Monday, May 22, 2017

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs Sermon Protection Act into law

And now for something completely different--a measure to protect religious freedom. As reported by Mark Collette of the Houston Chronicle, May 21, 2017:

The state's top two elected officials took to the pulpit Sunday, preaching the righteousness of conservative gender norms – and hitting on several other red meat Republican issues – before the governor signed a copy of a new law protecting sermons at a Woodlands church.

Senate Bill 24, listed among Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's top priorities, bars the government from forcing religious leaders to turn over copies of sermons during a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding. It also bars the state from compelling a religious leader's testimony.

To mark the occasion at Grace Community Church in the Woodlands, Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott joined pastor Steve Riggle and three of the four others whose sermons were subpoenaed in 2014 by the city of Houston, igniting a political fire storm for then-mayor Annise Parker.

Riggle and the so-called "Houston Five" were fighting a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, mostly over objections to the rights it would have extended to gay and transgender people. Parker and the city sought the sermons amid a legal battle over a petition drive led by the pastors.

The move sparked outrage nationwide from people who saw it as intimidation of the church and infringement on religious liberties. Parker said the city only wanted evidence related to any instructions the pastors may have given on how to conduct the petition drive. But she acknowledged the subpoena was overly broad and withdrew the request for sermons.

The officials' trip to the Woodlands was a celebratory tour of sorts, returning not only to where the issue originated but to deeply conservative territory where 72 percent of Montgomery County voters chose President Donald Trump in November, and where religion and politics easily mix.

"You are fighters for freedom," Abbott told the congregation, which is an offshoot of Grace's megachurch campus in Houston.
Patrick preached that the world needs the strength of America and Texas, and said deep divisions in the country aren't between political parties, but between Christians and non-Christians.

"The Sermon Protection Act came about because of an issue, an issue that's not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue," he said. "It's the right issue, and that's to keep men out of ladies' rooms."

The equal rights ordinance would have banned 15 categories of discrimination, including based on gender identity, but made no mention of public bathrooms. It was already illegal to assault someone in a restroom, but conservatives rallied votes against the measure by playing on fears of attacks. A campaign ad famously depicted a little girl at the hands of a male attacker in a bathroom stall.

"We never thought we'd need (the sermon law), but this is a crazy day," Riggle said. "We never thought we'd have to define men and women either, but here we are. We thought the name on the restroom doors actually meant something."

The bill passed easily, but wasn't without opposition. Some legal experts contended that its protections are too broad, and could hamper discovery in cases of church sexual abuse, forced marriage and corporal punishment.

Others found Sunday's ceremony inherently disturbing for its mix of politics and faith. To be sure, the church service sounded at times like a campaign stop, with plenty of glad handing.

A group of about 10 people held up signs by the church entrance off the North Freeway, protesting a breach of church and state separation.

"Our forefathers escaped tyrants that were heads of churches in Europe," said B.P. Herrington, who held up a poster that said "religion is a private matter."

Patrick and Abbott "should realize they are not defenders of faith as the queen of England is," he said. "They are servants of the people."

Herrington, a music professor and an Episcopalian, said the officials treat the churches as de facto political action committees.

But Riggle noted that American churches have long participated in politics. And the Trump administration has sought to make that easier. Earlier this month, the president signed an executive order aimed at removing enforcement of the longstanding ban on churches and other tax exempt organizations supporting political candidates.

Abbott noted the unusual nature of the ceremony, saying it might be the first time in Texas history a law was signed in a church.

In fact, according to the Senate Journal, the official signing happened in Austin on Friday, when the law became effective immediately.

The politicking in the Woodlands came as the Legislature was holding marathon sessions aimed at, among other things, passing a state budget before the legislative session ends May 29. Lawmakers were also considering debate on another priority of Patrick's – regulating the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sologamy--yet another indication that we're in the last days

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
II Timothy 3:1-5

Several of the characteristics mentioned in the passage above--and the word "men" includes both men and women--can be found in the article below. It comes as no surprise to this blogger that the sisters and stepsisters of the main subject of this article remain unmarried. Nor does it come as any surprise that the ceremony took place at a Unitarian church. The Unitarian Church never seems to pass up an opportunity for buffoonery. The reader will also notice that the vows were "adapted from their Biblical origins"--i.e., wrested out of their proper context (see II Peter 3:15-16).

So far, the practice of sologamy seems to be restricted to women, but it will come as no surprise to this blogger to read of metrosexuals and members of Generation Selfie following suit. Any normal man who reading this article will likely react to a sologamist by quoting Horace Stoneham out of context: "Who wants that?" As reported by Charlotte Lytton of the London Daily Telegraph, May 19, 2017 (links in original):

When 38-year-old Sophie Tanner celebrated her second wedding anniversary on Tuesday, there were none of the usual trappings – no flowers or romantic meal for two, no card sealed with a kiss.

It’s not that her other half is remiss, but that on May 16, 2015, when the PR consultant took her vows on the steps of Brighton’s Unitarian Church, the person she swore to cherish for eternity was, well, herself.

“I literally had the idea when I was lying in bed recovering from flu and a bad relationship,” she remembers. “Everyone celebrates getting together with someone and getting married, but there’s no milestone in society that celebrates escaping something awful or returning to your own happiness and contentment.”

Initially, Tanner's idea was to write a book in which a woman married herself, but after two years researching sologamy – people who commit to themselves – for her novel, Happily, she was sold.

“By the end of that journey I was such an advocate for it as a concept that I thought I’d better do it myself,” she says. “It felt like an obvious step, and all of my friends and family had become really into it, so by the time I said I wanted my own wedding, they were on board.”

The nuptials were both holy and wholly unique; the vows Tanner wrote were all adapted from their Biblical origins, she wore a $105 vintage white dress and her father Malcolm, a 69-year-old painter and decorator, gave her away – to herself. Afterwards, the 50-strong wedding party danced through the streets of Brighton and down to the beach to the sounds of Kendrick Lamar’s I Love Myself playing from a boom box.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as the height of Generation Selfie’s narcissism, particularly as the ceremony is not legally recognized (Tanner’s letter of enquiry on the matter, to Brighton and Hove register office, while researching her book met with the response that marriage was “exclusive” to two people). But for Tanner, the weight of the occasion – a celebration of being single, and thoroughly enjoying it – still holds.

“Initially, I thought of the wedding as a light-hearted thing, and held it during the Brighton Fringe so passers-by could be a part of it,” she explains. “But I got really nervous the day before. It felt like a really important thing to be doing, especially as it was one of the first sologamous marriages many people had seen. A few people told me it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. The atmosphere was amazing and it felt really powerful.”

Though solo ceremonies such as Tanner’s are unlikely to unseat the traditional union for two, they do seem to be on the rise; part of a much bigger social trend for women rejecting the traditional timeline of their mothers and grandmothers, and forging an independent path, worlds away from the 'spinster' stereotype.

“I think it’s hard not to adopt whatever society’s messages are… and I certainly think that one of the messages is, ‘You are not enough if you are not with someone else’,” says Erika Anderson of her decision to self marry. The 37-year-old, who lives in New York, wed her university sweetheart in her twenties, but the pair split aged 30 after growing apart. Committing to herself, she says, was “an act of defiance”.

The notion of marrying oneself entered popular consciousness in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City, the US television series, in which Carrie Bradshaw, its protagonist, announced she was fed up with forking out to celebrate friends’ life choices, but never her own.

In 2010, one of the lead characters on TV musical comedy Glee enjoyed a solitary wedding ceremony. Now, with some 42 per cent of British marriages ending in divorce (unmarried women having outnumbered their married counterparts for the past decade), marrying yourself is, perhaps, the only safe bet.

Its proponents say that it is a modern rite of passage. “A wedding is just a marker in life,” explains Alexandra Gill, a Canadian food critic who married herself in 2006 and renewed her vows on her 10th wedding anniversary last year.

“Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have the choice to remain single… Self-marriage is an opportunity to celebrate our personal independence, self-reliance and freedom from the chains of convention.”

