Jewish-Christian Relations in Light of the Church

In The Jerusalem Post:

As someone who works in the field of Jewish- Christian relations I recently  found myself with a meeting scheduled at a monastery in the Galilee. This  meeting just happened to come along at a time when my father was visiting from  Canada, so I urged him to come along, to see the extraordinary design and  architecture of the building and learn something about Christian life in Israel.  My father was unsure, as a man with a healthy degree of skepticism toward  religion generally, and some settled ideas about the Roman Catholic Church and  the Jews.

Some of this is my own fault. Because of my own years of  research and work, my father has become wellacquainted with evangelical- Jewish  relations and Christian Zionism, and the efforts underway in that corner of the  Christian world to develop better Jewish-Christian relations. As with my father,  I find many Jews today to be surprised and deeply skeptical of about relations  between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jews.

Increasingly there’s a  tendency, particularly in Israel, to see Christian support for Israel, Christian  efforts to combat anti-Semitism and Christian love for the Jews primarily  through an evangelical, Christian Zionist lens. For many Jews, Roman Catholic  priests taking Judaism seriously, celebrating Jewish holidays, honoring Torah  and learning Hebrew is a shock.

I do not mean in any way to minimize the  importance (and complexity) of evangelical Christian support for Israel and  efforts in building better relations between Christians and Jews. But it would  be a tragic mistake to forget the work underway in other expressions of  Christianity.

There are lovers of Israel and the Jews to be found among  all denominations, just as there are evangelical anti- Semites. It’s a mistake  for Jews in Israel and abroad to narrow our Christian conversation partners,  challengers and allies down to a single branch of Christianity…

Read on here.



New Archbishop of Canterbury is ‘A Good Friend’ to Jews

The JC.Com:

The Council of Christian and Jews has welcomed the new Archbishop of  Canterbury, Justin Welby, who will succeed Rowan Williams next year, as a “good friend”.

The Rt Rev Welby, Bishop of Durham and a former dean of Liverpool Cathedral, who will automatically become a joint president of the CCJ, has been involved in reconciliation work between Jews and Arabs.

Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, believed that Bishop Welby would have “a very balanced view” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said: “We both love the Jews and the Arabs. He really cares about them, totally. He is not the kind of person who will take just one side.

“It’s very rare. Everybody takes one position or the other. You either love Israel and hate the Palestinians; or you hate the Jews and you love the Palestinians. But he is on both peoples’ side.”

Canon White said that Bishop Welby had worked “in the thick of it” from Iraq to Nigeria. “He has been there in the midst of all of it. This isn’t interfaith relationships and reconciliation eating smoked salmon bagels in Golders Green and drinking cups of tea. This is really at the cutting edge.”

Liz Spencer, chairman of Merseyside CCJ, said that Bishop Welby had spoken to the group of his work with Jews, Christians and Muslims on an environmental project in the Holy Land.

Last year he helped CCJ mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral, she said. “He gave us space and facilitated it. He was very helpful and told his staff to help in any way they could.”

Bishop Welby abstained in this summer’s controversial vote at the Anglican Synod this summer, which endorsed the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI). The Board believes that EAPPI promotes a partisan view, which creates hostility towards Israel among Christians.



Israel’s Religion Minister Fears Jewish Divides


Israeli society could be torn apart if disputes between ultra-Orthodox and less observant Jews continue to heat up, Israel’s religious affairs minister said on Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, Yaacov Margy, who also serves as director-general of Shas, a religious party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, condemned an incident last month in which zealots seeking gender separation spat at a schoolgirl they accused of dressing immodestly.

That attack was disclosed by an Israeli television station, whose report on the violence stunned many in the Jewish state, where concerns over religious coercion are mounting among its mainly secular population.

Margy said such incidents and ultra-Orthodox protests – in the latest, on Saturday, children were dressed as Nazi Holocaust victims to suggest public persecution of the community – had been overblown in the media.

“If they ganged up on an 8-year-old girl, this is something that must be uprooted. We have a police force, courts – anyone who is violent must be dealt with. But we don’t have to go crazy,” he said.

Margy accused media outlets of fuelling the religious-secular dispute by covering in detail ultra-Orthodox protests.

“If we have a problem in Israeli society we should deal with it through dialogue,” he said. “I call on all people in the media and the extremists on both sides, crazy people: ‘climb down off the roof’.”

He said he feared that failure to do so “will tear Israeli society apart,” and pointed to banners at a recent secular demonstration where protesters voiced their fear that Israel could become like Islamist-ruled Iran.

“Every morning I go to look at the window and check whether I see some pro-Khomeini protest at my doorstep,” he said referring to the religious leader who led the 1979 Iranian revolution. “All I see are green fields, a good atmosphere and good neighbors.”

That view contrasts sharply with a cautionary note sounded last month by Israeli President Shimon Peres who said the country was in the grip of a battle for its soul…

More here.


Bible Archaeology

Bulldozing Jewish History

World should not allow Arab effort to deny Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

It’s the site where humanity received the gift of one God. It’s where God’s “shechina”, or presence, dwelt. Even the secular imagination, Jewish or not, has been shaped by the “Holy of Holies,” the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most sacred site of the Jewish people.

It’s there that King David raised a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon and Herod built the Temples. This holy place – not Shenkin Street, Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, or Herzliya Pituach’s high-tech hub – prompted the Jews’ return to their land after two millennia of dispersion and pogroms.

