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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

Just Say No to Nittel Nacht

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Back in Yeshiva elementary school I was introduced to the holiday of Nittel Nacht, which happened to coincidentally always fall on the eve of December 25th.

There was excitement in the class, a night that it is assur (forbidden) to learn Torah!

“What do we do instead?” a fellow classmate asked.

And we nearly all fell off our chairs when the answer from the Rabbi was, “Stay home and play cards,” which was, of course, amazing, since we were taught that playing cards wasn’t even allowed on Shabbat.

What a great holiday.

And the Rabbi explained why:

The night of Nittel Nacht is one of great impurity, where evil and dangerous spirits run around outside, and we aren’t allowed to go outside, so they couldn’t harm us.

And since we must be inside with nothing to do, we should normally be learning Torah. But since we don’t want those evil spirits to get the Zechut (merit) for our Torah learning, since we can’t go outside because of them, we do meaningless things instead.

But I always wondered about one contradiction:

Since we were also taught that the world continues to exist only because there is always at least one person learning Torah at any time, if we’re telling everyone not to learn at the same time, wouldn’t the world be destroyed?

There are additonal customs associated with Nittel Nacht, such as eating garlic to ward off the demons (particularly you know whose), praying Aleinu out loud (since that is the prayer against idolatry), and not going to sleep all night. You can read about more Nittel Nacht customs on Hirhurim.

But now, lets step back a bit from the edge.

The custom obviously began in Jewish communities that lived among Christians.

On Christmas Eve (on whichever date they celebrated it on in that community), the Christians would get plastered (with spirits) and wander the streets beating up Jews and organizing pogroms, and killing more Jews.

So as a result, Jews learned that, on Christmas, don’t let the drunk goyim see you, and then they won’t kill you. So Jews didn’t go outside to the Beis Midrash or the Shul.

As to not learning, obviously, people started coming up with additional explanations as to why we don’t learn, though I think the most likely is that if the Christians saw a light on in your house (which you kept on for reading), they were likely to grasp that you were inside and then, maybe, try to burn the house down with you in it. And the same thing for not going to sleep. How would you see the drunk Christians  approaching to burn down your house if you weren’t awake to spot them coming — and run?

Voodoo explanations aside, historically there were very good reasons for Jews to not go outside on Nittel Nacht.

In fact, I would say that today (for people in America and Modi’in), the visual and audio spiritual impurity issues are far more relevant reasons why one should not go outside on Nittel Nacht, as opposed to the more traditional dangers of Christian violence and pogroms.

But, my original question regarding Torah learning has never been answered to my satisfaction. Because if I was planning to be learning Torah anyway, there is no way the evil forces should see any merit from my actions, and if there isn’t at least one person learning Torah, what would support the world?

So, tonight, on Nittel Nacht, I won’t be going outside, even though I’m in Eretz Yisrael and we don’t really have that problem here, but I will be learning Torah, because why should we allow evil forces to cause Bittul Torah (cancellation of Torah learning), and, perhaps, with everyone else not learning Torah, I could be the one who supports the entire world!.

So just say no to Nittel Nacht, or at least the part about no Torah learning.

Abbas Reveals How the Palestinian Authority Stole Christmas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The Palestinian Authority has used a video and the revision of history to turn Christmas into a tool to rewrite history, with Jesus having been born in a “Palestinian” city and modern-day Christians suddenly being an “integral part of the Palestinian people.”

Christians, like Jews, were denied access to holy sites during the Jordan occupation from 1949 until 1967. The PA regime in Bethlehem has been heavily influenced by Islamists and Christians, once a majority in the city, have fled the city and only a small minority remain.

The Palestinian Authority the past several years has tried to show that Christians were forced to leave Bethlehem because of economic conditions, and Abbas this year has issued an official later stating, “We celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem under occupation. This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.”

He turned the Christians from being a minority into being “an integral part…of the rich mosaic of this free, sovereign, democratic and pluralistic Palestine we aspire to have and as established in our declaration of independence and draft constitution.”

Abbas has been ruling the “democratic” Palestinian Authority for more than five years since the end of his term of office following the first, last and only elections.

