CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW, DECEMBER 1999
Notice to our Subscribers:
Please be aware that in our preparation of the media review we are dependent on our supplier. We receive the press clippings once a week and have no control over how current the clippings are when they reach our desk. It is not uncommon for us to receive clippings dated up to six weeks prior to the date we receive them. To this date, our policy has been to do a monthly review which consists of selections of the materials we have received in any given month and not of all the materials that have appeared in the press during that month.
This last month was an exceedingly active one from the perspective of the Israeli media’s coverage of matters related to Messianic Jews, the Mission, and Christian matters. There were a total of 286 articles in the Israeli Hebrew and English press, 5 radio programs in which Messianic Jews were either present or made reference to and one television program that included the participation of Israeli Messianic Jews.
Of the 286 articles, 68 articles dealt with missionary activity (much of it focusing on the Messianic Jews) and the anti-missionary response to it, 45 articles dealt in some way with the situation of the disputed land and the building of a mosque in Nazareth, 25 articles were concerned with Christian tourism and Christian sites in Israel, 21 articles were about Christians who had either been detained or deported from Israel, 19 articles dealt with the millennium expectations, 13 articles followed up on last months story of the censored art exhibition in Haifa while another 15 articles were concerned with the situation in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, 7 articles dealt with Christian symbols (Christmas trees, crosses) and 5 articles were about Christian support of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The remaining 68 articles covered a wide variety of subjects ranging from Jewish/Catholic relations- 12 articles (including the upcoming Papal visit) to the affairs of Jehovah Witnesses (7 articles) to book reviews, inter-church land disputes and assorted miscellaneous subjects.
Messianic Jews Buy Historic Building (15/10/99, Yom Hashishi)
This Jerusalem based ultra orthodox weekly carried a two page exclusive expose of the purchase of an historic building in Tel Aviv (Beit Brenner) by Messianic Jews. “Unbeknownst to the public, the Histadrut sold its legendary ‘Beit Brenner Building’ located in the center of Tel Aviv for six million shekels to… ‘Messianic Jews’ who are renovating it for their own purposes – to build in its belly a huge pool for the purpose of baptizing Jews and converting them to Christianity.”
The article reports on the visit of a group of self-labeled ‘spies’ who visited the site and managed to enter and view the baptismal pool before they were ejected. The authors then lament the sale of this building and reminisce about the days when the building was used for Zionist activities. Who, they ask, but the ‘Messianics’ could afford to put up such a large sum for the building.
“The takeover of the Messianic movement in Tel Aviv didn’t start with Beit Brenner…. Our newspaper was the first to report the activities of the Messianics in central, south Tel Aviv on Yitzhak Sade Street. We went to investigate along with a few ‘Yad La’achim’ brothers equipped with their not so hidden video cameras….We realized to our horror that there is a church in the center of Tel Aviv.”
“All strings led to Avi Mizrachi, a well-known convert who lives in Alfei Menashe, who has been operating for years ‘Dugit Gallery’ located near Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv….They have penetrated the religious community of north-central Tel Aviv too. On the second floor of the gallery was an additional church of the Messianic cult led by Avi Mizrachi.”
“So many big events are planned and millions of missionaries are invited to participate. The are establishing the new churches so the don’t skip, God forbid even one Jewish soul and convert them to Christianity.”
The article continues and tells us that they Messianic Jews also purchased another buliding, opposite the complex known as Beit Brenner and intend to turn it into an inn where they want to house those who accept Christianity and are baptized. The article carries photographs of the exterior of the buildings being renovated and its headline reads “Six Million…”
English Tea House, Christian?? (21/10/99, Hadashot Mishpacha, 12/11/99 Yom
——————————————————————————————————–The text under four photographs (Hadashot Hamishpacha)depicting conflict between Lev L’achim and the restaurants owners says: “In the heart of Jerusalem’s walking street, on 8 Yabetz Street, is a kosher dairy restaurant named the English Tea House. The restaurant belongs to Yosef Korson and his mother, Esther Dorflinger, a Messianic Jew, who believes in ‘that man.’ In the past she had another restaurant where missionary activity was done, until Yad L’achim activists succeeded in evicting her. With the opening of the new restaurant, there was to be a conference of missionaries. Lev L’achim activists had angry demonstrations that led to the cancellation of the conference and the dispersion of the participants. The police were called to the location after the owner and some of his workers threatened the demonstrators with fists and a stick.”