In theory, Israel currently controls the Temple Mount. In reality, since 1967, when the Israeli army seized the “holy basin” from Jordanian forces, the Jewish state gave up religious freedom for the Jews.

This is one of the darkest chapters in modern Israel’s short history. Immediately after the liberation of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan handed over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that serves as custodian of the site, which includes four minarets and the holiest Jewish site in the world. It was a disastrous decision.

Threatened by Arab countries, Israeli authorities just closed the Mughabri Bridge, preventing Jews and Christians from entering Temple Mount. Historically it should be noted that only under Israeli rule was the site open for everyone, Muslims, Christians and Jews. The Waqf is now attempting to deliberately destroy all archaeological evidence of Jewish claims to this site, while using terror and intimidation to impose its exclusive claim to Temple Mount.

The Waqf has removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the site. At the entrance, a Waqf sign says “The Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard and everything in it is Islamic property.” Today Jews are barred from praying on the Mount and are not even allowed to carry any holy articles with them. With Muslim observers supervising visits, Israeli police have frequently arrested Jews for various violations, such as singing or reciting a prayer even in a whisper.

Repeated lies

This week, a Jewish woman was arrested following claims by police and Waqf officials that they noticed she was praying on Temple Mount. Why is it a crime for a Jew to mention God’s name on Temple Mount? And why is the State of Israel complicit in enforcing this anti-Semitic rule?

European autocrats and the global media are also trying to downplay the Jewish connection to the site. Jewish archeologist Gabi Barkai stated that “it’s a lie more terrible than the denial of the Holocaust, yet connected to it.” UN and EU funded textbooks in the Palestinian areas all repeat the canard denying any Jewish legitimacy in the “Noble Sanctuary.”

The World Council of Churches, the largest umbrella for the Protestant Churches, in its “Promised Land” conference in Switzerland denied any Jewish connection with the Mount. Recently, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, just asked to place some Israeli holy places around Temple Mount under Vatican or international authority.

“The part of Jerusalem within the wall – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s heritage”, Tauran said. “The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally guaranteed statute.”

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama’s plan also designates the Old City as an “international zone.”

It’s not only Chief Palestinian Justice Sheik Taysir Tamimi who declared the Jewish temples “never existed.” The supposedly more moderate Sari Nusseibeh also claimed that “the historical ties and attachments of the Palestinians precede any Israeli claim to Jerusalem.”

Erasing the cultural Jewish heritage in Israel means erasing the right of Jews to live in their native land. Meanwhile, the Palestinians just planned the targeting of another Jewish holy site, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. They will ask UNESCO to formally recognize their cultural attachment to the site in February, a move only made possible by their admission to the UN body two months ago.

Lies are obsessive: The Jews, said Arafat, have never been in Jerusalem and the Temple never existed. This canard was repeated since. As Joseph Goebbels famously said, if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Next time they will say that the Jews never existed as a people. Israel should mobilize the international community to stop this bulldozing of history.

HTPolitics, archaeology, and Jerusalem


The Last Jews of Baghdad

Just seven of them!

The seven remaining Jews in Baghdad have been named by WikiLeaks, leaving them in danger of persecution, according to the city’s Anglican vicar.

Their lives are now in immediate danger, according to Canon Andrew White, and they’ve been advised to hide their religion.

Canon White said Baghdad’s Anglican Church is trying to protect them, as they fear extremists might try to kill them if they’re identified.

WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables from Baghdad which named the individuals of the small Jewish community.

And now the American Embassy is trying to locate any Jewish diplomats who could help the exposed individuals take part in religious ceremonies safely, to make up the number they’re required to take part in under Jewish Law…

Only 6,000 Jews were living in Iraq by the 1960s and today only seven remain in the capital.

The Anglican church in Baghdad is also trying to keep safe abandoned Jewish shrines in Iraq…

Read more here.



Pius XII: Israeli Official Recants

Rome – An Israeli official who caused a storm in the Jewish world by praising Pope Pius XII for saving Jews during the Second World War backtracked on Sunday, saying his judgment was “historically premature.”

The comments made last Thursday by Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, were some of the warmest ever made by a Jewish official about Pius. Most have been very critical of his record.

In an indication of how sensitive the subject of Pius is among Jews, Lewy was quickly assailed by some Jewish groups, including Holocaust survivors.

In a statement issued in what appeared to be an attempt to calm the dispute within the world Jewish community, Lewy said his comments were “embedded in a larger historical context.”

“Given the fact that this context is still under the subject of ongoing and future research, passing my personal historical judgment on it was premature,” Lewy said.

The question of what Pius did or did not do to help Jews has tormented Catholic-Jewish relations for decades and it is very rare for a leading Jewish or Israeli official to praise Pius…

The above and more is here.


Pope: Don’t Evangelize Jews! Really?

Pope Benedict’s remarks concerning Jewish individuals in his recent book Jesus of Nazareth (vol. 2) have attracted considerable attention.

For example, the book contains a passage which some have interpreted as saying that the Church should not seek to convert Jewish individuals. It is not at all clear to me that this is what the Pope is saying. The passage is complex and bears more than one interpretation. So let’s dive in and see what we can make of it…

To do so, click here.

A sensitive subject indeed.