The “rich mosaic” in the Palestinian Authority  does not include Jews, who he repeatedly has declared will not be permitted to live in a future PA state and whose ancient synagogues dot Judea and Samaria, from Kever Yosef in the north to Samoa and Susiya in the south and Jericho to the east.

Abbas called Jesus a “Palestinian messenger who would become a guiding light for millions around the world. …This Christmas Eve, our hearts and prayers will be with the millions who are being denied their right to worship in their homeland.”

That leaves open the question of who is denying whom their rights?

Israeli opened up holy sites to all religions after the Six-Day War in 1967. Since the Oslo Accords, which heralded the American vision of a “New Middle East,” the Palestinian Authority has systemically worked to bar Jews from praying at synagogues at Kever Yosef (Cave of Joseph) in Shechem, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the ancient synagogue in Jericho.

Abbas’ holiday statement tried to convince people to feel sorry for the Palestinian Authority by conjuring up the image of “our people in Gaza, trapped under siege, and of those who are prevented from worshipping in Bethlehem. “

He apparently was referring to the tiny number of Christians remaining in Gaza, where the Hamas regime has harassed them and burned churches and Christian book stores.

Abbas, never missing an opportunity to create demands that to end an opportunity for a PA state, also brought into his statement the Arabs living in UNRWA “refugee camps in Beirut…along with all of our Palestinian refugees – Christians and Muslims – uprooted from their hometowns in 1948 and who, since that time, have suffered the vicissitudes of a forced exile.”

They are refugees only because the United Nations has made then refugees, a status ti does not extend to any other world refugee’s second generation. The designation also has helped Lebanon and other host countries to refuse them citizenship.

Abbas even reached to South and North American to ask the world to feel sorry for the “Bethlehemites [who] will be lighting their candles in Santiago de Chile, Chicago, San Pedro de Sula, Melbourne and Toronto.”

He also put in a good word for Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Bethlehem in May, where he will continue the Vatican’s pro-Palestinian Authority agenda.

Pro IDF Priest’s Son Suffered Brutal Beating

Monday, December 9th, 2013

The teenage son of Father Gabriel Nadaf of Nazareth, who was soon to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, suffered a brutal beating on Friday evening. He is being treated at the English Hospital in Nazareth.

A 21-year-old affiliated with the anti-Israel Hadash party was arrested in connection with the attack, Israel’s Channel 2 television reported.

Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest known for encouraging participation in military and national service among local Christians, said in the TV interview that his wife and other son fear leaving their home.

“As I call for integration in Israeli society, extremists are trying to divide and tear and incite against me,” Nadaf said. “The incitement of verbal threats has passed yesterday into physical violence as their goal is to intimidate me and my family.”

His family has been threatened not only physically; Israeli politicians have interfered to prevent the Jerusalem Patriarchate from firing Nadaf and destroying his livelihood.

Matan Peleg, director of operations for Im Tirtzu (“If you will it”), an Israeli organization promoting Zionist values, told United with Israel that last year, when a number of Christians in Nazareth had decided to promote enlistment in the IDF and join the Israeli mainstream, “we helped them immediately. They were placing their destiny with the State of Israel.”

Nadaf is “a good friend,” Peleg said, adding that only last week his group had warned that “something like this would happen.”

The past several months have seen a growing patriotism among Christian Israeli Arabs, which has alarmed enemies of the Jewish state.

In July, a new Christian party, Brit HaHadasha (meaning “Sons of the New Testament”), was created, calling for service in the IDF among other forms of integration

By mid-summer, the number of IDF recruits from Israel’s Arab-Christian community more than tripled since last year – from 35 to 100 – and 500 had volunteered for national service. They identify themselves as “Arab-speaking Israeli Christians.”

“At a time when Christian communities across the Islamic world are facing vicious persecution in the form of arrests, mob violence and bombings of churches, it’s no coincidence that this assertive form of Christian identity has manifested in democratic Israel,” noted JNS journalist Ben Cohen. “Increasingly, Christians in the Middle East understand that if their faith is to have a future in the region, the states in which they live need to be governed by the values of democracy and tolerance. A state that is Jewish in terms of its identity but which gives the same rights and demands the same duties of all of its citizens is truly a revolutionary development for the Middle East – and a key reason why so many of its neighbors dream of its destruction.”

