CC Media Review 10/99
This month a total of 112 articles from the Israeli Hebrew and English press dealing with the subjects that this review covers were received. Of those articles, 35 dealt in some way with the dispute in Nazareth over the construction of a mosque on property adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This matter has been in the news for a number of months and has involved local municipal and religious authorities, the Vatican and the Israeli government. (HaAretez, 19/10/99 encapsulates the current state of the matter, “The churches are particularly furious over the fact that the interministerial committee did not even discuss their counterproposal: that instead of a mosque, an interfaith discussion forum be built on the square in front of the basilica.” There is increasing feeling that the Israeli government is discriminating against Christians. The heads of all the
Christian churches in Jerusalem have written letters to Israeli President Weitzmann.
Of the remaining articles, 19 were concerned with Jewish/Christian relations, 8 articles related to conflicts over Christian land, another 8 articles were about various Christian organizations, 7 articles focused on Christians and the millennium, 7 articles dealt with Christian tourism and Christian sites in the holy land, 6 articles covered the early release of the rabbi responsible for the trashing of a Christian apartment in the Mea Shearim quarter of Jerusalem and 4 articles focused on the anti-missionary organizations, 5 articles dealt with the offensive art exhibition in Haifa and the remaining 9 articles were single articles on miscellaneous subjects.
Crusade for the Millennium (27/9/99, Hodesh Tov)
This monthly local Netanya article focuses on the expected arrival of millions of Christian pilgrims during the year 2,000. The article quotes extensively from an interview with the director of ‘Lev L’Achim, Moshe Lachover. He warns that there are thousands of missionaries coming with the pilgrims and tourists who have a hidden agenda of converting as many Jews as possible. “Among the millions of Christian that will arrive in Israel, there will be several thousands who illegally remain in the country in order to make additional cells of missionary groups. The hidden agenda of those who come on pilgrimage to the holy land is to convert as many Jews as possible. The Jew is the preferred target of the missionaries and their goal is to catch as many Jews as possible and to make them Christians.” Rabbi Lachover goes on to say that, “Conversion to another religion is betrayal- betrayal of faith, tradition and values upon which Judaism sits. And it reminds one of the atomic spy, Mordecai Vannunu, who before he betrayed his country he betrayed his religion.”
Millennium Scenarios (1/10/99, HaAretz)
Professor David Katz, professor of religious history and a specialist in Christianity from the Tel Aviv University, is currently a consultant to the Israeli police and security forces. He is advising them on issues dealing with potentially dangerous interpretations of Christian millennial expectations. He gives an overview of the two fundamentalist Messianic Christian views of the events of the ‘last days’. In his view, there are those who are the mainstream who ‘leave it to God’ and there are those who think that by their action they can hasten and bring about the end time events. Although this group is the minority fringe, Katz believes that “it’s obvious that they are backed up by hundreds of thousands of others.”
Katz points out that “It isn’t just an abstract belief. Pat Robertson set up Middle East TBV so that he could broadcast Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem. In 1979, the station held discussions on camera angles and whether Jesus could be captured on camera despite the fact that he would shine.” He maintains that a deep understanding of the theological underpinnings of the messianic fundamentalists is essential to be able to grasp the mentality. Katz says, “My theoretical textbook in my discussions with the police team is the New Testament. And I have to tell you that they understand what’s going on. Suddenly you hear cops talking about Jesus.”
One area of concern is a possible link between Christian messianic and Jewish extremist groups who could possibly co-operate to destroy the mosque on the Temple Mount. He feels that this scenario is not impossible and points out that, according to some estimates, there are several dozen of ‘fundamentalist messianic churches and lay groups’ in Jerusalem alone. Another danger is that these groups could provide logistical support to anyone coming from abroad, extremists or those who have messianic illusions.
In a box in the main body of the text, the text of Revelation 11 is given in full. The article appeared in the weekend edition of this large circulation secular Hebrew daily paper that is now circulated in an English edition.
Jews and Christians and the Third Temple (1/10/99, HaAretz, 25/10/99 The Jerusalem Report)
Beginning with the question, ‘Is the temple mount in our hands?’ this article reports on one of the events of the yearly celebration of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The priestly blessing is one of the annual events of the Succot holiday and in the past number of years growing numbers (tens of thousands of Jews) have attended the ceremony taking place at the Western Wall. This blessing evokes a longing in the hearts of the people for the days when the temple stood and the priests served in its courts. The belief is that the believer’s proximity to the temple mount increases the blessing he receives.
