July - August 2010
The Catholic Church
- Bishop notes Key Points for Israeli-Palestinian Talks .............................. 2 - Holy Land Contemplatives: E-mail us your Petitions ................................ 3 Cath/Jewish Relations - Pius XII's Efforts to save Jewish Culture revealed .................................... 4 - Vatican appoints New Head of Jewish Relations Office ........................... 5 - Peres to visit Pope at a time of "serious" dialogue between Rome and Jerusalem ................................................................................... 6 Nomination - Palestinian Bishop Elected President of the Lutheran World Federation .. 8 Cath./Muslim Relations - Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan ............................................... 9 Miscellaenous - Israeli Leftists: Jerusalem Mayor is handing the City to Settlers ............. 10 - UK Church to boycott Israeli Goods ........................................................ 11 - US Presbyterians call to end aid to Israel unless settlement growth stops ........................................................................... 12 - 1st Holy Land Christian Radio Station to air soon................................... 13 - Secular Jews drawn to Holy Shroud Exhibit in Jerusalem....................... 14 - The absentee from 6 Molcho Street ......................................................... 15 - Iftar: Muslims, Jews, Christians discuss Fasting...................................... 18 Education - Im Tirtzu may lose funding over Boycott Threat to Ben-Gurion Univ. [Christian group in U.S. cuts funding to Israeli organization] ................. 19 - Israeli Wall blocks Children from School ................................................ 20 Archaeology/ - Long Time Archaeological Riddle solved ............................................... 21 Excavations - Ancient Site near Nablus 'too problematic' to open ................................. 23 - Christian Pilgrimage Site could become a shopping Mall ....................... 24 - Oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem ................................... 25 - Gazaâ€™s Ancient Treasures discovered ...................................................... 26 - Lutheran Church Altar found at Ruin of Jerusalem Army Camp ............ 28 - Temple found in Philistine Home of Goliath ........................................... 29 - Relative Calm in Holy Land Opens Door to Pilgrims ............................. 30 - Summer Tourism numbers heat up .......................................................... 31
Editor: Athanasius MACORA, ofm
Bishop notes Key Points for Israeli-Palestinian Talks Expresses Hope for Return of Christians ROME - The division of Jerusalem and the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories are two key points for the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks, according to Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Prelate made this claim over the weekend on Vatican Radio regarding the beginning of a new round of talks between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority, orchestrated by U.S. President Barack Obama, which will be held at the White House in Washington, D.C. On Sept. 1, the President will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The next day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with the two in a joint meeting. The talks are being held with no preconditions, and they have a one-year deadline. Also on hand for the talks will be Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah II of Jordan, as well as the Middle East diplomatic Quartet: the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. In the Vatican Radio interview, Bishop Shomali spoke first of "the withdrawal from the occupied territories. Israel did not have the intention to leave and abandon everything." "The second point," he continued, "is Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is part of the territorial problem. For Israel, Jerusalem is the exclusive capital of Israel. If it agrees to share and give the Old City to the Palestinians, everything will go well. If they do not agree, it would be a big problem." Skeptical The Auxiliary Bishop admitted that he is a little skeptical about the good outcome of the negotiations "because this is the umpteenth time that they have come back to the negotiating table, so we have a limited optimism." "Everything depends," he said, "on how much pressure the Americans are able to exert on the two, especially on Israel to withdraw." But the principle objective remains two states, because "without two states there is no peace." "Even Benedict XVI," the prelate pointed out, "said this when he was in the Holy Land." "But the question is," he continued, "will the Palestinian State that is born be able to last, will it have all the components of a State? That means having all its territories, its capital, the conditions of life. Therefore, not only a State but a â€˜validâ€™ State, with all the conditions for life." Good outcome For Bishop Shomali, however, a good outcome "would be the best factor for stopping the Christian exodus from the Holy Land." "In regard to the return of Christians," he added, "everything depends on [the details of] the agreement because among the clauses imposed by Israel until now is the non-return of Palestinian refugees, those who do not have a Palestinian ID card, which means those who were here in 1967."
"All those who left before 1967 have been up until now practically been prevented from returning by an Israeli blockade," he explained. "Thus everything depends on the negotiations and on the good will of the Christians who are authorized to return, because many of them, doing well abroad, do not want to come back. "Let us hope and pray that a certain number will agree to return in case they are authorized after the negotiations." Zenit – 22 August 2010
Holy Land Contemplatives: E-mail us your Petitions Embrace Mission to Intercede for Society JERUSALEM - Several contemplative communities in the Holy Land are now accepting e-mailed prayer requests. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced that it set up this service whereby people worldwide can request prayers from the religious communities that reside in the Holy Land. In a communiqué, the Patriarchate acknowledged that these prayer intentions "may be very important to you and this is the reason why you want to entrust them to the people who have devoted their life to God and who live and pray in the Holy Land." The communiqué also quoted from the instrumentum laboris (working document) of the upcoming synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which states that "the first mission of the monks and nuns is the prayer and intercession for society." The Patriarchate invited the faithful to send their prayer requests to one or several of the religious communities. It noted: "You can entrust them your prayers, specifying the details you want to communicate. All this will stay private and only be known by you and the community!" The e-mail addresses given by the Patriarchate are as follows: -- Poor Clares, Nazareth: email@example.com -- Carmelites, Mount Carmel, Haifa: firstname.lastname@example.org -- Nuns of the Emmanuel, Bethlehem: email@example.com -- Bridgettine Sisters, Bethlehem: firstname.lastname@example.org -- Silent Workers of the Cross, Mater Misericordiae, Jerusalem: email@example.com -- Benedictines, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem: firstname.lastname@example.org -- Poor Clares, Jerusalem: email@example.com -- Carmelites of the Pater, Jerusalem: firstname.lastname@example.org -- Nuns of Bethlehem, Bet Gemal, Bet Shemesh: email@example.com -- Little Family of the Resurrection, Jerusalem: firstname.lastname@example.org Zenit – 27 August 2010
Pius XII's Efforts to save Jewish Culture revealed Mobilized Church Leaders to defend Synagogues NEW YORK - The recently opened sections of the Vatican Secret Archives have revealed that Pope Pius XII not only helped save thousands of Jews, but also their patrimony, from the Nazis. Pave the Way Foundation reported Tuesday that its researchers found documents of "great importance." Michael Hesemann, a historian and foundation representative from Germany, has been researching documents in the Vatican archives and he found a letter sent by Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who would later become Pius XII, on Nov. 30, 1938, only three weeks after the Kristallnacht. In this letter, which was sent to the Nunciatures and Apostolic Delegations as well as 61 bishops, the Cardinal requested 200,000 visas for "non-Aryan Catholics." Just over a month later, on Jan. 9, 1939, he sent three additional letters. Hesemann explained that this language, in which Cardinal Pacelli speaks about "converted Jews" and "non-Aryan Catholics," is most likely a cover to hide the real scheme from the Nazis. At that time, under the concordat of 1933, Germany allowed the Holy See to aid those considered "non-Aryan Catholics." The foundation added that Cardinal Pacelli specifically requested in his letter: "Care should be taken that sanctuaries are provided to safeguard their spiritual welfare and to protect their religious cult, customs and traditions." Persecuted The communiquĂŠ explained that this seems to refer to a group other than converted Jews, who, upon their baptisms, "just became normal Catholics" without any "sanctuaries, customs, or traditions on their own." Furthermore, many of the bishops responded to the Cardinal's request, and documents show that they referred to aiding the "persecuted Jews" rather than the "converted Jews" or "nonAryan Catholics." Matteo Luigi Napolitano, Political Science Professor at the University of Urbino, Italy, told ZENIT that one of the Jan. 9, 1939, letters was even more explicit. It too was sent to over 60 prelates, and the instructions, written in Latin, "leave no room for doubt about the intentions of the Holy See and about Eugenio Pacelli's thoughts," the scholar said. The letter, he reported, reads, "Do not engage in saving only Jewish people but also synagogues, cultural centers and everything that pertains to their faith: the Torah scrolls, libraries, cultural centers, etc.)." The foundation explained that this point is important, because many historians have only acknowledged the efforts of Pius XII to save converted Jews, but the evidence seems to paint a different picture. It continued: "Since many of the critics of this Papacy have not yet accepted the proven Nazi threat against the Vatican State and the life of Pope Pius XII directly, they seem not to understand that there was a need for deception sending only encrypted or verbal directives.