Another ultra-orthodox paper carries a full page article on the ‘English Tea House’ and its missionary connections. The article reports on the full scale investigation of the tea house by orthodox spies. Mordecai Israel, an ultra-orthodox Jew has made it a personal matter to see that the kashrut license removed from the restaurant. He maintains that it is a center of missionary activity and a distribution center for messianic materials.
Messianic Jews Aid the Needy (22/10/99, Aray Hamifratz)
Together with a photograph of Lev L’achim activists, this short article reports on the activities of Messianic Jews in Kiryat Motzkin in the distribution of clothing to the needy. Lev L’achim arrived in order “to save Jews from Christianity.” One of their members is quoted as saying; “We are here in order to speak and to save Jews We invite them to lectures on Judaism.” They also handed our fliers with the title “Beware, Missionaries.”
Christians Expelled (26/10/99, Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Yidiot Achronot, HaTzofeh, 28/10/99, Jerusalem Post, Hadashot Hamishpacha, 29/10/99, MaAriv, 8/11/99 Jerusalem Report)
All the major dailies carry the story of the expulsion of members of two Messianic Christian apocalyptic groups. The Israeli authorities feared that the members of the groups had plans to commit mass suicide and were thought to be a threat to public safety. The ministry of the interior put out deportation orders for over 21 people.
Millennium Christians (26/10/99, Ha’aretz, 5/11/99, Hamodia, Yeted Ne’eman)
This major secular Hebrew daily Ha’aretz reports on the co-operation between the United states and Israel in regards to Christian sects that might pose a danger to Israel. The FBI and the Israeli police are in close contact and there is a transference of intelligence information intended to aid the Israeli police in identifying potentially dangerous ‘Messianic’ elements.
In background articles on the same subject, two ultra-orthodox papers comment extensively on extremist Christian groups, ‘doomsday Christians.’ One article tends to be balanced between fears of possible violent actions from the Christians and the loss of tourist revenue that Israel will suffer if there is a severe crackdown on Christians in the country, while the other expresses grave concerns for the actions of millennial fevered Christians and their attempts to convert to Christianity.
“So seriously is the threat of apocalyptic violence being taken that several law enforcement agencies charged with addressing the millennium threat are working in concert: the Ministry of Internal Security, the Ministry for Jerusalem and the Year 2000 Celebration, the General Security Services or the Shin Bet, the state’s domestic intelligence agency and a special Millennial Task Force.”
Tourists from the CIS Barred from Israel (27/10/99, Yidiot Achronot)
The Ministry of the Interior has instituted a new policy for tourists from the CIS who want to come to Israel. The application form for a visa to Israel includes a addendum stating “This visa will be given on the condition that the applicant has, in the past, visited in Western Europe or in the United States of America.” It was signed by Bat-Sheva Zilka from the department of foreign registrations. The reasoning for this policy is that someone who has visited the U.S. or Western Europe and returned to the CIS is not a likely candidate to remain in Israel illegally.
This new policy greatly complicates the process of visiting Israel. Thousands of pilgrims wishing to visit the country will be unable to do so. Groups from Hungary, India, the Philippines, and South America are also experiencing difficulties obtaining visas for Israel. People from these countries are known to have significant numbers of residents who remain and work illegally in Israel when their visas expire..
Christian Cemeteries Defaced (29/10/99, Zman HaBira)
Many Christian graves in the cemeteries on Mount Zion are damaged and broken. City Counciler, Arnen Yekutiel, in a letter tot he Ministry of Religion says that if this were to happen in another country to Jewish graves “we would be shouting ‘antisemitism’ and rightfully so.” The director of the Department of Religious Affairs responded by saying that the cemeteries are not under the authority of his department.
Jewish Christian Relations (29/10/99, Jerusalem Post)
In a lengthy article this major English daily newspaper investigates the potential for improving the relationships between Jews and Christians during the millennial tourism season. The article comments widely on Israeli and Jewish attitudes to Christians.
