CC Media Review
Millennium issues continue to feature heavily in the press. Both the secular and the religious press seem equally concerned with the issue.
Demonstrations against Non-Jews (19/8/99, M’Yom L’Yom)
This Jerusalem weekly carries an announcement concerning the regular demonstrations against the immigration of non-Jews to Israel. The demonstrations will be held every Sunday between the hours of 17:00-19:00. The demonstrations will be held opposite the Jerusalem Central Bus Station on 206 Jaffa Road. The article quotes information from the Israel Internal Ministry to the effect that of an immigration figure of 25,000 in the first six months of 1999, 60% were non-Jews. The article expresses concern for the endangered Jewish character of the state of Israel.
New Immigrant Fired because Husband is a Christian Priest (19/8/99, Kol Haemek v’Hagalil)
A new immigrant from the former Soviet Union was fired from her position as a teacher of English in a comprehensive religious school in Beit Shaan on the grounds that her husband is a priest who manages the properties of the Russian Church in the north of Israel. Although the teacher both accommodated her dress to the school’s code and was an exemplary teacher, when the school’s administration became aware of her husband’s occupation, her employment was terminated with no reason given for the termination. The teacher has since found employment in the Afula school district.
Leading Israeli Rabbis take part in NY Demonstration Against the Mission (2/9/99 Yeted Ne’eman, 3/9/99 Yom HaShishi, 9/9/99 Mishpacha, 4/09/99 HaModia)
Yad L’Achim organized a large rally in New York City with the intention of enlisting the aid and support of American Orthodox Jews in their fight against the ‘Mission.’ On the eve of the millennium, Yad L’Achim is expecting an massive influx of American missionaries to Israel and has therefore appealed to the American Jewish community for help in combating the threat.
In the past months, Yad L’Achim has organized rallies to support their opposition to the ‘Mission’ in Tiberias, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, Holon, Bat Yam, Rishon L’Tzion, Ramle and Lod. They have produced 6 new brochures in Hebrew and Russian and are particularly concerned about the Mission’s activity among Israeli children and youth.
Jehovah Witnesses Apartment Attacked and Trashed (1/9/99, Maariv, Jerusalem Post, HaAretz)
While the Levi’s were walking their dog, their Holon apartment was broken into and vandalized. Their library, fax machine, furniture were destroyed and threatening graffiti was painted on the walls of their apartment. A cross and a swastika as well as phrases like ‘Nazi Missionary’, ‘Christian Dog Traitor’ and ‘Death’ were sprayed on the walls.
The couple have been members of the Jehovah Witness sect since 1974 and have experienced harassment and persecution, including beatings, death threats and ultra-Orthodox demonstrating outside their home. A spokesman for the Jehovah Witnesses says that the sect has lodged over 160 complaints with the police in the last two and a half years but nothing has yet gone to court.
Opposition to Appointment of Gentile Jewish Agency Representative to the Ukraine (6/9/99, HaAretz)
The Jewish Agency’s candidate to the Ukraine is meeting with opposition to his appointment in the Ukraine. The Rabbi of Danyifroptrobsek, Shmuel Kamintzky, has expressed his opposition to the appointment of a non-Jew to any position of influence in the Jewish community.
Constantine Omansky immigrated to Israel eight years ago under the Law of Return. The Law of Return grants citizenship to the children and grandchildren of Jews and Omansky’s grandfather was Jewish. In his time in the country, Omansky has been involved with students at the Bar Ilan University and with matters of immigration. He states that “Jewish tradition is close to my heart and I don’t think that Jewishness is a biological matter.”
Opposition to Omansky’s appointment has also been expressed by members of the Conversion Council of the Chief Rabbinate. They see Omansky’s appointment as an obstacle which would stand in the way of influencing the many non-Jews who immigrate to Israel to convert to Judaism. Omansky’s supporters say that since the Law of Return does not distinguish between Jews according to halacha and to those who are children or grandchildren of Jews, the Jewish Agency should also not make the distinction in matters of appointment of its workers in the field of immigration.
Pope to Ask Forgiveness for the Sins of the Church (2/9/99, HaAretz)
Vatican sources say that on the eighth of March 2000, two weeks before his visit to Israel, the Pope is scheduled to pray and ask for forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church. In an earlier document entitled, “Reflections on the Holocaust”, the church asked forgiveness of the Jews for crimes that ‘some of the believers’ committed against the Jewish people. This however is the first time that the Catholic Church as a whole has asked for forgiveness.