The Temple Mount Faithful group, led by Gershon Solomon, as is their yearly custom, attempt to go up to the temple mount (controlled by Moslems) and pray. Israeli security regularly prevents this initiative. Many Christians, some of whom joined with him this year in Jerusalem, support Solomon.
Gershon Solomon, who the paper calls media savvy would not let the occasion pass. Knowing that entrance to the temple mount was forbidden, he gathered his group of supporters and at the start of their march, he took out of his car replicas of the temple implements for use in the third temple. At that point, his Christian supporters seized the implements, waved them around and shouted ‘Hallelujah, hallelujah!’ Then the march began. “Hand in hand they walk, believing Jews (editors note: the intention here is Orthodox Jews) and Christians, to the long awaited goal, praying in their hearts that a miracle will happen, that the Moslem Holy Place will disappear and from its ruins the temple will rise.”
They continued to the temple mount singing, still carrying the third temple implements and a stone that they wish to use as the corner stone for the third temple. As expected, their entrance to the temple mount was barred. The Christians in Solomon’s entourage then shouted at the policemen in English to ‘open the gate’ saying ‘we want to go in’. One Norwegian woman became hysterical and shouted, “it’s ours, it’s ours. Write that the Moslems have many holy places and the temple mount is the most holy place for the Jews. That’s what’s written in our testament. When the Jews return to the temple mount the Messiah will come and redeem us all.”
Solomon assured his followers that they had nothing to worry about, that they would succeed in liberating the temple mount from the Moslems who would ‘understand their terrible error’ of conquering the temple mount. He encouraged the Christian supporters with these words, “You are friends of the Jews and I know that you want to establish a house of prayer for God. You will receive God’s blessing for your sacrifice.” They then blew the shofar, waved Israeli flags and sang “Halleluia, hallelluia!”
The report carried in the monthly English periodical, The Jerusalem Report focuses on the Christian participants in Gershon Salomon’s initiative to pray on the temple mount and build the third temple. Christians from the Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles, Pastor John Small, Hayseed Stephens and others together with other Christians from a breakaway group, International Christian Zionist Center all vocally support Salomon’s efforts.
Pope Pius XII- Hero or Anti-Semite? (1/10/99 HaAretz)
This full page article looks at Jewish-Catholic relations in the light of a new book by John Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. His book is extremely critical of Pius XII and his actions in the war period. The context of this issue is the plan by the Vatican to beatify Pius XII who served as pope during the period of the Second World War. His words and actions during the Nazi period are currently under scrutiny and are open to differing interpretations.
Opinions vary widely when it comes to interpreting Pius XII’s actions. Pierre Blet, a Jesuit historian and a member of a team of Church historians commissioned to look into the Vatican’s archives and produce a study of the period writes, “Public declarations by Pius only would have aggravated the fate of the victims and multiplied their numbers.” Marcus Melchior, chief rabbi of Denmark during the war said, “If the pope had spoken out, Hitler would have probably massacred more than six million Jews and perhaps 10 times 10 million Catholics.” Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding in New Jersey says, “I am not here to defend Pius XII, but everybody needs to treated with some objectivity. I would also say that Pius XII under no circumstances can be called an anti-semite. That is nonsense.”
The issue at hand is the proposed beatification, which affects Catholic-Jewish relations. Sister Carol Rittner, a professor of Holocaust and genocide studies in the USA asks the question, “Is this the time for the Roman Catholic Church to talk about canonizing someone who is a lightning rod?” She also makes the observation that those outside the Roman Catholic tradition should not get involved with telling the Church how to deal with internal issues. Last year the Immigration and Absorption Committee of the Israeli Knesset called on the foreign minister to “instruct his representatives to request the beatification process be suspended.”
An 11-volume study produced from the Vatican’s WWII archives was released in the 60’s and 70’s but hen the work stopped. Following many calls to open the archives, Cardinal Edward Cassidy, head of the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, proposed a joint Catholic-Jewish group investigate the 11 volume study and if there were elements lacking they could look in the archives. “There were no restrictions on which historians in the Jewish community could ask to do this work. So far, there haven’t been any takers.” In response, Seymour Reich, Chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations is in the process of organizing a group of scholars to begin the research together with the Vatican.