“In Israel during the year 2000, Judaism and Christianity will have the potential for meeting each other like they never have before. There will be plenty of formal interfaith dialogues between various rabbis and Christian but at the popular level, it seems that most serious Jews, religious and secular, would largely prefer that the masses of Christian pilgrims go their own way while the Jews go theirs.”
Several people were interviewed for the article for their responses to the influx of Christian tourists. Prof. Eliezer Don-Yehiya from Bar Ilan University says “A great majority of the haredim, and a substantial portion of religious Zionists, still view Christianity with suspiciousness of even outright hostility. There are understandable historical reasons for this The main, if not only, associations they have of Christianity are exile, forced conversion, antisemitism and the Holocaust.”
A young Habad follower, Mendy Wilhelm, living in the Jewish Quarter expressed himself this way, “It says in the Torah that when the Messiah comes, the gentiles will acknowledge the Jews as the Chosen People, as the people of God. In other words, they’ll admit that they’re wrong and we’re right. We have something to offer them, but they have nothing to offer us. …If they try to convert us to their religion, which is merely a twisted distortion of Judaism, then we have to fight them all the way.”
Rabbi David Hartman, a modern Orthodox rabbi comments at length on Jewish, Christian relations. “Israeli Jews are generally very ignorant about Christians and Chistianity, and they are satisfied with this state of affairs. When somebody has delegitimized, marginalized and assaulted you for so long, you may not be ready to acknowledge that there had been a change for the better, or even to examine the possibility of such a change.”
The Mission in Jerusalem Schemes to Baptize Hundreds of Jews into Christianity (29/10/99, Hamodia)
The article reports on a demonstration held by Yad L’achim activists in front of one of the mission’s centers in Jerusalem. The demonstration was held with police permission. The police had notified the ‘apostate’ leader of the group and as a result he and all his followers locked themselves in the building. Police and security were called to the demonstration due to fears that it would become violent. Yad L’achim activists explained to all passersby about the “deceptive methods of the mission, and its dangers and the extent of its victims.” Yad L’achim has decided to hold demonstrations weekly in front of the mission’s center. The center is led by Tony Simon.
The article comments on the increasing activities of the mission to “hunt Jewish souls.” They remark that there are 25 congregations in Jerusalem. “A ‘father of the congregation’, an apostate Jew, the priest Tony Simon works without rest to baptize as many Jews as possible. Every Friday he organizes a free tour in Russian to the polluted places in the old city of Jerusalem….He deceives them all saying they are ‘better Jews’ because they believe in ‘that man.’ On Saturday mornings he prays to false gods together with his followers.”
Co-operation between Reform and Messianic Jews (2/11/99, Hamodia, 4/11/99, Yom L’yom, HaMachaneh Haharedi, 5/11/99 Yom HaShishi, 7/11/99 Yeted Neeman)
The article reports on supposed links and co-operation between the Reform movement and Messianic Jews. It highlights an article in the bulletin of King of Kings assembly (a congregation of ‘apostate Jews’) in which Messianic Jews are invited to attend the Reform synogogue at the Hebrew Union College where there was to be a concert given by a well known Messianic figure – Steve Shneider. The point of this article is that Reform Judaism is the first step on the way to Christianity.
Yad L’achim Attacked (4/11/99, Hamodia, 5/11/99 Yom Hashishi, 11/11/99 Index Dati-Haredi, Hadashot Mishpacha)
Four members of the anti-mission organization Yad L’achim were attacked and beaten as they tried to prevent Messianic Jews from baptizing three people in the Sea of Galilee. The information concerning the baptisms reached Yad L’achim through a relative of one of the baptismal candidates. Yad L’achim moved quickly to intercept the event that was to take place at Coast Yardenit on the Kinneret.
When the baptisms started, Yad L’achim began shouting and the event deteriorated into violence. Yad L’achim maintained that they were attacked and beaten by the guards who accompanied the Messianic Jews to the baptismal site. They lodged a complaint with the police. One of the articles states that there were 15 baptismal candidates. All the articles said that some of the Yad L’achim activists needed medical treatment.