"In many cases the historians are ignorant of the unique Vatican language sometimes using ancient Latin to express the hidden meaning of these requests." It added that "the terms non-Aryan Catholics, non-Aryans, and Catholic Jews all indeed meant Jews," thus coded so that "if documents were intercepted, this deception would not raise a red flag since the concordat signed in 1933 specifically provided protection for Jews who converted to Christianity." Eliminate obstacles The foundation's President, Gary Krupp, underlined the mission "to identify and eliminate non-theological obstacles between religions," such as the discrepancies regarding the World War II Papacy of Pius XII. In this light, he said, the foundation undertook a "document retrieval project of the war time era to publicly post as many documents and eye witness testimonies as possible to bring the truth to light." Elliot Hershberg, the foundation's chairman, stated that the organization "will continue to reveal as many documents as possible since everything we have found thus far seems to indicate the known negative perception of Pope Pius XII is wrong." The foundation has over 40,000 pages of documents on its Web site, along with eyewitness videos available for public perusal. Hershberg affirmed, "We also believe that many Jews who were successful in leaving Europe may not have had any idea that their visas and travel documents were obtained through these Vatican efforts." Ronald Rychlak, author of "Hitler, the War and the Pope," acknowledged that this discovery by the foundation is "another confirmation" of the "good works of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church." He stated, "The important aspect of this document is that it shows what many of us have been saying all along: Efforts that appear to have been directed to protect only converted Jews actually protected Jews regardless of whether they had converted." [With the contribution of Jesús Colina]. Zenit – 1 July 2010
Vatican appoints New Head of Jewish Relations Office Bishop Kurt Koch of Switzerland receives warm welcome from Jewish community. Bishop Kurt Koch of Switzerland will soon be appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to head the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity – the office that oversees relations with Jews and non-Catholic Christians. Koch will replace Cardinal Walter Kasper, who served in the position for 11 years, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told the Catholic News Agency on Wednesday. The American Jewish Committee warmly welcomed the appointment. “Bishop Koch has a fine record of deep friendship with the Swiss Jewish community, as well as profound commitment to the singular religious and historical nature of the church’s
relationship with Judaism and Jewry,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs. “We look forward to a close working relationship with Bishop Koch.” B’nai B’rith paid tribute to the outgoing Kasper in a recent letter for being a true and faithful partner and for his “approach of constructiveness and healing” in his engagement with Jewish leaders. “We have been privileged to know the warmth, openness and spirit that you have brought to your work,” wrote B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, and Director of UN and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels. “Your leadership of the council has been characterized by great devotion – indicative of the profound importance of, and immense strides over the course of less than half a century in, the Catholic-Jewish relationship. Undoubtedly, your personal role in caring for and advancing this endeavor has been significant,” the letter continued. B’nai B’rith expressed the hope that even in his retirement, Kasper’s contributions would continue to provide an enduring foundation for the advancement of relations between Catholics and Jews. By Jonah Mandel The Jerusalem Post – 2 July 2010
Peres to visit Pope at a time of "serious" dialogue between Rome and Jerusalem AsiaNews (Tel Aviv) - On Thursday, the President of the State of Israel, will be received in Audience at Castelgandolfo by Pope Benedict XVI. In preparation for this appointment, the octogenarian Head of State told an interviewer on the First Channel of Italy’s public television (RAI): “The relations between the Vatican and the Jewish State are the best since the times of Jesus Christ, and have never been so good in two thousand years of history.” He added too: “The reigning Pontiff wishes to have a sincere dialogue with us, as we wish to have with the Vatican.” It is difficult to foresee that the visit of Peres to the Pope will have any specific effect on practical details of these relations, which in substance are being dealt with through other channels. The President, in Israel, is an almost exclusively symbolic figure, while the executive power is exercised by the Government. More probably, President Peres’s travels are in the context of the task he has for a while now assigned himself of cultivating Israel’s international image, given wide-spread skepticism concerning the intentions of the Government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister himself will on that day be in Washington, for the start of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), chaired by Mahmoud Abbas, “Abu Mazen” – negotiations convened by President Barack Obama of the United States. As for the bilateral relations with the Catholic Church (or as is improperly said in the televised interview, “the Vatican”), these are now at a phase of special importance. Since 29 July 1992, the Holy See and Israel are committed to concluding a series of “concordat-type” treaties, which together are meant to achieve legal and fiscal security for the Catholic Church in Israel.
Two of those treaties were already signed and ratified some years ago: The “Fundamental Agreement” (30 December 1993), a kind of “Bill of Rights” for the Church in the Jewish State, and the “Legal Personality Agreement” (10 November 1997), which recognizes for civil purposes too the legal personality of the Church and of Church bodies. However, neither of these treaties has been introduced into Israel’s own legislation, which means that their usefulness is at present limited. Since 11 March 1999, the Parties have been negotiating a third Agreement, for the purpose of confirming the fiscal status of the Church in Israel, especially the historic fiscal exemptions, which are an essential requirement for the ability of the Church to continue to carry out her functions of representing in the Holy Land the world-wide Church and of caring for the faithful locally. This third Agreement will also have to safeguard the Church’s properties in Israel, the Holy Places above all, and to provide for the restitution of certain such properties, such as for example the church-shrine in Caesarea, which was expropriated and razed to the ground in the 1950’s. The next “plenary” meeting of the negotiators – who together constitute the “Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel” - is scheduled for 6 December this year. In the meanwhile, well informed sources say, the negotiators are working intensively. The United States, France, Italy and other nations are closely (though discreetly) following the course of the negotiations, consistently with their support – and that of their Catholic citizens – for the presence and work of the Church in the Holy Land. Once this Agreement is made (and it is impossible to foresee when this may be), or even before then and parallel to the talks about it, the “agenda” foresees several more Agreements of no lesser importance. In the course of the years, three subjects in particular have been publicly emphasized. First of all, an agreement that would guarantee and regulate in a stable manner the issuance of entry visas and residence permits for Church personnel from elsewhere. Here the State’s policies have varied over time, though their overall direction has been rather restrictive. More than anything else, it is the lack of legal certainty that is problematic, namely the lack of officially published criteria. Then there is this subject that is of the greatest pastoral concern, norms to guarantee the access to pastoral care of members of the faithful who find themselves in circumstances of limited mobility, specifically prisoners, members of the military and hospital patients. The accord on these matters between the Government of Italy and the Union of the Jewish Communities in Italy is often mentioned as a model, given the analogy between the small Jewish minority in Italy and the small Christian minority in Israel. The third subject often publicly mentioned in these years is a review of the presentation of Christ, Christianity and the Church in Israel’s school system. It would serve to verify effective reciprocity in relation to the immense undertaking by the Catholic Church over recent decades to ensure a correct, indeed a friendly, presentation of Judaism and the Jews in Catholic education. There is then still some way to go in order for the “dialogue” mentioned by President Peres to achieve its purposes completely. However, the forward-looking optimism of the President of Israel is promising, and in fact it seems that both Parties are working towards that goal and are making steady progress. Thus the Franciscan Jurist, Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, an expert on Church-State relations in Israel, tells AsiaNews: “Especially in the last few years, it appears that the negotiations, which in effect constitute this ‘dialogue’ – to which President Peres refers – between the Holy See and the State of Israel, are being pursued by both Parties with great seriousness and
commitment, as is evident from the ‘Joint Communiqués’ released from time to time by the Bilateral Commission. Though without ignoring the problems in various sectors of the day-to-day relations between the Church and the State, optimism is obligatory, and such optimism in itself has a decidedly beneficial influence.” He adds too: “In the end, obstinate optimism endows the experience of daily life with an eschatological horizon.” By Arieh Cohen AsiaNews – 31 August 2010
Palestinian Bishop Elected President of the Lutheran World Federation STUTTGART, Germany - Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has been elected President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) by the Eleventh Assembly here, a gathering of 418 delegates and others from the LWF member churches. Three hundred and sixty registered delegates voted, representing 140 member churches from 79 countries. Rt. Rev. Dr Younan received 300 votes affirming his election, 23 against; there were 37 abstentions. There were no other nominees. Younan, 59, succeeds Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who has been President of the LWF since the organization's last Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2003. Ordained in 1976 after study in Palestine and gaining a degree from the University of Helsinki [Finland], Younan was a youth Pastor and teacher in his homeland. From 1976 to 1979 he was Pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem and he has also served parishes in Beit Jala and Ramallah. He studied at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and he holds an honorary doctorate, granted by Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The President-elect has headed his church body since 1998 and was the third Palestinian Bishop of the church founded by Germans in the nineteenth century and previously led by clergy from Germany. A member of the LWF since 1974, the ELCJHL has about 3,000 members. The Bishop was the first to translate the Augsburg Confession, a key document of the Lutheran Church, into Arabic. Younan is a former Vice-President of the LWF and is a recent past President of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches. He is also a co-Founder of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, made up of the two chief rabbis of Israel, heads of the local churches, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court in Palestine and other Muslim leaders. He is the author of Witnessing for Peace, a book about the search for peace in his homeland and numerous articles on churches and the search for peace in the Holy Land. His wife, Suad, is Director of the Helen Keller School in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Hanina, which educates visually-impaired children. She is also the chair of the women's committee of the ELCJHL. The couple has three children and one grandchild. Source: http://www.lutheranworld.org 24 July 2010 8