In his weekly sermon from the Vatican, the Pope said that the “Catholic Church is not afraid of the truth and is prepared to admit her mistakes.” Although the Pope did not specifically refer to the Jewish people, commentators say that he is preparing the ground to apologize for the sins of the Catholic Church against the Jewish people throughout the generations.
Dozens of Citizens Participate in Activities of Messianic Jewish Amuta
(3/9/99, Arei Ha Mifratz )
This local Haifa weekly paper carries a report on the existence and activities of the Messianic Amuta ‘Ohalai Rachamim’ (Tents of Mercy). The article is in the form of an interview with the deputy director of the Amuta (non-profit organization), Leon, who refused to give his last name.
Leon states that Messianic Jews from a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds attend the weekly Shabbat services of the group and he describes the group as “humanitarian body that aids the needy.” He makes it clear that the group in no way influences the needy recipients of their services to ‘convert’ or to accept the Messianic faith. In strong terms he rejects the use of the word ‘mission.’
A concise statement of the principles of the Messianic faith is also included in the article. Leon states, “… A Messianic Jew believes in God as the creator. He receives and follows the word of God, the Tenach and in addition we believe in Yeshua who is the promised Messiah for all, and particularly for Israel. To be a Messianic Jew is to believe that the land of Israel is the promised land. We believe in the existence of Israel and in the Israel Defense Forces. The army is honorable and we are fully a part of it.”
According to Leon there are thousands of Messianic Jews in Haifa and the Kriyot alone and they suffer from persecution from the orthodox. In this context he mentions that the previous location of the group was vandalized and for that reason, the article carried no photographs of the current location.
In response to the comments by Leon, the rabbi of Kiriat Yam, Rabbi Yosef Avraki, was deeply distressed at the presence of the phenomena of Messianic Jews. He says, ” If they are Christians, it is unfair but if they are Jews then we cannot allow it any form. Tens of thousands of people were killed because of their religion. … We must pull the phenomena out by the roots. I see this as annihilation.”
Campaign Against Messianic Jews (9/9/99, HaModia)
Yad L’Achim has mounted a campaign of activity against the actions of two specific groups in the last year- Messianic Jews and Jehovah Witnesses. These groups pose a major threat to families and individuals in need. According to Yad L’Achim, they prey on the weak and needy.
Southern Baptists Proselytize Jews (9/9/99, Jerusalem Post)
Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League has come out strongly against the Southern Baptists’ efforts to evangelize Jews. He took exception to a prayer book prepared especially for the Jewish holidays that includes prayers calling for the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Foxman said, “It is pure arrogance for any one religion to assume that they hold ‘the truth,’ especially on the eve of the holiest days of the Jewish people.”
Israel Does Not Respect Freedom of Religion (15/9/99, HaAretz)
In a report made by the U.S. State Department and given this week to the U.S. Congress, Israel is ranked together with China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma as a nation that does not respect the right of religious freedom. The report points out that the services and benefits received by non-Jews in Israel, in respect to religious institutions and services, are only 2% of the amount that is allocated to Jewish services and institutions. Israel grants automatic citizenship to Jews but not to non-Jews or to Jews who have ‘changed their religion.’
In the section of the report that related to recent bills introduced in the Israeli parliament, the report stated that “groups of Christians complained that these bills worked against the good of Christians and were a means of causing fear. They complained that the police was lax in responding to complaints of harassment, threats and vandalism towards Christian organizations. Two Jewish extreme orthodox Jewish organizations were named- Yad L’Achim and Lev L’Achim.”
In response to the report, an Israeli foreign office spokesman said that the report was being studied and that it would be brought to the attention of the appropriate government agencies.
Fear of Extremist Christian Groups as Millennium Approaches (17/9/99, 19/9,99 Yidiot Achronot, 17/9/99 Ha’Aretz)
Three page feature articles appeared in the weekend editions of two of the major Hebrew dailies. One of them compares the events that occurred at the end of the first millennium with what can be expected to happen at the end of the second millennium. No lesser figure than the head of the general security services, Ami Ayalon, expressed his concern for the potential destructive power of millennialist groups. The use of chemical and biological weapons is highlighted as a possibility. The paper reports on the increased security measures that are being undertaken by the police and general security services in Israel to preempt and combat anticipated activities by Christian extremists. Israel has budgeted fifty-five million NIS for security measures aimed at protecting the temple mount in the year 2000.