Soldiers targeted by Religious Groups (5/11/99, BaMachaneh)
The weekly Israeli military publication carries a 6 page article on the activities of various groups who target soldiers with their information. The activities of Messianic Jews are included in the list of groups mentioned.
“They approach soldiers at the entrance to the bases, on the roads and at the soldier’s stands. The pass out cassette tapes and brochures to ‘Important People’, tell exciting stories and invite them to conversations and to special events. What is common to them all” a strong faith in their ‘truth’, a burning desire to make additional believers. From that point of view there is almost no difference between those who preach Yeshu and the followers of Satan. In the middle there are those who try to bring them back to repentance in the Jewish way.”
The article highlights the Messianic Jews throughout and it is worth quoting it at length.
“ In the early 50’s,1,000 Jews who believed in Yeshu arrived in Israel and established the Messianic Jewish congregation. Today the congregation in the country numbers 6,000 believers who are scatteded into 60 congregations throughout the country. Almost every Messianic Jew sees himself as a Zionist. They enlist in the military and serve in various units without limitation.
One year ago Shaul Katzav, a combat soldier, was called up to do his reserve duty on one of the bases in the south.. He had become a member of the Messianic Jews two years earlier and found, in his words him, the great light. ‘since I had had a deep experience of discovering the truth and faith in Yeshua, I felt the strong need to share this with the rest of the soldiers on my base. I began to pass out materials and to tell the soldiers what had happened tome. The commander heard about it and demanded that I stop. I answered- that no one could stop me from saying what was in my heart. The commander became enraged, turned to the unit commander and they decided to bring me to trial for refusing to follow an order. I n the trial that was the next morning the commander didn’t let me explain myself. They claimed that I was betraying the Jewish people and the values of the army. At the end the commander said that he forgave me. But I was moved to another unit. Since then a year has passed and I have not been called up to reserve duty.
“Were you hurt?” “Not at all, I am glad that I did it. Even if they were to put me in prison I would continue to speak about Yeshua. I am speaking for the soldier that will hear the truth , I am ready to pay a very high price.
Katzav maintains that there is a large revival among those who are becoming Messianic Jews: “Every year we are joined by tens of soldiers on the way of love and commitment. And God does wonderful things in them.”
The article continues with quotes from Avi Mizrachi who became a Messianic Jew after his army service. He says that “Our children are enlisted in the army and we continue to do reserve duty and use the meetings with soldiers to tell them about Yeshua.” (The article features a large photograph of Avi Mizrachi)
The military rabbinate is concerned about the phenomena of religious groups trying to influence soldiers. According to military law, religious materials brought into the military must be approved by the army’s religion department. This, however, applies only to regular soldiers and not to those doing their reserve duty. “In almost every military synagogue it is possible today to easily find ‘planted ‘materials: pages from the sabbath portion and Habad teachings, Shas materials, the Zohar from the center for Kabbalistic Studies, the New Testament and stories about Yeshua.”
Missionaries in Kiriat Gat (5/11/99, Kan Darom, 19/11/99 Darom)
An Ashdod local weekly paper, under a 6 cm. headline carries an article about alleged missionary activity in Kiriat Gat. The headline reads: “My neighbor lures children with sweets to come to her home and hear stories about ‘Yeshu’”
A local resident of the neighborhood known as ‘little Moscow’ complained to the Deputy Mayor of the city and was instructed to lodge a complaint with the police about the missionary activity in her neighborhood.
Deputy Mayor Haim Shalom said: “The woman came to me in an extremely upset state and related that her children had been used to pray and memorize the weekly Sabbath portion from the law and now this missionary has lured them with sweets to come to her house. There she tells them stories about Yeshu and messianism. I see this as extremely dangerous. In this last space of time there have been many instances and complaints of missionary activity happening in the city especially around small children.”
Apocalypse Jewish Style (7/11/99, HaAretz)
This front page article focuses on Jewish millennial groups and compares them with some of the Christian groups. It highlights one group, ‘Operation Come Home,’ led by Avraham Sheinman of the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha. This group is teaching that there will be great disaster for Jews with the collapse of systems and the Jewish people will be scape-goated. They publish a 48 page pamphlet devoted to the memory of Rabbi Meir Kahane. “Groups of Christians who have seen it have called to offer refuge for Jews abroad or to say that they are preparing boats on which Jews will be able to escape the disaster.”
