Christians Serving in the IDF

The Jewish Press:

Father Gabriel Nadaf presents a soldier with an ICRF award.

Nearly 90 Christian soldiers from all over the country and from all IDF units came together earlier this week in Nazareth Illit for an event organized by the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum. Although it has only been around for a little over a year, its impact has been astounding. Since its founding, the number of Christians enlisting in the IDF has doubled. According to the forum’s data, 84 Christian soldiers have enlisted since June 2013 alone. In previous years, that would be the amount to draft in an entire year and a half.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed and thanked these outstanding soldiers in a special video message. “The purpose of this forum is clear: to engage Christians who serve in the IDF,” he said. “The importance of your actions goes without saying. I was pleased to hear that over the course of the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of soldiers. I salute and support all of you.”

“I know that the mission is not always easy,” he added. “But we will be with you along the way. All of Israel is proud and thanks you.”

Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest and president of the Forum, addressed the soldiers as well. “As a Christian spiritual teacher living in the Middle East, I understand that human rights are not something to be taken for granted. For that, I thank the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. “I believe in cooperation between Jews and Christians and our shared fate in a Jewish country. I believe that we can contribute to Israel and I call on all Christians to join the army and help us to protect this country.”

The founder of the forum, Major Ihab Shelian, who serves in the Israel Navy, was overwhelmed to see so many soldiers of the faith gathered together in one place for the first time, a crowd which included high-ranking officers as well. Certificates of appreciation were presented to all the soldiers.

HTIrishanglican’s Weblog.


Who Is a Jew?

Competing answers to an increasingly pressing question.

Who is a Jew? This question is becoming ever more pressing for Jews around the world. It looks like a religious issue, but is bound up with history, Israeli politics and the rhythms of the diaspora. Addressing it means deciding whether assimilation is a mortal threat, as many Jews think, or a phenomenon to be accommodated. The struggle over the answer will shape Israel’s society, its relations with Jews elsewhere, and the size and complexion of the global Jewish community.

For Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Tubul, the solution is simple and ancient: you are a Jew if your mother is Jewish, or if your conversion to Judaism accorded with the Halacha, Jewish religious law. Gentiles might be surprised that for Jews by birth this traditional test makes no reference to faith or behaviour. Jews may be atheist (many are: apostasy is a venerable Jewish tradition) and still Jews. Joel Roth, a Conservative rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, likens this nativist criterion to that for American citizenship: Americans retain it regardless of their views on democracy or the constitution. Some strict rabbis even think that a child is not Jewish if born to a devout mother but from a donated gentile egg…


The Economist has more.


Ariel Sharon: His Eye Was Not Dim, by Elliot Abrams

Via Fr Robert’s Blog:

Ariel Sharon was simply a great man, Jew and Jewish PM! (RIP)


What Makes Jerusalem So Sacred?


Perhaps the most repeated observation about Jerusalem is that it’s a sacred city for the three monotheistic faiths of the west, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Hundreds of tour guides tell it to the busloads of tourists brought to the city each day. Journalists who have to file stories from and about Jerusalem will use this description in their leads.

But what does that observation really mean? What does it mean to call a place, a city sacred?

Of course, this immediately refers to sites and buildings which contain and make concrete the sacred or the holy. In Jerusalem, there are literally hundreds of these containers, some better known than others.

One can immediately think of the Western Wall for the Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Garden Tomb for Christians, or the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque for Islam.

These containers are only the hardware of a sacred place. A more fundamental question is what are the dynamics or the software that make a place holy?

In each case the containers “mark” the breakthrough of the divine and transcendent world into the mundane, immanent world of humans.

This is the rock where God ordered Abraham to bind his son Isaac for sacrifice, and where later David and Solomon would build the central ritual structure of Judaism, the twice-destroyed temple that many Jews dream will be rebuilt in a messianic future when the dead are revived.

These are the streets and stones touched by Jesus, the son of God, the place where the central ritual of Christianity was revealed, which identified bread and wine with the sacrificial body and blood of the savior, and the place where the End Times will be orchestrated.

This is the place where God brought his Prophet Muhammad in a miraculous night journey.

