This is the title of a story by Silvia Donati in the March 30, 2016 edition of Italy magazine, marking the date March 29, 1516, when the Senate of the republic of Venice (Italy) signed a decree mandating that all Jews residing in the city live together in a monitored and gated area, separated from the Christians. So the Jews of Venice were relocated to a small island encircled by walls, where a foundry used to stand. The word in Italian/Venetian dialect was getto—and thus was born the name of this first established Jewish ghetto in Europe. The name stuck and took on a general meaning of a confined space for a specified group of people which separated the group from the general population for whatever reason.
Following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497, Jewish refugees began to show up in cities across the Mediterranean basin and ultimately as far away as the coasts of North and South America. Over 5,000 of these Sephardic Jews ended up in Venice. An agitation began for their expulsion once again and culminated in 1516 in the decision by the state to confine the entire community of Jews to the area of the former cannon foundry, the ghetto nuovo—in the area furthest removed from the Piazza San Marco, which was the symbol of Christianity in Venice.
Special taxes were levied against the Jews of the ghetto, and security to keep them inside the walls of the ghetto at night was set up. As the Jewish community grew larger, new areas were added to the enclosed space. Stories were added to the existing buildings to accommodate the new arrivals – which is why the buildings in the ghetto are among the highest in Venice, up to six to eight floors.
In 1589, Jews were officially authorized by the Republic to build synagogues. The ghetto’s gates were opened in 1797, when Napoleon conquered Venice. The heart of Venice’s Jewish ghetto is Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, a quiet square not far from the train station, in the district of Cannaregio.
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By Dr. Theresa Newell, CMJ USA Board Member
Recently newspapers carried an Associated Press story titled, “Methodist pension board bars investment in 5 Israeli banks” (AP, January 12, 2016; retrieved from http://bigstory.ap.org/article/d2484fb8e654438791caaf0213c93de0/methodist-pension-board-bars-investment-5-israeli-banks).
In my previous article called “What is BDS?” I wrote that several liberal Protestant churches as well as several liberal Jewish groups in the USA have voted to boycott, divest and sanction Israeli products, businesses, and even academics. The AP story noted that “Last year, the United Church of Christ voted to divest from companies with business in the Israeli-occupied territories. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) took a similar vote in 2014.”
Let’s examine now how the BDS movement began.
How did it all begin?
In December 2009, a group of Christians and Jews from South Africa, the United States, Europe, and Asia met in Bethlehem to give their blessing to a document written by Palestinian Christian leaders from Jerusalem and the West Bank. The text of the document—which has come to be called the Kairos Palestine Document (KPD)—calls on Christians throughout the world to target Israel with boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions, i.e., BDS. A global movement against Israel rapidly emerged in response to this call. Three major companies who did business with Israel were initially targeted: Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
An article in Jewish Political Studies Review in 2012 stated: “The document’s [KPD's] stated goal is to bring a word of truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict to the world, but a close reading of the text reveals many of the tropes Arab Christians often use to indict Israel. The conflict is all Israel’s fault; the Palestinians are innocent. Israelis sin; Palestinians make mistakes. Palestinian violence is justified; Israeli self-defense is not. . . .The document also affirms a fantasy that Christian peacemakers have long embraced—that the fighting will miraculously come to an end once Israel ends the occupation.”
John Lomperis, Director of UMAction program of the Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) in Washington, DC, testified before the United Methodist Church’s pension board in Chicago on November 12, 2015. He ended his statement with these words: “The push to divest from companies doing business with Israel is fundamentally unjust, factually misinformed, morally inconsistent, and out of touch with much of our [UMC] grassroots membership and our North American mission field” (Faith & Freedom, December 2015, p 13).
By Dr. Theresa Newell, CMJ USA Board Member
BDS is popular shorthand for “Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions” against Israel. BDS has become a movement advocated by anti-Israel US college student groups, European governments, some church denominations and even liberal American Jewish groups. It is a campaign to delegitimize and demonize Israel in the world’s eyes and to bring economic pressure against the country.
More broadly, BDS is another manifestation of anti-Semitism which is again raising its head against Jewish people. It is widely understood that anti-Zionism (attitudes of hatred toward the State of Israel) is the new form of anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, once again, not many churches, even evangelical ones, are paying close attention to this build up of worldwide animosity against Jewish people. Few have spoken out against the mounting campaign. However, some say, “It is 1938 all over again.” We at CMJ USA want to make our readers aware of this pernicious movement.
Some BDS advocates claim they are only attempting to pressure Israelis to soften their policies toward the West Bank and Gaza or call for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 cease-fire lines following the Six Day War. But a professor at California State University, As’ad AbuKhalil, has said: “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel . . . Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.” (“Resisting the longest hatred” by Clifford D. May, May 27, 2015, The Washington Times, B2).