The theologies of some ultra-orthodox are compared to those of the Christian millennial groups. Both describe this period of time at the end of the millennium as the ‘last days’ and both are looking for severe judgment to fall on the earth. A popular ultra-orthodox understanding is that the world is at the height of the biblical Gog and Magog conflict which, in their view, is the battle between Judaism and the combined enemies of Christianity and Islam. This understanding is held by many in the religious penitent movement in Israel.
Anti-Mission Organization Closes Scientologists School (16/9/99, Yeted Ne’eman)
Activists from the Lev L’Achim anti-missionary organization have been successful in closing down a kindergarten and school in the area of Holon. This school was staffed by members of the scientology cult that has been acting out of Tel Aviv for many years. The school had been operating without a license and has been declared illegal by the ministry of education.
Lev L’Achim has also been active in banning books published by the scientology cult from placement in public libraries. The ministry of education, responding to the activities of Lev L’Achim, has authorized this decision.
New York Archbishop Apologizes to Jews (21/9/99, Jerusalem Post, Yidiot Achronot.)
In a letter dated Sept. 8, 1999, on the occasion of the Day of Atonement, the Archbishop of New York, John O’Conner expressed his great sorrow for harm committed against Jews by the Catholic Church. This letter appeared in the Sunday edition of the NY Times as a full page ad. “I ask this Yom Kippur that you understand my own abject sorrow for any member of the Catholic Church, high or low, who may have harmed you or your forebears in any way.”
Israeli’s Search for Meaning (10/9/99 HaAretz Magazine)
In the first part of a 4 part feature article the author begins to chronicle the Israeli’s search for meaning outside the sphere of Judaism. Although the series covers the development of the New Age movement in Israel, on many occasions it touches the issue of Christianity and the fascination of many Israelis with Jesus, Messianic Judaism, and Christian themes in art and literature.
Russian Immigrants in Messianic Congregations (17/9/99, Jerusalem Post)
This article reports on the findings of two Danish scholars, Kai Kjaer-Hansen and Bodil Skjott on the numbers and make up of Messianic congregations in Israel. The article highlights their dramatic findings that the movement increased by over one third following the immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990’s. In what is a general overview of the publication, Facts & Myths About the Messianic Congregations in Israel, the author of the article (Haim Shapiro) gives an accurate and even handed report on the contents of the book.
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (24/9/99, Maariv)
The weekend supplement of this major Hebrew daily carried a four page feature article on the archeological site of Tel Hedar on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This location is claimed to be the site of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes. Bargil Pixner, a Benedictine monk who has lived in Israel for thirty years and is an archeologist, has determined this to be the authentic site of Jesus’ major miracle.
Excavations have been going on for twelve years and six levels have been uncovered from the late Bronze period and the first and second Iron Age. A feature which is unique to the archeological landscape of Israel is the discovery of a twenty meter high round tower. Artifacts were found from the Phoenician coasts, Gilad, Bashan and Greece.
The article highlights the potential of this discovery for the economic climate of the area. Since it is a site of such significance for Christians, investment should be made to make it a major stop for Christian tourism coming to the Galilee.
Orthodox Owned Web-site used as Platform for Mission to the Jews (24/9/99, In Jerusalem, Jerusalem Post Weekend Supplement)
In a four page cover story, this feature article reports on the Jerusalem based internet company ‘Virtual Communities’. This web-site is designed to serve evangelical Christians. It is operated in conjunction with “Christian organizations which proselytize to Jews, such as King of Kings Assembly in Jerusalem, Christ Church Jerusalem of the Anglican Church’s Ministry Among the Jews, Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries and Bridges for Peace.”
Virtual Communities Israel is a subsidiary of Virtual Communities Inc., based in the US. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, had given the company rabbinic sanction to create it. Of particular concern were the many instances of use of Hebrew terminology on the web pages and Hebrew singing about ‘Yeshua Hamashiah’.
Phil Chernofsky, associate director of the orthodox Union’s Israel Center in Jerusalem was alerted to the missionary content of the web-site and has expressed concern to Rabbi Riskin about the involvement of King of Kings Assembly and Christ Church saying “The leaders of King of Kings are Jewish believers in Jesus. The organization openly boasts of its success among Jews and openly announces that Jewish and non-Jewish believers are one.” Rabbi Riskin responded that it was permissible for an orthodox company to publish Christian material for Christians but that “whenever a Christian site uses Hebrew texts and Hebraized names, it becomes suspect. Hebraized words smack of missionary intent.”
As a result of the concerns, the Virtual HolyLand site was thoroughly swept of references to Y’shua. The association with King of Kings Assembly and Christ Church were also cut. Further concern has been expressed over the involvement of Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries (an organization which is cited as having a Jewish conversion mission second only in size to Jews for Jesus) and Bridges for Peace which is characterized as an organization that engages in missionary work by volunteers helping new immigrants. By September 7th, the relationship with Gospel Friends of Israel had been terminated.