Vatican Message to Muslims for Ramadan "Christians are spiritually close to you during these Days" VATICAN CITY - Here is a text published today by the Vatican of a message sent to Muslims by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The message was sent on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. *** Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming violence among followers of different religions Dear Muslim Friends, 1. 'Id Al-Fitr, which concludes Ramadan, presents, once again, a favorable occasion to convey to you the heartfelt wishes of serenity and joy on behalf of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Throughout this month, you have committed yourselves to prayer, fasting, helping the neediest and strengthening relations of family and friendship. God will not fail to reward these efforts! 2. I am delighted to note that believers of other religions, especially Christians, are spiritually close to you during these days, as is testified by the various friendly meetings which often lead to exchanges of a religious nature. It is pleasing to me also to think that this Message could be a positive contribution to your reflections. 3. The theme proposed this year by the Pontifical Council, Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming violence among followers of different religions, is, unfortunately, a pressing subject, at least in certain areas of the world. The Joint Committee for Dialogue instituted by the Pontifical Council and al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions had also chosen this topic as a subject of study, reflection and exchange during its last annual meeting (Cairo, 23 - February 24, 2010). Permit me to share with you some of the conclusions published at the end of this meeting. 4. There are many causes for violence among believers of different religious traditions, including: the manipulation of the religion for political or other ends; discrimination based on ethnicity or religious identity; divisions and social tensions. Ignorance, poverty, underdevelopment are also direct or indirect sources of violence among as well as within religious communities. May the civil and religious authorities offer their contributions in order to remedy so many situations for the sake of the common good of all society! May the civil authorities safeguard the primacy of the law by ensuring true justice to put a stop to the authors and promoters of violence! 5. There are important recommendations also given in the above mentioned text: to open our hearts to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, for a peaceful and fruitful coexistence; to recognize what we have in common and to respect differences, as a basis for a culture of dialogue; to recognize and respect the dignity and the rights of each human being without any bias related to ethnicity or religious affiliation; necessity to promulgate just laws which guarantee the fundamental equality of all; to recall the importance of education towards respect, dialogue and fraternity in the various educational arenas: at home, in the school, in churches and mosques. Thus we will be able to oppose violence among followers of different religions and promote peace and harmony among the various religious communities. Teaching by religious leaders, as well as school books, which present religions in an objective way, have, along with teaching in general, a decisive impact on the education and the formation of younger generations. 9
6. I hope that these considerations, as well as the responses which they elicit within your communities, and with your Christian friends, will contribute to the continuation of a dialogue, growing in respect and serenity, upon which I call the blessings of God! Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran President Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata Secretary Zenit â€“ 27 August 2010
Israeli Leftists: Jerusalem Mayor is handing the City to Settlers Peace Now and Meretz launch a campaign against Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who recently backed a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan to make way for a tourist center. Israeli leftists from the Peace Now movement and Meretz political party on Thursday launched a campaign against Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who recently backed a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to make way for a tourist center. Meretz was the only party in Barkat's municipal coalition to vote against the plan, which led the mayor to expel three Meretz city council members from his coalition and fire deputy mayor, Pepe Alalu, also from Meretz. At the opening meeting for the campaign, which is called Barkat is giving Jerusalem â€“ to the settlers" (the slogan plays on the Hebrew work "lechalek," meaning to divide and to hand out), former minister Yossi Sarid said it is time to find a mayoral candidate who openly supports the division of Jerusalem as a means of "saving the city." Sarid proposed Alalu as a potential candidate for Jerusalem mayor, saying he is a wellknown and respected figure in the city who is devoted to its residents. "We must prepare him and develop him as a candidate for mayor form this moment," said Sarid. Meretz party leader MK Haim Oron said that whoever fails to find a resolution to the problem of Jerusalem will fail to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole. "Whoever says a two-state solution [is the answer] but doesn't say two capitals in Jerusalem is lying to himself and misleading the public," said Oron. Oron added that the manager of Peace Now in Jerusalem said the group will not let Barkat rest in the coming weeks and will unleash a campaign against him that he will not be able to ignore. The Jerusalem Municipality last week approved preliminary plans to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan as part of an initiative to build a recreational area there. The U.S. State Department and United Nations have criticized the decision, calling it the kind of step that undermines the trust fundamental to progress in the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. By Nir Hasson Haaretz â€“ 1 July 2010
UK Church to boycott Israeli Goods Methodist Church rejects products from the West Bank. LONDON – The Methodist Church of Britain voted on Wednesday to boycott Israeliproduced goods and services from the West Bank because of Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.” “A majority of governments recognize the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as illegitimate under international law,” the church body said at its annual conference in Portsmouth. The church body will now encourage Methodists across the UK to follow suit. The motion stated that the boycott of goods “from illegal Israeli settlements” was in response to a call by the World Council of Churches – which advocates divestment from Israel – and by Palestinian civil society and “a growing number of Jewish organizations in Israel and worldwide.” “The Methodist Conference notes the call of the World Council of Churches in 2009 for an international boycott of settlement produce and services and the support given for such a boycott by Christian leaders in Palestine in the Kairos document, Palestinian civil society and a growing number of Jewish organizations both inside Israel and worldwide and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements,” the church said. Last year, the Methodist Church set up a working group to “work for an end to the Occupation, an end to the blockade of Gaza, adherence to international law by all sides and a just peace for all in the region.” The resulting 54-page report produced by the church body, titled “Justice for Palestine and Israel,” met with a fierce condemnation by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Council of Christians and Jews and British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In a statement released after Wednesday’s vote, the church body said the decision, which carried unanimously, had the goal of ending “the existing injustice.” “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the conference,” said Christine Elliott, secretary for external relationships. “The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.” Jewish community leadership organizations reacted with dismay. In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council said it was, “This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. “The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction,” the statement said.
David Gifford, the chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, said he was disappointed that the Israeli narrative was not heard during the debate. “I was very disappointed at the emotive nature of the debate which again did not hear fairly also the pain and cry of the Israeli,” Gifford said. “It was right to hear the pain of the Palestinian but in the end the vote of the Methodist Conference was to boycott goods and services that originate from the West Bank. We shall have to see how this will affect future relationships of the Methodist Church with other churches, the CCJ [Council of Christians and Jews] and with the British Jewish community.” The Board of Deputies said the conference should “hang its head in shame.” “This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations. Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.” Anti-Zionist and anti-Israel activists who support a blanket boycott of Israel were the main sources of the document. They included Israeli-born academics Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim; Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions; Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer; and Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk. By Jonny Paul The Jerusalem Post Correspondent – 1 July 2020
US Presbyterians call to end aid to Israel unless settlement growth stops MINNEAPOLIS – Presbyterian leaders strongly backed a proposal Friday that included a call to end U.S. aid to Israel unless the country stops settlement expansions in disputed Palestinian territories. But they said the 172-page report, which details their church's approach to issues in the Middle East, was a sincere effort to mend long-standing fractures between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Jewish groups. It earned qualified praise but also criticism from pro-Israel organizations, which have long taken issue with various Presbyterian statements on Middle East peace. Church delegates approved the report by an 82 percent vote during the church's general assembly in Minneapolis. It's meant as a comprehensive guide to the denomination's more than 2 million members on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We feel we've brought together people who previously had trouble talking about some of these issues together," said Rev. Karen Dimon, Pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church in North Syracuse, N.Y., and chairwoman of the committee that produced the report. Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said he still took issue with major aspects of the report, but said it contained "important signals" that could lessen 12
long-standing tension between Presbyterians and pro-Israel Jews. He said it strengthens support for Israel's right to exist and removes comparisons of Israeli policy to apartheid. "Concerns remain, but I have hope that authentic dialogue and better relations can come of this," Felson said. The Anti-Defamation League said the report managed to "avoid a rupture with Jewish people, but bias against Israel continues." The Simon Wiesenthal Center said the report "takes definite sides in a complex struggle." But the Rev. J.C. Austin, director of the Center for Christian Leadership at New York City's Auburn Seminary, disagreed. report.