Unsurprisingly, a number of businesses have spotted opportunities. Gill launched Marry Yourself Vancouver, a wedding planning service, last year. In Japan, where one in seven women are unmarried, Cerca Travel offers a two-day package that provides a dress fitting, make-up and hair styling, and a photo shoot, for upwards of $4,400.

Are these companies helping to de-stigmatize lone declarations of love or, as one website posited in response to Erika’s big day, “just looking to make bucks [off] a few sad feminists”?

“This is not a substitute for a partner, on the contrary it is (about being) a stronger member of society (and) more grounded as a person,” says California-based jeweller Jeffrey Levin, who created the self-marriage kit service, I Married Me, despite being conventionally married to his wife, Bonnie.

The pair have sold “hundreds” of packages, which can include white gold wedding rings, vows and ceremony instructions for around £200 [$352 Canadian], in a bid to “allow individuals to be have a physical, tangible way of self-reinforcement and positivity”.

Of course, not everyone looks at the trend quite so positively.

When news of Tanner's wedding hit the headlines, many on social media were quick to call her a narcissist; acquaintances, too, haven’t held back.

“A couple of guys have become a bit incensed,” she says. She has continued to date since her wedding ceremony, but has no plans to marry anyone (else). “One told me I couldn’t have my cake and eat it by marrying myself and then going on to have other relationships, and a man I was having a holiday fling with flipped out,” she says.

“I was surprised by the anger – it’s not harming anyone. Most of the guys I’ve been out with have been really supportive. It’s been a good filter to see their reactions when I tell them, as if they suddenly become wary, they’re not the one for me anyway.”

Tanner has one sister and four step-sisters, ranging in age from 22 to 38. She is, thus far, the only one out of the six of them to have been a bride.

“We’re all familiar with the fact that 2.4 children don’t always work out,” she says. “I think Mum might quite like me to find a nice man and be happy, but she knows from experience that things don’t always end up like that.”

If marrying oneself doesn’t preclude having a relationships with anyone else, however, and confers no legal benefits, what is the point?

“You can be more lonely in a relationship that’s not functioning than just being on your own, and a lot of people don’t realise that,” Tanner explains. “I hope seeing how empowering committing to yourself is, can liberate people and teach them that seeking solitude is a good thing. You can waste your life waiting for the one, when you are the one yourself.”

Perhaps sologamy is the inevitable next step for millennials, who have already traded the traditional grown-up signifiers of home ownership and settling down for travelling the world, itinerant careers and moving from one rented flat to the next. In these very modern marriages, as with so much else, the only constant seems to be themselves.

Monday, May 15, 2017

10 years ago: The death of Jerry Falwell

On May 15, 2007, Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of America's best-known televangelists and "Religious Right" activists, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 73. Rev. Fatwhale Falwell was pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia from 1956-2006; founded what is now Liberty University in 1967; and founded the political lobby group Moral Majority in 1979. He was one of America's most prominent televangelists, and was known for his conservative theological, social, and political views.

Rev. Falwell did some good things (e.g., he backed up his pro-life views by founding a chain of homes for unwed mothers) and was unafraid of controversy, but was often guilty of poor judgement and unwise and unbiblical fellowship. See my posts:

Libertine University (May 9, 2009)

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell announces the formation of the Liberty Federation (January 3, 2011)

25 years ago: Jerry Falwell resigns as PTL chairman (October 9, 2012)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

100 years ago: The first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children--Lúcia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto--reported the first apparition of Our Lady of Fátima (the Virgin Mary) in Fátima, Portugal. Mary Dalke at her Living4HisGlory's Blog has two excellent and lengthy posts on the subject, which I recommend:



The only thing I have to add is that it was on May 13, 1981--the 64th anniversary of the first apparition--that Pope John Paul II was in St. Peter's Square in Rome when he was shot by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The pope had just bent over to look at a small picture of the Virgin Mary that a little girl was wearing, and if he hadn't bent over at that instant, the first bullet would have struck him in the head. During his convalescence, Pope John Paul experienced a vision of Mary, who told him that she had spared his life in order to fulfill a special mission in bringing peace. On May 13, 1982, one year after his shooting, Pope John Paul made a pilgrimage to Fátima, where he prayed before a statue of Our Lady, and consecrated the world to Mary (not Christ), as she had requested. Five years later, Pope John Paul II declared a Marian year, which ran from June 7, 1987-August 15, 1988.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

10 years ago: The death of racist cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, Matthew 24:24a (also Mark 13:22a)

...I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9b

On May 7, 2007, Yahweh ben Yahweh died of prostate cancer at the age of 71. Mr. Yahweh, born Hulon Mitchell, Jr., was the son of Hulon Mitchell, Sr., who pastored a church in Enid, Oklahoma that was affiliated with the Pentecostal denomination Church of God in Christ. Mr. Mitchell, Jr. founded the Black Hebrew Israelite cult Nation of Yahweh in Florida in 1979, claiming that he was the Son of God and the living Messiah. He was in prison from 1990-2001 after being convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of conspiracy in more than a dozen murders. Mr. Yahweh was paroled after serving 11 years of an 18-year sentence; restrictions imposed on his activities as conditions of his parole were lifted a few months before his death from prostate cancer.

The Nation of Yahweh is a race-based organization that subscribes to a form of replacement theology, teaching that people of African descent are the true Israelites rather than Jews. The Nation of Yahweh can be regarded as a Negro counterpart to white race-based Christian Identity groups; it still exists despite the death of its "Messiah," and has reportedly repudiated its racism. Readers can go to the Nation of Yahweh's website and come to their own conclusions.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Floozies for Christ: Porn star Kamilla Warneck

For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: Leviticus 11:44a
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. Proverbs 11:22

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Romans 6:12-13 (NIV)

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body...
...Flee fornication.
I Corinthians 6:13b, 18a

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you, as becometh saints; Ephesians 5:3

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,
I Thessalonians 4:3-4 (NIV)

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; I Timothy 2:9

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; I Peter 2:11

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: I Peter 4:17a

60 years ago, American gangster Mickey Cohen professed to have come to faith in Jesus Christ after meeting Billy Graham, but saw no need to change his occupation, saying, "Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians; why not a Christian gangster?" In the late 1970s, pornography merchant Larry Flynt briefly claimed to be "born again," supposedly being "converted" by Ruth Carter Stapleton, sister of U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Flynt exhibited no changes in his life, continued to publish Hustler magazine, and eventually, like the dog returning to his vomit in Proverbs 26:11, became an outspoken anti-Christian activist (and Mrs. Stapleton promoted "inner healing" and died a New Ager in 1983 at the age of 54, thinking she could visualize her cancer disappearing).

Submitted for your disapproval, yet another example of what is seen too often today in the professing church of Jesus Christ, where there's no connection between a profession of faith and holy living. As reported by Janet Tappin Coelho in the London Sun, April 27, 2017 (updated April 28, 2017):

A PORN star has outraged churchgoers by declaring she is an Evangelical Christian who believes there’s nothing wrong with her work in the eyes of God.

Kamilla Warneck is one of the hottest adult movie stars in Brazil and has appeared in hundreds of erotic movies.
Now the 25-year-old, who grew up in a deeply religious household, has caused controversy with her claims in an interview on X-rated TV show Pornolandia.

The hardcore actress declares she has an “Evangelical faith” and says she doesn’t believe it clashes with her career because she is a “good person at heart.”

Host Nicole Puzzi, who has interviewed dozens of sex industry stars, appeared surprised as she asked: “But how do you relate that to your work because people believe a porno actress cannot be Evangelical and cannot be religious.”

The curvaceous brunette insists: “People are very judgemental. They try to make you conform in a way they think an Evangelical should be because society says so.

“But I don’t agree with this. I think God sees inside our hearts. He judges the good and the bad things you do, and I do good things for people.

“I’m a good person at heart and that’s what matters.”

The clip went viral with some on social media condemning her to “burn in hell” while others said she has the right to do what she wants.