Jewish Nun to Messianic Jewess (September 1999, Israel Today)
This monthly magazine carries a profile on the life of Gabriella Pollock (nee Carmen Goldberg). Gabriella was raised in a traditional Jewish home in the East End of London. Her family came from Poland and she is related to the famous Rabbi Landau von Czernowitz. In 1943, she read the New Testament and as a result was baptized into the Anglican Church. She subsequently became a nun in the Anglican order of the ‘Sisters of God’s Love’ where she remained cloistered for 22 years.
Reading the Bible awakened in her a sense of her Jewish identity and she had a deep longing to go to Israel. The circumstances of her sister’s illness and her meeting with another Jewish believer, Ken Burnett, the founder of Prayer for Israel, worked together for her to leave the convent and eventually move to Israel in 1969. In 1971 she met HeinzPollack, a German Jew, who had become a believer in Jesus in Sweden after having escaped from Hitler’s Germany in 1939. Heinz had served in the Salvation Army as an officer for 26 years. They were married in 1973 and currently live in Jerusalem.
Barak Refuses to Speak at Christian Embassy Tabernacles Celebration (27/9/99, HaAretz, HaTzofe)
Prime Minister Ehud Barak was the first Prime Minister of Israel in twenty years to refuse to speak at the opening of the Christian Embassy’s annual Feast of Tabernacles Celebration. Embassy members expressed shock and fear that the refusal will be interpreted by millions of Christians that they shouldn’t come to Israel in the year 2000.
Tourism, Pilgrims and the Mission (27/9/99, HaTzofe)
This article focuses on the growing phenomena of Christian tourism to Israel and the industry surrounding it. In a seemingly unrelated section, the activities of Yad L’Achim are praised and the activities of the mission are commented on. “The mission is penetrating more and more deeply. It is covering the face of the country, not in the robes of monks and priests but in the guise of ‘good Jews’, native born Israelis who belong to the sect of the Messianic Jews. …We cannot discern them as they walk among us. They speak Hebrew like us and they dress like us. They seek out society and so they draw Jews to their counterfeit religion which is nothing other than pure Christianity.”
Elijah Deported (27/9/99, The Jerusalem Report)
Once a building contractor in California, ‘Elijah’, has been in and out of Israel since 1984. He is tall and bearded with chest length gray hair and claims to be one of the two witnesses from the book of Revelation who will appear in the Last Days. The Jerusalem police detained him in early August and he was sent for a psychiatric evaluation. A police spokesman said that he was ‘flown out of the country’ a few days later. He was not officially deported and the police spokesman reports that his ticket was purchased by friends.
This case was taken seriously since ‘Elijah’ had said that he would bring ‘the Redemption’. Although he had not spoken of violence on the Temple Mount, in the estimation of the police, he was determined to act and they could not rule out the possibility of violent action.
The article points out that the context of this action is the “intense police concern that millennarian expectations could lead to violence, perhaps at the most volatile of holy places, the Temple Mount.” Earlier in the year a group of Christian extremist was deported for the same reasons.
Christians March in Jerusalem (29/9/99, HaAretz, HaTzofe, Jerusalem Post)
These three large circulation dailies all carry articles and photographs of the annual Jerusalem March that highlight the participation of Christians in the march. Reports of the numbers marching vary between 25-28,000 participants. HaAretz reports that the Christian marchers were heckled by Jewish Defense League activists who shouted out ‘Missionaries go home’ and ‘Jesus is dead.’
Another View of the Christian Embassy (Jerusalem Post, 30/9/99)
In an article by Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian, the International Christian Embassy was seen from the perspective of a Palestinian Christian. He briefly recounts the history of the International Christian Embassy which was formed in Jerusalem in1979 in reaction to the embassies of the world moving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. He goes on to state that it doesn’t represent the majority of Christians in the world or even the majority of Protestant or Evangelical Christians who are the participants in the Feast of Tabernacles celebration. He notes that the US based group, Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding has distanced itself form the International Christian Embassy. He also notes that he local Arab Christians both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories have nothing to do with the Embassy.
The article is critical of the extreme Zionist stance held by the Embassy and states that “In order to retain its legal status in Israel, the International Christian Embassy has pledged not to make any efforts to convert Jews to Christianity.” The author worries that the ICE is interested in converting apolitical Christians to its brand of Christian Zionism.