Bridges for Peace and Missionary Activity (1/10/99, 15/10/99, Jerusalem Post, In Jerusalem Weekend Supplement)
In response to an article about Virtual Jerusalem (editors note: see Media Review 9/99) a letter to the editor endeavors to correct the paper’s information concerning Bridges for Peace which was characterized as an organization that proselytizes Jews. Herbert Krosney points out that Bridges for Peace has been involved in promoting Jewish Christian understanding and that “The organization explicitly accepts Christian guilt in regards to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. It performs many good works in the community and has excellent standing among many Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and secular Jews. Bridges has never proselytized and has repeatedly and officially spoken out against and strongly condemns such behavior.”
An editors note stands by the content of the previous article and cites letters written by Bridges for Peace and individuals approached by Bridges as being the source of suspicions of missionary activity.
In yet another letter to the editor, Bridges for Peace is again defended against the charges leveled in the article “Virtual Christianity” from Sept. 24th. This letter to the editor was written by Rabbi David Rosen, Director, ADL Israel Office. He states, “Bridges for Peace that has a track record of over 20 years’ service on behalf of Israel and mutual respect between Christians and Jews. …In the words of the late Dr. Bernard Resnikoff of the American Jewish Committee, ‘Bridges for Peace is one of the State of Israel’s greatest assets.’”
Christian Participation at Jerusalem March and Feast of Tabernacles Celebration – a Mixed Review (1/10/99, HaAretz, In Jerusalem, Jerusalem Post Weekend Supplement, Kol HaIr)
The two secular papers (HaAretz, Jerusalem Post) report on the Jerusalem March and the participation of Christians. Both papers report in a sympathetic manner and highlight the expressions of support given by the Christians to the Israeli state. In Jerusalem, commenting on the Feast of Tabernacles celebration says, “The result is an exciting highly polished series of performances.” The report goes on to describe in detail the content of the opening night of the celebration and the delegations from many nations.
The religious press reports on the same celebrations from a very different perspective. The headline of their two-page article is “Worry Causing Christians”. The tone of the article is mocking and cynical in the extreme. The lead in the center of the page states “An Indonesian priest went into the audience of his supporters as he cried out ‘You can fly, you can fall!’ The believers began to fly or at least they tried. In a few moments the auditorium of the National Convention Center looked like a battle field of the fallen.” The article goes on to express suspicion of the Christian’s love of the Jewish people and fears regarding missionary activity by Christian supporters of the Embassy.
Jesus’ Last Journey (7/10/99, Globes)
This Hebrew daily features a 5 page article with the lead “Soon the Christian world will mark 2,000 years from the birth of Jesus and visitors will come in their thousands to the places where he lived, walked, preached, was sentenced, was crucified, buried and was revealed anew.” The article recounts the last days of Jesus, quotes Mark 14:12-15 and harmonizes the gospel accounts of the events from the time of the Last Supper to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. At various points the article inserts items of Christian tradition (extra-biblical) but identifies them as such.
The photographs are of Michelangelo’s Pieta, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, Veronica’s handkerchief with the thorn crowned head of Jesus, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Dormition Abbey and a representation of a cross carrying Jesus being hindered by Roman soldiers. In a side bar, explicit directions are given to the majority of the sites commemorating the events of Jesus’ last days.
The tone of the article is respectful and it is faithful to the New Testament account. The article ends with this statement concerning the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, “Even today, almost 2,000 later, the atmosphere succeeds in bringing the events of that time to life in our imaginations.”
Fears of the Mission (8/10/99, HaModia)
Under the large headline “ School for Christian Pilgrims in the Holy Land”, this article reports on a building project being undertaken by the “Nazarene Family Foundation” in the Galilee area. This orthodox daily paper expresses grave concern over the increasing numbers of Christian tourists leading up to the year 2,000. Concerning the baptismal site ‘Yardania’, near kibbutz Kinneret, “In the past two months, many more people have come than in the past five years combined.” Fears are expressed that this become a site where Jews commit the ‘greatest possible transgression.’
The article also highlights the city of Tiberias as a center of increasing missionary activity. “Most of the Christian sites are in the area of the city of Tiberias, this in itself causes the city to become a focal point of non-stop missionary activity.”
Romanian Sabbath Keeper (Hashavua B’Ashdod, 24/9/99)
This local weekly profiles a Romanian construction worker who is a member of the Adventist church. The article is friendly towards the phenomena of Sabbath observant Gentiles. The Adventist beliefs concerning Sabbath observance are given. The worker highlighted is presented as a hard working, productive individual who earns $3 an hour as a tiler. When he can, he attends the Adventist church in Tel Aviv that numbers some 300 members, most of whom are Romanian workers like himself.
