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Churches Worldwide to Show Support for Israel May 23

• www.theisraelproject.org

Meanwhile, Congress Funds Israeli Missile Defense System

Christian Sites Vulnerable in Jerusalem and West Bank

Christian leaders at more than 1,500 churches in all 50 states and in more than 50 countries are scheduled to hold religious services Sunday (May 23) focused on educating their congregants about the importance of Israel to their faith.[1] Just days before the planned church events, an overwhelming majority in Congress approved President Obama’s request to fund Israel’s new anti-missile system so that nation can defend itself against rockets from Iran-backed terrorist groups on its borders.[2]

Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a grassroots pro-Israel Christian organization, first sponsored the Sunday church events across the globe last year, and this year the group anticipates an even higher turnout. CUFI provides participating churches with a Sunday program asking congregants to sign an “Israel pledge,” vowing to stand with Israel in the face of terrorism and attacks.[3]

In addition to CUFI, other Christian groups such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and Bridges for Peace donate millions of dollars annually to help support Israel.[4] One interfaith group, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein in Chicago, provides ongoing support to help Jews in Israel and around the world. The fellowship gave $70 million in 2008, and almost $60 million the previous year, through its various programs. [5] The fellowship was established to “promote understanding between Jews and Christians and build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns.”[6]

By a vote of 410-4, the House of Representatives on Thursday (May 20) approved the United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act, allocating $205 million toward Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.[7] Earlier this year, Israel successfully tested the system, which can intercept short-range rockets, missiles and mortars fired by Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.[8] Since the end of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah, the terrorist group has rearmed to 40,000 rockets, far beyond its pre-2006 capacity.[9]

Said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), “With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself."[10]

Christian Sites Vulnerable in Jerusalem and West Bank

The future of Christian holy sites located in the disputed territories - currently controlled by Israel - is uncertain. A final-status peace deal likely would involve Israel relinquishing portions of those areas to the Palestinian Authority (PA).[11]

Under Palestinian control, the sanctity of Christian religious sites has not always been respected. In 2002 during an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) counterterrorism operation in Bethlehem, dozens of armed Palestinian militants took over the Church of the Nativity, trapping about 60 clergy.[12]

Meanwhile, other holy sites already under Palestinian control are increasingly vulnerable as Christian Palestinians continue to emigrate from the area.[13] Israel is one of the only places in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing.[14]

Following is a list of religious sites holy to Christians that are either currently under Palestinian control or may be placed under Palestinian control as part of a peace agreement:

Bethlehem (PA control)

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is a major Christian holy site marking the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. According to the New Testament (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-9), Jesus was born in a manger on the site while Mary and Joseph were there to register for the Roman census. The church, commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine, is one of the oldest Christian churches in existence.[15]

St. Catherine's is a Roman Catholic church next to the Church of the Nativity and has several chapels of historic and religious significance. The Chapel of St. Jerome is traditionally thought to be where the Bishop of Bethlehem translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, and the Chapel of the Innocents commemorates King Herod’s slaughter of the babies of Judea. The Chapel of St. Joseph is said to be where an angel appeared to Joseph and commanded him to flee to Egypt.[16]

Shepherds' Fields, another Christian pilgrimage site in Bethlehem, is where the New Testament (Luke 2:8-20) says an angel descended to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.[17]

Monastery of the Temptation (PA control)

The Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Temptation is on Mount Quarantal, just north of Jericho. It is the traditional desert site where Jesus went after his baptism to fast and pray for 40 days.[18]

Bethany (PA control)

The Tomb of Lazarus is in Bethany, a village on the east slope of the Mount of Olives. The New Testament (John 11:1-44) recounts that Bethany was the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, and Jesus frequently visited the village. Christians believe Jesus raised a man named Lazarus from the dead there after he had been in the tomb four days. There is also a Franciscan Church of St. Lazarus that stands on the site of earlier churches.[19]

Jerusalem (Israeli control, located in disputed territory)

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane is where the New Testament (Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-5) says Jesus led his disciples after the Last Supper and asked them to keep watch while he prayed. There they fell asleep and then fled when Judas identified him. The Basilica of the Agony, or the Church of All Nations, marks the place where Jesus prayed alone, and a chapel is built around a piece of exposed bedrock at the place of Jesus’ prayer.[20]] The Cave of Gethsemane marks the site of where Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.[21] The Tomb of the Virgin Mary is also located in the Grotto of Gethsemane.[22]

Ecce Homo Arch

Part of a gate dating from the time of Hadrian, the arch was named in the 16th century. It is part of the Via Dolorosa but is not one of the stations of the cross. Ecce Homo Arch is where many believe Pontius Pilate said, "Behold the man!"[23]