From the very same rock, chosen by God, Abraham nearly sacrificed his son, Jesus was crucified and Muhammad ascended into paradise to receive the order of daily prayer for Islam. It’s also where the Day of Judgment will begin, where the righteous and the wicked will receive their rewards and punishments.

A sacred place pivots the heavenly world and the human world; it’s the meeting point between the two.

This means, of course, human behavior must be more disciplined and guarded than if one where just visiting another place like Los Angeles or Miami.

Rituals are required to maintain the presence of the sacred. Pilgrims and residents dress differently and speak differently, and often become nervous, tense and even violent when they think others are not behaving appropriately.

Time in sacred places is heavier than in other places. The present is soaked with the past and the future.

Memory is both individual (my mother and father owned a bakery there on that corner) and collective or national (my people began here) and is present in every action and in every encounter.

Your existential history is here, who you really are, and every event of consequence happened in this place.

In a place like Jerusalem, religion is politics and politics is religion. These human activities are seamlessly bound together.

Holy cities are not just divided by religion and politics, but, as the distinguished Israeli urbanist and former Jerusalem deputy mayor Meron Benvenisti noted, are polarized by religion and politics.

The sacredness of places like Jerusalem is never static. It always is changing, another layer of meaning and symbolism is built on those before, and others will be built in the future.


Yom Kippur – Atonement and Holiness

Today, our Jewish friends celebrate the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people.



Muslims Riot on Temple Mount Before Rosh Hashanah

The Temple Mount. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.


Hours before Rosh Hashanah started in Israel, hundreds of Muslim worshippers threw rocks at police officers and Jewish visitors at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Wednesday morning, according to Israel Hayom. A large police force was summoned to the scene to calm the situation, and no injuries or damage were reported.

The officers managed to subdue the rioters, some of whom were wearing face masks. Many fled into nearby mosques when the police arrived. A large police presence remained on site, and entry to the Temple Mount was not restricted.

Police sources said that they were not surprised by the violence and that police had advance knowledge of plans to riot on the Temple Mount. Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said he planned to closely monitor the deployment of police units in the area over the course of the holiday.

The rock-throwing incident occurred one day after the head the northern chapter of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, was arrested on his way to a press conference in eastern Jerusalem. Police suspect that Salah meant to incite his followers to instigate violent clashes on the Temple Mount during the Jewish holiday.

Salah’s arrest was apparently in response to a speech the sheikh gave at Kafr Qara near Haifa. The outspoken cleric had accused Israel of being behind the recent political crisis in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. He also said the Jerusalem police force planned to torch the Temple Mount during the High Holy Days.

Rosh Hashanah 5774

Wishing all our Jewish readers a happy and blessed New Year – Shana Tova!

The Jewish New Year is explained here.


Jewish Ceremony a Royal First

Huffington Post:

Prince Charles will make history on Sunday (Sept. 1) when he attends the installation of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at a London synagogue.

It will be the first time a British royal has attended such a ceremony.

The heir to the throne will be among 1,400 guests at the synagogue that will include Jewish-born Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition in the British Parliament, and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols.

Jewish leaders from England and the Commonwealth will also attend.

Prince Charles has floated the idea of taking the title “Defender of the Faiths” to reflect Britain’s multifaith society when he becomes king. Since the 1500s, English monarchs have been bestowed with the royal title “Defender of the Faith.”

Outgoing Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, 65, led the community for the last 22 years. His next role will be as a roving Jewish educator, visiting communities around the world to inspire new generations of Jewish leaders.

A report in The Jewish Chronicle said the new chief rabbi will focus on strengthening Jewish education, and “realizing fully our potential for social responsibility.”

“British Jewry has much to be proud of,” he said on the eve of his installation.

Born in South Africa in 1956, Mirvis is married with five children. He is a former chief rabbi to Ireland. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education and classical Hebrew from the University of South Africa and was ordained a rabbi at Machon Ariel in Jerusalem. He is also trained as a shochet or ritual slaughterer.


You Only Live Twice

Vibrant Jewish communities were reborn in Europe after the Holocaust. Is there a future for them in the 21st century?

Find out here.

Jerusalem’s Status Is Key To Peace Talks’ Outcome

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepare for preliminary talks in Washington on Monday (July 29), the future of Jerusalem — holy to three faiths — looms as the thorniest and most difficult issue to resolve.

Rest here.



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