"We are refusing to designate a winner or loser," said Austin, who helped prepare the
The denomination's relationship with Jewish groups took a hit in 2004, when the church's general assembly voted to authorize "phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel" because of Israel's policies toward Palestinians. That stance has since been softened, and this year convention delegates voted down an amendment to the Middle East report that would have put divestment back on the table. Despite the strong convention vote, some delegates expressed concern that the Middle East report remained too slanted toward a Palestinian perspective. "There are many long-time friends in the Jewish community who believe this report misstates Jewish theology and misquotes the Jewish voice," said the Rev. Susan Zencka, pastor at Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point, Wis. "We have come to a position of Palestine good, Israel bad. Life is not that simple." But supporters stressed that the overarching goal of the report is to encourage activism toward peace in the Middle East. "I fully support a state of Israel, but I also believe Israel's peace will not come until they seek peace with Palestinians," said Dottie Villesvik, a church elder from Everett, Washington. By Patrick Condon, Associated Press Writer The Jerusalem Post â€“ 11 July 2010
1st Holy Land Christian Radio Station to air soon Aims to build Interreligious Bridges
JERUSALEM - The first Christian radio station from the Holy Land will soon be on air, with the aim of becoming a bridge between people of different faiths in that region. Father Raed Abu Sahliye, a Parish Priest in the small Christian community of Palestine, expressed the hope that the radio station will be "a bridge between different churches and religions." The priest serves the parish in Taybeh, a West Bank Christian village that counts less than 1,500 inhabitants, and is identified with the Biblical town of "Ephraim," which hosted Christ before he was crucified in Jerusalem, after he raised Lazarus from the dead. Father Sahliye expressed the hope that this radio initiative will be a "Christian voice to the Christians of the Holy Land." 13
He visited Rome and told Vatican Radio workers, "We need the voice of Christians in the Holy Land. [...] We need to give a voice to the Holy Land Christians." "There are many radio and television stations in the region," the priest said, "but we do not have any one of them." Father Sahliye noted that he hopes the Christian radio station in the Holy Land, which will be launched in collaboration with Vatican Radio, will be up and running by Christmas Eve. Voice for peace "It will be a Christian voice, but it certainly will be a different kind of voice: a voice for peace and hope, dialogue and reconciliation," the priest affirmed. He continued: "We will be open to everyone and to all the churches in the Holy Land. "We will give space and time for news and celebrations of various churches and we will be open also to other religions: Judaism, Islam." Father Sahliye said, "We will try to be a bridge, because the Christian who is not a bridge, is not a real Christian." Zenit – 19 July 2010
Secular Jews drawn to Holy Shroud Exhibit in Jerusalem Opened in 2006, the exhibit draws thousands of visitors. Permanent and free, it is located inside the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. "The Shroud is for everybody,” said Fr. Eamon Kelly; however, “especially secular Jews show great interest in it and we often have groups here on Shabbat”. Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Located in the heart of Jerusalem, the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center is home to the permanent exhibition of the Holy Shroud. On display since 22 July 2006 in a free exhibit, it has drawn thousands of visitors, especially secular Jews. The linen cloth, which John Paul II described as the ‘mirror of the Gospel’, is presented in a digitally recreated actual-size copy. Panels explaining the historic and scientific research associated with the shroud accompany it. "The Shroud is for everybody,” said Fr Eamon Kelly, who works as a tour guide at the exhibit. “Of course it is particularly meaningful for all Christians,” but “it is intriguing for all people and particularly Jewish people, especially secular Jews [who] show great interest in it,” Fr Kelly said. “We often have groups here on Shabbat," he added. "I have taken all kinds of believers and non-believers through the Shroud Museum and never have I noticed anyone who felt it was less than [a] rewarding experience and time well spent,” he explained. “As Pope John Paul put it, [. . .], it is truly a challenge for our intelligence”. AsiaNews – 22 July 2010
The absentee from 6 Molcho Street Now that Israel is evicting Palestinian families from homes in Sheikh Jarrah owned by Jews before 1948, the Palestinians are examining ways of making claims on buildings they once owned in West Jerusalem. One of them speaks out. The entire conversation with Claudette Habesch, which takes place at the Notre Dame compound, on Jerusalem's "seam line," is conducted in English. The only word Habesch says in Hebrew is "shesh" - the number six - which is the address of a house on Shlomo Molcho Street, in the Talbieh neighborhood of Jerusalem, near Rehavia. "Shlomo Molcho shesh," she says in Hebrew. Thus is engraved in her memory the address of the house where she was born 70 years ago. Palestinian workers from Beit Jallah are now renovating the old stone house. Habesch agreed to be photographed against the backdrop of the three-story building, but she turned down an invitation to tea from Fanny Roselaar, 90, the current owner, who came out to greet her. Roselaar, a retired tour guide, remembers when Habesch visited the house shortly after the SixDay War in 1967, together with her father, who came from Jordan. The father heartily invited Roselaar to visit him at his home in Amman. It is important to Roselaar to make it clear that her family bought the Ayoub family's apartment (Ayoub is Habesch's maiden name) for its full price, from the Jewish tenants who settled in it after the War of Independence in 1948. Habesch, a devout Palestinian Christian, is the Director of the Jerusalem branch of the Catholic charitable organization Caritas. The walls of her office are decorated with pictures of Popes and Bishops who visited the Holy Land. She is a member of the Palestinian Presidential Committee for Christian Affairs. Her son-in-law, Bassem Khoury, was formerly Minister of the national economy in Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government. She participates in the interreligious activities of Rabbis for Human Rights and is an enthusiastic supporter of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, one based on the pre-1967 borders, with both states having Jerusalem as their capitals (and no wall). Habesch knows that Israel's Absentee Property Law does not leave her the shred of a chance of getting the house back or receiving monetary compensation. Her family did not flee, nor was it expelled from the house. The War of Independence (the Nakba, in her language) caught the family in their winter home in Jericho. Her parents settled in Amman and she and her sister were sent to the Church's school for girls in the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1961 she married a Talbieh-born Palestinian and they made their home in the neighborhood of Shuafat, north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, where she still lives. The Six-Day War found Habesch in Europe. When she returned, via Jordan, a kind Israeli soldier allowed her to cross the Jordan River on foot, to rejoin her children, who had remained at home in Shuafat. At the end of that June, Israel annexed Shuafat to Jerusalem, making her family Jerusalemites again. Compensation, not eviction The memories of her childhood in Talbieh still choke her up. Were it not for the Sheikh Jarrah affair, it is doubtful she would be doing anything about getting her home back. After the war in 1948, Palestinian refugees who had to leave their homes in what was now Israel were housed in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem (which was under Jordanian control between 1949 and 1967). About a year ago, an Israeli court ordered the eviction of a number of these families from houses that had been purchased by Jews during the period of Ottoman rule. Additional families are candidates for eviction in the near future. 15
In light of this precedent, Habesch is prepared to reopen the wounds of 1948 and take a serious look at the possibility of applying to the courts. Even if the judges order the return of the keys to 6 Molcho St., to her family, Habesch promises it would not occur to her to evict the aged Fanny Roselaar from her home. That is something that cannot be done, she says - just as she asks that the Israelis stop evicting her brethren from their homes in East Jerusalem and recognize the rights of Palestinian families who left their property behind in the western part of the city. And yes, she does support monetary compensation for, for example, the Jews of Iraq who fled their country in the 1940s and 1950s. They too are refugees and they too have property rights, she notes. Habesch was introduced to me by a member of the advisory team acting alongside the Palestine Liberation Organization's negotiating department, headed by Saeb Erekat. Several weeks ago the team published a position paper on the property rights of Palestinians in West Jerusalem, under a title that ends with a rhetorical question: "a united city, with equal rights for all?" The document was written in the wake of the Sheikh Jarrah expulsions. Until then, the leadership in Ramallah (in contrast to that in Gaza) clung to the principle United States President Bill Clinton presented Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the 2000 Camp David summit: The Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will go to Israel while the Arab neighborhoods will go to the Palestinians. The discussion about Palestinians' properties in West Jerusalem was to have taken place as part of the general negotiations on compensation to the refugees in the context of the permanent status agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The document on Palestinian property in West Jerusalem is based to a large extent on the research of Dr. Adnan Abdelrazek. He relates that during the course of his work at United Nations headquarters in Jerusalem at the end of the 1990s, he supervised the transfer to software of the archival materials of the Reconciliation Commission (a body appointed by the UN in 1948, which led to General Assembly Resolution 194, which touches upon the refugees' property). Thus Abdelrazek, an Israeli-Arab, was exposed to thousands of documents and maps connected to Palestinian refugees' property. Later he conducted research, which went on for three years, on identifying and describing Palestinian houses in a dozen neighborhoods in West Jerusalem - among them Talbieh, Baka, Katamon, Musrara and the German Colony. His findings are detailed in his book "The Flourishing Arab Architecture in the Western Part of Occupied Jerusalem" (which was published recently in Arabic). Abdelrazek's data are based on the British Land Registry and in part on Reconciliation Commission reports. According to them, Palestinian property in the western part of the city within the boundaries of the 1949 armistice between Israel and Jordan amounted to approximately 5,500 dunams (almost 1,400 acres), 33 percent of the total area. The Jewish property amounted to approximately 4,900 dunams, a bit more than 30 percent. The churches between them owned 15.2 percent of the lands. The remainder (about 21 percent), was owned by the municipality and also accounted for roads, railroad tracks and public buildings. The Palestinian property at that time included about 2,700 houses and buildings with a total area of more than 900,000 square meters. Dr. Roby Nathanson, Director General of the Macro Center for Political Economics, has developed a model for calculating compensation for the properties of the 1948 refugees, which takes into account Israel's tremendous investment in the development of the mixed cities. According to his model, the value of the Palestinian property in West Jerusalem is estimated at $500 million. A considerable portion of the large Palestinian homes in West Jerusalem were given