The late-night online magazine show included a risqué striptease by the sultry Rio model in which she wields a collection of dangerous weapons including a gun and knife while dancing suggestively as she undresses for the camera.

It’s a performance and a lifestyle her intensely religious family would disapprove of if they knew.

She said: “My family don’t have a clue about what I do for a living. I haven’t told them but to be honest I really don’t care if they find out.”

In fact, the blue movie actress has already upset her church-going family by divorcing her husband of three years and setting up home with a woman.

She reveals: "My family was really shocked when they found out. It took them a while to accept because their Evangelical beliefs and prejudice against gay relationships made it hard for them to come to terms with my decision.

“They think it’s just a phase I'm going through. That may well be the case, but one day I might shock them even more because I’m prepared to live with anyone so long as they make me happy, and that could include finding love with a transsexual.”

Kamilla left home at 15 to live on her own because of family issues. She doesn't disclose the reasons for doing so.

She said: “As a child, I wanted to grow up to be a ballerina. But I discovered I loved having sex when I was a teen and especially when people were watching.

“One New Year’s Eve I was making out in a tent with a guy I’d just met, and people outside could see what was going on by the shadows cast from a light behind the tent.

“It made me really excited and horny to know they were watching what we were doing.”

The sexy star, who Nicole said looked too young to be "behaving badly" because of the braces her teeth and her "fresh face beauty", got a job as a stripper and pole dancer when she turned 18.

Kamilla said: “I never thought about working in the adult movie industry until a friend invited me to do a raunchy sex show with her.

“Three months later I was invited to take part in an X-rated film and as I was curious about what it involved, I decided to accept the offer.

“I love my work and I want people to appreciate and respect what I do. It’s job where I make good money and I am successful.

“I still have a normal life outside and when I get the chance I go to church with a Bible in my hand."
I don't know whether or not Miss Warneck is actually a Christian--only God knows that--but I'm entitled to say that I don't believe she's a Christian, because the publicly available evidence doesn't support her claim to be a Christian. If she is, when did she come to Christ? She's been attracted to an ungodly lifestyle from a young age, according to her own statements.

As for Miss Warneck being "a good person," Romans 3:10-12 refutes the idea that any of us are good. I think it was James Q. Wilson who found in his criminological studies that most criminals believe themselves to be good people, even while they're in the process of committing crimes. Miss Warneck complains about people being judgmental and trying to make her conform to how an Evangelical should behave "because society says so," but that's not true--the criticism of her not living up to her professed Christian beliefs isn't because she's violating the norms of society, but because she's willfully violating the commands of God as clearly stated in the Bible (see the passages at the top of this post). Her comment is interesting in that she's acknowledging that even "society" disapproves of her behaviour; indeed, most non-Christians have higher moral standards than Kamilla Warneck.

Miss Warneck may go to church with a Bible in her hand, but she doesn't give any evidence of reading or heeding it, or acknowledging its authority over her life. Any true Christian church should, in accord with the instructions given in I Corinthians 5, bar her from fellowship as long as she continues to flout God's commands. Although I Corinthians 5 refers to the immoral brother, I think the same standard applies to women who claim to be Christians but who are living immoral lives.

The best comment on people such as Miss Warneck is an anecdote--which may or may not be true--about the famous 19th century American evangelist D.L. Moody. Mr. Moody, so the story goes, was walking back to his hotel after one of his rallies when a drunk in the gutter recognized him and said, "Oh, Mr. Moody, I'm one of your converts." Mr. Moody replied, "You must be; it's obvious you aren't Christ's."

See my previous posts Floozies for Christ: Bristol Palin (May 20, 2010) and Floozies for Christ: Carrie Prejean (May 22, 2010).

Friday, April 28, 2017

Suicidal virtue-signalling liberal Jews shelter Syrian Muslim invaders refugees

"Virtue signalling" is the term used to describe people who are intent to show off their "virtue"--especially to those who don't like them, and may even want to destroy them--because it makes them feel good about themselves. The behaviour can be found among those who may be described as liberal, and especially among those who may be described by the recently-popular term "cuckservative." A cuckservative is someone who claims to conservative, but considers it more important to be seen as not racist and/or not sexist by people who don't like him anyway, than to stand for any conservative principles. Submitted for your approval, the following example of liberal virtue signalling, as reported by Yaniv Pohoryles of Ynet News, February 10, 2017:

A London synagogue will devote part of its structure to the construction of living quarters for Syrian refugees, according to a BBC Arabic report.

The report, which has been circulated on Arabic social media pages, is part of a continuing initiative by synagogue members to provide aid to refugees from Syria. Currently—following fundraising efforts—synagogue members have begun construction on the section of the synagogue that will house the refugees.

According to the report, one family has already moved into the synagogue and community members are providing aid to other refugees by raising funds and financing temporary residences in London.

Operations at the synagogue are expected to continue as usual, including prayers.

The South London Liberal Synagogue had already launched a crowdfunding campaign, which tried to raise £50,000 for the cause.

Chair of the Synagogue Council, Alice Alphandary, told the Guardian that, "For me, this is a very personal subject. My father was a refugee in the 50s and now this is an opportunity to help the refugees of today."

The project itself is called "Araham's Tent," named after the story according to which Abraham's tent had four openings as an invitation to all. Alphandary added that "in Judaism, hosting is nearly a religious duty."
And this example, as reported by Andrew Friedman of Tazpit Press Service, April 13, 2017:

On the eve of the holiday of Passover, as Jews worldwide come together to remember the story of the exodus of the ancient Hebrews out of slavery, an Israeli rabbi and ethics scholar says the holiday demands attention to aspects beyond just remembrance of the Exodus, particularly this year with the plight of refugees around the world and the human crisis in Syria.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, chairman of the Ethics Committee for the Tzohar rabbinical organization and one of Israel’s leading experts on issues of ethics and Jewish law, has called upon Jews in Israel and around the world to use the Passover Seder as an occasion to inspire greater global awareness of the ongoing plight of a people just north of Israel’s border.

“When we read of the biblical commandment to remember the exodus from Egypt, the commandment requires that we personally feel as if we were personally liberated,” Cherlow said. “Seder night is a commemoration of our existence as a nation as we recognize how we left Egypt and came to the land of Israel. This recognition requires us to appreciate many lessons, one of which is that we too must empathize with the plight of other refugees.

“The horrific events of recent days and weeks, as we have witnessed atrocities against innocents, must call all people of conscience to respond. The Seder provides us that opportunity. At its core, the Seder is a night of faith in God as the ultimate force, who dictates the path of history and the fate of our people. That also has an impact on our perspective of other nations.”

Cherlow added that although virtually all competing sides in Syria’s civil war are also hostile towards Israel, the Jewish holiday of freedom demands compassion for the innocent victims of the fighting.

“On Seder night, we identify not with those who are committing evil but rather feel solidarity with those innocents literally caught in the crossfire,” Cherlow said.

The full text of the prayer (translated from the Hebrew by Elli Sacks) is as follows:

Master of the universe, who makes peace on high.

Though we are not accustomed to creating new formal prayers, we can no longer stand aside to look at the slaughter taking place in Your world and fail to pray. We know that both sides in this war are guilty of wanton bloodshed, and we are unable to keep silent when so many who are beyond the circle of conflict have fallen victim.

Oh Lord, we beseech You in prayer to arouse in the killers their basic humanity and evoke mercy in their hearts. Lead them to recognize that we are all created in Your image and that there are limits even to human cruelty. May You bring to pass what is written in Your Torah: “He who sheds the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed, for in God’s image was man created.”

Grant us the wisdom to know how to act in this hour of distress, when the dark face of humanity’s evil inclination is once again fully exposed and we are unsure how to stand against it. Enable us to act with all our energies to prevent bloodshed in Your world, above all in the Holy Land and its environs, as it is written in Your Torah: “You shall not pollute the land where you are for blood pollutes the land; and the land will not expiate the bloodshed upon it, but with the blood of he that shed it.”

