Israel and Middle East

Statement on Municipal threats and the discriminatory “Church Lands Bill” The Holy Sepulchre is open again for pilgrims. The heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem, are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo. We, the heads of Churches in charge of the Holy Sepulcher and the Status Quo governing the various Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Armenian Patriarchate – are following with great concern the systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land, in flagrant violation of the existing Status Quo. Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem municipality issued scandalous collection notices and orders of seizure of Church assets, properties and bank accounts for alleged debts of punitive municipal taxes. A step that is contrary to the historic position of the Churches within the Holy City of Jerusalem and their relationship with the civil authorities. These actions breach existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the Churches, in what seems as an attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem. The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school. The systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians reaches now its peak as a discriminatory and racist bill that targets solely the properties of the Christian community in the Holy Land is being promoted. This abhorrent bill is set to advance today in a meeting of a ministerial committee which if approved would make the expropriation of the lands of churches possible. This reminds us all of laws of a similar nature which were enacted against the Jews during dark periods in Europe. This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic, ab antiquo and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian community and the authorities for decades. THEREFORE, and recalling the Statement of the Patriarchs and Heads of Local Churches in Jerusalem, dated 14 February, 2018 and their previous statement of September 2017, as a measure of protest, we decided to take this unprecedented step of closure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Together with all Heads of Churches in the Holy Land we stand united, firm and resolute in protecting our rights and our properties. May the Holy Spirit answer our prayers and bring a resolution to this historic Crisis in our Holy City.

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UPDATE - Tuesday, 2/27/18   “Jerusalem's Church of Holy Sepulchre to reopen Wednesday after protest

As many of you already know, last week the major Christian groups within the Holy Sepulchre and the Patriarch of Jerusalem decided to close the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as a protest against the punitive taxes and confiscatory collection process being imposed by Israel through the municipality of Jerusalem.

Closing the Church is a great burden for Christians but it is certain to bring the issue to a head and force a resolution. Here is an article in the Jerusalem Post.

 HERE is a very good article reporting the comments of Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.    

It looks like this drastic action is paying off. Just released is a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His statement says they are proud of the religious freedom for everyone in Israel.

This is true, but this taxation of the Churches is a blight on that freedom. Hopefully, they resolve it soon if favor of the Christians in the Holy Land.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have agreed to establish a professional team led by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, with the participation of all relevant parties, to formulate a solution for the issue of municipal taxes on properties owned by churches that are not houses of worship.
 
“As part of the discussion between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jerusalem Municipality regarding churches’ municipal taxes, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Barkat have agreed that a professional team led by Minister Hanegbi, including representatives of the Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs and the Interior and the Jerusalem Municipality, will formulate a solution to the issue of municipal taxes (which do not apply to houses of worship). The team will negotiate with the representatives of the churches to resolve the issue.
 
“As a result, the Jerusalem Municipality is suspending the collection actions it has taken in recent weeks.
 
“In addition, following a request by the heads of the churches to enter negotiations regarding the sale of land in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked Minister Hanegbi to examine the issue. While the Minister is doing so, all legislative activity on the matter will be suspended.
 
“Israel is proud to be the only country in the Middle East where Christians and believers of all faiths have full freedom of religion and worship. Israel is home to a flourishing Christian community and welcomes its Christian friends from all over the world.”
We will see what happens in the next few days. You can track this also at the Christian Information Center in Jerusalem.

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History of Middle East in 90 Seconds

by Steve Ray on February 11, 2018

Fascinating moving map. Click the image below to see biblical and modern history of the volatile and ever-changing Middle East.

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How Do We Know the Holy Sites are Authentic (Protestant Skeptic)?

February 7, 2018

Since today we are at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, I thought I share an e-mail I received from a man whose Protestant friend just returned from the Holy Land a bit disillusioned and skeptical. Here is the e-mail I received: Hi Steve, Here’s the question in brief (read more if you have time). How […]

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3,000 Years in 90 Seconds

February 3, 2018

Very cool map animation. Watch the history of the Middle East (and beyond) unfold with an interactive map showing the various civilizations that have ruled the region from ancient Egypt to modern times.

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Security in Israel: Safe to Travel with Steve & Janet?

December 26, 2017

UPDATE 12/11/17:  Watching the mainstream media today and making a few observations. 1) The images they keep showing are not current events but are pulled from stock video footage from the past. I doubt that any of the images of rock throwing and tear gas is current video. 2) They are making this violence, which is very small at […]

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Was Jesus Really Born at THAT Place in Bethlehem?

December 18, 2017

In a few days we are leaving for Bethlehem. We will have Mass next week at a lot of holy sites with our group of Catholic families. To the left is a picture of Gethsemane on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. How do we know this is really Gethsemane? In a few days […]

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My EWTN TV Show with Dr. Scott Hahn, Michael Hernon and Dr. Regis Martin

November 30, 2017

Here is the show aired a few weeks ago on EWTN. It was my appearance on the Franciscan University Presents with Dr. Scott Hahn, Michael Hernon and Dr. Regis Martin. It was a fun show about “Abraham: Father of Faith and Works” and the whole story of salvation. Enjoy!

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Muslim Palestinian Explains Why He Serves in Israeli Army

November 29, 2017

I know many other Arabs in Israel that feel the same way. It needs to be known to a wider audience.

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Jews as Proof of God’s Existence & Faithfulness

November 3, 2017

Winston Churchill wrote “Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.“ He is absolutely right! I have often said they are remarkable people –gifted in a […]

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U.N. Condemns Israel – then Silenced with Lone Voice of Reason

July 5, 2017
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I’m thinking we are wrong about Assad and Syria…

April 8, 2017

My recent Tweets: I’m thinking we were wrong about Syria, who used the gas and President Assad. Why was attack launched before full investigation? What did Assad have to gain? Why do local Christians support Assad? Too many questions. Bishop of Jerusalem told me USA was wrong and Russia right in regard to Syria. The […]

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Is Islam a Religion of Peace? A Profound Short Video from a Brilliant Muslim Women!

March 30, 2017

I suggest everyone listen/watch this short video. She puts it all in perspective in a few minutes. Pass this on to others. We need to wake up!

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Devastation of Christian Towns In Iraq by ISIS – Short Video

March 20, 2017

A visit to the Chaldean Christian town of Karemlash, 9 miles from Mosul, liberated from ISIS by Iraqi and Kurdish forces in November 2016. I sure hope and pray the world wakes up and stops this carnage. I am glad President Trump has promised – and is doing something already to end this.

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What Kind of Music Did Abraham Listen To?

February 27, 2017

Our next DVD in the Footprints of God series will be entitled “Abraham, Father of Faith & Works.” We will begin filming in Iraq — in Ur of Chaldees — which is the home of Abraham, just south of Baghdad (Gen 11:28-31). Thanks to the Biblical Archaeology Society to which I subscribe, we can now listen to music […]

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Bob Dylan’s “Neighborhood Bully” song about Israel – I Like it!

January 13, 2017

Lyrics to “Neighborhood Bully” by Bob Dylan Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man His enemies say he’s on their land They got him outnumbered about a million to one He got no place to escape to, no place to run He’s the neighborhood bully. The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive He’s […]

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