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Ed Webb

Trouble in paradise: 'GOD TV' spat exposes tensions between Israel, evangelicals | The ... - 0 views

  • An evangelical broadcaster who boasted of miraculously securing a TV license in Israel now risks being taken off the air over suspicions of trying to convert Jews to Christianity. The controversy over “GOD TV” has put both Israel and its evangelical Christian supporters in an awkward position, exposing tensions the two sides have long papered over.
  • Israel has long welcomed evangelicals’ political and financial support, especially as their influence over the White House has risen during the Trump era, and it has largely shrugged off concerns about any hidden religious agenda.
  • When GOD TV, an international Christian broadcaster, reached a seven-year contract earlier this year with HOT, Israel’s main cable provider, it presented itself as producing content for Christians. But in a video message that has since been taken down, GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson suggested its real aim was to convince Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah. The channel, known as “Shelanu,” broadcast in Hebrew even though most Christians in the Holy Land speak Arabic.
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  • Freedom of religion is enshrined in Israeli law, and proselytizing is allowed as long as missionary activities are not directed at minors and do not involve economic coercion.
  • The Communications Ministry said it was investigating a “discrepancy” between the application for the license that was granted in March, which said the channel was focused on the Christian community, and its actual content, which appears to “target Jews and convince them that Jesus is the messiah.”
  • Simpson denied trying to convert Jews to Christianity. He said Jews who accept Jesus as the messiah can continue to practice their faith, a reference to Messianic Jews, popularly known as Jews for Jesus.
  • widely seen as a form of Christianity. All major Jewish denominations reject it, and Israel considers Messianic Jews to be converts to another faith
  • Simpson’s willingness to speak openly about conversion reflects the growing influence of evangelical Christians in both Israel and the United States. “They feel bulletproof to say these kinds of things and what their real agenda is,”
  • Daniel Hummel, the author of a book on evangelicals and Israel, says Christian Zionists have “more or less learned” that Messianic Judaism’s presence in the movement is “politically unwise.” “The issue always continues to simmer, but the precedent was set [in the 1970s] and grew stronger that any Christian organization wishing to work in Israel or be at all close to the center of political action in the [Christian Zionist movement] would need to publicly disavow at minimum coercive evangelization.”
Ed Webb

Cleared of Landmines for Easter, Jesus' Baptism Site Now C...... | News & Reporting | C... - 1 views

  • For the past nine years, HALO has cleared other sites in the West Bank, coordinating between Palestinians and Israelis. But there are still approximately 35 square miles of landmines in the West Bank
  • As demining progressed at Qasr al-Yahud, Israeli officials expressed optimism that pilgrims to the baptismal site would triple, as each church gained full access to its facilities.
  • COVID-19 is devastating the industry. Closing the borders to tourism may cost $1.7 billion
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  • This may be particularly painful to Palestinians in Bethlehem, where 70 percent of the economy is derived from tourism and 9 out of 10 industry workers are Christians.
Ed Webb

Stopping COVID-19 in Its Tracks: Science Gets the Upper Hand - 0 views

  • Men like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman have finally joined much of the world in imposing science-driven degrees of lockdowns, social distancing, and the search for medical cures and protections after initially opting for political expediency or advocacy of traditional healing methods and/or religious precepts.
  • The consequences of science-based approaches for civilizationalists who advocate policies inspired by religion or the supremacy of one religious group over another could go far beyond what should shape public health policies.They could threaten the foundations of their religious support base as well as their discriminatory policies towards religious or ethnic minorities. Israel is a case in point in terms of both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious support base as well as his policies towards Israeli nationals of Palestinian descent.With ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods and cities emerging as the communities most affected by the coronavirus, some Israeli commentators argue that the pandemic could undermine rabbinical authority on a scale not seen since the Holocaust when large numbers left ultra-orthodoxy after rabbinical advice to remain in Europe proved devastating.
  • “Torah no longer saves from death. The coronavirus has dealt an unimaginable blow to the rabbinical authority – and worldview – that ultra-Orthodox Jews previously regarded as infallible and eternal,”
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  • the return home of some 45,000 Palestinian workers to the West Bank for this week’s Passover holiday is likely to create bottlenecks in both Israel and the Palestinian territory after the Israeli government decided that they would not be allowed to return because of health concerns.The decision threatens to create a labor shortage in Israel, increase economic pressure on an already weakened Palestine Authority, and facilitate the spread of the virus on the West Bank given the administration’s inability to test all returnees
  • “Because the two populations are so intertwined, curbing the virus only in one society is impossible,” said Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group.It’s a lesson that applies universally, not just to Israelis and Palestinians. That is no truer than in Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps that dot the eastern Mediterranean
  • whether anti-globalists and civilizationalists like it or not, the coronavirus is global and universal. So is the science that will ultimately help get control of the pandemic and eventually stop it in its tracks
Ed Webb

