Esor Ben-Sorek

Neglected in Nazareth

This year the Christmas festivities will be absent from Nazareth, a city in the north of Israel. The Christian mayor of the city had decreed that no joyous events will take place due to the Arab anger at President Trump for recognizing correctly that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The mayor of Nazareth is turning Donald Trump into the Grinch who stole Christmas.

The significance of Nazareth in the history of Jesus is limited. He was born in Bethlehem. But it was in Nazareth that the angel Gabriel allegedly appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and give birth to a son. And it was in Nazareth where Jesus as an adult lived and worked in Joseph’s carpentry shop.

The city of Nazareth, total population 75,922, is comprised of a majority of  69% Muslim Arabs. The remaining 31% of the population are Christians.

The city has no interest nor history for the Jews. However, in Nazareth Illit (upper Nazareth) alongside old Nazareth, there is a Jewish population of 40,312.

While Christians centered upon Bethlehem and Nazareth, the Jews centered their lives in Jerusalem and Hebron.

Bethlehem’s Muslim mayor has not cancelled Christmas observances and pilgrims will wend their way to visit at the Church of the Nativity. Muslim shopkeepers will be visibly present inviting pilgrims into their shops. This is the biggest season of the year for Arab merchants.

Historical fact…..Jesus was born and died a Jew.His mother, Miriam (Mary) had been raped as a 12 year old girl by a Roman soldier in Nazareth. In the second century CE, the Greek philosopher Celsus wrote that the Roman soldier, the father of Jesus, was named Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera.

In the Talmud, Jesus (Yeshu) is referred to as Ben Stada. His mother Mary was called a “sotah”, an adulteress, because she had been betrothed to Joseph

The Tosefta,  the Kohelet Rabbah  and the Jerusalem Talmud explicitly  refer to Yeshu as “ben Pantera”, the son of Pantera.

Jesus did not create a new religion and he observed all Jewish holidays and Sabbaths. He prayed frequently in the synagogue in Capernaum (Kfar Nahum).

The religion of Christianity was founded by Saul of Tarsus, a Jew who had never met Jesus and was not one of the apostles. He took the Greek name Paul two years after the death of Jesus, on his way to Damascus, when he had a vision and Jesus appeared to him. And Paul became a devoted follower of Jesus from Nazareth.

It was the letters and the epistles that Paul wrote to the gentiles that encouraged them to become believers in the new faith which he was creating.

There are very many reasons why Jews do not believe in the religion which Paul created. Our bible, at its end, advises us that prophecy in Israel has ended and that we are to beware of false prophets or those who pretend to speak in God’s Name. The claim of Jesus to be the messiah, a claim which he did not refute, was and is a violation of Jewish law. No man can know if he is the intended messiah.

Jesus healed the sick and cured the blind on Shabbat which was a violation of the laws of the holy Sabbath. He gave aid to a Samaritan, a people who were the enemies of post-exilic Judaism. He was, in effect, an early Reform Jew, an honest man trying to reform antiquated laws and practices, all of which are permitted to changes only by members of the Sanhedrin or the local rabbinical courts.

His sermons are magnificent and are directly taken from our Torah. He inspired his listeners who became his followers, to the displeasure of the Temple priests.

If Jesus was to appear on earth today, he would not celebrate Christmas. As a Jew, he would go into the synagogue to pray.

The citizens of Nazareth are sadly being deprived of their holy religious observances only because their mayor has an axe to grind with the American President.

They must recognize the historic truth that Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people in ancient Israel more than one thousand years before the birth of Jesus.

It was, is, and ever will be our holy Jerusalem, our capital in Zion, city of David.

I wish happy holidays to the Christians of Nazareth. Santa Claus will not be permitted to visit them this year. But there is hope.

We Jews always say “next year in Jerusalem”.

The neglected Nazarenes will be welcome to pray in our Jerusalem.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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