Category : Israel

(Economist) Skirmish on the Mount–Trouble is brewing again at Jerusalem's holiest site

The year 5,775 on the Hebrew calendar ended much the way it began: with violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site. On the morning of September 13th, hours before the Rosh Hashanah holiday began, Israeli police raided the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. A group of Palestinian worshippers emerged from the al-Aqsa mosque to pelt them with stones, and the officers responded with tear gas and sound bombs. Similar scenes have played out on the next two mornings as well.

Police said the raid was a preemptive measure ahead of the holiday, which typically brings an influx of Jewish visitors. Gilad Erdan, the public-security minister, said that pipe bombs had indeed been found inside the mosque. Twenty-six people were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. More than 1,000 Israeli Jews ascended anyway, in spite of the violence.

The plateau, occupied by Israel during the 1967 war, is Judaism’s most sacred site, believed to be the location of the Biblical temple. Muslims revere it as the place where the Prophet Muhammad made his night journey to heaven. Under a long-standing arrangement, Muslims have exclusive rights to pray there; Jews may visit at certain times, but must worship below at the Western Wall.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Statement on the Revd Stephen Sizer by the Bishop of Guildford

“The Diocese of Guildford has taken extremely seriously the reports and complaints regarding Stephen Sizer over the past two weeks. Concerns surrounding Stephen were raised both in response to allegedly offensive materials linked from his Facebook account, and to comments he made to the Jewish News and the Daily Telegraph thereafter.

“Commenting on this matter, the Council of Christians and Jews has helpfully highlighted that:

”˜It is perfectly possible to criticize Israeli policies without such criticism being anti-Semitic, and Christians and others should feel free to do so. However, such legitimate criticism must not be used as a cloak for anti-Semitism, nor can anti-Semitism itself ever be disguised as mere political comment’.

“Having now met Stephen, in my brand new role as Bishop of Guildford, I do not believe that his motives are anti-Semitic; but I have concluded that, at the very least, he has demonstrated appallingly poor judgment in the material he has chosen to disseminate, particularly via social media, some of which is clearly anti-Semitic.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Anglican Provinces, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(W Po) A month after kosher market attack, French Jews plan an exodus

Inclusive, integrated, peaceful and prosperous, the elegant city of Saint-Mandé ”” hard against Paris’s eastern fringe ”” has been a haven for Jews like Sebag whose parents and grandparents were driven from their native North Africa decades ago by anti-Semitism.

“I’ve always told everyone that here, we are very protected. It’s like a small village,” Sebag said.

But in an instant on the afternoon of Jan. 9, Sebag’s refuge became a target. A gunman who would later say he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State walked into her neighborhood’s kosher market and opened fire, launching a siege that would leave four hostages dead ”” all of them Jewish.

A month later, the Jews of Saint-Mandé are planning for a possible exodus from what had once appeared to be the promised land.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, France, History, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Haaretz) Nobody wanted to hear our stories: Israeli Auschwitz survivors look back

As a young pilot of 24, Avraham Harshalom found himself hospitalized at Tel Hashomer hospital. He suggested to the doctor that while he was there, he could remove the tattoo from his left arm. “At that age you just want to be like everyone else,” he says. “People would see the tattoo and look at you differently.”

Sitting in the lobby of the Krakow Holiday Inn, Harshalom is for once surrounded by men and women who are not different to him. He is one of more than a hundred survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau who have been brought here by the World Jewish Congress to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. The survivors are at the center of attention here, surrounded by family members and well-wishers. Everyone is aware that this could well be the last reunion of such a large group of survivors.

Another thing these grandparents and great-grandparents in their late eighties and nineties have in common is that for decades after liberation, they did not share their experiences. They just tried to be like everyone else.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Israel, Middle East, Poland, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(Wash Post) For Jews across France, the oldest question returns: Stay put or leave?

Soon after four Jewish men were killed in a hostage-taking siege at a kosher market in Paris last week, the Israeli leadership leapt to offer refuge.

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray; the state of Israel is your home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address.

If a new wave of French Jews move to Israel, they will join what was a record 7,000 compatriots who made the journey last year. But that movement is already rekindling debate among Jews, who ask: Is it better for French Jews to come to Israel or stay home and insist that French society, including the country’s swelling Muslim population, accommodate them?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, History, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) The Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem reflects on 2014

In recent months, Church leaders have expressed concern about the departure of a rising number of Christians from the Middle East.