13 Christian Takes on Trump's Peace Plan for Israel and Pa...... | News & Reporting | C... - 0 views

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    Christianity Today reporters interviews varied Christian observers about Trump's plan.
Ed Webb

Liberman spawns 'alliance of the underprivileged' - 0 views

  • Israel’s political system is currently ensnared in a dizzying spiral the likes of which it has never known. The unprecedented decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to indict an incumbent prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust has rattled Israeli politics, which was already suffering from deep polarization, and this is just the beginning. In a nationally televised response to Mandelblit’s announcement of the indictments on Nov. 21, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he is being subjected to an “attempted coup.”
  • Netanyahu, heavily influenced by his legal woes, will push Israel into a third election in less than a year to gin up public support at the ballot box in the hope that his supporters will at least acquit him in the court of public opinion.
  • Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whose party holds the deciding votes in the current political deadlock, has not only put him in a bind, but has also created an “alliance of the underprivileged”
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  • Liberman, who under the current constellation has the power to decide who will be Israel’s next prime minister, is seeking to exclude the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs from power. Thus, these two groups, which would seem to have nothing in common save a possible desire to join forces against Liberman’s onslaught of incitement against them, are striking up a surprising “friendship.”
  • Israel’s Arab and ultra-Orthodox citizens — together constituting at least 30% of the population — are the country’s poorest demographic and the largest beneficiaries of its social welfare services. While Netanyahu and his right-wing allies shower generous budgets on the Jewish West Bank settlements and provide their residents with an array of benefits, members of the Arab Joint List and of the two ultra-Orthodox parties have to work hard to advance legislation that benefits their voters.
  • The first sign of their alliance appeared in the Knesset following Netanyahu’s harsh Nov. 13 speech accusing the 13 lawmakers for the Joint List of supporting and encouraging terrorism. At the start of the Nov. 19 session of the Knesset Finance Committee, Chair Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox Yahadut HaTorah, thanked his committee colleague Tibi for his ongoing cooperation. “You know how to leverage [this cooperation] for the benefit of the public you represent. You do so with great skill. We see it in the Arab communities too. There is development, and you have played a large role in this, and I thank you for it,” Gafni said. Gafni’s ultra-Orthodox colleague Yinon Azoulai of Shas seconded his assessment, asserting, “With the [Joint] List and Ahmad there always was cooperation, and it is always possible to do more.”
  • “The clear and present danger is the anti-Zionist coalition of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox Knesset members,” Liberman said. “This is truly an anti-Zionist coalition active in both blocs [left and right]. The Joint List is a real fifth column; there is no need to whitewash and hide it. Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox community and its political parties, too, are becoming increasingly anti-Zionist, and it’s time to stop this nonsense that only their fringes [are opposed to the State of Israel].”
  • Such cooperation could crush the protective right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc of 55 seats that Netanyahu has built and undermine his mantra that the formation of a center-left minority government supported by the Arab parties would be nothing short of a mass national terror attack.
  • Members of the Joint List are all too familiar with being targets of incitement and delegitimization by Netanyahu and others, but for Shas and Yahadut HaTorah, which have tied their fate to that of Netanyahu, this is a new experience. Thanks to Liberman, they too are now illegitimate, just like their Arab Knesset colleagues.
  • The last time Liberman tried to “bury” the Arab parties, he sponsored legislation raising the electoral threshold in 2014 so that only parties winning 3.25% of the vote could send representatives to the Knesset. The move, designed to exclude the small Arab parties, backfired, uniting the ideologically disparate parties into a single list. This forced union then overtook Liberman’s faction. As of the September elections, they are the third biggest Knesset faction, with 13 seats, while Liberman’s party has eight.
  • For the sake of the sacred goal of survival, there is no need for an ideological glue other than shared destiny, as the four Arab parties – Ta’al, Ra’am, Balad and Hadash — realized in uniting against Liberman and forming the Joint List.
Ed Webb