Christians Support Settlements and Settlement Projects (9/11/99, 10/11/99 HaAretz, 25/11/99, Hamachaneh Haharedi)
At Tel Shilo a lavish model of the tabernacle will be erected and is intended for educational purposes. The project is funded by a Protestant Christian from the United States., Norman Griffin. According to the settlement’s spokesman, Yakov Sharbit, this is only the beginning and the aim of the Griffin is to erect a full scale replica of the tabernacle on the site.
“One of the larger projects in which the settlers and Christians are cooperating is organized by the Christian Friends of Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza organization: 42 settlements in the territories have made deals (similar to the twin-cities arrangement) with various Christian communities around the world. Thus the settlement of Itamar is linked to a church in Ohio, Elon Moreh is linked to a church in Florida…”
Messianic Jews on Radio (10/11/99, First Channel, Second Channel, 11/11/99, Third Channel, 16/11/99, Second Channel, First Channel)
Baruch Maoz appeared on two of the radio programs and the other three dealt with Messianic Jews but without their participation. The context of the programs was concern about missionary activity including the activities of Messianic Jews in Israel.
Representatives from the anti-missionary organizations also presented their perspective. The programs followed the Knesset internal affairs debate and the Politica television program.
Stormy Knesset Debate (11/11/99, Hatzofeh, Hamodia, Miyom l’yom, Hadashot Mishpacha, 12/11/99, Bakehila)
A stormy debate took place in a meeting of a Knesset committee on internal affairs. Representatives from various groups were invited, the police, Yad L’achim, Lev L’achim and Messianic Jews. Missionary activity in Israel was hotly debated. The article has a picture of some of those attending , Rabbi Lachover of Lev L’achim is identified as is Baruch Maoz of the Messianic Jews and David Azolai, the director of the Knesset committee. The messianic Jews are quoted as saying that they would continue their activities of preaching even if they had to lose their lives. The anti-mission activists expressed anger over police mishandling of missionary activity and the free hand that missionaries have to operate in Israel.
Messianic Jews on Television (15/11/99, Israel First Channel, Politica. 22:30)
Messianic Jews appeared together with ultra-orthodox on nationwide television in a round table discussion of missionary activity. The anti-missionary organizations presented video clips from their files that dealt with the danger and tactics of the missionaries and Messianic Jews.
The Israeli Messianic Jews were given opportunity to present their perspective. Here are a few quotes:
Eitan Kashtan “I am a Jew, first because I was born a Jew. And secondly since I believe with a full heart in the God of Israel. And I am Messianic since I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah… The duality is not problematic because Yeshua was Jewish, he lived and died as a Jew. All of his first followers were Jews and that was Judaism. What those men represented was without a doubt the original Judaism that was revealed in the tenach. My faith springs from the fact that I and my wife sat in our house alone for a half year and read the tenach for the first time in our lives in order to examine what it said.”
Yossi Ovadiah: I came at the age of 23, after my military service, Ronit came byu herself, approximately at the same time in totally differernt places. Each one of us in his own way and each one of the believers in the county came in a different way. I came having grown up in a religious Jewish household, my father is a cantor, teaches for Bar Mitzva boy, a mohel and I grew up in the Bnei Akiva movement. Togethere with that at age 234, I discovered the way of Yeshua the Messiah. The Messiah I believe in is the Messiah of the Jewish people.”
Daniel Yahav: “We are Jews, we are Zionists, we feel ourselves threatened, we support a Jewish democracy but we are opposed to a Halachic (orthodox) dictatorship.”
The discussion was at times stormy and at one point one of the ultra-orthodox rabbis got up walked out The section of the program devoted to Messianic Jews was close to 20 minutes in length and it is impossible to quote it all in this review. For those who wish a full translation of the program, please contact Caspari Center for a referral.