The civil war in Syria and the advance of so-called Islamic State militants in Iraq have led to appeals for greater support for some of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, England / UK, Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

John Henry Patterson (1867-1947)-The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero to be reburied in Israel

This is a fantastic interview by the BBCWS with Denis Brian, author of The Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson How an Irish Lion Hunter Led the Jewish Legion to Victory. Among many other things, he says of Patterson “If you combined Roosevelt, Hemingway and Lawrence of Arabia you might have a man like John Henry Patterson.” Listen to it all (about 3 minutes). Careful listeners will also be interested in the quote from Ze’ev Jabotinsky who once said of Patterson: “In all of Jewish history we have never had a Christian friend as understanding and devoted as he.”

Update” you may read more about the book and denis Brian there.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Defense, National Security, Military, England / UK, History, Ireland, Israel, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT Ltr from the Middle east) Jerusalem, the Holy City of Separation

Havdalah, the set of blessings that ends the Jewish Sabbath, means separation. The text talks about separating light from darkness, the day of rest from the six days of work, the holy from the ordinary, Israel from “the nations.” That last one stems from the controversial biblical concept of Jews as God’s chosen people, and is a reminder of the rough reality now playing out in this holy city.

After a torturous week that included a Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue and the attendant Israeli crackdown, about 200 people gathered Saturday night at Jerusalem’s renovated First Station complex for Havdalah and a pluralistic prayer for peace. Pluralism in this case meant among Jews ”” the rabbis up front included Reform and Orthodox, women and men, the descendants of Eastern Europe known as Ashkenazim and of those expelled from Spain, Sephardim.

The overwhelmingly Ashkenazi audience delighted when Rabbi David Menachem, whose grandfather came to Israel from Iraq, asked permission to chant Havdalah in “a Sephardi tune ”” a Jerusalem tune.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, History, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

(CSM) Rabbis killed at synagogue: Religious tinge of Jerusalem crisis deepens

Two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue in the quiet West Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof Tuesday morning with axes, knives, and a pistol and killed at least four worshipers in the single deadliest attack on Jews since tensions in this city began escalating this summer.

Three of the dead, all rabbis, were American immigrants to Israel. The fourth was a rabbi born in Britain.

Such an attack poses a challenge not only to Israeli security forces, but also to leaders on both sides as political tensions take on an increasingly religious tinge.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

Britain's ex-chief rabbi Jonathans Sacks on the situation in North Africa and the Middle East

Today, though, the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa are undergoing a seismic shift in precisely the opposite direction. People are de-secularising. They feel betrayed by secular nationalist governments that failed to deliver prosperity and national pride. They consider the national boundaries imposed by colonial powers to be artificial and obsolete. They are uninspired by the secular culture of the West with its maximum of choice and minimum of meaning. And they have come to believe that salvation lies in a return to the Islam that that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus for the better part of a thousand years.

And though their faith is hostile to modernity, they sometimes understand modernity better than its own creators in the West. They know that because of the Internet, YouTube and the social media, communication, indeed politics itself, has gone global, and they also know that the great monotheisms are the most powerful global communities in the world, far broader and deeper in their reach than any nation state. And the religious radicals are offering young people the chance to fight and die for their faith, winning glory on earth and immortality in heaven. They have started recruiting in the West and they have only just begun.

But when ancient theologies are used for modern political ends, they speak a very dangerous language indeed. So for example, Hamas and Hizbollah, both self-defined as religious movements, refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel within any boundaries whatsoever and seek only its complete destruction.

The Islamists also know that the only way they can win the sympathy of the West is by demonising Israel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(RNS) Yale chaplain’s resignation reflects larger mainline tensions over Israel

[Bruce] Shipman didn’t understand Jewish connections to Israel, argued religion writer Mark Oppenheimer in a column for Tablet. Oppenheimer said Shipman failed to understand the difference between Israel and the action of Jews and anti-Semitism.

“You don’t say to Muslims, ”˜If you have a problem with anti-Muslim bigotry, take it up with al-Qaida,’” Oppenheimer said in an interview. “That’s not the way American dialogue should proceed.”

However, Oppenheimer, who teaches a class at Yale, does not believe Shipman should have had to resign.

“I’m opposed to drumming people out of communities,” he said. “I don’t think the answer is to call for someone’s scalp.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

(TIME) TEC minister+Yale Chaplain Explains Resignation After Letter About Israel and Anti-Semitism

The official reason for [Bruce] Shipman’s resignation, according to the Episcopal Church at Yale, was not the letter but “dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge.” Ian Douglas, bishop of Connecticut and president of the board of governors for the Episcopal Church at Yale, emphasized this distinction to the Yale Daily News. “It’s not as glamorous a story to hear that Priest-in-Charge Bruce Shipman resigned because of institutional dynamics within the Episcopal Church at Yale and not the debates related to Israel and Palestine ”” but it’s the truth,” he said.