“Our goal is to guard the Holy Land and the State of Israel,” Nadaf declared at a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the summer. “We have broken the barrier of fear – the state deserves that we do our part in defending it. Those who oppose the integration of the Christian community in the institutions of state do not walk in the path of Christianity.”

“Members of the Christian community must be allowed to enlist in the IDF,” Netanyahu asserted. “You are loyal citizens who want to defend the state and I salute you and support you. We will not tolerate threats against you and we will act to enforce the law with a heavy hand against those who persecute you. I will not tolerate attempts to crumble the state from within. The State of Israel and the Prime Minister stand alongside you.”

Following the attack, Netanyahu vowed that Israel will not tolerate continued violence against Christian supporters of Israel.

Visit United with Israel.

Dutch Christians’ Mega-Menorah Helps Jews Come Out of their Shell

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Amsterdam’s Chabad Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs lit the candles on the first night Hanukkah Wednesday on a 36-foot menorah with a six-ton base that was made with donations by Christian Zionists.

Klaas Zijlstr designed and built the menorah, in the shape of a Star of David, in his metal workshop in the northern tip of the Netherlands. Possibly the largest in all of Europe, the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor is meant to be a sign of solidarity by Christian Zionists with the Jewish people.

“It’s exactly like the rabbi wanted,” Zijlstra said.

Rabbi Jacobs helped Zijlstra and a group called Christians for Israel design the nine-branch candelabrum so it could be used for the eight-day holiday, which began Wednesday night and which was lit in front of hundreds of Christians and Jews during a public ceremony in Nijkerk, not far from Amsterdam.

Though commonplace in the United States and even in Russia, public Hanukkah events are a recent and revolutionary development in the Netherlands. Here they signify the growing self-confidence and openness of a Jewish community whose near annihilation in the Holocaust left a deeply entrenched tendency to keep a low profile.

“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t‎‎ have been possible,” said Arjen Lont, the Christian Zionist businessman who donated $40,000 to build and transport the menorah. “It requires a lot of openness.”

Lont says the purpose of the giant menorah, which can be used either with electric bulbs or oil lamps, is to send a message.

“After unspeakable suffering, the horrors of the Holocaust and most recently the attacks on Israel, Jews may feel they are alone,” Lont told JTA. “This is our way of saying you are not alone; we are behind you.”

The first public Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the country was organized in 1989 in Buitenveldert, near Amsterdam, by the wife of a Chabad rabbi, according to Bart Wallet, a historian of Dutch Jewry at the University of Amsterdam.

Today, such events are held annually in 19 municipalities, from the northern city of Leeuwarden, near Berlikum, to the southern border city of Maastricht, according to Rabbi Jacobs.

He said that public menorah lightings in the country signify the Jewish community’s confidence in asserting its place in Dutch society.

“Nowadays it’s also saying we are here; we are also a part of the fabric of religious communities and society,” he explained.

Dutch Jewish reticence toward public displays of faith dates back at least to the 19th century, according to Wallet, when Dutch rabbis decreed that no Jewish rituals should be held in the public domain. At the time, Dutch Jews were keen on integrating into a democratic society as equal citizens, and they considered it counterproductive to showcase religious customs that set them apart from their compatriots.

The tendency was greatly reinforced after the Holocaust, when three-quarters of Holland’s population of 140,000 Jews perished — a higher percentage than anywhere else in occupied Western Europe. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in the Netherlands.

Wallet says things began to change in the 1970s, when Dutch Jews began displaying greater activism around anti-Semitism and Israel.

Even today, however, many Dutch Jews retain a sense of reticence when it comes to public displays of religion.

“There’s nothing wrong with these Hanukkah events, but to me they don’t seem familiar,” said Jaap Hartog, chairman of the umbrella group of Dutch Jewry, called the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK. “To me, Hanukkah is more a holiday that you celebrate at home with your family. The public candle lightings are more of an American thing.