May God who makes peace on high, make peace upon us and upon all Israel, and let us say amen.
Columnist Dennis Prager is a Jewish American who fails to see the wisdom of Jews offering sanctuary to their enemies. As he states in his column of March 7, 2017:

Last week, the Jerusalem Post and other news agencies reported that in a Paris suburb, two Jewish brothers wearing kippot (Jewish skullcaps) were attacked while driving their car by Middle Easterners driving another car.

According to a case report: "While the vehicle was in motion, the driver and a passenger shouted anti-Semitic slogans at the brothers that included 'Dirty Jews, You're going to die!' ... The vehicle forced the brothers to stop their car, and they were surrounded by several men ... The men came out of a hookah cafe on to the side street ... The alleged attackers surrounded the brothers, then kicked and punched them repeatedly while threatening that they would be murdered if they moved. One of the alleged attackers then sawed off the finger of one of the brothers."

Attacks on Jews in France and elsewhere in Europe by Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA, are so common that for the first time since World War II, Jews in France fear wearing a kippah or a Star of David in public. So many French Jews are leaving France that two years ago, then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls gave an impassioned speech pleading with French Jews to stay in France.

It has gotten so bad for Jews in Europe that The Atlantic, a liberal magazine, recently featured an article titled "Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?"

In Sweden, attacks on Jews in Malmo, the country's third largest city, are so common that Jews are leaving the city and the country.

Last year, the Jerusalem Post published an article about a Jewish couple that had lived in Sweden since the middle of World War II. Dan and Karla (not their real names) are Danish Jews who were smuggled into Sweden as children. Their gratitude for Sweden has been immense.

But they have now left their homeland, the country that saved their lives, to live in Spain. They lived in Malmo. In Dan's words, the immense saturation of Jew hatred in the city was caused by "the adverse effects of accepting half-a-million immigrants from the Middle East, who plainly weren't interesting in adopting Sweden's values and Swedish culture. ... The politicians, the media, the intellectuals ... they all played their parts in pandering to this dangerous ideology and, sadly, it's changing the fabric of Swedish society irreversibly."

The Post continued, saying, "Karla, who'd sat passively, occasionally nodding in agreement at Dan's analysis, then interrupted, saying, 'If you disagree with the establishment, you're immediately called a racist or fascist.'" (Sound familiar?)

The British newspaper The Telegraph recently reported: "Jewish people in Malmo have long complained of growing harassment in the city, where 43 per cent of the population have a non-Swedish background, with Iraqis, Lebanese and stateless Palestinians some of the largest groups. The Jewish community centre in the city is heavily fortified, with security doors and bollards on the outside pavement to prevent car bombs."

An article in the left-wing HuffingtonPost reached a now-familiar conclusion, saying: "Migrants streaming into Europe from the Middle East are bringing with them virulent anti-Semitism which is erupting from Scandinavia to France to Germany. ... While all of the incoming refugees and migrants, fleeing Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim lands, may not hold anti-Jewish views, an extremely large number do — simply as a result to being raised in places where anti-Jewish vitriol is poured out in TV, newspapers, schools and mosques. ... 'There is no future for Jews in Europe' said the chief Rabbi of Brussels."

Yet, despite all this Muslim-immigrant Jew hatred, more than a thousand rabbis have signed a petition to bring large numbers of MENA Muslims into America, and virtually all Jewish organizations outside of orthodoxy and the Zionist Organization of America have condemned President Trump's administration for enacting even a temporary travel ban (one due entirely to security concerns) on immigrants and refugees from seven (of the world's more than 50) Muslim-majority countries.

How is one to explain the widespread American Jewish support for bringing in a massive number of people, many of whom will bring in anti-Jew, anti-Israel and anti-West values?

First, they are staggeringly naive believing, for example, that marching at airports with signs that read "We love Muslims" will change those Muslims who hate Jews into Muslims who love Jews.

Second, never underestimate the power of feeling good about yourself that exists on the left (the self-esteem movement originated on the left). And it feels very good for these Jews to say: "Look, world. You abandoned us in the 1930s, but we're better than you."

And third, when American Jews abandoned traditional liberal and traditional Jewish values for leftist values, they became less Jewish, less American and more foolish.

Just ask the Jews of Europe.
In addition to the reasons provided by Mr. Prager for the suicidal behaviour of his fellow Jews, I can think of another: Jewish anti-Christianism. Jews in Western countries have traditionally been regarded as outsiders and have often been persecuted, leading them to resent the majority culture, and to sympathize with those they regarded as oppressed minorities. Until fairly recently, the dominant religion of Western nations was some form of professing Christianity (and to Jews, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and various forms of Protestantism are often seen as equally representing "Christianity"). Jewish organizations in Western nations resented the majority "Christian" culture, and wanted to weaken the Christian influence in their nations. Accordingly, they were prominent in supporting policies providing for increased immigration of non-Christian, non-Western populations into Western countries--not because such immigration would be good for these countries, but it would be good for the Jews.

The Christian influence in Western nations has waned to the point of virtual extinction--in no small part due to the increasing apostasy of professing Christian churches--but Jewish organizations have continued to pursue their anti-Christian agenda, apparently oblivious to the fact that the latest wave of invaders migrants is composed of large numbers of Muslims who really don't like Jews, and are intent on turning their new places of residences into Muslim countries. As a result, it's hard for me to sympathize with Jews in Europe and elsewhere who complain about persecution and anti-Semitism when they've brought it on themselves to a large extent by supporting Muslim immigration. The increase in anti-Semitism in these countries, if not directly proportional, has certainly increased along with the increase in the number of Muslims allowed into these countries.

Mr. Prager, who describes himself as an ethical monotheist, has said in the past that he's one Jew who greatly fears a post-Christian America. Other American Jews in the media who express support for the rights of Christians include Michael Medved and his rabbi, Daniel Lapin. Nat Hentoff, despite being a professing atheist, has occasionally used his column to bring attention to the persecution of Christians. In Canada, my friend Ezra Levant, through his media site The Rebel, has done tremendous work in supporting the legal rights of Christians in Canada, for which I'm grateful. Rebel reporter Faith Goldy continues to expose what the Muslim invaders refugees are actually doing in Canadian schools--which the mainstream media refuse to report, because it doesn't fit their agenda.

Unfortunately, the people I've just mentioned see to be in the minority, while Jewish organizations continue to support policies that aren't good for Jews, Christians, or anybody else who loves freedom. Let us pray they see the error of their ways.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jerusalem to fly record number of flags for Jerusalem Day

The world's refusal to recognize Jerusalem's status as the capital of Israel isn't deterring the city from flaunting its true status, as reported by Orly Harari of Ayutz Sheva, April 11, 2017:

The Jerusalem Municipality will hang over 10,000 flags in the city in preparation for Jerusalem Day celebrations.

This number is three times the amount of flags hung in previous years, the municipality reported.

"It may even be a Guinness record," the spokesman said.

The flags will include Israeli flags, Jerusalem municipal flags, and "50" flags. They will be hung on every street in the city, to add to the holiday atmosphere and reinforce the connection of both residents and tourists to Israel's capital.

In addition to the other flags, huge flags will be hung at the entrances to Jerusalem, on the bridges, on the Old City's walls, at Safra Square, near government offices, and behind the city's major national and tourist sites.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, "Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation. This year, the fiftieth since it was reunited, the city will be filled with national flags. These flags will strengthen the connection of everyone who sees them to Jerusalem, and will strengthen our obligation to ensure Jerusalem's and Israel's future.

"I wish everyone a happy Jerusalem Day."

This year, Jerusalem Day begins the evening of May 23 and continues to May 24.

UNESCO Director General promises to defend the rights of all three monotheistic religions in Jerusalem

First, for those who missed the story when it was in the news in 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution denying Israel's historic connection to Jerusalem. As reported by Atara Beck in World Israel News, October 13, 2016 (links in original):

Israelis across the political spectrum reacted in outrage and defiance to a hostile resolution passed Thursday by UNESCO that rejects the historic Jewish connection to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) passed an absurd resolution, denying the ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

The resolution, initiated by the Palestinians, states that the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Holy Temples stood – is holy to Muslims only.