Shipman disagrees. “This story cannot be simply dismissed as the inner problems of the Episcopal Church at Yale. It was not,” he says. “It was this letter that set off the firestorm.”

For Shipman, the controversy raises a number of “troubling questions” about free speech on campus. In addition to the hate mail, Shipman says he has also received letters of support from people thanking him for taking a courageous stand for Palestinian rights. University chaplains, he adds, have a long history advocating unpopular cultural positions.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Education, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Young Adults

(Tablet) Johnny Cash in the Holy Land

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were deeply religious people whose personal and professional lives were imbued with a sense of spiritual struggle and religious engagement. The 2005 biopic Walk the Line was very good at depicting the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll aspect of Cash’s life and art, but, like almost all Hollywood movies, it steers clear of religion in general and of evangelical Protestant religion in particular. Also left out the film was the story of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s passionate engagement with Israel, an engagement that grew out of their religious beliefs. John’s interest in Israel started with a wish to visit the Christian holy sites and “walk where Jesus walked.” Cash’s initial visit to the Israel in 1966 was followed by a trip with June in 1968 and developed into a lifelong project to serve as advocates for the State of Israel, even when such advocacy was unfashionable among American performing artists.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Evangelicals, History, Israel, Middle East, Music, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Theology

(YDN) Episcopal chaplain at Yale resigns amid controversy

[The] Reverend Bruce Shipman, chaplain of Yale’s Episcopal Church, resigned Thursday after he was accused of anti-Semitism.

In an Aug. 21 letter to the New York Times responding to Deborah Lipstadt’s Aug. 20 op-ed “Why Jews Are Worried,” Shipman wrote that Israel’s actions in Gaza contributed to growing anti-Semitism in Europe. He added that stalled peace negotiations and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank were also factors. As a result, Shipman faced a wave of criticism claiming he was anti-Semitic.

Shipman responded in an Aug. 28 post to the News, writing that he simply believed that there is a correlation between increased anti-Semitic violence and the events taking place in Israel, Palestine and Gaza.

Read it all and you can find more here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Israel, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

([London] Times) Former Israeli President Shimon Peres urges Pope to create religious UN

As Nato leaders met in Wales yesterday to discuss how the international community should respond to religiously motivated violence in the Middle East, Shimon Peres, the former Israeli President, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican to propose a “United Nations of Religions” to counter the rise of religious extremism.

“In the past, most wars were motivated by the idea of nationhood. Today, though, wars are launched using above all religion as an excuse,” Mr Peres told the Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family), before explaining his proposal at a meeting with the Pope.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who joined Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Pope Francis to pray for peace in the Vatican a month before the outbreak of war in Gaza, said the real United Nations was no longer up to the challenge, since it lacked the armies possessed by states and the conviction produced by religion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(NYT) Cease-Fire in Gaza Expires With Rockets Fired Into Israel

A 72-hour truce in the Gaza fighting expired at 8 a.m. Friday as Palestinian militants fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, signaling Hamas’s refusal to extend the lull and its desire to apply pressure for its demands to be met at talks in Cairo for a more durable cease-fire agreement.

In response, the Israeli military said it had targeted “terror sites” across the Gaza Strip, and there were reports of airstrikes and artillery fire.

Israel had said it was willing to extend the truce unconditionally and had vowed to respond to any fire from Gaza. Israel has withdrawn its ground troops from the Gaza Strip, but the air force has been on standby, and forces have remained on alert along the border.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence

(Newsweek) Exodus: Why Europe's Jews Are Fleeing Once Again

The mob howled for vengeance, the missiles raining down on the synagogue walls as the worshippers huddled inside. It was a scene from Europe in the 1930s ”“ except this was eastern Paris on the evening of July 13th, 2014.

Thousands had gathered to demonstrate against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. But the protest soon turned violent ”“ and against Jews in general. One of those trapped told Israeli television that the streets outside were “like an intifada”, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.

Some of the trapped Jews fought their way out as the riot police dispersed the crowd. Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, condemned the attack in “the strongest possible terms”, while Joel Mergei, a community leader, said he was “profoundly shocked and revolted”. The words had no effect. Two weeks later, 400 protesters attacked a synagogue and Jewish-owned businesses in Sarcelles, in the north of Paris, shouting “Death to the Jews”. Posters had even advertised the raid in advance, like the pogroms of Tsarist Russia.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

(NYT) Anti-Semitism Rises in Europe Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict

Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

(Church Times) Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby plead for end to fighting in Gaza

Calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from all over the world. Pope Francis last Sunday deviated from his script to make an impassioned plea, apparently choking back tears as he spoke: “Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please.”

