize that Jesus was a Jew who never intended to found a new religion. Christianity, in turn, is presented as an accident of history, and a religion inferior to Judaism. The contemporary lived reality of Christians in Israel is ignored altogether. Christians in Israel are a minority, and many Israelis will never have contact with a Christian. The article does note, however, that there has been an increase in Israelis interested in visiting Christian sites around them. Many still fear, however, what may happen to them spiritually if they enter a Christian church – so engrained is the apprehension of Christian mission.