The Temple Mount is Islam’s third-holiest site, second to Mecca and Medina. The resolution uses the Muslim name Haram al-Sharif, but not the Hebrew term, Har HaBayit.

It also refers to the Western Wall – the Kotel, in Hebrew – by the Arabic name, al-Buraq.

Ambassador Carmel Shama HaCohen, Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, said that “Israel and the Jewish people do not require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general, and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular.”

“There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years,” he said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated Thursday morning, just days before the holiday of Sukkot, which begins Sunday evening, that “there is no festival more connected to Jerusalem than Sukkot. The festivals of Israel all highlight the inextricable bond between our people and our land, and no forum of body in the world can come an deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem – and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself.”

“We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history,” Rivlin asserted.

“The UNESCO theater show goes on,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared. “Today that organization adopted another delusional decision stating that the Jewish People have no connection to the Temple Mount or the Western Wall. Even if they do not read the Bible, I would suggest that UNESCO members visit the Arch of Titus in Rome. On it one can see what the Romans brought back to Rome after they destroyed and looted the Second Temple on the Temple Mount 2,000 years ago. There, engraved on the Arch of Titus, is the seven-branched menorah that is the symbol of the Jewish People and, I remind you, is also the symbol of the Jewish state today. Soon, UNESCO will say that the Emperor Titus engaged in Zionist propaganda,” he quipped.

“To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall of China and the Egyptians have no connection to the pyramids,” he added. “By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it had left.”

“I was outraged to hear of UNESCO’s vote today, which denies thousands of years of Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Western Wall,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated. “Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca?”

According to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the UN is “disconnected from reality and history,” and the resolution passed Thursday “is a message to inciters and rewriters of history working tirelessly out of hate.”

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, Leader of the Opposition, concurred, stating that “whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred.”

Twenty-four countries supported the resolution, six – the US, UK, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Estonia and Germany – voted against, and 26 abstained.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a pamphlet showing the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which was distributed to all 120 permanent delegates of UNESCO representing countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova expressed her opposition to the resolution, as reported by World Israel News, October 18, 2016 (bold in original):

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova received death threats after expressing personal opposition to the resolution passed by her organization that denies the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

The anti-Semitic resolution passed by UNESCO on Thursday, initiated by the Palestinians, states that the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, where the First and Second Holy Temples stood – and the Western Wall are holy to Muslims only.

“Nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space,” Bokova had stated, adding that she would fight against the delegitimization of Israel and Holocaust denial.

“The director-general has received death threats and her protection had to be reinforced,” Carmel Shama HaCohen, Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, said on Monday.

“Israel and the Jewish people do not require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general, and the holy sites such as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular,” Shama HaCohen stated upon the passing of the resolution.

“There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2,000 years,” he said.

Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO

Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO on Friday.

“Following the shameful decision by UNESCO members to deny history and ignore thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organization,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared.
Ms. Bokova is now declaring her support for the rights of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Jerusalem, as reported by Ben Ariel in World Israel News, April 25, 2017:

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova on Monday pledged to defend the rightful links of all three monotheistic religions to Jerusalem.

Speaking to the World Jewish Congress’ 15th Plenary Assembly in New York, Bokova said that the “recognition, use and respect” for the names of the holy sites in the city is “paramount.”

“The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif, the sacred shrine of the Muslims, is also the Har Habayit – or Temple Mount – the holiest place in Judaism, whose Western Wall is revered by millions across the world, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives holy to the Christians,” Bokova said.

“The outstanding universal value of Jerusalem, and the reason why it was inscribed on the World Heritage list, lies in this synthesis, which is an appeal for dialogue not confrontation,” she added.

“To deny, conceal, or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” Bokova added.

Her comments come after UNESCO passed a series of resolutions which attempted to erase the connection of the Jewish people to the holy places in Jerusalem and to present those places as holy to Muslims only.

The organization is supposed to vote on another resolution next month, but Israeli diplomatic efforts have resulted in significant portions of anti-Israel content being cut from the wording of the new resolution.

Bokova was among those who spoke out in October against UNESCO’s executive board decision to adopt a resolution that disregards the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The resolution was supported by 24 states, including Russia and China. Six countries opposed and 26 abstained.

The resolution maintains that the Western Wall and Temple Mount will be referred to by their Arabic names and the Hebrew terms for the sites will only appear in quotation marks in UN references.

In her address to the World Jewish Congress on Monday, Bokova also launched a new policy guide for educators on teaching about the Holocaust, genocides and mass atrocities. She described the guide as an important tool to promote education and the history of genocide as a tool for peace.

“With this innovative and one of a kind policy guide, UNESCO speaks to the next generation of leaders, of teachers, of citizens around the world. We must empower future generations with the lessons from the Holocaust, equip our children and grandchildren with the tools they need to vanquish intolerance and hate, bigotry and anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice.”

“Education about the Holocaust and preventing genocide” is the first step in a series of projects conducted in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and with the support of the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Bokova.

Canada reiterates her commitment to Israel's security

As reported by Dalit Halevi of Arutz Sheva, April 17, 2017:

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, reiterated Canada's commitment to fight anti-Semitism and to support Israel in a speech given this week at the World Jewish Congress’ Plenary Assembly in New York.

Freeland pointed out that the Jewish people are the most likely religious group in Canada to be targeted for hate crimes.

“According to our most recent data,” she said, “17 percent of all hate incidents in Canada targeted Jewish people despite the fact that the Jewish population is less than one percent of the Canadian population. This is totally unacceptable. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring the safety and security of Canada’s Jewish community.”

Freeland further noted that as an open pluralistic democratic society, Canada is committed to becoming a world leader in counter-radicalization.

She criticized the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist organization as “a hateful, backward looking death cult. We can and we will prevail in the battle against it. We need to have the courage of our convictions.”

Freeland concluded her remarks by addressing Canada's ties with Israel.

“Canada is a strong ally and close friend of the Jewish state continuing in mutually beneficial partnerships that have advanced our two democracies’ shared values and interests for almost 70 years. We are proud of that,” she said.

“We have an unwavering iron-clad commitment to the security of Israel and its interests. We support Israel’s right to its security, its right to live in peace, and we’re committed to a comprehensive just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
I agree with Ms. Freeland's stand, but she exhibits the cluelessness that's so typical of liberalism (and the Liberal Party of Canada, which now governs the country), in failing to connect ideas and actions with consequences. If she and the government want to "ensure the safety and security of Canada's Jewish community," the best way to accomplish this is to stop allowing Muslim immigration. In Trudeaupia (still officially called Canada), as in the various European countries that have been suicidal enough to allow large numbers of Muslims to invade their countries, the increase in these countries' Muslim populations and the increase in reported anti-Jewish opinions and actions have gone hand-in-hand. Keep Muslims out, and you keep out much of the hatred of Jews.

Jerusalem plans to build a Mount of Olives visitor centre

As reported by Arutz Sheva, April 25, 2017 (link inserted by blogger):

The Jerusalem municipality announced plans on Tuesday to expropriate land in the Arab neighborhood of Ras Al-Amud in eastern Jerusalem, next to the historic Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

The move is the first step towards the construction of a visitors center to serve those visiting the ancient Jewish burial ground, one of the oldest and largest Jewish cemeteries in the world, and other historic landmarks in the area.

According to the left-wing daily Haaretz, the center is to be built in between the main road running through the neighborhood and the wall surrounding the cemetery, nearby a recently closed mosque.

The planned visitors center will also include an events hall, gift shop, and mapping office.

While the new facility will enable thousands of visitors to tour this ancient site or visit the graves of loved ones, not everyone is happy about the project.

Hagit Ofran, a senior member of the radical left-wing Peace Now group, which opposes Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem, labelled the plan “settlement tourism”.