Netanyahu camp adds Arab 'extortion' to right-wing playbook - 0 views

  • The document that Netanyahu’s “natural partners” — Shas, Yahadut HaTorah and HaBayit HaYehudi–National Union — were coaxed to sign Oct. 16 is disturbing. The agreement reads, “If, God forbid, a minority government is sworn in with the support of the Joint List, either from outside the coalition or as a part of it, we will not join the government at any stage, we will vote against it in every vote, and we will do everything we can to topple it.” Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of the New Right declined to sign the agreement. It is especially worth noting the formula used to appeal to the ultra-Orthodox parties. The expression “God forbid” in this context is reserved for natural disasters or other cataclysmic events, which man alone cannot prevent.
  • Zohar asserts that anyone who cooperates with Arab Knesset members is prone to extortion by them, thereby becoming security threats to the State of Israel. In short, a person cooperating could essentially be considered a traitor. Netanyahu and his Likud associates have a long history of inciting against Israeli Arabs in general and Arab Knesset members in particular. This time, however, it looks like his breaking point is a lot more brittle. Unable to form a government, he is prepared to cross every red line imaginable.
  • “Netanyahu will do everything he can to obtain immunity and avoid prison,” Tibi remarked. “At this point, he is unable to form a government, so he is turning to incitement and the delegitimization of the Arab society.”
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  • Since utterances like “Arabs are heading to the polls in droves,” made on election day in 2015, and “election theft,” alleged during the April 2019 elections, are tired clichés by now, it looks like Netanyahu's new approach will be to try to scare Jewish voters with tales of “extortion” by the Arab parties on security matters
Ed Webb

Erdogan, Sultan of Jerusalem? - 0 views

  • No one who has visited Jerusalem over the past few years will be surprised by the preponderance of red Turkish flags with their crescent and star, fluttering over the city’s eastern Palestinian neighborhoods. These flags are just one visible manifestation of a major effort by the Turkish government to establish a presence in the Israeli capital. Investigative reports in the press, conducted over the last few years, have revealed the scope of Turkish activity in Jerusalem, which includes the renovation of homes, restoration of mosques and efforts to expose the residents of East Jerusalem to Turkish culture, including cooking workshops and Turkish-language classes. These efforts also include increasing involvement in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as described by Ben Caspit in July 2018.
  • Israel has decided to put an end to this Turkish involvement in Jerusalem affairs
  • Israel intends to revoke the head of TIKA’s diplomatic status in Jerusalem, effectively making his presence in Israel illegal. “The era of the Ottoman Empire is over. Turkey has no reason to be in Jerusalem,” said the Foreign Ministry in an especially bellicose statement. “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s declarations that Jerusalem belongs to all Muslims are absolutely baseless and ridiculous. Israel maintains sovereignty in Jerusalem, while ensuring freedom of worship for all religions. We will not allow anyone to interrupt this sovereignty.”
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  • “People wandering around East Jerusalem might think that they are visiting a Turkish city. There are voluminous amounts of flags, stickers and signage, and the Turkish presence is very obvious. This includes charitable activity. In winter, they distribute heaters, warm clothing and food stamps. Last Ramadan, they handed out $100 to all businesses in the Old City. They are involved in the educational system, they renovate buildings and they organize heavily subsidized and even free trips [from Turkey to Al-Aqsa Mosque]. As someone on the ground here, I am constantly surprised by the scope of this activity."
  • a neo-Ottoman policy that Erdogan has been promoting over the past few years. Its goal is to bolster Turkish control in Jerusalem
  • “As far as he is concerned, the fact that the Ottomans once ruled here means that he is no stranger to Jerusalem. He is also challenging Israeli sovereignty in the city. Turkish activity in Jerusalem is his way of engaging in the soft conquest of al-Quds [Jerusalem].”
  • Turks have renovated Mamluk buildings, which they then pass off as Ottoman. “Apart from the city walls, built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, there aren’t many Ottoman sites in Jerusalem. In contrast, the Mamluks invested quite a bit on construction in Jerusalem, and that’s good enough for Erdogan,” he told Al-Monitor. “It demonstrates his desire to flood Jerusalem with ties to the Ottoman Empire.”
  • Israeli experts estimate that another person particularly concerned about the situation is King Abdullah of Jordan, who has a special status in Jerusalem as “Protector of the Holy Sites.” The Foreign Ministry’s statement refers to these Jordanian concerns. “In accordance with the peace treaty with Jordan, the Jordanians have a special status at the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. As such, we will not allow Erdogan to interfere with this special status, as they are doing now,” reads the statement.
  • the growing presence of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Temple Mount compound. They come with lots of money, and their efforts are already bearing fruit. Erdogan’s popularity among the Palestinians is skyrocketing, and the main person to suffer for that is Jordan’s King Abdullah. He cannot compete with the funds that the Turks are pouring in, while his rhetoric on behalf of the Palestinians pales in comparison to Erdogan’s stinging attacks.”
  • “Erdogan’s ultimate goal is Erdogan himself. He wants to become 'Sultan of all Muslims.' Unlike Iran, for example, which has no access to Jerusalem, Turkey does have access to the city. Israel allows him to operate on the ground and emblazon Jerusalem prominently on his personal banner. This positions him as the greatest Muslim leader in the world.”
  • “He wants to return to rule over all those lands that were once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. We are witnessing Turkish activity of this kind not only in the Middle East but in the Balkans and Caucasus too
  • Mordechai Goldman has served for the past few years as the diplomatic and military analyst of the ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevaser. He attended ultra-Orthodox rabbinical colleges and studied psychology at the Israeli Open University. He also participated in the national civil service program. Goldman lectures to ultra-Orthodox audiences on the diplomatic process and on the Israel Defense Forces and consults with companies in regard to the ultra-Orthodox sector.
Ed Webb