to prominent individuals the Israeli authorities wanted to honor, among them politicians, judges and professors. Reopening the file Two weeks ago the East Jerusalem daily Al Quds published a comprehensive review of the book. Abdelrazek attributes the great interest in Arab property in the western part of the city to the creeping Jewish settlement in the eastern part. He testifies to increasing public and private pressure to apply to the Israeli courts in order to examine the possibility of Palestinian property being released in the western part of the city. According to him, Palestinian owners are keeping track of the large sums of money landing in the pockets of their Jewish "successors," and wondering why they are disinherited of their rights to this property. In this way, the extreme right, which aims to eradicate from Jewish consciousness the Green Line (1948-1967 border) between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, has succeeded in reopening the "1948 file" and putting the issue of Palestinian property in the west on the agenda. And that is not all. Currently on the Supreme Court docket there is an appeal by West Bank inhabitants whose properties have been "annexed" to Jerusalem by the route of the separation barrier and the Absentee Property Law. Beginning in 1950, and until not long ago, the law applied to properties in the State of Israel whose owners were in an enemy country on the day it came into effect. Claudette Habesch, for example, who was in Jericho, is not entitled to compensation for her home. Furthermore, there were property owners resident in other countries. The Salameh family, who lived in the stunning building that now houses the Belgian Consulate and were neighbors of Habesch's family, were in the United States on the crucial day and were therefore able to come to a financial arrangement with the state. Shamgar and Mazuz The attorney for the owners of the Cliff Hotel, Shlomo Lecker, argues, based on the opinion of two former attorney generals, Meir Shamgar and Menachem Mazuz, that the annexation of East Jerusalem does not grant Israel the right to apply to it the Absentee Property Law, which related to the borders of the city prior to 1967. In January of 2005, Mazuz warned Benjamin Netanyahu, at the time Finance Minister, that applying the Absentee Property Law to inhabitants of the territories who own properties in East Jerusalem was liable to have serious international repercussions. "The interest of the State of Israel," wrote Mazuz, "is to refrain from opening new fronts in the international arena in general and in the area of international law in particular." He also noted that security elements also believe the building of the fence should not deny Palestinians who owned properties in East Jerusalem the right to use them. In an interim ruling handed down in February, by a special bench of seven justices headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, the High Court of Justice ruled that the state's conduct in the matter of property in East Jerusalem belonging to inhabitants of the territories was contrary to the attorney general's opinion, and requested that the court be presented with a revised position. Recently the State Prosecutor informed the High Court, on behalf of the new attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, that the special committee on the Absentee Property Law would discuss the petitioners' request to release the Cliff Hotel and similar properties from the
constraints of the law. Here comes the clincher: "on the basis of the position of the state and the Custodian of Absentee Property, whereby these properties are indeed properties of absentees." For his part, Lecker, who represents the owners of the hotel, which has been "annexed" to Jerusalem, wrote in his response to the court that Weinstein has retreated from the position of the previous attorney general regarding properties in East Jerusalem owned by residents of the West Bank. "Where is the distinction," wonders Lecker, "between absentees resident in an enemy country, regarding whom the law was passed in 1950, for the purpose of taking possession of their properties, and the '1967 absentees,' who have been living for decades now in territories occupied by the State of Israel?" A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry said there has been no change in the attorney general's policy in this regard. "I am prepared to forgive them, but I will never forget the years of suffering by a little girl of 7, in whose bed another child was sleeping and whose bicycle another child was riding," says Claudette Habesch at the end of our conversation. She adds: "I recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist in 78 percent of the territories of Mandatory Palestine, but I do not recognize its right to expel Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and put in Jews." By Akiva Eldar Haaretz â€“ 23 July 2010
Iftar: Muslims, Jews, Christians discuss Fasting Clergy finds commonalities between 3 faiths Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy gathered on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem to discuss the commonalities between the three faiths and hold a joint iftar meal, at the break of that dayâ€™s Ramadan fast. Those participating in the event at Mishkenot Shaâ€™ananim strove to bring believers together under a banner of religious tolerance, coexistence and cooperation. The discussion preceding the meal was led by Dr. Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel. During the talks, Father David Neuhaus, Rabbi Yehuda Gilad and Kadi Muhammed Zibdeh, deliberated the moral and social implications of the Ramadan fast, and discussed the significance of fasting in their own traditions. All the speakers agreed that fasting is good for the soul, as it brings believers closer to God and to each other. Zibdeh, the Muslim judge of Jaffa, stressed that Ramadan fasting should work itself out both inwardly and outwardly: As one fasts and is changed from within, cleansing takes place in the heart and prompts the individual to give to the needy and contribute to the environment around him. Neuhaus, who represented Catholic Christians, added that fasting enforces the equality among people, since those who fast by choice put themselves in the shoes of those who have to do without food because they have none.
Gilad, the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi in the North, compared the Ramadan soul-searching to the Yom Kippur fast, when Jewish believers reassess their relationship with God and one another. The nearly 60 participants who came from all over the country and represented different streams of thought on the religious spectrum, then sat down for the meal, while continuing to chew over the issues raised during the discourse. The event was hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, whose resident representative Dr. Lars Hänsel noted that since religion lies at the core of the political conflict here in the Holy Land, it would also be a key component to the solution. “Sitting those religious leaders next to each other has a symbolic value, which shows that coexistence is already taking place before our very eyes,” he said. “It was important to bring Muslims, Jews and Christians to this event, even though it was a Muslim event,” Kronish summarized. “One of the things we focused on was the fact that there are common humanistic values deeply rooted in the creeds, with different narratives. It doesn’t mean that we agree on everything, but we like to stress what we have in common.” Jonah Mandel contributed to this report. By Zuzana Barak The Jerusalem Post – 26 August 2010
Im Tirtzu may lose funding over Boycott Threat to Ben-Gurion University Im Tirtzu, the organization that threatened Ben-Gurion University with a donor boycott because of their "anti-Zionist" bias, has lost at least one funding source over the highly publicized row. The spokesman for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a U.S. based pro-Israel organization run by Pastor John Hagee, hinted to Haaretz on Monday that they will no longer give money to Im Tirtzu. The potential funding cut-off will be a big change from the 100,000 dollars that CUFI donated to Im Tirtzu in 2009. "We of course do not support any calls for divestment from Israel in any way," CUFI spokesman Ari Morgenstern said. Im Tirtzu sent a threatening letter to Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi last month, saying they would persuade donors in Israel and abroad to stop funding the university if the didn’t put an end to the "anti-Zionist" tilt in its politics and government department. “We do not believe that the political positions of the few professors characterize an entire university. JHM (John Hagee Ministries) therefore is not concerned with our support for BenGurion University," Morgenstern said. CUFI defines their purpose as to provide "a national association through which every pro-Israel church, para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues."
As a group that tries to stay out of internal Israeli politics, CUFI has been disappointed by Im Tirtzu actions earlier this year, when their campaign against New Israel Fund president, Professor Naomi Chazan, made waves in the media. The organization claimed that the majority of negative references made about the Israel Defense Forces in the Goldstone report, the United Nations commissioned report on Israel's offensive into Gaza, came from New Israel Fund sponsored organizations. The ensuing campaign they launched against NIF included posters of Chazan depicting her with a horn emerging from her forehead and labelling her Naomi Goldstone Chazan. "Our position on “Im Tirtzu” activities was clear since this story (campaign against the NIF) first broke back in February. “Im Tirtzu” misrepresented their focus," Morgenstern said. "When they told us their mission is strictly Zionist education, we had no prior knowledge of their political actions, and we never seek to involve ourselves in Israel’s internal political debates." The Houston Jewish Federation, which has helped the Texas based CUFI decide which organizations in Israel to fund, has also publicly renounced Im Tirtzu's most recent campaign. In a letter to the liberal "Tikun Olam" blog, Jewish Federation CEO Lee Wunsch wrote: "In light of recent events and in my discussions with Pastor Hagee, he will not continue that funding as we both believe that Im Tirtzu has morphed into a quasi-political organization and neither Pastor Hagee nor the Houston Jewish Federation will fund such groups." By Natasha Mozgovaya Haaretz – 23 August, 2010
Israeli Wall blocks Children from School JERUSALEM - A kindergarten run by Combonian Sisters of Jerusalem is at risk of closure because the Israeli separation wall has blocked the children from reaching it. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported this week that some 50 children of the kindergarten of Bethany (Shayyah) Jerusalem will not be allowed this year to reach the school through a small opening in the wall. They come from the Aizaria area, a Palestinian compound beyond the wall. The children were permitted to use the opening during the '09-'10 academic year, but at a recent meeting between the military authority of the area, the Sisters and the Apostolic Nuncio, it was deemed by the military to be unsafe for them and for the children. Without use of the opening, the children can reach the school only by way of a 15kilometer (9-mile) bus ride, or through a shortcut used only by the military. Though the school is scheduled to open in the coming days, its status is uncertain while negotiations are still under way to find a solution for the children's travel. "In the meanwhile the Sisters and the children’s parents consider the survival of the school as a very important element for the future of the children themselves," the Patriarchate reported. "The solution has to be found by the army, otherwise the school has to be closed." Zenit – 27 August 2010
Long Time Archaeological Riddle solved Confirmed chariot fragment suggests Canaanite General Sisera, whose defeat is recorded in ‘Judges’, was based in Wadi Ara. The riddle of the identity of a 3,200-year-old round bronze tablet with a carved face of a woman has apparently been solved, 13 years after it was discovered at the El-ahwat excavation site between Katzir-Harish and Nahal Iron (Wadi Ara) by scientist Oren Cohen of the University of Haifa. The small, broken-off piece of metal is probably part of a linchpin that held the wheel to a war chariot sent to battle by the Canaanite General Sisera against the Israelites, says Prof. Adam Zertal, who for 33 years has led weekly walks with university colleagues and volunteers over “every square meter” of Samaria and the Jordan Rift to search for archaeological evidence from biblical times. The round, bronze tablet, about 2 centimeters in diameter and 5 millimeters thick, features a carved face of a woman wearing a cap and earrings shaped as chariot wheels. It was found in a structure identified as the “Governor’s House.” Cohen was unable to find its parallel in any other archaeological discoveries. When carrying out a study on the walls of the Temple of Rameses III in Egypt of ancient reliefs depicting chariot battles, Cohen identified a unique decoration – the bronze linchpins fastening the chariot wheels were decorated with the faces of captives, foreigners and enemies of Egypt. He also noticed that these decorations characterized those chariots that were used by royalty and other dignitaries. Cohen found that the linchpin with the woman’s face found near Katzir was almost identical to that found in the Egyptian temple. The identification as a linchpin, Zertal said, reinforces the claim that a high-ranking Egyptian or local ruler was based at this location and is likely to support the theory that the site is Haroshet Hagoyim – the Canaanite base of Sisera, as mentioned in the fourth and fifth chapter of the Book of Judges, the 70-year archaeologist told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The Egyptians and Canaanites both created linchpins for chariots with the carved faces of their enemies; the place on the wheels were considered “very undignified,” said Zertal, like the Jews putting Haman’s name on the soles of their shoes for beating against the floor while the Book of Esther is read aloud. The woman whose face is depicted on the linchpin found at the site was apparently a Hittite goddess; the Hittites were bitter enemies of the Egyptians. “So suddenly we realized that there was evidence of chariots from the head of the broken linchpin, which was found 10 centimeters underground in the large ‘Governor’s House’ that overlooked the northern quarter, where a large number of chariots had apparently been parked,” Zertal said. The city’s uniqueness – its fortifications, passageways in the walls and rounded huts uncovered in the Zertal digs – made it foreign amid the Canaanite landscape. Zertal has proposed that based on these unusual features, the site may have been home to the Shardana tribe of the Sea Peoples, who, according to some researchers, lived in Harosheth Haggoyim, Sisera’s capital city. The full excavation and its conclusions have been summarized in Zertal’s 2010 Hebrewlanguage science-based novel, Sisera’s Secret, A Journey following the Sea-Peoples and the Song of Deborah.