“Building a tourist site in the heart of the Holy Basin of Jerusalem, next to a mosque, facing the Temple Mount, really means building a kind of settlement.”

Ofran argued that the presence of a tourism center in the area, something that ordinarily would be viewed as advantageous to local residents, would somehow harm the local ‘fabric of life’.

“This project, together with other settlement tourism [projects] being pushed by the government in other Palestinian neighborhoods near the Old City, not only increases tensions in Jerusalem but harms the gentle fabric of life there. These [projects] also threaten the chances of reaching a compromise agreement on Jerusalem.”
For more information on the opposition to the visitor centre, see Peace Now's post Fast Track Planning for a Visitor Center in The Mount of Olives (April 25, 2017).

The One who created the Mount of Olives will return there one day, and he won't need to consult a visitor centre:

And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. Zechariah 14:4

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Planet with Earth-like atmosphere discovered

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Anne Collins of the University Herald, April 7, 2017 (links in original):

For the first time, astronomers have discovered atmosphere around a planet that is similar to Earth that could support water. They studied the planet called GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of Earth. It lies 39 light years away.

The study was published in the Astronomical Journal. The so called super-Earth is cloaked in a thick layer of gasses. Researchers suspect it is either water, methane or a mixture of both.

The discovery of the planet has been hailed as an important step forward in detecting life beyond our Solar System. However, it is unlikely that the planet is habitable because it has the surface temperature of 370C.

BBC reported, Dr. John Southworth, lead author from Keele University, said the hottest temperature that life has been able to survive on Earth is 120C, which is far cooler compared to GJ 1132b. It was first discovered in 2015 and lies in the Vela constellation in the southern hemisphere.

GJ 1132b has a similar size to Earth, but the star it orbits is much smaller, cooler and dimmer than our Sun. The researchers were able to study the planet using the GROND imager telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, reported. They watched how it blocked some of the light of its host star as it passed in front of it.

If the planet has different molecules in its atmosphere, it clearly absorbs light in different ways. It allowed the scientists to look for chemical signatures when the world transits its star. The researcher's observation of planet GJ 1132b suggests that it has a thick atmosphere that contains either steam and/or methane.

Dr. Southworth said one possibility is that it is a water world that has an atmosphere of hot steam. Researchers said it is unlikely that any life-forms could survive on the planet but the discovery of its atmosphere is encouraging them to hunt for extraterrestrial life. There are many planets in the Universe that are around low mass stars that can possibly have atmospheres, which makes it much more likely that one might have life.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Proposed Flemish law to ban ritual slaughter attracts criticism from Jews and Muslims

Once again, modern secular "multiculturalism" tries to force itself upon those with strong religious views and long-held practices; it's okay to slaughter future generations of unborn Belgian babies and impose euthanasia upon elderly and disabled Belgians, but slaughtering animals as part of long-held religious beliefs and practices isn't "civilized." As reported by Reuters, March 30, 2017:

The Muslim and Jewish communities in Flanders have criticized a proposal by the Belgian region to ban the unstunned slaughter of small animals, which they say would contravene their rules for ritual killing.

Under the draft law, animals like sheep and poultry will have to be stunned electrically before being killed, which most animal rights campaigners say is more humane than the Islamic halal and Jewish kosher rituals. Both require that butchers swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood.

"Unstunned slaughter is outdated," Ben Weyts, regional minister of animal welfare, said in a statement. "In a civilized society, it is our damn duty to avoid animal suffering where possible."

The bill has broad support in the predominantly Catholic region, and the opposition from Flanders' religious minorities illustrates the difficulties facing some European countries as they struggle to integrate immigrant populations.

The issue could play with a wider audience, including right-wing politicians and animal rights campaigners, who generally support the legislation.

As stunning larger animals is not possible without also fatally wounding them, the proposed law requires animals such as cattle be stunned immediately after their throats are cut if slaughtered in a ritual manner.

Belgium's Muslim community said its religious council has previously expressed its opposition to stunned slaughter and there had been no change in its stance since then.

"Muslims are worried about whether they can eat halal food… in conformity with their religious rites and beliefs," the Belgian Muslim Executive said.

The Flemish Jewish community said it was studying the proposal and that stunned slaughter was not in line with Jewish religious laws.

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis said, “We are deeply disappointed by the decision in the Flemish Parliament which ignores the needs and rights of religious communities as well as a significant body of scientific opinion. We are seeking urgent talks with the Flemish authorities and will work with the local Jewish community to reverse this decision as soon as possible.”

While the proposed law would only apply to the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north of Belgium, other Belgian regions are planning similar moves.

Countries including Denmark, Switzerland and New Zealand already prohibit unstunned slaughter.

Vatican and Rome's Jewish museum team up to host menorah exhibit

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 (also Proverbs 16:25)

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

As reported by Reuters, February 20, 2017:

The Vatican and Rome's Jewish museum will jointly host an unprecedented exhibition on the menorah, the ancient symbol of Judaism, and try to put to rest legends on the fate of one candelabra missing for 15 centuries.

The May 15 – July 23 exhibition, which Vatican and Jewish officials opened on Monday, will be held simultaneously at St. Peter's Square and the Rome synagogue complex.

The Magdala Stone (Photo: Reuters)

It will include about 130 menorahs or depictions of them in paintings, ancient gravestones and sculptures, and medieval and Renaissance illustrations and manuscripts.

Nearly 20 world museums, including the Louvre and London's National Gallery, have contributed pieces.

"It will be significant from both the religious as well as the historical aspects," said Barbara Jatta, who last month became the first woman to head the Vatican Museums.

But the absolute star of the show—the solid gold menorah taken as a trophy by the Romans when they destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, will not be there. Its fate has been a mystery for 1,500 years and the temple vessel has become the stuff of legends.

The Arch of Titus

Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Titus, a Roman general who became emperor nine years later. A relief on his victory arch in Rome, which still stands, shows the Jerusalem menorah and other war trophies being carried in a parade.

Most historians believe the Jerusalem menorah was lost in the Vandals' Sack of Rome in 455. But legends have persisted that it was thrown in the Tiber River and is still there, that it was buried in a cave or that it is hidden in the Vatican.

"A lot of people will be disappointed to discover that these urban legends are not true," said Rome's chief Rabbi Ricardo Di Segni.

The exhibition will, however, contain what may be the next best thing—the Magdala Stone. It was found in 2009 in an archaeological dig that uncovered an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

It shows a seven-branched menorah, similar to the one depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, and is believed to have been carved by an artist who saw the missing Jerusalem menorah in the temple before the Romans destroyed it.

Catholic and Jewish officials said the exhibition, called Menorah—Cult, History and Myth, was another sign of radically improved inter-religious relations since 1965, when the Second Vatican Council repudiated the concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.
See also my posts 50 years ago: Pope Paul VI promulgates Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) (October 28, 2015) and 30 years ago: Pope John Paul II visits Rome's Great Synagogue (April 14, 2016).

More descendants of "lost tribe" from India arrive in Israel

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

As reported by Gabi Neuman of Ynet News, February 23, 2017 (links in original):

Over the weekend, two groups of immigrants from Mizoram in northeast India arrived in Israel. They entered Ben Gurion Airport singing and dancing as they were warmly welcomed by family members they had not seen for many years.

With tears in their eyes, about a hundred new immigrants from the tribe of "Bnei Menashe" excitedly clutched their blue Israeli Identification cards to their chests, and spoke of a two-thousand-year-old dream coming to fruition. Shlomit tearfully hugged her sister who she hadn't seen in more than twenty years, and Sarah said, "I tried to get here for so long ... now we're finally here. It's so wonderful."

After a long hiatus, Israel has renewed the "Bnei Menashe" operation—a community belonging to the so-called "lost tribes." As soon as they landed at Ben Gurion Airport, they rushed to say the Shehecheyanu prayer of thanksgiving and received an Israeli identification card issued to them.

