Desperate for Money, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Slanders Israel

Theophilus III, the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and his church’s senior clergyman in Israel, wrote an article earlier this month in the London Times under the headline, “Christians Are under Threat in the Cradle of Their Faith,” which begins with a declaration that he and his coreligionists in Jerusalem “know what it is to live in darkness.” Flour Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of the Israeli capital, responds:

Theophilos III claims that there is regular desecration and vandalism of Christian sites in Jerusalem, as well as rising violence against Christians. These allegations are uncorroborated by the city and the police. If there was truly a trend of rising violence against Christians, wouldn’t we expect such incidents to be reported to local law enforcement before being aired to the foreign press? . . . Theophilos’s claims paint a false narrative of the tolerant culture we have so carefully nurtured in our city.

The contradictions between Theophilos’s assertions and the realities of daily life for Christians in Jerusalem and Israel suggests ulterior motives for his claims. The frustration he expresses over property rights in the Christian Quarter provides a hint on what may be behind this.

Theophilos writes: “It is at the Jaffa Gate that an Israeli radical group is seeking to occupy two big buildings, acquired through illegitimate transactions.” When appointed Patriarch of Jerusalem in 2005, Theophilos began a legal battle against the sale of two hotels by his church to a Jewish NGO in 2004. The legality of the transaction was upheld by the Jerusalem district court and later by the supreme court in 2019. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy has in fact sold large swaths of property in Jerusalem over the last decade, including under Theophilos himself.

The Greek Patriarchy has had financial problems for decades, which is why it began selling land in Jerusalem in the first place. The COVID-19 closures to foreign tourists have rendered it in financial dire straits and it is looking to gather sympathy and much-needed donations from the Christian world. It is so depressing to me that even today in 2022 after hundreds of years of anti-Semitism and persecution from the different Churches and their leaders that the age-old tactic of scapegoating Jews to gain sympathy is still alive and well.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jerusalem, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity

Why Haredi Jews Are Enlisting in the IDF

Unless it can get an extension from the Supreme Court, the Israeli government has until the end of March to formulate a law requiring more haredi Jews to serve in the military. This always contentious issue has become more contentious still with the IDF’s recently announced plan to extend the term of service for male conscripts from 32 to 36 months and to require reservists to spend more time in uniform. All this in addition to the unprecedented demands placed on reservists since the war began and the greater dangers to which troops are being exposed.

At the same time, the war has changed haredi attitudes toward the IDF and the Jewish state, leading some 2,000 young haredi men to volunteer. Cole Aronson interviewed several of them, and describes the attitudes he discovered:

Nobody I spoke to described enlisting as rebellion. These men are proud to serve and proud to be haredi. It is doubtful that their community’s leaders share this dual pride.

They do not care for the Z-word, but the new haredi soldiers I’ve spoken to sound remarkably like pre-state Zionists. Meir of Bnei Brak says he enlisted for the sake of “unity, responsibility, and re’ut.” The Hebrew means “friendship,” but “solidarity” may be more apt in context. However much Jews disagree about their spiritual destiny, they share a physical fate so long as they share a physical home. Of his recent decision to enlist, Meir Edelman of Beit Shemesh says that “this isn’t Zionism, it’s survival,” citing the main justification for the ideology in opposition to the ideology itself.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Haredim, IDF, Israeli society