Liberman's secular campaign turns him into kingmaker - 0 views

  • A little over 173,000 people voted for Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party in April, giving it five Knesset seats. In September, the number of people who voted for the party shot up to 310,000. So, after just 3½ months of campaigning, it gained 137,000 new voters and grew to eight seats. These eight seats make it impossible for either bloc — right or left — to form a narrow majority government. That's why, on Oct. 3, the very day that the new Knesset was sworn in, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated a meeting with Liberman. He wanted to convince the Yisrael Beitenu leader to join the new government that he was trying to form
  • It seems like Liberman succeeded in selling voters on his formula for change, specifically in matters of religion and state. That is something that most people support, particularly in the political center. What Liberman also offered them was a realistic way to make it happen. He proposed bringing two main parties — the Likud and Blue and White — together, given that there are so few ideological differences between them. Doing this would seem to be the most natural thing in the world. The problem is that the Blue and White party rejects Netanyahu, because of his pending criminal cases, while the Likud insists on bringing its right-wing, ultra-Orthodox bloc along with it.
  • Liberman called for a change to the status quo on matters of religion and state and laid out a path to achieve this, i.e., a unity government without the ultra-Orthodox or the ultra-Orthodox nationalists.
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  • He wants to see a new government made up of the Likud, Blue and White, and his Yisrael Beitenu party only, thereby forcing Netanyahu to sever his sacred alliance with the ultra-Orthodox. In this way, Liberman could advance the changes that he promised. When, about two weeks before the election, the Blue and White party realized that Liberman is stealing many of their votes because of this position, they also started talking about a secular, liberal government. Liberman now claims that this was why he did not have an even bigger victory.
  • most of the party’s new voters supported it because it established itself in their minds as a kind of middle ground with a message of unity, and as a party capable of solving problems of religion and state, such as public transportation on the Sabbath, conversion, the Conscription Law,
  • the second generation of immigrants, who came here when they were very young or who were actually born in Israel, are now suffering because of the Chief Rabbinate, which is forcing them to prove that they are Jewish in order to get married. This is especially insulting to them, given that they fought so hard to preserve their Jewish identities under the Soviet regime.
  • One possible explanation for this movement of voters from the Likud to Yisrael Beitenu could be the characteristics of many such voters — people who immigrated to Israel from Russian-speaking countries, or people whose parents did. In the past, these people voted for the Likud, because their politics traditionally veer (nationalistic) right, but in this election, they internalized Yisrael Beitenu’s campaign message concerning religion and state. Liberman’s focus on these issues is particularly dear to them. The fact that they have to prove to the Rabbinate that they are really Jews before they can get married seems to have clinched the deal.
  • One other group where Liberman was successful was the Druze sector. According to the Globes analysis, Yisrael Beitenu received 10,000 votes from the Druze sector, compared to just 6,000 in April. What is remarkable is that Yisrael Beitenu won these votes even though it supported the Nationality Law, which infuriated Israel’s Druze community. Hamad Amar, a Druze Knesset member for Yisrael Beitenu, told Al-Monitor that these Druze voters were very impressed by the way Liberman stuck to his principles in last May’s coalition negotiations. “They recognized that Liberman sticks to his word and that he is reliable. That is the most important thing for us.”
Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