"It's a commandment for every Jew to live in Israel, so I'm fulfilling my duty," Leon, one of the immigrants, told Ynet. Vichy Freund, one of the volunteers who took part in the operation, said that "people like to talk about the American Dream, and here we see the culmination of the Israeli dream which is based on tradition; on spiritual things and less on physical things."

In Israel, there are more than three thousand members of the tribe, and they will be joined by another 700 this year. "We are calling it, 'Operation Menashe 2017,'" said Rabbi Michael Freund, CEO of Shavei Israel Organization. "This is the first wave of the 700, who with God's help, we intend to bring in 2017."

According to Freund, "7,000 Bnei Menashe were left behind, in India, and everyone wants to come here and reunite with their families. In the coming years, we will bring all of them because this is their rightful place."

The immigrants made their way out of the airport toward their new (and temporary) homes in the absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, where they are set to complete the conversion process—and then, they will move to upper Nazareth.

"Bnei Menashe" identify themselves as descendants of the Jewish people. They are part of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes from Mizoram, Assam and Manipur in Northeastern India, on the border with Myanmar Burma.

According to tradition transmitted from generation to generation, these are the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh—one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel at the end of the First Temple period.

Their numbers in these areas is currently estimated at approximately 7,000.
As reported by Ynet News, March 30, 2017:

The Bnei Menashe community throughout the remote northeastern Indian state of Manipur today began preparing for Passover—including by baking matzah, the holiday’s traditional unleavened bread—at the Shavei Israel Hebrew Center in Churachandpur.

“The experience of seeing the entire community kneading, rolling, and then baking the dough—all as the timer calls out the minutes—is amazing,” said Ohaliav Haokip, 31, of Churachandpur. “Everyone present can feel the pressure of baking the matzah in time—it’s reminiscent of Biblical times, and our forefathers’ hurrying to flee Egypt… I hope for a very special Seder this year—and next year in Jerusalem!”

The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years and an additional 102 who arrived in Israel from Mizoram, India, in February. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India.

“Passover symbolizes the Jewish people’s deliverance and it is a festival that resonates deeply for the Bnei Menashe,” said the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund. His nonprofit organization explains its “aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.”

“In the far-flung regions of northeastern India, thousands of Bnei Menashe will sit down on Passover eve to conduct the traditional Seder, which embodies the hope they have been nurturing for generations: to make aliyah and return to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.”

Down through the generations and into the last century, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Biblical Judaism and marked Passover with a number of rituals, which included the removal of any bread from their homes and refraining from its consumption during the holiday as well as offering the Passover sacrifice.

In addition, each village priest would recite a series of ancient prayers, such as “Miriam’s Song,” which echoed the Biblical account of the Exodus and its aftermath, describing how their ancestors—the Bnei Menashe—were redeemed from slavery in Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds and were guided by a pillar of fire and clouds of glory until they reached the Promised Land.

In recent decades, the Bnei Menashe have embraced contemporary Judaism and adopted its practices.
See my post Jews from "lost tribe" move from India to Israel (December 24, 2012).

Israel allows the immigration of nine Venezuelan converts to Judaism

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

Even if these people are only converts to Judaism, it's interesting to see that Jews are coming to Israel from all over the world, including Venezuela. As reported by Associated Press, March 17, 2017:

It's not quite Moses' 40 years in the desert, but for nine struggling Venezuelan converts to Judaism, their torturous journey to a better life in the Promised Land finally brought them to Israel on Thursday.

They paused inside the arrivals hall of Israel's international airport for a prayer before being whisked into a taxi and taken to an immigration absorption center.

Israel's Law of Return gives Jews the world over the right to settle in the Jewish state. But the Venezuelan converts were denied entry late last year over concerns they weren't involved enough with Venezuela's Jewish community and were looking to take advantage of Israel's immigration policies to flee the troubled South American nation.

Israeli authorities reversed that decision in January, citing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

As part of a face-saving deal between Israel's Interior Ministry, headed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish minister, and the liberal Jewish movement to which the nine belonged, the converts were made to undergo a repeat conversion and to join an "established religious community" for several months in Israel before being eligible for citizenship.

The group marked its conversion— for the second time—with a ritual immersion last Sunday at a synagogue in Colombia before setting off for Israel.

"May you find your heart's desire, healing and peace with all of your brothers in Israel – those who are traveling with you and those you've yet to meet," Rabbi Juan Mejia said as leaned his forehead against Jackson Marrone's, offering him a blessing for a safe journey. Shouts of "mazel tov" echoed off the sanctuary's high ceiling.

The protracted fight over the "Venezuelan Nine" underscores the fierce debate in a divided Israeli society over who is a Jew and how a religion that doesn't proselytize like Christianity or Islam grapples with an increasing number of converts, especially from Latin America, who have found their way to Judaism outside traditional paths like marrying someone of the faith.

It's also taken its toll on the nine Venezuelans themselves.

For years, Franklin Perez has lived a Jewish life. He wears a skullcap, gave Hebrew names to his children and traveled three hours by road to Caracas to buy kosher meat—when he could find it.

His embrace of Judaism began when he moved to the Venezuelan city of Maracay in 2004 after losing his job as a philosophy professor during a political shakeup at the university where he taught. He fell in with a group of messianic Jews who combine Christianity with Jewish traditions.

Perez's curiosity had already been piqued during his childhood by a Jewish great-grandmother in an otherwise Roman Catholic family, and he led the group in study of religious texts.

Over time, a hardcore nucleus was drawn to bedrock Judaism itself. In 2011 they found Mejia, a Spanish-speaking Conservative movement rabbi who lives in Oklahoma but returns a few times a year to his native Colombia. He led them in six hours of study online each week, and after a year later they traveled to study with him for a week in Santa Marta, Colombia.

They returned in 2014, and under the supervision of a religious court of three rabbis took a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean to complete their conversion.

"This is not a new thing, this is not a fad," Mejia said. "These people didn't decide yesterday, 'Oh, Venezuela is going down the drain, let's find someplace to go.' Everything Jewish that they have, they built, which gives you a sense of ownership and pride that is not only commendable but worthy of imitation."

Leaders of the cloistered Jewish community in Caracas were doubtful of their motives because they had never had contact with the group, even though the nine had been quietly welcomed by a dying community of Orthodox Jews in the nearby city of Valencia, which needed them for the 10-male quorum required for public worship in a synagogue.

According to an official in Israel familiar with the case, there was evidence suggesting some of the applicants converted to Judaism to take advantage of Israeli social benefits, including health insurance. The official agreed to discuss the case only if not quoted by name because he was not authorized to discuss the converts' personal status.

But after a stormy parliamentary committee hearing in Israel, immigration officials said the nine could come.

Perez freely admits that if it weren't for Venezuela's collapse they would have never looked to leave. He is resettling his family in a foreign country with just $350 and seven suitcases of belongings -- all that's left after Venezuela's economic slide that brought triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Another member of the group, Nadine Garcia, couldn't find chemotherapy drugs for her cancer treatment. And the home of Perez's in-laws, where his family had been living, was recently broken into by thieves who walked off with cheese and rice from the refrigerator.

The Jewish Agency, a nonprofit organization that works with the Israeli government on immigration, paid for their flights and housing. They'll temporarily live in the immigration absorption center while they perfect their Hebrew.

"I don't imagine ever going back, not even to visit," said Perez. "The problem isn't economic. It's social, moral and ethical. For Venezuelans to rebuild their lost values it's going to take at least 50 years."

Members of Venezuela's aging Jewish community have been fleeing to places like Miami and Panama for years. From a peak of 20,000 Jews in Venezuela two decades ago, around 8,000 remain today.

In addition to lamenting the country's economic woes, many Jews complain of facing virulent anti-Semitism since the late President Hugo Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009.

Around 50 gathered recently at a community center in Caracas to learn how they could move to Spain and Portugal under new laws in those countries granting citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century.

Mejia said he thinks the wariness of Israeli authorities over the nine stemmed less from a fear of a mass exodus of starving Venezuelans and more from discomfort with the idea that in the age of the internet and spiritual shopping many people are being drawn to one of the world's oldest living faiths.