Conflict between Yad L’Achim and Kach against the Missionaries (Index Haredi-Dati, 7/10/99)
This religious weekly out of Jerusalem reports about the Jerusalem March and the police intervention in the conflict that broke out between the ‘anti-missionaries’ (Kach and Yad L’Achim) and the ‘missionary cult, Messianic Jews.’ The paper reports that police were called in and they physically protected the missionaries who were being attacked. The paper further reports that the anti-missionary activists were successful in preventing the Messianic Jews from participating in the Jerusalem March and from “hunting Jewish souls.” Four of the Kach activists were detained by the police but were released after several hours.
Christian Donates Property to Yad V’Shem (6/8/99, Index Hagalil)
Maya Olpiner, a Finnish Christian woman who headed the organization ‘Beit Nechama Foundation’, has bequeathed her home to the holocaust memorial Yad V’Shem. The house is valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and is being used as a home for Finnish women volunteers who engage in social services.
Maya Olpiner devoted her life to serving others and founded the organization Beit Nechama over 40 years ago in Europe. According to the terms of her will the house will be turned over to Yad V’Shem in ten years time.
Early Release for Rabbi Convicted of Vandalizing Christian Apartment (5/10, 7/10/99, Yeted Ne’eman)
The prison authority release committee has decided to reduce by one third the sentence given to Rabbi Kornblitt. Rabbi Kornblitt was convicted of responsibility for the destruction of the contents of a ‘missionary apartment’ in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim earlier in the year.
His release is expected to be attended by hundreds of supporters and leading rabbis. Rabbi Kornblitt is being released for good behavior.
In related stories (18/10 HaModia, 22/10 Kol HaIr) these two religious papers report on the expected and subsequent release of Kornblitt. Tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox supporters celebrated the release of Rabbi Kornblitt. His supporters carried him on their shoulders and called him a “prisoner of Zion”. He had served one third of his eighteen-month sentence.
Russian Immigrants in the Messianic Community (8/10/99, Yeted Ne’sman)
In a front page article this religious weekly paper reports on the contents of the book, Facts and Myths About the Messianic Congregation in Israel (ed. Kjaer-Hansen, Skjott). Space is given to the large number of Russian speakers in the congregations. The figures the book uses are quoted in the article (approximately 5,000 Messianic Jews in some 81 congregations and groups).
The article, however, takes issue with the figures of Kjaer-Hansen and Skjott saying “An anti-missionary organization in Israel said that the authors had underestimated the number of messianic Jews. There were, an official said, 15,000-20,000 messianic believers, both non-Jews and Jews in Israel, ‘but most of them are Jews.’”
Christians Deported From Haifa (11/10/99, Jerusalem Post, HaTzofe, Yidiot Achronot; 12/10/99, Jerusalem Post)
Twenty-six people were detained at the Haifa port and denied entrance to Israel. They were then deported back to Cyprus. These 26 are suspected of being members of the cult Concerned Christians, some of whose members were deported from Israel in January. The majority of this group (men, women and children) was from Ireland.
It was later reported that the group had no links with the Denver, Colorado based group, Concerned Christians. This group of Irish and Romanian tourists were members of the Pilgrim House Foundation, based in Inch, Ireland. They had repeatedly been refused visas to Israel but decided to come without them.
Christians go House to House (13/10/99, Maariv)
This paper carries a report from a Tel-Aviv woman who answered her door to find two Irish Christians who asked her for forgiveness for the pogroms that had been waged against the Jewish people. They said that they had come to the country “to ask forgiveness form the Jews on the occasion of the coming millennium.” The woman reported the incident to the police after hearing about a group of Irish Christians who had been denied access into the country
Opening of New Lev L’Achim Office in Jerusalem (13/10/99, Yeted Ne’eman)
This article reports on the opening of new offices in Jerusalem of the anti-missionary organization ‘Lev L’Achim’ at 27 Piness Street. The new offices include several rooms devoted especially to the organizations struggle against the mission and the cults and are equipped for the missionary’s year 2,000 thrust. The article mentions the many women volunteers who are active in the organization. The organization’s plans for their winter projects are also mentioned and will be held in the areas of Gilo, Giivat Zeev, Ir Ganim and Maale Adumim.
Polish Priest Discovers His Jewishness (13/10/99, HaAretz)
In a translated reprint from the New York Times, this Hebrew daily paper publishes a full page feature article telling the story of a Polish Catholic priest, currently lecturing at the Catholic University in Lublin, Romulard-Yakov Wexler-Voshkinel.