A War of Ideas
History is changed by ideas which are propagated to the public––whether for good or for evil. Proponents of BDS have large budgets for propaganda to promote their programs worldwide. To read the inflammatory rhetoric of BDS proponents, one can simply check internet sites, which are easily accessible and influencing anti-Israel sentiment worldwide. Israel is called “brutal, a regime of occupation, colonialists, and apartheid.” Israel is likened to Nazi Germany and worse. The most recent accusation was that Israel has a plan to take over the Al Aqsa Mosque, which is situated on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. These claims are unfounded but have the desired effect of raising up resistance movements in major cities of the West, some of them leading to the death of many innocent people such as the attacks in Paris and London.
Before looking at the origins of the BDS movement, here are some of the USA groups which are grappling with how their organizations stand on the issue.
The question of how to fit the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures with the New Testament has been a matter of discussion for centuries by biblical scholars teaching in academic faculties as well as church leaders who are tasked with preparing weekly sermons. Here are two current books that touch on this subject from very different angles.
Richard B. Hays served as Dean of Duke Divinity School and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament. In his recent book, Reading Backwards, Hays demonstrates that it was Israel’s Scripture that taught the Gospel writers how to understand Jesus as the embodied presence of God and how those Scriptures provided the literary witness to the Church from its earliest days. Dr. Rosa Lee Richards offers a brief review of this important book.
A Review by Dr. Rosa Lee Richards
In Reading Backwards, Richard Hays discusses the relationship between the Hebrew Bible (OT), and the Christian New Testament. In Christianity the OT is often neglected, when, Hays contends, the NT should clarify and be clarified by it. But how to read the two Testaments together? His answer: by reading metaphorically, or figurally, from back (the NT) to front (the OT).
How can the Bible be read backwards, with the NT elucidating the Hebrew Bible, without disrespecting Jewish understandings and without turning the NT into an unseemly bed of weedy outgrowths? This is done by looking at OT figures that presage, without prophesying, Christ and determining how Christ’s life resonates with the OT lives. This technique, according to Hays, was first used by the Gospel authors. Hays describes the way in which each Gospel reads backwards from Christ to the ancestral figures of the OT. By seeing how each figure is related to Christ, their significance is enhanced and clarified and made relevant to the believer today, while Christ is seen from Eden to Resurrection.
Richard B. Hays, Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Waco, Texas: Baylor University, 2014). ISBN 978-1-4813-0232-6.
A World Without Jews
A Review by Dr. Theresa Newell
A second recent book, A World Without Jews, analyzes why in Nazi Germany the Jewish Bibles and synagogues were burned to ashes. What was it in these sacred writings and space that brought out anger, disrespect and a desire to dishonor the Biblical narrative given to the Jewish people?
Author Alon Confino, Professor of History at the University of Virginia and at Ben Gurion University, Israel, contends that the ideas which led to the burning of the Old Testament scriptures “fit within a broader theological debates about separating Christianity from Judaism, especially among Protestant theologians . . . already from the late nineteenth century [by] several leading German liberal Protestants [who] called for a full separation of Christianity from Judaism” (p 130). The extreme of this chilling assessment was the claim among some of both Protestant and Catholic leaders of 1930s Germany that Jesus was Aryan and that German Christianity must be rebuilt entirely without Jewish roots. The burning of Jewish books led inevitably to the burning of Jewish bodies. This book is a devastating reminder that ideas which evolve into idealogies change history – for good or for evil.
Alon Confino, A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014). ISBN 978-0-300-21251-8 (pbk).
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By Dr. Theresa Newell, CMJ USA Board Member
Image: The Annunciation by Fra Angelico [Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
A young Jewish woman in a nothing town in Upper Galilee, newly settled by religious Jewish families from Judea, was shocked by an angelic visitor named Gabriel. At that time, Mary (Hebrew: Miriam) had much to look forward to: she was engaged to a godly man from the house of King David named Joseph.
One Bible translation describes young Mary as "confused and disturbed" when Gabriel appears to her. Understandably so! The message from God is even more amazing: "You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua)."
The last time I saw Derek Prince was at a service at Christ Church, Jerusalem in August 1995. I was there to attend the International Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism. That Sunday morning the church was packed with visitors from around the world as is often the case at CMJ’s historic church in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Derek Prince and other members of Christ Church led a powerful intercessory prayer group during the 80's and 90's there. A prolific writer on the topic of the power of prayer and fasting, Prince’s books have been re-printed and are available online at several sites under “Derek Prince books.”
On a recent trip to Israel, I walked with a friend who serves as a caretaker at the Christian cemetery in Jerusalem to see where Derek Prince is buried and to pay my respects. His books and teaching influenced an entire generation of believers. It is good that they are still available to readers today. His love for the Jewish people and his understanding of their place in God’s plan of salvation ran deep in his life and were expressed wonderfully in all his books.
