FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Pilgrims in the Holy Land

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Walking through the narrow alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City and visiting its myriad holy sites at this time of year is an even more vibrant and colorful experience than usual.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, I know these streets by heart. But around the time of Holy Week and Easter they take on a different tone, as people from all over the world converge on the walled city to visit its many points of pilgrimage.

As the crowds pour through the streets, often moving in compact groups of regimented tour parties, I find myself observing the individuals. In this project, I wanted my photographs to reveal the separate people who can so easily get lost amongst the hordes that arrive in the run-up to Easter.

I chose to photograph them in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most famous church in Jerusalem, if not the world, which is built on the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

I wanted to show the uniqueness of each worshipper and I persuaded several individuals to leave their tour groups and stand, for a moment, in a quiet corner of the normally teeming Church.

New Israeli film claims discovery of nails from Jesus’s cross

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(Filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici at a news conference in New York, February 26, 2007/Mike Segar)

Could two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem? And could they have mysteriously disappeared for 20 years, only to turn up by chance in a Tel Aviv laboratory?

That is the premise of the new documentary film”The Nails of the Cross” by veteran investigator Simcha Jacobovici, which even before its release has prompted debate in the Holy Land. The film follows three years of research during which Jacobovici presents his assertions — some based on empirical data, others requiring much imagination and a leap of faith.

Jerusalem bishop appeals Israel’s residency denial

jerusalem

( Jerusalem, September 14, 2010/Darren Whiteside )

Jerusalem’s Anglican bishop, a Palestinian, is engaged in a legal battle with Israel over its refusal to extend his residency permit. An Anglican official, who declined to be named, said Israel’s Interior Ministry had written to Bishop Suheil Dawani and accused him of improper land dealings on behalf of the church and the Palestinian Authority, allegations he denies. A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry declined to comment, citing an upcoming court hearing.

Dawani was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem in 2007, and as a non-Israeli was required by Israeli authorities to obtain temporary residency permits. These were granted to him in 2008 and 2009, but not last year.  Born in Nablus in the occupied West Bank,  Dawani lives with his family in East Jerusalem. Both areas were captured by Israel in a 1967 war. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the conflict in a step that is not internationally recognized.

The church official said the church had petitioned an Israeli court to order the Interior Ministry to grant new residency permits and a hearing had been set for May 18. In the meantime, Dawani’s lawyer said, it appeared no moves were imminent to deport him.

European far right courts Israel in stepped-up anti-Islam drive

street prayers (Photo: Muslims pray in the street during Friday prayers near an overcrowded mosque in the Rue des Poissoniers  in Paris on December 17, 2010/Charles Platiau)

Far-right political parties in Europe are stepping up their anti-Muslim rhetoric and forging ties across borders, even going so far as to visit Israel to hail the Jewish state as a bulwark against militant Islam.

Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front has shocked the French political elite in recent days by comparing Muslims who pray outside crowded mosques — a common sight especially during the holy month of Ramadan — to the World War Two Nazi occupation. Oskar Freysinger, a champion of the Swiss ban on minarets, warned a far-right meeting in Paris on Saturday against “the demographic, sociological and psychological Islamisation of Europe”. German and Belgian activists also addressed the crowd.

street prayers 2 (Photo: Muslims pray in the street during Friday prayers near the Et-Taqwa Mosque in Paris on December 17, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

Geert Wilders, whose populist far-right party supports the Dutch minority government, told Reuters last week he was organising an “international freedom alliance” to link grass-roots groups active in “the fight against Islam”. Earlier this month, Wilders visited Israel and backed its West Bank settlements, saying Palestinians there should move to Jordan. Like-minded German, Austrian, Belgian, Swedish and other far-rightists were on their own Israel tour at the same time. “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism and (the Israelis) are fighting our fight,” Wilders said. “If Jerusalem falls, Amsterdam and New York will be next.”

U.S. raps Palestinian report on Western Wall

wall (Photo: Jews pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, March 15, 2010/Baz Ratner)

The U.S. State Department has condemned  an official Palestinian report last week asserting that Jerusalem’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, is not Jewish. Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy information minister in the Palestinian Authority, published a five-page study last week disputing Jews’ reverence of the shrine as a retaining wall of the compound of Biblical Jewish Temples destroyed centuries ago and saying it is a “Muslim wall and an integral part of al-Aqsa mosque and Haram al-Sharif.”