Missionaries Exploit Needy Immigrants (16/11/99, Jerusalem Post, Yeted Neeman, Hamodia, 21/11/99 Maariv)
Adi Eldar, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities , made charges in a letter to Internal Security Minister Shlomo ben-Ami that hundreds of Christian missionaries are exploiting the difficult social and economic situation of new immigrants. . He asked Ben-Ami to direct the police to deal with the issue. Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau said “that he had received reports from social workers who told him that missionaries did exploit the situation of new immigrants, the unemployed and others who were badly off…. Lau said that the missionaries work in deprived neighborhoods and offer material benefits, including sometimes air tickets abroad, so that those who convert can leave the country. The chief rabbi stressed that he issue of missionary activity abroad was one which should concern not just the rabbis, but all levels of society.”
According to Eldar, there are hundreds of missionaries active in local groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Messianic Jewish congregations, as well as dozens of missionaries sent by groups in Europe and the US. He said that their activity was concentrated in localities in which there were many new immigrants, such as Upper Nazareth, Karmiel, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ashdod and Beersheba.
Christian Symbols (17/11/99, Hamodia)
The ultra-orthodox religious daily(Hamodia) carries a letter to the editor in which the author states his outrage at the sight of Israeli stamps that have ‘Christian symbols.’ He calls on all ultra-orthodox not to use these stamps and never to have them in their houses. “Distance yourselves from the abomination and do not bring defiled things into your homes.”
In another article, crosses and Christmas trees are labeled as offensive to Jews. Chief Rabbi Israel Lau said, “A cross is…against the Jewish religion. He said the sight of a cross or a Christmas tree is forbidden for a Jew.”
Missionaries in Ultra-Orthodox Areas of Jerusalem (18/11/99, Hamodia)
Yad L’achim has issued a special announcement to the orthodox public informing them of the activities of missionaries in their neighborhoods. They report that quantities of missionary materials have been distributed and they call on the public to clean up these dangerous materials and to expel the missionaries who ‘catch innocent Jews in their nets.’ They also report on a number of instances where missionaries tried to lure ultra-orthodox children with candies and games.
Israelis in Church on Erev Shabbat (21/11/99, Yidiot Achronot)
Under the headline, ‘It Made My Shabbat,’ the author of the article relates her (and hundreds of other Israelis) experiences on a tour of Christian churches on Friday evening. She suggests that since the ‘tables’ of the Neturi Karta (ultra-orthodox sect) are now closed to visitors on Erev Shabbat that those seeking a religious experience should visit the churches in Jerusalem. She took part in a tour organized by ‘Beit Shmuel’ called, ‘Liturgy, Masses and Bells.’
“A deep sense of sin accompanies everything associated with the cross, Jesus and Christianity even for someone like me who has no faith in the intricacies of kashrut.”
A visit to Christ Church set her at ease and she describes in some detail its history and decor “there are no crosses or statues of Jesus but rather Davidic instruments, the ark of the covenant and inscriptions in Hebrew.” The tour continued on to the Armenian church and ended in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The last paragraph of the article states: “Go home with the chapters of the servant of the Lord from Isaiah, ‘He has borne our transgressions’, and you will understand the main principle of Christianity: an atoning death, the resurrection, Jesus died at Passover, he is the Passover sacrifice, the lamb of God,” says the guide Doblia Notpavitz as he points to the mosaic of the sacrifice of Isaac, who according to Christianity foreshadowed the crucifixion . Again we feel that we all have come from the same village but in any case, we were there first.”
Spiritual Murder (26/11/99, Kol Hanegev)
This Beer Sheva weekly, carries an article with a large headline stating ‘Hitler murdered our bodies for us and they murder our souls for us.’ This is a quotation from Shas Knesset member Yitzak Saban of Beer Sheva. He was the previous chairman of the struggle against the mission in Beer Sheva.. He said that he and his friends will continue to fight against the mission and spoke of new legislation that would restrict the activities of the mission. He complained that the police fail to act against the mission and cites the support and involvement of the American and European nations on behalf of the mission.
Christians Arrested in Hebron (28/11/99, Haaretz)
Over a dozen people (non-residents of Hebron) were arrested on Friday, Nov.26 when the demonstrated against the continuing closure of the Palestinian market in the city. Members from the ‘Christian Peacemaker Teams’ organization were arrested after they put sacks of tomatoes in the market and tried to sell them. They were released after 90 minutes and charges were not filed against them.