Appointment in Jerusalem was a book which blessed me greatly as a new believer. I recommend you read it on this 40th anniversary of its publication. It is a story out of the Book of Acts as our friend Charles Gardner points out. The book was re-printed in 2005 as a 30th anniversary edition. To order, see http://www.impactchristianbooks.com (and type "Appointment in Jerusalem" in the title search field).
-- Dr. Theresa Newell
Lydia Prince’s Appointment in Jerusalem – 40 years on
By Charles Gardner
Amidst an increasingly secular Western world where God is assumed to be dead, or a figment of one’s imagination, it’s time to celebrate a book published 40 years ago.
Appointment in Jerusalem charts the incredible story of a young schoolteacher who had an encounter with Christ every bit as dramatic as the Apostle Paul’s and went on to fulfill her destiny in a city she knew nothing about, allowing the Holy Spirit the guide her every step.
Lydia Christensen was in her mid-thirties, living very comfortably in her native Denmark as her local school’s head of domestic science. But she was searching for God, whom she couldn’t find in her Lutheran surroundings. She even turned down a marriage proposal for fear it would detract from her determined quest to discover whether Jesus was real. And when He appeared to her in a vision, her remarkable journey of faith had begun.
Other visions followed, she began to speak in a language she had never learnt and was soon baptized in the sea by a Pentecostal pastor, sparking much ridicule and scorn from her colleagues and pupils.
It was through a vision of people in Middle Eastern dress that she felt a call to Jerusalem. She gave away her possessions and set off, in 1928, for the ‘City of the Great King’, as the psalmist describes it (Psalm 48.2). Like Abraham, she didn’t know where she was going to stay or how she was going to make ends meet, especially as she had no work permit. She only knew God had called her there. At one point she was down to her last 86 cents and went without food for four days, but it only deepened her trust.
Her first task came as quite a shock. A Jewish man, having heard that she was a kind woman, came to ask her if she would look after his dying baby daughter. Initially protesting her inexperience, she took her in and anointed her with oil as she prayed for her healing in Jesus’ name. Tikva (meaning ‘hope’ in Hebrew) made a remarkable recovery, so much so that her parents wanted her back, by which time Lydia had grown to love her as her own. But she realised she had to offer her up as a sacrifice, as Abraham had done with Isaac, and just as in the biblical narrative, she did receive Tikva back as it turned out her parents were unable to cope.
And when serious riots broke out between Jews and Arabs in 1929, she was forced to run the gauntlet of no-go areas in order to fetch water, which had been cut off by the fighting. When she struggled to get over the barricades with Tikva on her shoulders, suddenly – out of nowhere – a man came to her rescue. When she told her friends what had happened, they were all convinced it must have been an angel!
Others were leaving the city because of the tension, but Lydia believed God was calling her to be a “watchman on the walls” (Isaiah 62.6), praying for the peace of Jerusalem. And in the ensuing years she continued to mother scores of abandoned Jewish and Arab children. She also realized the city held the key to the world’s future and that Christians need to do all they can to help Israel.
We owe them a huge debt which has gone unpaid for too many centuries, she wrote to her mother. “It is to them that we owe the Bible, the prophets, the apostles, the Saviour Himself.”
Perhaps if such calls had been heeded on a wider basis, millions of Jews could have been saved from the Holocaust which was to come.
At the end of World War II, Lydia married Derek Prince, the well-known Bible teacher, and Appointment in Jerusalem was published by Kingsway in 1975 [Chosen Books, in the US] with Lydia Prince as author “as told to her husband Derek”. Together, Lydia and Derek adopted and raised nine Jewish and Arab children in Israel. They were saints in our midst and left great blessings in their wake.
Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Mr. Spock the pointy-eared, cerebral Vulcan, on the Star Trek series, died on February 27, 2015. Soon after his death the YouTube below went viral. In it, Nimoy talks about his Jewish family background and how the famous Vulcan hand signal, which Mr. Spock used on the popular series, had a Jewish root from synagogue worship which he experienced when he was young!
Nimoy's parents, Dora and Max Nimoy, were from Iziaslav, Ukraine. Leonard was born in Boston March 26, 1931. Whether or not you are or were a Trekkie, enjoy this interview!
by Dr. Theresa Newell, August 11, 2015
Recently Israeli archeologists from Bar Ilan University uncovered what is believed to be the gate of the city of Gath, home of Goliath, the giant that David slew in the Valley of Elah. The area of the find lies between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. It is thought to be the largest gate ever found in Israel. Along with the gate, a large city is being unearthed showing an iron foundry dating from 3,000 years ago, which could account for the weapons of iron the Philistines used to keep the children of Israel under their thumbs.
The city of Gath is believed to have been the largest city in the area in the 10 - 9th centuries BC. The city was occupied until about the ninth century BC, when it is said it was destroyed by Hazael, king of Damascus.