“On a personal level, I’m not too keen on participating.”

Initially, Chabad rabbis organized candle lighting ceremonies as part of their efforts to reach lapsed Jews, but today the menorah lightings are not organized exclusively by Chabad. Nathan Bouscher, a Jewish activist who is not himself religious, has co-organized candle lightings at the Dam, Amsterdam’s best-known square.

“It’s a way to build bridges between Jews and the non-Jewish environment, but also within the community and between Dutch-born Jews and the thousands of Israelis who live here and the tourists from Israel,” Bouscher said.

Back at Zijlstra’s metal workshop, his menorah is attracting attention from neighbors. During the test run last week, a few of them stopped by to admire his handiwork and congratulate him.

US ‘Holiday Stamps’ Include Menorah Made by Vermont Blacksmith

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The U.S. Postal Service has created a new Hanukkah stamp this year featuring an iron menorah made by a Vermont blacksmith, but the omission of a stamp for Christmas has left a lot of people burning angry.

Pouring salt on their wounds, the Postal Service also issued two other stamps for the holiday, one marking the African American holiday Kwanzaa and a third showing a gingerbread house.

The Hanukkah stamp shows a menorah made by Steve Bronstein of Mansfield, Vermont. He told the Rutland Herald he did not even know his menorah was in the running to be represented on a stamp.

“When they called and said they wanted to make a stamp out of the menorah, I thought they meant a rubber stamp,” he told the local newspaper. “I didn’t know I was talking to the postal service. I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s nice to get some acknowledgement every once in a while.”

Bronstein, armed with a degree in biology, moved from New York to Vermont with the idea of finding work at a medical school.

He said that since one of his hobbies is woodworking, he decided to make a chisel for one of his projects since he could not find the right in local hardware stores. His introduction into tool making piqued his interest, and he ended up working as a blacksmith.

He said when he made his first menorah in 1985, people thought he was off his dreidel.

“At the time, Hanukkah menorahs were brass and shiny and had more of a 1960s design aesthetic,” Bronstein explained. “I was doing something very different and it worked really well. I’ve sold a ton.”

He now sells around 100 menorahs a year and his works can be found in collections such as the Jewish Museum in New York.

While Bronstein is elated about the honor of his menorah being on envelopes across the nation, the Postal Service is on the receiving end of a lot of anger because of its omission of Christmas for this year’s “holiday stamps.”

After it advertised the stamps featuring the menorah, Kwanzaa and a gingerbread house, people started pouring on the criticism.

One tweet sarcastically stated,  “Don’t forget those three American holidays: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and…..gingerbread house. #USPS.”

The Postal Service apologized, saying no offense was intended.

“Our design included the most recent newly issued stamps. We did not look to offend or exclude any religion,” the postal service stated.

L.A. Gala Brings In $20 Million for Friends of IDF

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Simon Cowell, celebrity judge of the “X Factor” and formerly “American Idol,” and Grammy Award-winning musician Lionel Richie were among those who attended The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Western Region gala Wednesday, which raised $20 million.

Cowell contributed $150,000, and Richie performed for a crowd that included the CEOs of several prominent technology companies, the organization said. Individual multimillion-dollar donations included $4.5 million from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews led by founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

The organization aims to provide well-being and educational programs for soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces, including the Lone Soldier program, which supports Israeli soldiers who are immigrants or otherwise separated from their families.

Nearly One-Third of Syria’s Christians Have Fled Their Homes

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Nearly one-third of Syria’s native Christians have fled their homes during the Syrian civil war, according to Syrian Christian leader Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham.

He said that more than 450,000 Christians out of an estimated 1.75 million have been displaced or have left the country since the Syrian civil war began in early 2011.

Patriarch Gregorios, who has been criticized for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the international community needs to do more to block the flow of weapons into Syria. “We have to have campaign together—no more weapons, no more violence, go together to a better new vision of life,” he said.

Many Christians support President Bashar al-Assad out of fear that if he is overthrown and replaced by Islamists, they will face greater persecution, especially from the Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra terrorist organization.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/nearly-one-third-of-syrias-christians-have-fled-their-homes/2013/10/20/

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