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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

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.

First-Ever Meeting Between Tourism Minister and Latin Patriarch

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Israel’s Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau held an unprecedented meeting on Monday with His Beatitude Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, to discuss enhanced cooperation regarding pilgrimage to the Israel.

“This meeting heralds the beginning of enhanced and prolonged cooperation between the ministry and the Catholic Church. Pilgrimage serves as a bridge for peace, bringing together peoples and cultures from around the world,” Landau said.

Tens of thousands of Catholics from around the world will celebrate the Eucharist at Mount Precipice in Nazareth next month, led by the Latin Patriarch.

“We share both a mutual interest in providing hospitality and services for pilgrims and the goal that these pilgrims will return home as new ambassadors for the Holy Land, said the Latin Patriarch.

An IMAX Film of the Jerusalem You Never Have Seen Before (Video)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Five years in the making, the first IMAX film ever made about Jerusalem is as much a visual tour de force as a marvel of cultural diplomacy.

“Jerusalem,” which had its world premiere last week at Boston’s Museum of Science, uses cutting-edge cinematography to immerse the audience in the ancient city’s historic sites from rarely seen perspectives.

Over the course of 45 minutes, viewers are treated to rare aerial views of the Old City as Jews gather at the Western Wall for the priestly blessing, Christian pilgrims march down the Via Dolorosa and Muslims gather at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan.

Distributed by National Geographic Entertainment, the film, narrated by the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, will show on IMAX screens and in digital 3-D cinemas across the United States in the coming weeks.

Gaining access to some of the world’s most sensitive and contested locations was a test of devotion and artful negotiations that took the film’s three producers and a team of advisers years to accomplish. Preparations required dozens of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, the Israeli army and the many clerics who control the city’s religious sites.

Filming from a low-altitude helicopter in the Old City of Jerusalem’s strict no-fly zone required a permit that had not been granted in more than 20 years, the filmmakers said, and acquiring the permit took eight months of negotiations.

In advance of the shooting, producers took out ads in the major Hebrew- and Arabic-language newspapers to notify residents about the helicopter filming.

“There was nothing that was not complicated,” Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers, said at the premiere.

Even the terrestrial shots were difficult to carry off. For the scene filmed at the Western Wall, an IMAX camera was mounted on a crane above the crowds.

The most challenging authorization by far was for the Temple Mount, known in Islam as the Muslim Noble Sanctuary, which required permission from the Islamic custodial body, the religious affairs ministry in Jordan and Israeli security forces.

A critical figure in helping the producers navigate the logistical maze was Ido Aharoni, now Israel’s consul general in New York. Aharoni first learned about the film six years ago when he directed Brand Israel, a project to promote Israel around the world.

He recognized the potential of portraying the country’s historical and cultural gems in such a visually powerful medium. IMAX films also typically screen in museums and can run for years.

“The whole purpose of the movie is to produce a visually awesome experience for the moviegoer who happens to be a museumgoer; it can’t be judged like any other movie,” Aharoni told JTA. “Realizing that, we told [the producers], ‘Whatever you need, we’ll help you.’ ”

The film’s mesmerizing visuals are woven into a narrative propelled by the voices of three teenage Jerusalemite women — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Fluent in English, the women offer eloquent descriptions of the deep religious, cultural and family ties that bind them and their respective religions to their home city.

Though the film was carefully planned down to the last minute and camera angle, Daniel Ferguson, the film’s producer, writer and director, told JTA the teens’ words were their own.

“My goal is to promote understanding,” Ferguson told JTA. “The film will change assumptions and give a window into another point of view.”

The voices of the women are supplemented by that of Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, who guides viewers through an ancient tunnel and visits active excavation sites that continue to unearth the history of the land.

The filmmakers took great pains to balance the presentation of all three religions, according to George Duffield, another producer with longstanding ties to Israel. He and Ferguson say they were at times pressed to take a position on controversial or political issues, but insisted on neutrality.

“Everyone wanted the film to be about their own faith,” Duffield said. “That’s how they see the city.”

The producers hope the film can be used to promote tolerance and understanding. Profits will be donated to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to underwrite projects that benefit all residents of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem."

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem.”

Egyptian Army Saves Christians from Muslim Terrorists

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

The Egyptian military regime escalated its war on radical Islamists Monday and came to the rescue of Christians whose village has been terrorized.

As The Jewish Press wrote here  last week under the headline “A New ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt Aimed at Wiping out Radical Islam,” the military is distinguishing itself by trying to protect the country from those trying to overthrow the government, a campaign that Western countries would not dare carry out for fear of offending their growing Muslim majorities.

Egyptian security forces on Monday stormed Delga, an Islamist-controlled village in central Egypt that had been the scene of some of the worst anti-Christian violence in Egypt. Soldiers and police fired tear gas and searched for suspects in the raid at dawn and arrested 56 terrorists by Monday afternoon, AFP reported.

The village, located 190 miles south of Cairo, came under the control of Islamists loyal to ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi following the clearing of pro-Morsi camps in Cairo in mid-August. After taking control, the Islamists unleashed a campaign of terror against the village’s sizable Christian minority, who make up about one-sixth of the village’s 120,000 people.

The Christian Post reported that Coptic Christians in Delga have been forced to pay a “submission” tax to the Islamists unless they converted to Islam. Dozens of Christian families fled the village, and those who remained and did not pay the tax were attacked.

“As soon as the crackdown in Cairo started, all the loudspeakers at the main mosques in Delga issued calls for jihad,” said Samir Lamei Sakr, a prominent Christian lawyer who fled from the town later that day, according to The London Guardian.

Since the Egyptian military cleared Muslim Brotherhood supporters from the streets, the Islamists torched more than 70  Coptic churches and attacked their homes, businesses and an orphanage

Two book stores of the Bible Society, which has operated in Egypt for 129 years has been operating for 129 years, were destroyed by arson, according to AFP.

“All of Egypt was Coptic for almost a thousand years until the Muslims invaded and started imposing heavy taxes on the Christians,” Washington Coptic church leader Dr. Halim Meawad told the French news agency. “Those who couldn’t pay were forced to convert to Islam under pain of death. Today’s Muslims in Egypt are descendants of Copts who couldn’t pay their taxes hundreds of years ago.”

He said that supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi blamed the Copts for Morsi’s downfall. “The Copts were attacked because as Christians they were a convenient scapegoat for the Brotherhood,” explained Dr. Meawad.

The Muslim Brotherhood regime, which lasted almost exactly one year after being elected, was welcomed by the Obama administration. Dr. Meawad criticized  President Obama and  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for backing the Muslim Brotherhood at the beginning of the demonstrations this summer, while criticizing the military for violence against demonstrators.

“Neither the Copts nor the military are responsible for Morsi’s ouster,” Dr. Meawad explained. “The Egyptian people simply did not want him. Morsi was elected with only 14 million votes last year, but 33 million Egyptians in the streets on June 30 told him they didn’t want him.”

Christians in other Arab countries, where they are allowed tolerated at all, are not so lucky. Syrian Christians are caught in the middle of the civil war, distrusted by both Assad and the rebels.

In the Palestinian Authority, Hamas has carried out an Islamic campaign to wipe out the “infidel” Christians since the terrorist organization wrested control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction seven years ago.

Much far better off. Thousands of Christians have fled Bethlehem since the Intifada began in the late 1980s and escalated into the Oslo War in 2000.

JNS contributed to this article.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/egyptian-army-saves-christians-from-muslim-terrorists/2013/09/17/

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