Israelis praying at Petra shrine sparks outrage in Jordan - 0 views

  • The Jordanian government on Aug. 1 closed a shrine dedicated to the prophet Aaron near the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. The move followed a burst of public outrage sparked by videos and photos circulating on the internet showing a group of Jewish tourists praying at the site. 
  • Suleiman Farajat, commissioner of the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA), had said in an Aug. 2 statement that the photos shared online date to 2013, but that the videos of Jewish men praying were more recent. Farajat remarked that the PDTRA had closed the site after learning that some 300 Israeli tourists had been planning to visit the shrine. At least five Israelis were able to enter the tomb, having been permitted access by guards. Farajat stressed that the authority will not allow non-Islamic religious ceremonies at the site. He asserted in his statement that the tomb has nothing to do with Judaism historically or archaeologically.
  • an Israeli tour guide for one visit had denied that any of the tourists had prayed and said the trip had been coordinated with Jordanian authorities
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  • These events have come to light in the wake of a public build-up of suspicion and hostility toward Israel over the nebulous, US-sponsored peace plan dubbed the “deal of the century,” which most Jordanians view as a threat to their country. Jordanians have also been critical of the agreement signed in 2016 for Israel to provide Jordan with natural gas over a 10-year period. Lawmakers, led by the Islamist bloc Al-Islah, have been pressuring the government to cancel the deal.
  • “The small Muslim shrine on top of the high peak at Jabal an-Nabi Harun was constructed in 1330 by the Mamluk Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad.” She added, “There is a tomb inside the shrine, but there is no evidence whatsoever that it actually belongs to Aaron. Such shrines to prophets and virtuous men were built at many places by the Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans to enforce the Muslim identity of the state and to vent political discontent by the local populations.
  • in July the Royal Film Commission in Jordan had approved the shooting in Petra of “Jaber,” a controversial, fictional film whose storyline has Jews settling in the city after the Exodus from Egypt. Jordanians railed that the “Zionist script” fabricates an Israeli claim to the ancient city. Under public pressure, a number of Jordanian actors withdrew from the project, and on Aug. 3, the director, the Jordanian-born US national Mohydeen Izzat Quandour, announced the cancellation of the shooting.
  • Daoud Kuttab (who also writes for Al-Monitor) wrote, “The reality is that the current leaders in Tel Aviv and Washington have done little to calm jittery Jordanians and Palestinians, who are concerned about the growth of [a] messianic Jewish ideology that tries to connect biblical history with modern day politics.
  • “Religious sites should be respected, and freedom of worship and visit should not be interfered in, but the problem that faces political leaders and government officials is how to deal with the genuine worry that what appears to be a crazy notion by a few zealous individuals could one day become a political reality.” 
  • the deep-seated unease felt by a majority of Jordanians about Israeli intentions toward the kingdom in light of increasing tensions between Jordan and Israel over the Haram al-Sharif and the demise of the two-state solution
Ed Webb

