A Tale of Two Bible Museums—and of Anti-Religious Bigotry

New York’s Museum of Biblical Art is set to close its doors. The reason? Despite its avowedly secular approach to the Bible, it proved to be “too religious” for most donors. Meanwhile, the Green family, proprietors of the Hobby Lobby chain, is planning a massive Bible museum in Washington DC that enthusiastically embraces both religious and secular appreciation for the sacred text. Naomi Schaefer Riley writes:

As Richard Townsend, the Museum of Biblical Art’s director, explained, the museum has tried “to move out of the shadow of [its explicitly Christian founders], but I think that, try as we might, there was brand confusion.” The implication, of course, is that you must be one brand or the other—the kind of person who thinks the Bible is a great book that has inspired beautiful literature and art or the kind who thinks the Bible contains Truth. Not both. . . .

[By contrast, although] the Green family is mostly Protestant, their museum has found partners with Jewish groups, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and even the Vatican. And they have welcomed the input of scholars with no religious background at all.

The Greens have been regularly mocked for their position that their business should reflect their values. . . . The Museum of the Bible will reflect their values as well. But as it turns out, the Greens seem to be much more tolerant and welcoming of non-believers than the secular elite seems to be of them.

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More about: Bible, Ecumenicism, Hobby Lobby, Museums, Religion & Holidays, Religious art, Secularism

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America