Via Dolorosa

The Via Dolorosa is believed to be the path Jesus took to Calvary, where he was crucified. Stations of the Cross mark various events along the way, some of which are not recorded in the New Testament. The New Testament (John 19:17) says Jesus was made to carry his own cross from the place of his condemnation to Calvary.[24]

The Chapel of the Condemnation, built over the site traditionally identified with the trial of Jesus (John 17:19), is on the Via Dolorosa. The Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation is also on the Via Dolorosa, next to the Chapel of the Condemnation.[25]

Church of St. Anne

This church was built over the traditional site of the birthplace of Anne (Hannah), the mother of Mary.[26]

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

One of the holiest sites in all of Christianity is the tomb of Jesus, located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was built around the tomb by Roman Emperor Constantine.[27]

The site of Jesus' crucifixion is believed to be the area identified as Calvary within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.[28] According to the New Testament (Matthew 27:32-55), Jesus was crucified at "a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull)" between two thieves. After about three hours of suffering and mocking, Jesus "gave up his spirit."

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb is believed by many to be the garden and sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea and therefore a possible site of the resurrection of Jesus.[29]

Chapel of the Ascension

The Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives is the traditional site of Jesus' ascension into heaven after his resurrection (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). The Chapel was built over the site traditionally considered to be where Jesus prayed on the night of his betrayal.[30]

Church of the Pater Noster

This church is built on the traditional site in Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) or the “Our Father” (Pater Noster in Latin). The original church, built by Emperor Constantine over a cave in fourth century CE, has been partially reconstructed. The third-century Acts of John also references the cave on the Mount of Olives and Jesus’ teaching.[31]

City of David

Excavations in the City of David as recent as 2005 reveal what is believed to be the Pool of Siloam. The original Pool of Siloam was built by Hezekiah around the year 701 BCE. This is the place referred to in the New Testament in the story of a blind man who was given sight by Jesus. According to the story (John 9), Jesus put mud on the man's eyes, told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam and then the man could see.[32]

Dominus Flevit Church

This small Franciscan church is on the upper western slope of the Mount of Olives.

Dominus Flevit, which means “the Lord cried,” is believed to mark the place where the New Testament (Luke 19:41) says Jesus mourned over Jerusalem. Before the construction of the modern church, the foundations of a fifth-century monastery were discovered beneath.[33]

Tel a-Shakef (Hamas control)

A sixth-century Byzantine church dedicated to John the Baptist was discovered in 1999 at a dig at the northwest edge of the Gaza Strip at an Israel military installation, before Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from all of Gaza. An earlier excavation at the site revealed a magnificent bathhouse and fish pond in almost perfect condition next to the church.[34]  

Footnotes:

[1] Hagee, John C., “Why Christian Zionists Really Support Israel,” The Forward, May 12, 2010, http://forward.com/articles/127965/

[2] “US lawmakers back Israel missile defense aid,” AFP, May 20, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iZkwGc0de9kU4XW0QtVJ5aaoDdyw

[3] “Christians United for Israel Sunday program,” CUFI Web site, http://www.cufi.org/site/DocServer/CUFISundayNewsletter.pdf?docID=1061, accessed May 21, 2010

[4] King, Jake, “ICEJ invests $40m bringing 100,000 home since 1989,” International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, Oct. 10, 2006, http://www.icej.org/article/icej_invests_m_bringing_home_since_; “Member Profile: Bridges for Peace,” Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, http://www.ecfa.org/MemberProfile.aspx?ID=9144, accessed May 21, 2010

[5] International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, “About IFCJ: Financial Statement,” http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/, accessed May 21, 2010

[6] International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, “About IFCJ,” http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/, accessed May 21, 2010

[7] “US lawmakers back Israel missile defense aid,” AFP, May 20, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iZkwGc0de9kU4XW0QtVJ5aaoDdyw

[8] “United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House),” THOMAS (Library of Congress), http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c111:2:./temp/~c111d3krxg::, accessed May 21, 2010

[9] Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center communiqué, Feb. 22, 2009, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/ipc_e013.htm; “One year since the acceptance of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the second Lebanon war: An interim report,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Aug. 12, 2007, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/un1701_0807.htm; “US lawmakers back Israel missile defense aid,” AFP, May 20, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iZkwGc0de9kU4XW0QtVJ5aaoDdyw

[10] Mozgovaya, Natasha, “U.S. Congress gives Obama okay to fund Israel rocket defense,” Haaretz, May 21, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/u-s-congress-gives-obama-okay-to-fund-israel-rocket-defense-1.291339

[11] “226 The Clinton Peace Plan- 23 December 2000,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 23, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign%20Relations/Israels%20Foreign%20Relations%20since%201947/1999-2001/226%20%20The%20Clinton%20Peace%20Plan-%2023%20December%202000