Sisera was the captain of the army of Yavin, King of Canaan. According to Judges 4:3, Sisera led an army of 900 iron chariots and oppressed the Israelites for two decades. Deborah the Prophetess, then leader of the Israelite tribes, persuaded Barak to face Sisera in battle. He led a force of 10,000 and destroyed the army of Sisera, whose origin was completely unknown. The battle, the Bible says, led to a 40-year peace. After his defeat, Sisera fled to the tent of Hever the Kenite in the plain of Za’anaim, where Hever’s wife, Yael, invited him inside and gave him milk to drink. This put him into a slumber; Yael – becoming the second heroine in the story after Deborah – quietly came close to him and pounded one of the tent pegs into his temple with a mallet, killing her enemy. Zertal identified Sisera with the town of Sassari, arguing that he came from the people of Shardana – or Sardinia. “Sisera’s name did not appear on any archaeological findings in the Middle East. But we did research and found that in Sardinia, there is a city called Sassari. About a third of people’s names in the world are based on the place their family come from. We believe that Sisera or his family came from Sassari. Sea peoples came to the Land of Israel from the sea. The Philistines were the most famous, but the Shardana people also arrived,” Zertal said. Eighteen years ago, said Zertal of the university’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology, “we discovered an unknown city near Katzir with a huge, six-meter-wide wall. We found corridors, which were unusual, and in 1995 reached the conclusion that the residents were foreigners and not natives. They established features from their native home, just as the Chinese in New York created Chinatown. Everything fit together,” said Zertal, who noted that the area in Wadi Ara was very strategic, as it connected between Galilee and Samaria. “So the battle of Sisera and the Israelites was very important. But we had no visible signs where the Haroshet Hagoyim mentioned in the Bible as the place where the chariots left for battle actually was located.” The Haifa team wondered where the residents could have come from and realized that the Egyptian writing on the Temple of Rameses III in the 12th century BCE described his being a warrior who fought against Philistine and Shardana soldiers who wanted to capture Egypt. He was described as having constructed citadels, but archaeologists were unable to find any. Zertal noted that it was fortunate the site was not built on afterward, from after the battle until the modern age. “But Kati had plans to expand into the area. That has been cancelled, and we have built a fence. We want people to visit the site,” he said. The Haifa archaeologist was raised at a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz and severely wounded in the Yom Kippur War. “I spent a year at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and I became interested in archaeology. Although I had argued that the Bible was full of myths, I decided after my recovery to travel the land by foot to look for archaeological evidence.” Zertal, who took the walks often using crutches from his decades-old injury, added: “I am a man of science and have to investigate whether what is described in the Bible suits the geography. Nobody thought there was an altar on Mount Ebal, but the evidence was found. It is not a legend. When you do archaeological research as you should, you see a lot [of the biblical stories] is reality.” By July Siegel-Itzkovich The Jerusalem Post – 2 July 2010
Ancient Site near Nablus 'too problematic' to open Mount Gerizim is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount, as the location chosen by God for a holy temple. Behind the rusty iron fence surrounding the archaeological work on Mount Gerizim lies one of Israel's most impressive antiquities sites. But the Civil Administration is keeping the compound closed despite its huge tourism potential. It says planning at the site near Nablus in the West Bank is "too problematic." Over more than two decades, Yitzhak Magen, the administration's chief archaeology officer, dug up a 2,000-year-old city, once home to 10,000 people. It was preserved in its entirety. The site consists of streets lined with houses, a marketplace and town center. Thousands of bones of sacrificial animals and tens of thousands of coins tell its story. Mount Gerizim is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount, as the location chosen by God for a holy temple. The mountain remains the center of the Samaritan religion to this day. In 1982, the Civil Administration started digging at the site and continued for 22 years, at an investment of tens of millions of shekels. "Josephus writes that the Samaritans fell out with the Jews, moved their spiritual center to Mount Gerizim and built their temple in a compound identical to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That's what all the archaeologists were looking for," says Benny Katzover, former head of the Samaria Regional Council. "They discovered that the destroyed temple began in the Hasmonean era and ended in the Byzantine era. The Byzantines built on its ruins an octagonal church, which has been dug up. The compound wall has remained almost entirely intact, as have parts of the central Samaritan city. The findings show a high living standard, with bathtubs, ceramics, a heating system and mosaics. You can see it was the capital of a kingdom." Initially the authorities set up an observation point overlooking Nablus and signs explaining the findings; they intended to open the site to the public. But after the second intifada they scrapped the plan. Now, during the lull in hostilities, the Samaria Regional Council and Samaritan community are demanding that it be opened to visitors. 'This earth belongs to the community' "Everyone wants to visit me and see what I believe in, what my history is - but I can't let people in without a permit," says Ovadia Cohen, secretary of the Samaritan community. "This earth belongs to the community, which received it from King Hussein. Every time I want to bring people in I need permits. We're always begging the authorities to open it up. They keep making promises and and breaking them. "We're ready to run the place, we have the ability to run it. We're losing a lot of money over this every year. Two or three tourist buses could be brought here every day. Multiply that by NIS 15 entrance fees, plus other expenses," he says. In May the Civil Administration held a meeting about the site and decided it was not interested in developing or running the compound. "Planning here is too problematic," deputy
Civil Administration head Ahvat Ben-Hur said at the meeting. "Some of the lands are private and some are owned by the Waqf [Muslim religious trust]. The existing master plan doesn't allow for the construction of new access roads, parking spaces, as well as public and service structures." By Chaim Levinson Haaretz â€“ 2 July 2010
Christian Pilgrimage Site could become a shopping Mall The Ein Karem spring on the outskirts of Jerusalem is considered one of the four most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel. It is believed that Mary, mother of Jesus, drank from this spring during her pregnancy, on her way to Bethlehem. About a million Christian pilgrims visit the site every year, making it one of the holiest and most frequented sites in Israel. For nearly two decades, the Jerusalem municipality and the Tourism Ministry have been planning to renovate the open space in front of the spring, transforming it into a square for the pilgrims. Work at the site finally began two years ago. According to the plans - along with the sign posted at the site - a large square is set to be paved there, along with a small building for public restrooms. During archaeological excavations as the work began, two water systems were discovered - from the Mameluke period and the Byzantine period. Residents, as well as top people at the Jerusalem Municipality, were enthusiastic. It was suggested that the systems be renovated to allow spring water to flow through them again. As some of the buildings in the neighborhood use cesspits for waste, the holy water in the spring is currently polluted and therefore sent to the sewers. The idea was approved by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee and promoted by Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur. However, Ein Karem inhabitants who managed to peep into the construction site discovered that not only have the archaeological finds been buried, but an especially large building that wasn't in the planning stages has arisen. In an official response, the city claims the structure is a municipal storage facility. Residents wonder about the decision to place a storage facility at such an important tourism site, and at the end of one of the city's most trafficked streets. "My fear is that this ugly structure - which starkly contrasts Ein Karem's unique character and its magnetism for pilgrims - will be turned into a restaurant or shopping mall or worse, an event hall," says Ben Ofarim, a member of the neighborhood committee. 'Hard to turn back the wheel' If that weren't enough, the municipality plans to pave the street leading to the spring with Ackerstein factory-made paving blocks. As the street's original Jerusalem stone paving stones still lie under the asphalt, all that is needed to restore the street to its splendid past is to remove the asphalt. The municipality explained to the inhabitants that it tried to change the Ackerstein edict, but it turned out the original stones would not be safe. Tsur has difficulty hiding her frustration with the situation. "There are things that drive me crazy and it seems to me the case of Ein Karem is going to be one of those things," she says. "I'm
finding it hard to turn back the wheel. I wanted to correct the historical injustice and send the water under the road to the wadi. I will soon convene a comprehensive think tank for Ein Karem, and in the future we will try to remedy things that have been done." The Ministry of Tourism responded: "In the context of the construction of a new observation point in the area of the Ein Karem spring, the building of public restrooms was also planned for the site. During the course of the work, an ancient water system was found and the fact of its discovery made handicapped access to the toilets impossible - in accordance with what is required by law. Because of that, and in accordance with the Antiquities Authority's opinion that no uniqueness or tourism potential was found in this archaeological discovery, as happens in many cases, it was decided by all concerned to cover up the finds. In the near future, various alternatives for using the structure will be examined." From the Jerusalem municipality: "This is a project for the development of the Ein Karem spring area as a tourist site. The development is being carried out in strict accordance with the preservation plan. Adjacent to the square a single-story building is being erected in accordance with an approved plan, which includes public toilets as well as a storage facility for maintenance for the square and its surroundings. The roof of the building will be designated as an open public space and paved for the benefit of visitors." By Nir Hasson Haaretz – 7 July 2010
Oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem Archaeologists unearth 14th century BCE fragment Hebrew University excavations recently unearthed a clay fragment dating back to the 14th century BCE, said to be the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem. The tiny fragment is only 2 cm. by 2.8 cm. in surface area and 1 cm. thick and appears to have once been part of a larger tablet. Researchers say the ancient fragment testifies to Jerusalem’s importance as a major city late in the Bronze Age, long before it was conquered by King David. The minuscule fragment contains Akkadian words written in ancient cuneiform symbols. Researchers say that while the symbols appear to be insignificant, containing simply the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do,” and “later,” the high quality of the writing indicates that it was written by a highly skilled scribe. Such a revelation would mean that the piece was likely written for tablets that were part of a royal household. The find was uncovered in a fill taken from the Ophel area, which lies between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David. The Ophel digs are being carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology, through funding from US donors Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. According to Mazar, the fragment was discovered over a month and a half ago during wet sifting of the Ophel excavations, but was only released to the press this week because researchers wanted to wait until analysis of the piece was complete so as to be absolutely certain of the details of the find.
The most ancient piece of writing found in Jerusalem before the Ophel fragment was a tablet unearthed in the Shiloah water in the City of David, dating back to the eighth century BCE – nearly 600 years “younger” than the Ophel find. Hebrew University Prof. Wayne Horowitz, a scholar of Assyriology, deciphered the script with the assistance of his former graduate student Dr. Takayoshi Oshima. Horowitz said that while the script was too broken to get context out of it, the quality of the writing gave some indication of the creator’s pedigree. “What we can see is that the piece was written in very good script and the tablet was constructed very well. This indicates that the person responsible for creating the tablet was a firstclass scribe. In those days, you would expect to find a first-class scribe only in a large, important place,” he said. According to Horowitz, the high quality of the tablet piece indicates that it was most likely part of a message sent from a then king of Jerusalem to the pharaoh in Egypt. Horowitz said that the fragment, which is made of Jerusalem clay, indicated that Jerusalem was one of the central cities of the area at the time. “This shows Jerusalem was not a provincial backwater, [but] one of the main cities of the area,” he said. Mazar called the fragment “one of the most important finds we’ve ever had” and said she hoped it would lead to further big discoveries. “A piece this small wouldn’t have been sitting there all by itself; there have to be more pieces like it,” she said. In February, Hebrew University excavations led by Mazar in the Ophel area found ancient stone fortifications dating back some 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and the First Temple. Archeologists said that the 70-meterlong and 6-m.-high wall indicated that there had been a strong central government in Jerusalem at the time, which had the manpower and resources to construct large-scale fortifications. By Ben Hartman The Jerusalem Post – 12 July 2010
Gaza’s Ancient Treasures discovered Officials say antiquities must remain covered, as foreigners have stolen others. Parts of a house built for a wealthy family during the era of the Mamluk Sultanate (1250 to 1517) were discovered in the Old City of Gaza last week. A few months before that finding, the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered about 1,300 gold coins on the Egyptian-Palestinian border in the southern Gaza Strip. The oldest piece dates back to around 330 BCE Jars, pots, gold and silver items and household appliances were also discovered.
More Bronze historical coins were recently discovered at a different site, Tel Rafah, set to be revealed by the ministry in the coming weeks. The number of archaeological findings has increased recently in the Gaza Strip, once a transit point for many ancient trade caravans on the way between Asia and Africa, or various civilizations across the Levant. Beneath Gaza’s streets, the earth is so full of relics that in the past workers fixing water pipes have struck ancient ruins with their shovels while digging. But when laborers rush to inform the authorities, so that they can preserve the valuable findings, they are shocked and saddened to find that authorities do not seem to care much for the rarities. “Unfortunately, some contractors and citizens simply don’t care about such findings and choose to completely ignore them as if they are a disgrace, or something that wasn’t found,” explained one worker. “Instead they advance their own interests and fear having their own interests disrupted by these findings.” One contractor, Sa’eed Mukheymar said that he had discovered many important archaeological findings through his work, but that he decided to cover them up and keep them hidden to avoid any interference in his projects. He stressed that once the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is aware of any archaeological site, they immediately send a team of experts to inspect the site, coordinating with the local municipalities and the police to ensure the site is protected. Mohammed Khella, Director General of the ministry in the Gaza Strip, says that every square meter of Gaza holds an archaeological site or an ancient artifact. “The archaeological sites that are discovered – if they hold any historic importance – the Palestinian government in Gaza allocates a financial budget to cover the drilling and exploration,” said Khella. “But the staff that work at the ministry is small and not enough to cover more than 40 archaeological sites in Gaza, in addition to sites that are detected every little while by either normal people or construction workers.” The ministry currently has 20 people on staff, including technical and managerial personnel. The minister points out that there were over 370 employees allocated to the ministry under previous governments. Khella claimed that foreign institutions which entered the Gaza Strip under previous governments stole many valuable antiquities, taking them away to be sold for millions of dollars and depriving Palestinians of their history and heritage. On the Palestinian street, locals express their resentment at seeing the ministry cover up archaeological findings, accusing the ministry of taking the easy road instead of paying compensation to those who would incur damages if the ministry turned such sites into public exhibits. “People suffer from lack of awareness,” said Hayam al- Bitar, chief of the Museums and Exhibitions Department of the Hamas government in Gaza. “They don’t know how hard we work with such little resources to make sure these archaeological findings are taken care of. We always face a challenge to help make people understand that they need to come forward and give
anything they find to the ministry, instead of selling them or covering them out of fear of suffering damages or being arrested. “We manage to overcome every obstacle to make the required studies and maintenance, so we can show these findings in local exhibitions and museums,” she added. “I also want to point out that the chemical materials needed for this process are prevented [by Israel] from entering Gaza,” Bitar said. By Omar Ghraieb/The Media Line The Jerusalem Post – 26 July 2010
Lutheran Church Altar found at Ruin of Jerusalem Army Camp For 60 years it did not occur to anyone to open the wooden chest in the main hall of Camp Schneller in north Jerusalem and see what was in it. The chest, discovered by accident amid piles of garbage and the ruined hall's debris, was recently opened to reveal the altar of the German Lutheran church, on whose site the camp stood until two years ago. Last Monday the altar was transferred to its new home, the Lutheran Church at the Augusta Victoria Compound on Mount Scopus. Camp Schneller is familiar to almost every Jerusalemite who served in the army. It was where soldiers went for forms to apply for sick leave. The camp's largest structure, once the Lutheran church, was turned into a gymnasium with basketball hoops replacing statues of Jesus. The soldiers playing there could not imagine the hall's history or what was in the wooden chest near one of the walls. The compound, which German-Swiss missionary Johann Ludwig Schneller started building as a small mission in 1854, quickly became a thriving community. In 1939, with the eruption of World War II, the British Mandate authorities expelled all German nationals from Palestine, including the clergy. The compound was captured by the British army and taken over by the Israel Defense Forces in 1948. Three years later Israel gave the World Lutheran Church 48 hours to remove artifacts from the site. Church people dismantled the bells, windows and the big organ, but left the altar, which was too heavy to take apart and move at such short notice. "The altar is the heart of the church, it's the most important part of it," says, the provost of the Evangelical German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. "For us God is in the letters, and the altar is the place on which the Holy Book is placed." The altar, erected in 1910, was made of heavy marble plates, decorated with a mosaic of gold-painted glass and blue stones. The movers built a wooden chest around it instead of taking it apart, Graebe suggests. Why the chest remained sealed for six decades remains a mystery. "When you're in the army you probably don't think too much, you do what you're told, " Graebe says. "They must have sat on it to watch the basketball games." 28