Only as his Polish mother was dying did he discover for certain that he was born Jewish. His Polish mother revealed that during the Second World War she was approached by a Jewish woman who begged her to save her child. The Jewish mother said, “You are a devout Catholic and you believe that Jesus was a Jew. Then try to save this Jewish baby so that the Jew you believe in will cause him to grow up and become a priest.” With these words the baby’s life was saved and he grew up in a devout Catholic home where he was greatly loved and never told about his origins.
Wexler-Voshkinel had doubts and questions but decided to become the best priest he could be. Upon discovering his Jewishness, he says he never considered leaving the priesthood. After the breakup of the communist block, many secrets came to light and more details of Wexler-Voshkinel’s Jewish heritage also appeared. In 1992 he traveled to Israel to take part in a conference of holocaust survivor from his home village. It was there that he met his Israeli relatives. When his uncle Tvi Wexler, (his father’s brother) expressed his pain and displeasure over Yakov’s continuing on the priesthood, he was given this answer: “I know that at the time when people calling themselves Christians could put a child into a gas chamber, there was also a Polish Catholic woman who risked her life to save mine.” Wexler wears a cross with a Star of David in the middle and sees it as the symbol of his life. “I am the Star of David with the cross affixed in the center…The cross is love. Without love it would only be a Roman gallows. Jesus was not responsible for the damage done in his name and I want to be like Him, if only in part.” He says, “I am in the middle and I know that connection, love and understanding are required.”
Jehovah Witnesses Threatened (14/10/99, HaAretz)
Yad L’Achim has threatened Kibbutz Gan Shlomo with refusal to grant Kashrut certificates to kibbutz products if the kibbutz rents its hall to Jehovah Witnesses.” Yad LeAchim represents the Jehovah Witness sect as missionary in nature and in connected with Nazi ideology. A kibbutz spokesman confirmed that the kibbutz is refusing to rent the hall to Jehovah Witnesses.
Beatification of Pius XII? (15/10/99, Jerusalem Post)
This subject has been in the news for several months and shows no signs of disappearing. This article examines the ongoing process of beatification and the sensitive nature of relations between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. Although beatification is a Catholic prerogative, yet the sensitivities of the Jewish people are much involved in this case.
“In the eyes of the Jewish world, it is perhaps inevitable that Pius’s beatification, should it occur, would be taken as an unfortunate retreat from the slow but positive movement within the Church toward repairing relations with the Jewish people. This process began with Vatican II in the early 1960s and continued with the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel.”
Woman’s Apartment turned into a Church (15/10/99, Kan Drom)
Our Russian neighbor has turned her home into a church is the complaint of her neighbors. According to the sources quoted, this new immigrant hosts several meetings a week in her home and the neighbors complain that the music is disturbing, as is the constant flow of guests. Kiriat Gat has experienced other missionary activities and one meeting place was closed after it had been functioning as a church for some days.
International Convention Center Open on Shabbat (17/10/99, HaAretz)
In a precedental move, the Jerusalem Rabbinate has agreed to allow the International Convention Center to offer its facilities to Christian groups on Shabbat. This will be restricted to millennial events on Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve, both of which fall on Friday nights. They stipulate that the events be organized by and for Christians. Ten halls of different sizes will be available.
“Art” Burned in Haifa (24/10/99, HaAretz, Yidiot Achronot, Ma’ariv, Jerusalem Post)
All the major dailies carry this story of an art exhibit that was offensive to Haifa Christians. The installation exhibit featured a woman (naked from the waist up) attached to a cross. Christian Arabs protested in the Haifa Museum courtyard, removed the cross, dragged it to downtown Haifa and burned it as part of a demonstration. The cross was to be part of a showing in which a naked 23 year old woman would be tied to the cross and three uniformed men would shoot paint bullets at her while reform rabbis would read passages from the Bible and a torchlight procession would take place in the background.
Youth from an organization “Sons of the Church” met with representatives from the Haifa mayor’s office while others destroyed the exhibit. Haifa Mayor Amram Nitzna decided to cancel the exhibit in deference to the sensibilities of Christian residents of the city.
The artist Honi Hama’gel denied that the cross was a crucifix and said it was a symbol of the upside down peace. “I have shown my work all over the world and this is the first time something like this has happened-it is impossible to produce a work connected to politics, society or religion in this country. I wanted to wake Haifa up, but Haifa is still in the Bronze Age.”