[12] “Chronology of the Siege,” PBS, April 1, 2002, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/siege/etc/cron.html; Myre, Greg, “Militants Briefly Take Over Bethlehem Building,” The New York Times, Dec. 20, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/international/middleeast/20cnd-bethlehem.html

[13] Bronner, Ethan, “Mideast’s Christians Losing Numbers and Sway,” The New York Times, May 12, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/world/middleeast/13christians.html

[14] “Christians are Leaving the Middle East,” Voice of America News, Jan. 17, 2006, http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2006-01/2006-01-17-voa55.cfm?CFID=282257393&CFTOKEN=96505931

[15] “Israel-s Archaeological Treasures - The Judean Foothills,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov. 29, 1999, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early%20History%20-%20Archaeology/Israel-s%20Archaeological%20Treasures%20-%20The%20Judean%20Foo

[16] “Bethlehem: The Church of St Catherine of Alexandria at the Basilica of the Nativity,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 15, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/3/Bethlehem-%20The%20Church%20of%20St%20Catherine%20of%20Alexandri; “Bethlehem,” Jewish Virtual Library Virtual Israel Experience, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Bethlehem.html, accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[17] “Bethlehem,” Jewish Virtual Library Virtual Israel Experience, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Bethlehem.html, accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[18] “Jericho,” Jewish Virtual Library Virtual Israel Experience, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Jericho.html, accessed Feb. 17, 2010; Gonen, Rivka (2000), Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide, Jerusalem: Paulist Press (p. 198)

[19] Gonen, Rivka (2000), Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide, Jerusalem: Paulist Press, pp. 51-52; Kedmi, Dr. Roni, “In the footsteps of Jesus,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mfa.gov.il/PopeinIsrael/Background_Information/In_the_footsteps_of_Jesus.htm, accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[20] “Jerusalem: The Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations),” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 15, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/3/Jerusalem-%20The%20Basilica%20of%20the%20Agony%20-Church%20of%20Al

[21] Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1998), The Holy Land :An Oxford Archaeological Guide, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 131

[22] Eldar, Yishai, “Focus on Israel: Jerusalem - Christian Architecture through the Ages,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 1, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/1/Focus%20on%20Israel-%20Jerusalem%20-%20Christian%20Architectur

[23] “Archaeological Sites in Israel - Jerusalem- The Northern Gate of Aelia Capitolina,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 29, 1998, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early%20History%20-%20Archaeology/Archaeological%20Sites%20in%20Israel%20-%20Jerusalem-%20The%20No; Gonen, Rivka (2000), Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide, Jerusalem: Paulist Press, pp. 146-147

[24] Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1998), The Holy Land :An Oxford Archaeological Guide, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 34-36

[25] “Jerusalem within the Walls,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Facts%20About%20Israel/State/Jerusalem%20within%20the%20Walls, accessed Feb. 17, 2010; Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1998), The Holy Land :An Oxford Archaeological Guide, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 33

[26] Eldar, Yishai, “Focus on Israel: Jerusalem - Christian Architecture through the Ages,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jan. 1, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/1/Focus%20on%20Israel-%20Jerusalem%20-%20Christian%20Architectur; Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1998), The Holy Land :An Oxford Archaeological Guide, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 115

[27] “Archaeological Sites in Israel - The Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 29, 1998, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early%20History%20-%20Archaeology/Archaeological%20Sites%20in%20Israel%20-%20The%20Church%20of%20the; Gonen, Rivka (2000), Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated Guide, Jerusalem: Paulist Press, p. 129

[28] “Archaeological Sites in Israel - The Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 29, 1998, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early%20History%20-%20Archaeology/Archaeological%20Sites%20in%20Israel%20-%20The%20Church%20of%20the; “The Tomb of Christ,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 5, 1999, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1990_1999/1999/9/The%20Tomb%20of%20Christ

[29] “The Garden Tomb,” Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, http://www.gardentomb.com/information.php, accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[30] “Jerusalem - Beyond the Old City Walls,” Jewish Virtual Library Virtual Israel Experience, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Jerusalem3.html, accessed Feb. 17, 2010

[31] Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (1998), The Holy Land :An Oxford Archaeological Guide, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 125-126

[32] Shanks, Hershel (2005), “The Siloam Pool Where Jesus Cured the Blind Man,” Biblical Archaeology Review 31(5), pp. 16–23

[33] “Jerusalem: The Chapel of Dominus Flevit,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 7, 2000, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2000/3/Jerusalem-%20The%20Chapel%20of%20Dominus%20Flevit

[34] “Church of John the Baptist Discovered,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 7, 1999, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/1999/Church%20of%20John%20the%20Baptist%20Discovered%20-%2007-Mar-99

 

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