While the chest kept the altar fairly well preserved, the structure around it eroded over the years. A hole was drilled in the former church floor for a chimney, the ornate wooden doors were destroyed and the ceiling collapsed. About two years ago the IDF evacuated the site and the city put together blueprints for a preservation and construction plan. After a struggle by the Site Preservation Council and architect Gil Gordon, eight of the compound's main structures were earmarked for preservation. They are to serve as public institutions for the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to be built nearby. In October 2009, Gordon, the compound's preservation architect, took Lutheran Church leaders on a tour of the site. It was the first time Graebe visited the place. The hall, its walls in ruins, was filled with garbage and covered with bird droppings. Amid the garbage, Graebe noticed the small wooden chest. "An hour later I thought of it again and realized there must be something in it," he says. He told Gordon, who returned to the site the next day with tools. He told the guard he "forgot something" and opened the wooden box, discovering the altar. "The altar is the last evidence at Schneller for the Christian ritual there," Graebe says. "It's very exciting." That posed a problem. Preservation principles stipulate leaving the altar at Schneller, but since the compound is earmarked to serve the ultra-Orthodox, an object of Christian ritual cannot be left there. As Gordon diplomatically wrote in his report to the city: "The altar's survival chances are zero in view of the compound's current neighbors and future users." The altar's discovery was kept under wraps as the city and Lutherans negotiated its transfer. Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Naomi Tsur, responsible for preservation, conditioned the transfer on the altar's not leaving Israel and having a sign discussing its history in its new location. The church agreed. The altar was transferred piece by piece, exactly 100 years after it was built. Its marble plates, which were cracked, were placed in a stretcher to prevent them from breaking, lifted with a crane and moved out through the church window to their new home on Mount Scopus. In the beautiful Augusta Victorian Church the altar was placed under a beautiful stone embossment of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It will be inaugurated in November. "I didn't sleep for two nights thinking of how they were going to take it out of the window," says Tsur. "But this is definitely a happy end." By Nir Hasson Haaretz â€“ 27 July 2010
Temple found in Philistine Home of Goliath Kiryat Gat discovery sheds light on Samson. Archaeologists have uncovered a Philistine temple and evidence of a major earthquake in biblical times, during digs carried out at the Tel Tzafit National Park near Kiryat Gat. The site is home to the Philistine city of Gath, the home of the ancient warrior Goliath. 29
Prof. Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University’s Land of Israel and Archaeology Department, said on Wednesday that the temple may shed light on the architecture in Philistia at the time when Jewish hero Samson purportedly brought the temple of Dagon down upon himself. Maier said the architecture of the Philistine temple, the first ever found at Gath, sheds light on what the temple of Dagon would have looked like, in particular the two pillars that anchored the center of the structure. “We’re not saying this is the same temple where the story of Samson occurred or that the story even did occur,” Maeir said. “But this gives us a good idea of what image whoever wrote the story would have had of a Philistine temple.” Maeir said that seismologists who examined the site confirmed that a major earthquake occurred there, one that they estimated would have measured 8 on the Richter scale. The main evidence was the presence of several brick walls that had been thrown apart and had collapsed “like a deck of cards. “If the seismologists are right, an 8 on the Richter scale would have levelled a major city. The intensity of the energy required to move the walls seem to have been from something very powerful,” Maeir said. “We know that there is a very famous earthquake mentioned in the book of Isaiah and the book of Amos... What we have here is very strong arch-evidence of a dramatic earthquake, a natural event that left a very significant impression on the biblical prophets of the time.” The site in Tel Tzafit National Park, which contains one of the largest ancient ruin mounds in Israel, saw near-continuous human habitation from the fifth millennium BCE until today. Other major finds there were evidence of the destruction of Gath by Hazael King of Aram-Damascus around 830 BCE, and evidence of the first Philistine settlement in Canaan. Maeir said the items include the siege equipment used by Hazael during the attack on Gath, the oldest archaeological finds of their sort ever unearthed. By Ben Hartman The Jerusalem Post – 29 July 2010
Relative Calm in Holy Land Opens Door to Pilgrims Numbers up in 2010 ROME - In the first six months of 2010, some 1.6 million tourists have visited the Holy Land, a marked increase compared to 2009, and one that Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa attributes to a variety of factors. The number of tourists is up some 39% from last year, and the Custos of the Holy Land told Vatican Radio that this could be attributed first to "a great activity on the part of Episcopal conferences, dioceses and parish priests." The pilgrims come primarily from the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Father Pizzaballa noted intense promotion campaigns from many priests and religious, as well as tour companies creating affordable packages.
"All these factors together have reawakened interest in the Holy Land. Not only on the part of Europe but also -- and this is a novelty -- of Asia," said the priest. Benefits The Holy Land Custos welcomed the many benefits that pilgrims bring to the Holy Land, including "much serenity to the families that in recent years have suffered from the lack of pilgrims." He said it has brought an economic rebirth to the region: "There are new hotels under construction. Everything is moving." Relative calm in the area is also bringing more tourists to the holy sites, the priest noted. "There is no violence in the Palestinian territories," he said. "Perhaps there is some talk of Gaza, but it is very far away, it is outside the ambit of pilgrims." Hence, in the region of the Holy Land, Father Pizzaballa observed, "there is not much perception of the tension that continues, especially at the level of lack of communication between the sides, and less so in the territories where the situation is not so problematic as it was some years ago." The priest also pointed out the impact of the media on the situation in the last few months. "There is less talk of the Holy Land in reference to negative news," he suggested. Following a papal lead Father Pizzaballa further noted that Benedict XVI's May 2009 pilgrimage to the Holy Land brought a "positive vision" of the region. In the Holy Father's addresses, the priest recalled, he made an "indirect call to all the Churches of the world to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land." The Custos affirmed that peace in the territory is not only about "agreements among the great" but also and above all about "the realities of life in the territory." "When people work," Father Pizzaballa reflected, "when families live in a condition of serenity, that atmosphere is created, that humus, that base which is also necessary to create later a mentality and culture of peace for the future." Zenit â€“ 26 July 2010
Summer Tourism numbers heat up Ministry survey shows highest tourist satisfaction with archaeological sites and guides. Incoming tourist figures continue to break records. On Monday, the Tourism Ministry announced that 280,000 people had visited Israel in July, 11 percent higher than last Julyâ€™s figures and an all-time record for the month. According to ministry figures, 1.9 million tourists entered the country between January and July, an increase of 34% over the same period last year, and 10% more than what was registered during those months in 2008 â€“ which was a record year for tourism. July was the ninth consecutive record month for incoming tourists.
The ministry also announced that Israel’s archaeological sites and the local tour guides ranked highest in a recent tourist satisfaction survey. The results of the survey, published Monday, show that tourist satisfaction increased across several indices compared to previous years. The survey was carried out by the Geocartography Group during 2009 and polled 25,500 out of a total 2.7 million tourists who visited that year. Tourists gave the highest marks (on a scale of 1 to 5) to archaeological sites (4.6, up from 4.2 in 2008). Tour leaders and organized groups were ranked second (4.5, up from 4.3), followed by restaurants (4.1, up from 3.7), beaches and sea (4.3, up from 3.9), and cleanliness of public spaces (3.9, up from 3.4). Tourists gave a particularly high score to the Israeli public’s attitude toward them – 4.3, up from 3.9 in 2008. Despite the security situation, they awarded a score of 4.1 (up from 4) for personal security. Value for money also increased, from 3.3 in 2008 to 3.9 in 2009. According to the survey, 34% of tourists in 2009 were Jewish and 58% were Christian. Fifty-two percent were repeat visitors. The average length of stay was 10 nights, and the average cost of the visit was $1,112. Seventy-four percent visited Jerusalem, 55% visited Tel Aviv, 45% went to the Dead Sea, 36% traveled to Tiberias, 29% saw Nazareth, and 17% stayed in Eilat. “The consistent growth in incoming tourism over recent months, alongside the increasing satisfaction tourists feel toward the service they receive in Israel, should not be taken for granted,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov. “This is the result of large investments in marketing, public relations, infrastructure development, encouraging investors and upgrading the training and service frameworks. The Israeli public already understands tourism’s contribution to the Israeli economy and creating new jobs, as well as Israel’s image around the world – now it’s the turn of the Finance Ministry to translate this contribution into an increase in budget for the Tourism Ministry in order to continue the momentum.” Meseznikov said the ministry had shown positive results with a NIS 250 million marketing budget and required NIS 300 million to 350m. next year to aid in accessing new markets and attracting additional tourists. By Ron Friedman The Jerusalem Post – 10 August 2010
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Bulletin Associated Christian Press. July - August 2010 (561)