“We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters on Tuesday. “We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land,” he added.

The wall is adjacent to a politically sensitive holy complex in a part of Jerusalem that Israel captured in a 1967 war. The area, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is home to al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Israeli students incensed by ultra-Orthodox benefit

israeli students (Photo: Students protest near Hebrew University in Jerusalem on October 27, 2010 against the bill to give more state funds to Torah students/Ronen Zvulun)

Israeli university students have demanded that the government drop plans to pay stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews who study the Torah but do not work.

Protests over the so-called Yeshiva bill in the past week highlight growing Israeli resentment of the 600,000 ultra-Orthodox “haredim”, who live almost entirely off state welfare benefits.

Several thousand students held a protest march in Jerusalem on Monday warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu they were not “suckers” who would meekly accept what they regard as rank discrimination.

Dead Sea scrolls going digital on Internet

dead sea scrolls 1 (Photo: Sections of the Dead Sea scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 14, 2008/Baz Ratner)

Scholars and anyone with an Internet connection will be able to take a new look into the Biblical past through an online archive of high-resolution images of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls.

Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the custodian of the scrolls that shed light on the life of Jews and early Christians at the time of Jesus, said on Tuesday it was collaborating with Google’s research and development center in Israel to upload digitized images of the entire collection.

Advanced imaging technology will be installed in the IAA’s laboratories early next year and high-resolution images of each of the scrolls’ 30,000 fragments will be freely accessible on the Internet. The IAA conducted a pilot imaging project in 2008.

In Holy Land, Christians are a community in decline

latinIn the land where Jesus lived, Christians say their dwindling numbers are turning churches from places of worship into museums. And when Christian pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the places of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, they find them divided by a concrete wall. (Photo: Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal at a checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 24, 2009/Ammar Awad)

Members of the Abu al-Zulaf family, Palestinian Christians, have left the hills and olive groves of their village near Bethlehem for Sweden and the United States, seeking a better life than that on offer in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ayman Abu al-Zulaf, 41, moved to France in 1998. But he returned to Beit Sahour, the village where he was born, a year later. “I needed to be here, not in France,” he said. “Without Christians, the Holy Land, the land of Jesus, has no value.”

Israel Museum takes a new look at the history of the Holy Land

jerusalem museumA new Jerusalem exhibit displaying a million years of history in the Holy Land offers Bible buffs and skeptics alike a chance to say: “I told you so!”  The Israel Museum, fresh-faced after a three-year, $100 million upgrade, offers an unparalleled look into the development of monotheistic religions, while leaving plenty of room for both science and faith. (Photo: A statue of the Emperor Hadrian at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem July 20, 2010/Baz Ratner)

The museum’s more devout visitors may feel vindicated by a collection of three-thousand-year-old weapons used by ancient warriors in the Battle of Lachish, verifying the fighting as depicted in the Bible.  The scientifically minded can point to a set of 1.5 million year old bull horns on display around the corner, by far predating Earth’s creation as described by the book of Genesis.

A new exhibit features the reconstruction of a church originally built about 400 years after the time of Jesus. It has daunting similarities to a synagogue of the same period reconstructed alongside.  The influence can also be seen in later Islamic relics on display nearby.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Giving no quarter, Jerusalem’s Armenians keep flame alive

armenianThe rare sense of space and calm that marks out the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City is both its blessing and its curse. The acquisition of the land, and construction of the beautiful St. James Cathedral at its heart, speaks volumes for the abilities of this small ethnic diaspora from the Caucasus to secure favour from the Ottoman sultans who partitioned the walled holy city in the hope of a bit of peace from religious rivalries.

But the limited, and shrinking population of the Armenians has made their Quarter an object of envy and desire for other groups, not least the fast-expanding Jewish Quarter next door, which has been massively rebuilt during 43 years of Israeli control after being ravaged during the period of Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967.

For a look at the issues, you can read our story and the accompanying factbox.

The Church itself, proud of a tradition that it was an Armenian king in 301 who first adopted Christianity as a state religion (some years before the Roman Empire), is  a solid fixture of Christian Jerusalem. The small ethnic Armenian lay community around it feels less sure of its future.