"We're not used to this amount of popularity," quipped Mejia, who embarked on his own path to Jewish conversion while studying philosophy in Colombia.

But he said ultimately it is Israel's mission as a Jewish state to provide refuge for Jews in danger – born ones and converts alike.

"I cannot save everyone, but these are my students and I'm very relieved that so many people have come together to do a little bit," Mejia said.
In addition to the main point about the immigration, I noticed a few other interesting aspects to this story. One is that Franklin Perez, who's from a Roman Catholic background, became involved with Messianic Jews, which eventually led him to convert to Judaism rather than coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. It's also worth noting that Mr. Perez says that the root of Venezuela's current woes is "social, moral and ethical" rather than economic. In relation to that, I think it's also worth noting that Venezuela, a country that should be much better off economically than it now is, severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009. The decline of Venezuela continues a pattern of decline for countries that have been foolish enough to sever relations with Israel--a pattern which, to use a favourite word of Joel Rosenberg's, is "curious."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

40 years ago: California Court of Appeals rules in favour of Moonies against parents

On April 11, 1977, a three-judge panel of the California State Court of Appeals ordered that five young adults be freed from the custody of their parents, who had opposed their membership in Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The parents had charged that their children had been coerced into joining the cult, and had shown emotional and mental deterioration. The parents sough to "deprogam" their children from the Moonies' influence, while the cult's lawyers opposed the move on grounds of religious freedom. The appellate judges did not accept a lower court's ruling on March 24 that parents retained some rights over adult children, and ruled that custody could be granted only if a person was incompetent and unable to care for himself.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Readings from the Qur'an are held at the Vatican for the first time ever

As reported by EEUU News, March 15, 2017:

On Sunday for the first time ever the readings from Quran will be heard at the Vatican. This move was initiated by the Pope Francis in order to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

During his visit last week to Jordan Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, Pope Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peres’s spokesperson has announced in Times of Israel that Abbas, Peres, and Pope Francis will be joined by Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders.

According to the officials, these evening prayers would be a “pause in politics” and have no political aim behind it other than the desire to bring peace and respect to the Israeli-Palestinian relations, states the Associated Press.

The Vatican will broadcast the event worldwide through the official website.

However, Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the custodian of Catholic Church property in the Holy Land has announced that people should keep their expectations low when it comes to this event.

[No-one should think] “peace will suddenly break out on Monday, or that peace is any closer,” he said to AP.

The Vatican has also announced that on Friday, the Pope also held a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and both leaders discussed possible ways of promoting peace and stability in Asia.

Churches in southern Wisconsin on full alert against possible criminal threat

The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ and his people can be found anywhere; as reported by Associated Press, April 9, 2017:

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) _ Authorities are stepping up patrols around southern Wisconsin churches as a precaution as they search for a man suspected of stealing firearms from a gun store after threatening to carry out an unspecified attack.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office says 32-year-old Joseph Jakubowski expressed anti-religious views in a 161-page manifesto he sent to the White House. The sheriff’s office and Janesville police are increasing patrols near churches Sunday, although investigators say there is no specific threat.

Extra patrols also were planned around churches in Sun Prairie, about 48 miles north of Janesville, after a man entered Bethlehem Lutheran Church on Thursday and asked about church services.

Jakubowski is accused of taking handguns and rifles from a gun shop Tuesday night in Janesville, about 70 miles southwest of Milwaukee.

Stone finger possibly from Bronze Age Egyptian statue removed from Temple Mount in Jerusalem

As reported by Ilan Ben Zion of The Times of Israel, April 9, 2017 (links in original):

Fragment of a stone finger from what archaeologists suspect may have been an Egyptian statue, found in the fill removed from the Temple Mount. (Temple Mount Sifting Project)

In an statement timed just ahead of Passover, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said Sunday it had found a stone finger that may have belonged to a Bronze Age Egyptian statue, but conceded it wasn’t sure.

The unusual announcement may have been an attempt to keep up pressure on Israeli authorities to resolve a funding crisis that has brought its operations to a halt. The project, which has been in dire straits in recent weeks after its main donor, the City of David Foundation, pulled its funding, made the announcement of an Egyptian find ahead of the Jewish festival marking the Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Israeli archaeology organizations often peg Egypt-related discoveries to the holiday because of its association with ancient Egypt.

“It was found a while ago,” the project’s director, Gabriel Barkay, told The Times of Israel over the phone, but declined to specify when. He said the sifting project ceased operations two weeks ago.

The organization headed by Barkay sorts through soil removed by the Palestinians from the Temple Mount during unsupervised construction between 1996 and 1999.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project issued a statement last Monday announcing the halt of operations due to a “lack of funding and differences between the directors of the Sifting Project and the City of David Foundation.” The Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday that ongoing funding had been secured, but officials at the project said on Sunday that the crisis had not yet been resolved.

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is considered the holiest in Judaism, the site of two Jewish temples, and is also the third-holiest site to Muslims. The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, the institution overseeing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, excavated a section of the Temple Mount for the building of a subterranean mosque in an area known as Solomon’s Stables in the late 1990s. Tens of thousands of tons of dirt — roughly 400 truckloads — were excavated by heavy machinery, without the supervision of archaeologists, and dumped outside the Old City.

The piles of earth sat in the Kidron Valley for over four years until the project commenced in 2004. Since commencing operations, the Temple Mount Sifting Project said, it’s gone through around 70 percent of the soil removed from the site.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project said in a statement that the finger found in the fill “probably originated in Egypt” but couldn’t be accurately dated, and was “currently being examined by the leading experts in the field.”

Barkay told The Times of Israel that he was the only one currently studying the artifact and that it would be sent to “ancient art researchers and Egyptian researchers and others” at some point in the near future.

“It’s still at an early stage. Research hasn’t been completed,” he said.

In the statement released by the Temple Mount Sifting Project to the press, Barkay was more authoritative in his assertions about the artifact than he was in conversation on the phone.

“This is a fragment of a life-size statue, which was made in Egypt and imported to Canaan,” the statement said. “We clearly notice that this is part of a pinky finger measuring 3.5 centimeters (1.4 inches), from a man’s hand, which includes also a fingernail. The statue is made of a hard black stone originating in Egypt. The statue most likely represented a figure of a god or king. The black stone from which the statue is manufactured testifies to its Egyptian origin.”

He posited that the statue to which the finger belonged dated to the Late Bronze Age, around 3,500 years ago, based on the style, but conceded that “We cannot exclude the possibility that the statue is from a later period.”

“If it is indeed Egyptian, and apparently it is, the Egyptian objects from Jerusalem in ancient periods are very few.” He said they could be counted on one hand.

The Temple Mount Sifting Project’s find was presented as a buttress for its main message, which was that it was in dire need of funds to continue its work, and that despite assertions by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, its financial crisis hasn’t been resolved.

Contrary to reports published last week, it said, “the sifting was not resumed, but a meeting will be scheduled for after the Passover holiday to resolve the crisis in order to resume the sifting.

“As we mentioned in our first announcement, the main problem we are facing is finding the funding for the research and publication of the many artifacts that we have recovered. The sifting cannot be resumed until this is solved,” it said.

Gilt mosaic tiles that once decorated the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (photo credit: Courtesy of The Temple Mount Sifting Project)

Over a quarter of a million volunteers from around the world have taken part in hosing down bucketfuls of soil from the Temple Mount and picking out minute objects since the project began.

While critics note that the artifacts found in the fill were not found in situ, and the mounds were left unattended for several years before being moved once again to the Sifting Project’s site at the base of Mount Scopus, Barkay insists the finds are unquestionably connected to the Temple Mount and are of scientific importance in answering questions about the site.

Although the Temple Mount Sifting Project styles itself as “the first archaeological material ever to be researched from within the Temple Mount itself,” British archaeologist R.W. Hamilton conducted work atop the site in the 1930s on behalf of the Mandate’s Department of Antiquities.