Israel's Religiously Divided Society | Pew Research Center - 0 views

  • a major new survey by Pew Research Center also finds deep divisions in Israeli society – not only between Israeli Jews and the country’s Arab minority, but also among the religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”)
  • secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian
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  • The vast majority of secular Jews say democratic principles should take precedence over religious law, while a similarly large share of ultra-Orthodox Jews say religious law should take priority.
  • When asked, “What is your present religion, if any?” virtually all Israeli Jews say they are Jewish – and almost none say they have no religion – even though roughly half describe themselves as secular and one-in-five do not believe in God.
  • Sephardim/Mizrahim are generally more religiously observant than Ashkenazim, and men are somewhat more likely than women to say halakha should take precedence over democratic principles. But in many respects, these demographic differences are dwarfed by the major gulfs seen among the four religious subgroups that make up Israeli Jewry.
  • Most non-Jewish residents of Israel are ethnically Arab and identify, religiously, as Muslims, Christians or Druze
  • Israeli Arabs generally do not think Israel can be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time. This view is expressed by majorities of Muslims, Christians and Druze. And overwhelmingly, all three of these groups say that if there is a conflict between Jewish law and democracy, democracy should take precedence
  • Fully 58% of Muslims favor enshrining sharia as official law for Muslims in Israel, and 55% of Christians favor making the Bible the law of the land for Christians
  • Roughly eight-in-ten Israeli Arabs (79%) say there is a lot of discrimination in Israeli society against Muslims, who are by far the biggest of the religious minorities. On this issue, Jews take the opposite view; the vast majority (74%) say they do not see much discrimination against Muslims in Israel
  • Nearly half of Israeli Jews say Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel, including roughly one-in-five Jewish adults who strongly agree with this position
  • About one-in-six Muslims say they have been questioned by security officials (17%), prevented from traveling (15%) or physically threatened or attacked (15%) because of their religion in the past 12 months, while 13% say they have suffered property damage. All told, 37% of Muslims say they have suffered at least one of these forms of discrimination because of their religious identity in the past year
  • The vast majority of Jews (98%), Muslims (85%), Christians (86%) and Druze (83%) say all or most of their close friends belong to their own religious community
  • Israeli Jews overall are more religiously observant than U.S. Jews. Politically, American Jews are more optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution and more negative about Jewish settlements in the West Bank than are Israeli Jews
  • Israel is no longer a predominantly immigrant society; at present, roughly three-quarters of Israeli adults are natives, and just one-quarter were born abroad. Yet with virtual unanimity, Israeli Jews of every kind – native-born and immigrant, young and old, secular and highly religious – agree that all Jews everywhere should have the right to make “aliyah,” or move to Israel and receive immediate citizenship.2 This overwhelming support for Jewish immigration may be linked, in part, to perceptions about anti-Semitism. Fully three-quarters of Israeli Jews (76%) think that anti-Semitism is both common and increasing around the world, and roughly nine-in-ten (91%) say that a Jewish state is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people.
  • A solid majority of Haredim (62%) favor gender segregation on public transportation, such as buses and trains, used by members of the Haredi community. Among Hilonim, meanwhile, just 5% favor this policy. The vast majority of Hilonim (93%) are opposed to enforcing gender segregation on any public transport, even when it is used by Haredim
  • The survey asked Jews whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” Roughly half of Israeli Jews strongly agree (21%) or agree (27%), while a similar share disagree (29%) or strongly disagree (17%).3 Datiim are especially likely to favor the expulsion of Arabs. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) say Arabs should be transferred. Hilonim lean in the other direction: Most (58%) disagree and say Arabs should not be expelled from Israel, including 25% who strongly disagree. But even among these self-described secular Israeli Jews, about one-third (36%) favor the expulsion of Arabs from the country
  • Seven-in-ten Haredim (70%) and roughly half of Datiim (52%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion, while 3% of Haredim and 16% of Datiim say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. Among Hilonim, by contrast, only 4% see being Jewish as primarily a matter of religion, while 83% say Jewish identity is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture. However, at least some members of all of these groups see their Jewish identity as bound up with both religion and ancestry/culture.
  • Arabs in Israel – especially Muslims – are more religiously observant than Jews as a whole. Fully two-thirds of Israeli Arabs say religion is very important in their lives, compared with just 30% of Jews. Israeli Muslims (68%), Christians (57%) and Druze (49%) all are more likely than Jews to say religion is very important to them, personally. In addition, more Arabs than Jews report that they pray daily and participate in weekly worship services.
  • Religious intermarriages cannot be performed in Israel (although civil marriages that take place in other countries are legally recognized in Israel).7 This is reflected in the rarity of marriages between members of different religious communities in the country. Nearly all Israelis in the survey who are married or living with a partner say their spouse or partner shares their religion. Relatively few married Muslim, Christian and Druze residents (1%) say their spouse has a different religion, and only 2% of married Jews say they have a spouse who belongs to a non-Jewish religion or is religiously unaffiliated.
  • Israeli Arabs are highly skeptical about the sincerity of the Israeli government in seeking a peace agreement, while Israeli Jews are equally skeptical about the sincerity of Palestinian leaders. But there is plenty of distrust to go around: Fully 40% of Israeli Jews say their own government is not making a sincere effort toward peace, and an equal share of Israeli Arabs say the same about Palestinian leaders.
  • While Muslims living in Israel, overall, are more religious than Israeli Jews, they are less religious than Muslims living in many other countries in the region. For example, about two-thirds of Muslims in Israel (68%) say religion is very important in their lives – higher than the comparable share of Lebanese Muslims (59%), but lower than the share of Muslims in Jordan (85%), the Palestinian territories (85%) and Iraq (82%) who say this.
Ed Webb

