Why are Israeli rabbis offering to hide African migrants in their homes? How was a bombing prevented at the tomb of Joseph? What is Vice President Pence going to talk about in Israel? Find out in this week’s Israel News Recap (without the Rhetoric).
US Vice President Pence Begins Long-Awaited Middle East Tour
Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. (Zechariah 12:2)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stepped off his plane at the Ben-Gurion on Sunday kicking off a long-awaited diplomatic visit to Israel as part of his Middle East tour, the highest level visit since Trump’s December decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
On the agenda are talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program and general security issues. Reuters reported that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed his cabinet earlier on Sunday describing Pence as a “great friend of the State of Israel,” and saying that the U.S. was an irreplaceable ally of Israel.
Less welcoming to Pence, the Palestinian Authority stated that they would be continuing their boycott of U.S.-brokered negotiations because of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In retaliation for a scalding condemnation and boycott of the U.S. by PA leader Abbas, the U.S. froze tens of millions of dollars in aid to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees. The State Department said the funds were being held up due to the need for “reform” at the organization.
In preparation for the two-day visit, thousands of police officers and security personnel were deployed, mostly in Jerusalem—a precaution not unusual for such a high-level visit.
Pence is also expected to visit the Western Wall, Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and to address Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Arab-Israeli lawmakers announced ahead of time that they would be boycotting Pence’s appearance. The leader of the Arab group in the Israeli Parliament, Ayman Odeh, said the boycott was because of the Jerusalem move, calling Pence “a dangerous man with a messianic vision that includes the destruction of the entire region.”
Israel’s Arab politicians aren’t the only ones in the region giving him an icy response. The Israel visit comes on the tail-end of a stop in Egypt and Jordan where Pence has sought to reassure the Arab states that the U.S. shares their security concerns while agreeing to disagree on recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel is the last stop on Pence’s brief Middle East tour.
Israel Moves to Deport African Migrants, Rabbis Offer Shelter
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
Earlier this month, Israeli authorities issued an ultimatum to the nearly 40,000 African migrants and refugees living illegally in Israel telling them to accept cash and a free flight to Uganda or Rwanda or be jailed by the end of March.
Since that announcement, the public response has been split. The drama surrounding the presence of African migrants has been ongoing since 2013 when Israel completed a fence on the Egyptian border that effectively stemmed off a flow of African migrants crossing over the desert. The migrants reach Israel fleeing persecution and violence or seeking better economic futures, but are all classified as economic migrants.
An immigration official told Reuters that there are some 38,000 migrants living illegally in Israel with 1,420 held in two detention centers.
“We have expelled about 20,000, and now the mission is to get the rest out,” Netanyahu said as he unveiled the government’s ultimatum at the beginning of the year. The plan offers African migrants a $3,500 payment from the government and a free flight to return home or go to “third countries,” which rights groups identified as Rwanda and Uganda.
Israel has received criticism for being slow to process asylum requests and policies that target the African populations in Israel. Netanyahu has not hidden his stance on the issue, calling the migrants’ presence a threat to Israel’s social fabric and Jewish character.
Contrary to the government stance, Public Radio International reports that a coalition of hundreds of Israeli rabbis, including the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, have said that, inspired by Anne Frank, they will hide African asylum-seekers in their homes to shelter them from deportation. Nearly 500 Israeli academics have also signed a letter calling on the government to recall its deportation ultimatum.
“We have a duty to remember that we were persecuted foreigners and refugees, and we must extend a warm welcome to the asylum seekers who fled from their homes and their homelands in order to save their own lives and the lives of their family members,” the letter read.
The migrants, who must leave by the end of March or face jail, have held several large-scale protests.
Bombing Averted at the Tomb of Joseph
The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you. (Genesis 49:23-25)
A terror attack was prevented last week when Israeli security forces found and removed a cell phone bomb planted in the tomb of Joseph during security sweep before about 1,000 worshipers entered the tomb to pray.
The bomb was removed and detonated in a controlled explosion. This is not the first time the tomb, which resides in the West Bank’s Nablus (the biblical Shechem), has been targeted. In 2013, Palestinian rioters shot at Jewish worshipers and set fire to it in 2015. Security forces were assaulted with rocks as they provided security for the worshipers at the tomb.
Ancient Calendar Decoded in Dead Sea Scroll
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (1 Thessalonians 5:1)
One of the last secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls was revealed this week when scientists at Haifa University finished reconstructing the contents of one of the last two undeciphered Dead Sea Scrolls.
Ha’Aretz reports that the reassembly reveals a unique calendar used by a Jewish sect that lived in the Judean Desert during the Second Temple Period. The scroll is written in encrypted language and is made of sixty small pieces.
The 364-day calendar sheds light on some of the disagreements between the Qumran sect and the conventional Jewish calendar in use at the time under the Temple authorities. For example, the structure of the calendar does not have any holidays coinciding with Sabbaths circumventing the argument over which takes precedence when they fall on the same day.
This scroll is one of the last of 900 scrolls to be decoded found in the Qumran caves in the 1940s and 50s.