The Evangelical Episcopal Church’s Bishop in Israel & the Palestinian territories, Dr Hani Shehadeh, and four other churchmen from the Holy Land wrote to the Church Times this week urging Christians to pray for peace.

They urge all Christians to stand up for the rights of the Christian family in the Middle East: “Lobby your parliament, speak up in your media, and pray for the well-being and safety of Christians facing persecution.” The letter said that the latest conflict in Gaza meant that “the Christian community of this corner of the Holy Land faces extinction.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

A Statement from Archbishop Justin Welby on the crisis in Gaza

“You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking. We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security. Only a costly and open-hearted seeking of peace between Israeli and Palestinian can protect innocent people, their children and grand children, from ever worse violence.

“My utmost admiration is for all those involved in the humanitarian efforts on the ground, not least the medical team and staff at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Providing relief and shelter for those displaced is a tangible expression of our care and concern, and I encourage Church of England parishes and dioceses, as well as the wider Communion, to pray for them and support the Diocese of Jerusalem’s emergency appeal.

“While humanitarian relief for those civilians most affected is a priority, especially women and children, we must also recognise that this conflict underlines the importance of renewing a commitment to political dialogue in the wider search for peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian. The destructive cycle of violence has caused untold suffering and threatens the security of all….”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Ethics / Moral Theology, Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

(Vat. Radio) One Roman Catholic priest leads flock through the violence in Gaza

While more than 200 thousand Palestinians have fled Gaza since the war began, and more being added daily, some remain in resistance. Among them is Fr George Hernandez, pastor of the Catholics in Gaza, at Holy Family Church in Zeitun, where he stays to care for his flock while bombs continue to fly overhead and land too close to home.

Fr. Hernandez spoke to Vatican Radio where he described the situation on the ground and how the war has struck the Catholic community:

“Unfortunately, the resistance movement is situated near houses and in the streets. For us, this was a problem yesterday. At a certain point, we could not leave the house. Then the bombs fell. One house near the church was hit and there have been some major damage to our rectory and parish school”.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Israel, Middle East, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

(W. Post) Gaza campaign on pace to become deadliest Israeli conflict in recent years

Palestinian and Israeli casualties are mounting at a pace that could surpass any other Israeli conflict in nearly a decade, amid signs of a deepening military and political stalemate driven by diplomatic gridlock, Palestinian militant resilience and the absence of a clear Israeli exit strategy.

The rising death toll in the Gaza Strip conflict propelled U.S. and European diplomats huddled in Paris to call for an extension of a 12-hour humanitarian truce Saturday that had afforded both sides a brief respite from the nearly three-week-old conflict.

Late Saturday, Israel approved a 24-hour extension of the truce but said it would retaliate if Hamas prevented its forces from continuing to destroy tunnel networks through which the militants have attempted to infiltrate Israel. Hamas fighters, though, resumed firing rockets and mortar rounds into Israel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence

(Washington Post) Depth of Gaza devastation becomes clear after cease-fire

With safe passage promised by a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire, residents of the areas hardest hit in Gaza fighting returned to their homes on Saturday. They could not believe what they saw.

Many roads were barely passable, and almost quiet. Women did not wail. The men looked stunned. Their neighborhoods were reduced to ugly piles of gray dust, shattered cement block and twisted rebar.

Huge bomb craters marked the spot where on Friday four-story apartment blocks stood. On some streets, it seemed as if every house was either riddled with bullet holes or shrapnel spray, charred by flames, or leveled.

The scale of the damage from Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire was the worst seen in 19 days. Much of the damage witnessed Saturday occurred in the past 24 to 48 hours, as diplomats debated the terms of a possible truce.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) Civilians as Human Shields? Gaza War Intensifies Debate

Militant rockets can be seen launching from crowded neighborhoods, near apartment buildings, schools and hotels. Hamas fighters have set traps for Israeli soldiers in civilian homes and stored weapons in mosques and schools. Tunnels have been dug beneath private property.

With international condemnation rising over the death toll in Gaza exceeding 650 in the war’s 16th day, Israel points to its adversaries’ practice of embedding forces throughout the crowded, impoverished coastal enclave of 1.7 million people.