The Disappeared Children of Israel - The New York Times - 0 views

  • a community of Israelis of Yemenite descent who for decades have been seeking answers about their lost kin.
  • Known as the “Yemenite Children Affair,” there are over 1,000 official reported cases of missing babies and toddlers, but some estimates from advocates are as high as 4,500. Their families believe the babies were abducted by the Israeli authorities in the 1950s, and were illegally put up for adoption to childless Ashkenazi families, Jews of European descent. The children who disappeared were mostly from the Yemenite and other “Mizrahi” communities, an umbrella term for Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. While the Israeli government is trying to be more transparent about the disappearances, to this day, it denies that there were systematic abductions.
  • Following the nation’s founding in 1948, new immigrants to Israel were placed in transit camps, in harsh conditions, which were tent cities operated by the state because of housing shortages. Hundreds of testimonies from families living in the camps were eerily similar: Women who gave birth in overburdened hospitals or who took their infants to the doctor were told that their children had suddenly died. Some families’ testimonies stated that they were instructed to leave their children at nurseries, and when their parents returned to pick them up, they were told their children had been taken to the hospital, never to be seen again. The families were never shown a body or a grave. Many never received death certificates.
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  • Naama Katiee, 42, remembers hearing about Rabbi Meshulam as a teenager. She asked her Yemenite father about what happened, but he said he didn’t want to discuss it. She met Shlomi Hatuka, 40, on Facebook through Mizrahi activist groups and together they founded AMRAM, a nonprofit organization that has cataloged over 800 testimonies of families on its website.
  • a movement among the younger generation of Israelis of Yemenite descent — and activists from the broader Mizrahi community — who are building public pressure in demanding explanations for the disappearances and acknowledgment of systematic abductions.
  • “They really thought they had to raise a new generation, which was separate from the old ‘primitive’ community,” Ms. Katiee said about the early state of Israel. During the years soon after the country’s founding, Jews in Israel emigrated from over 80 countries and from several ethnic groups, part of a national project focused on forging a common new Israeli identity. Recently arrived Yemenite and other Mizrahi Jews tended to be poor, more religious and less formally educated than the Ashkenazi establishment in Israel, who looked down on them and wanted them to conform to their idea of a modern Israel.
  • For years, families were told they were wrong to accuse the Israeli government of such malice. Mr. Hatuka said that many of the mothers interviewed by AMRAM, including his own grandmother who lost a child, were often conflicted about whom to hold responsible. “They love this country,” he said. “My grandmother knew that something was wrong, but at the same time she couldn’t believe that someone who is Jewish would do this to her.”
  • The issue continues to resurface because of sporadic cases of family members, who were said to have died as infants, being reunited through DNA testing, as well as a number of testimonies from nurses working at the time who corroborated that babies were taken.
  • deep mistrust between the state and the families.
  • In 1949, Mrs. Ronen arrived in Israel from Iran while 8 months pregnant with twin girls. After she gave birth, the hospital released her, advising that she rest in the transit camp for a few days before taking the girls home. When she called the hospital to tell them she was coming for her babies, she recalled that the staff informed her: “One died in the morning and one before noon. There is nothing for you to come for anymore.”
  • Gil Grunbaum, 62, became aware of his adoption at age 38, when a family friend told his wife, Ilana, that he was adopted. Mr. Grunbaum tracked down his biological mother, an immigrant from Tunisia, who was told her son died during her sedated birth in 1956. Mr. Grunbaum’s adoptive parents were Holocaust survivors from Poland. He didn’t want to add more trauma to their lives, so he kept the discovery to himself.
  • Ms. Aharoni said that she then went to consult her father, a respected rabbi in the community, who dismissed her suspicions. “You are not allowed to think that about Israel; they wouldn’t take a daughter from you,”
  • “Jews doing this to other Jews? I don’t know,”
Ed Webb

