ISRAEL STEPS UP EFFORTS TO PROTECT ITS CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Israel prides itself on protecting minorities within the Jewish state. Still, some Christian sites have been attacked by fringe groups over the past few years, prompting government officials to take new steps to protect Israel’s Christian community. Dr. Moti Zaken, special advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Internal Security on Minority Affairs, organized a series of meetings between government ministries and Christian leaders. “We think it’s very important that we will be cooperating to solve problems and to improve the relations because we value the Christian groups and their representatives as a very important asset to the Jewish state,” Zaken told participants at the fourth meeting in the series.
David Pileggi serves as rector at Christ Church, the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. He said “Our relationship with Israel as the Christian community is good, but it can be better. What we appreciate about this meeting is that we can raise practical concerns and hear reports from different government ministries, the police, the army and find out how they are improving the situation for the Christian minority.” The government also wants to improve services to Christian pilgrims from around the world. “It is one of the major issues for the Ministry of Tourism to get to know how to approach the Christian world, both outside the country, and, of course, inside Israel,” Ahuva Zaken with the Tourism Ministry told CBN News. According to the Interior Ministry, that includes visas for Christians.
“We want to give a good answer to the Christian population in Israel, and this is also important to the State of Israel. I am doing my job, seeking to make things easier for the Christian population in Israel,” Cesare Marjieh, director of Christian Communities for the Interior Ministry said. With Christians under severe persecution throughout the Middle East, Israel remains an island of refuge. “It’s the only country in the Middle East that actually has a growing Christian population so that says a lot because in all the other countries around this region, the Christians are fleeing as fast as they can because of Islamic persecution,” Chuck Kopp, senior pastor of Jerusalem’s International Congregation, told CBN News. “So we can be happy that Christians are well represented and that they are an integral part of this country.”
Pileggi believes Christians in Israel may have more freedom than their American counterparts. “There’s certainly no comparison between the Christian population here and what’s happening all through the Middle East and in many places in Africa and China-and certainly even in the United States. I would say that in many regards, we might have more religious freedom here in Israel than folks would back in the United States,” Pileggi said.
History has a sense of humour – while most Jews have fled Ukraine because of war and perceived rabid anti-Semitism, the country has appointed a Jew to head it. The Ukrainian parliament has approved House Speaker Volodymyr Groysman as new prime minister by a vote of 257-50, following the resignation of Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Volodymyr Groysman, 38, was born to Jewish parents in Vinnytsia in west-central Ukraine, on the banks of the Southern Bug, where, in 2006, at the young age of 28, he was elected mayor. Groysman is married to Elena Ivanovna Groysman. They have two daughters, Christine and Irene, and a son, David. In 1941, all 28,000 Jewish residents of Vinnytsia and its surrounding areas were massacred by Nazi death squads who executed them in rows over open mass-graves.
After his election, Groysman told parliament, “Together we will make Ukraine successful.” Groysman, an ally of Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, is expected to continue Ukraine’s European Union-supported reform program. Incidentally, there were persistent rumours during his reign that outgoing Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was also Jewish, possibly because his parents are known intellectuals. One neo-Nazi website put it like this: “Jewish Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be replaced by Jewish Volodymyr Groysman.” Back in 2014, when Groysman was elected Speaker of the House, he was the first Jew to serve as a high political office in Ukraine’s history.
Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, said of the appointment: “The significance of this is that it reconfirms that the Jewish community is respected and safe today in Ukraine. That a Jew can be a member of Parliament demonstrates that Jews are part of the regular life of the country.” Jews constitute about 1% of the citizens of Ukraine. Before World War II, almost one-third of Ukraine’s urban population consisted of Jews who were the country’s largest national minority. “Whatever Ukraine’s problems I don’t believe anti-Semitism is one of them now,” said Rabbi Bleich. “In what they call the new Ukraine, it doesn’t make a difference if you are Jewish or not; everybody is working on building a new society.”
NEW JERUSALEM MUSEUM ATTESTS TO CONTRIBUTION CHRISTIANS HAVE MADE TO ISRAEL
After many years of hard work the Friends of Zion Museum is now open. The Museum is currently in its soft launch phase and operates from the centre of Jerusalem, as a testimony to the thousands of people, who helped the Jewish nation over the last 200 years, through periods such as the British Mandate, Holocaust, and right up to the establishment of the State of Israel. The Friends of Zion Museum is an experiential tourism site that captivates the senses and includes some of the most technologically advanced exhibits in the world. The Museum is housed in a four-story building and is fully accessible. Guests will be treated to a three-dimensional experience, original musical score, unique lighting, and stunning video mapping, all produced specifically for the location.
Its construction included three-dimensional maps and exhibits that enhance the visitor experience and tell the story of the steadfast Christian support for the Jewish people. Visitors to the site begin their tour with a spectacular panoramic presentation following a personal welcome from former President Shimon Peres, the Chairman of the International Board of the Museum. In his greeting, Peres said: “We are very grateful to all those people who created this miracle because it was a miracle of people including Friends of Zion Jewish and non-Jewish. Nothing is greater than the cause of friendship among human beings.” The Museum is supported by thousands of donors from around the world.
It tells the story of heroes such as US President Harry Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Professor George Bush and Orde Wingate, who stood by the State of Israel and the Jewish people. It also tells the story of Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and the Ten Boom family, who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews persecuted during the holocaust. They would later be recognized as Righteous Among Nations, by the State of Israel. The Museum boasts a diverse international board of trustees such as former Minister, Major General (Res.) Yossi Peled, former Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Dan Halutz, former Minister of Justice, Professor Yaakov Neeman, Major General (Res.) Danny Yatom, and many others.
ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS PROTEST CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY ACTIVITY
As thousands of Christians attended a conference at the Payis Arena, ultra-Orthodox officials expressed their anger at the Municipality and the management of the Payis Arena for allowing a Christian organization to hold a conference at the venue. The event was eventually held as planned, despite the outcry, due to legal issues involved in calling off the already approved event. Ultra-Orthodox protestors defined the event as a “major show of forced conversion,” asserting that the event was aimed at convincing Jews to join Christianity with the help of missionaries who had arrived in Israel for that very purpose. There were a few arrests as the protesters ignored police directives and resorted to violence.
The Jerusalem Municipality decided to give in to the ultra-orthodox demand concerning any future events and has agreed to consult the city’s rabbis before approving and issuing permits for any future Christian event that may include “missionary activity”.