“Hamas uses schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli civilians,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart in a call over the weekend, according to a statement from Mr. Netanyahu’s office. “Hamas uses innocent civilians as a human shield for terrorist activity.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

Israeli soldier reportedly captured, 70 Palestinians dead in worst day of conflict

Seventy Palestinians were killed Sunday in a heavy bombardment of a Gaza neighborhood and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s current offensive against Hamas fighters, officials said. The Hamas military also announced that its fighters had captured an Israeli soldier.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the Al Qassam Brigades, appeared on Hamas TV to announce the soldier had been taken prisoner. Minutes later, there were fireworks and shouts of “God is great!” from loud speakers.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was investigating the claim.

Read it all and join in as we continue to pray for peace.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

(New Republic) Yishai Schwartz–Israel Is Invading Gaza Because Netanyahu Is Out of Options

…now, things have changed. Some may point to the pressure Netanyahu was facing from his own cabinet. Only days into the recent round of fighting, Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced that his Yisrael Beitenu faction would end its partnership with Netanyahu’s Likud party, a partnership that had guaranteed Netanyahu the largest party in the Israeli coalition. Lieberman cited “essential differences” with Netanyahu over the latter’s overly restrained response to Hamas’ rocketfire. And just yesterday, Netanyahu fired his incendiary deputy defense minister, Danny Dannon, over his unrelenting criticism of the Israeli government’s handling of the current campaign””particularly its acceptance of a ceasefire proposed by Egypt. (The ceasefire, unfortunately, was rejected by Hamas.)

But the more likely explanation is that Israel just didn’t have any other options. Israel could have continued its aerial and artillery exchanges with Hamas, but this campaign did not appear to be damaging either the will or the capability of Hamas. It could have loosened its rules of engagement and struck Hamas more effectively””but doing so would have inflicted unconscionably disproportionate civilian damage. It could have capitulated to Hamas’s ultimatums to release hundreds of security prisoners and reopened Gaza to shipments of arms- and tunnel-making materials. Apart from the moral implications of such a concession, doing so would simply have strengthened Hamas and ensured additional fighting. An extended cease-fire would be ideal. But so far, Egyptian attempts to broker such a cease-fire seem to have fallen on deaf ears. So Netanyahu was left with a choice that wasn’t really much of a choice.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology

Prayers Tonight for the Downed Plane in the Ukraine and for the Peace of Jerusalem

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Israel, Middle East, Spirituality/Prayer, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

(BBC) Egypt proposes Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Egypt has proposed a ceasefire to end a week of cross-border fire between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The initiative, announced by the foreign ministry, urges a ceasefire starting on Tuesday morning followed by a series of meetings in Cairo with high-level delegations from both sides.

It comes ahead of an urgent meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Theology, Violence

(BBC) Deaths rise in Israeli air strikes on Gaza

Up to 20 people have been killed in the deadliest night of Israeli air raids on Gaza since its current offensive began, Palestinian officials say.

The health ministry said most died in attacks on a house and a cafe in Khan Younis in the south, bringing the overall death toll to 76.

Militants in Gaza continued firing rockets into Israel on Thursday, with sirens sounding over southern towns.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the situation was “on a knife-edge”.

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(Tablet Magazine) Rabbis across Israel condemn murder of Arab teen: "…not the way of the Torah"

In the wake of the brutal murder of Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists, Israeli politicians, pundits and even former terror victims have expressed their shock and outrage at the killing. And so have some of the Jewish state’s most prominent rabbis. At a meeting of the Chief Rabbinate Council yesterday, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau condemned the crime, saying bluntly, “This is not the way of the Torah.” Lau’s counterpart, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, planned a personal visit to the Khdeir family, where he said he wished “to fiercely denounce the outrageous murder that was perpetrated against the innocent young man.” The visit was cancelled due to security concerns over his safety, and so Yosef released a public statement calling his fellow clergy to account: “We as religious leaders need to lead forward with a conciliatory message in order to prevent continued pain and bereavement, so that no one else is harmed.”

Other rabbis have answered this call. Rabbi Amnon Bazak of Yeshivat Har Etzion”“a school located where three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped and murdered earlier this month”“wrote on Facebook that “It is incumbent upon the religious Zionist world to draw a clear red line, especially for the youth, and say: no more! The Torah of Israel and any understanding of the cruel murder of an innocent boy are an utter contradiction that cannot be countenanced in any way.” Noting that some had attempted to justify the killing, Bazak said that “the religious community must remove these individuals once and for all from the legitimate discourse.”

Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau of Beit Morasha and the Israel Democracy Institute also spoke out forcefully against the murder and called on Israelis to grapple with the hate that led to it.

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