Parents protest as dream of bilingual education in Israel turns sour | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Hand in Hand operates four bilingual schools across Israel and two kindergartens. Jaffa’s primary school classes are the most recent addition.The idea of children from different cultural backgrounds learning together and speaking each other’s language may seem uncontroversial. But it has prompted a fierce backlash from right-wing Jewish groups in Israel.In late 2014 Hand in Hand’s flagship school in Jerusalem was torched by activists from Lehava, an organisation that opposes integration between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Graffiti daubed on the walls read “Death to the Arabs” and “There can be no coexistence with cancer”.Three of the group’s members were jailed last year. In January Israel’s high court increased the sentences of two brothers involved in the arson attack.Although Lehava is a fringe group, it draws on ideas that have found favour with much larger numbers of Israeli Jews, especially over the past 15 years as the country has lurched to the right.A survey by the Pew polling organisation this month found that half of Israeli Jews wanted Arabs expelled from the state, and 79 percent believed Jews should have more rights than their Palestinian compatriots.
  • 1,350 children are currently in bilingual education, out of a total Israeli school population of some 1.5 million children.
  • The Jaffa parents argue that their coastal city of 50,000 residents, which is incorporated into the Tel Aviv municipal area, is the natural location for a bilingual school.A third of Jaffa’s residents are Palestinian, reflecting the fact that, before Israel’s creation in 1948, it was Palestine’s commercial centre.Although Israelis mostly live in separate communities, based on their ethnicity, Jaffa is one of half a dozen urban areas where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live close to each other.
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  • Within days of the bilingual first-grade classes opening last year, parents hit a crisis when school administrators refused to let the children take off the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha.When the parents rebelled and kept their children home, the management “flipped out”, said Ronel. “Now the trust has gone and we are demanding that they make commitments in writing that things will be different.”
  • Ronel, an Israeli Jewish journalist, said he had long been pessimistic about the region’s future and had contemplated leaving Israel with his family, taking advantage of his wife’s German passport. But that changed once his daughter, Ruth, began at the bilingual kindergarten.“I have become evangelical about it,” he said. “I see how her knowledge of Palestinian identity and the Arabic language has made her own identity much stronger.”He said knowing the other side was essential to strengthening Israelis’ sense of security and reducing their fears. “This is the model for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict too. I am sure this is what a solution will look like.”
  • bilingual schools are proving particularly popular in Israel’s mixed cities. Next year Hand in Hand will open the first bilingual elementary school in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, following the success of a bilingual kindergarten there
  • Far-right Jewish religious groups, ideologically close to the settlers, have set up seminaries and exclusive housing areas in Jaffa and other mixed cities. “They are going the other way: they want even deeper segregation,” said Dichter.Hassan Agbaria, principal of the only bilingual school in a Palestinian community in Israel, located in the northern town of Kafr Karia, said there were problems in more rural areas too. This month the gated Jewish community of Katzir, close to his school, refused to allow Hand in Hand organisers in for a parents’ registration meeting, accusing the group of “political activity”.“It is a big psychological hurdle for some of them,” he told MEE. “Some think you must be crazy to send your young children into an Arab community every day.”
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