CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW, JANUARY #1
Note to Subscribers: Starting with this issue of the Media Review, we will be sending an issue every two weeks instead of every month. This will enable readers to have information in hand closer to the time it appears in the media.
For the period of time covered by this review, the number of articles found in the Israeli media’s coverage of matters related to Messianic Jews, the Mission, and other Christian matters came to a total of 80.
Of the 80 articles, 19 articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity, 18 articles dealt with Christian tourism (focusing mostly on the millennium) and Christian sites in Israel, 13 articles were about a Jehovah’s Witness who was fired from his job and the responses to this act, 4 articles dealt with the legal status of non Jews in Israel, 4 articles reported on land disputes and building plans, 4 articles commented on the Rabbinate’s ruling on Christmas, and 3 articles dealt with the problem of Christian cults arriving in Israel for the millennium. The remaining 15 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish religious matters on their own merit.
In Depth Study of Contemporary Missionaries (12/11/99, Yated Ne’eman)
This four paged article printed in a Jerusalem orthodox weekly was a rather typical (if somewhat longer) essay warning the Jewish community of the complex and devious activities of missionaries. The writer makes an analysis of The Missionary as you would find him today, using the Christian Embassy and its workers as his main example.
“Their (the Christian Embassy’s) friendship to Israel and Jews is not out of lovingkindness, but their desire to prove the veracity of their religion, and for this reason – and this reason alone – have they demonstrated their friendship with Israel and poured millions of dollars into different charity projects for it.”
The writer of this article stresses the year 2000 as an important date which the Christians will use (and have been using) to convert as many Jews to Christianity as their finances will allow.
He writes first-hand accounts of former Messianic Jews who were saved from the clutches of Christianity at the last minute, and their accounts of how Christian “experts will utilize slick brain washing techniques to beguile them into Christianity.”
The writer ends his article by asking his readers to seriously consider his accusations and not dismiss them by placing them under the title of “runaway apocalyptic talk.”
Police Fail to Deal with Missionary Activities Amongst New Immigrants ( 18/11/99 Index Dati Haredi)
This short article appeared in a Jerusalem orthodox weekly revealing a request by the head of a municipality to the minister of internal affairs to instruct the Israel police in handling the phenomenon of missionaries. “These missionaries”, the article said, “are active in known organizations such as the “Messianic Jews and Christian Jews.”
The missionaries were accused of taking advantage of the poor social and financial state in which tens of thousands of new immigrants find themselves, and “working” in immigrant filled places such as Nazareth Elite, Carmiel, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva.
Who is a Rightful Jew Under the Law of Return? (19/11/99, B’kehilah, 9/12/99, Yated Ne’eman (x2), 10/12/99, Hatzofe)
All four papers dealing with this issue are religiously based.
The articles deal in some way with recent statistics which revealed that over half of the immigrants arriving in Israel under the law of return are not Jewish.
The shortest article simply quoted the words of Yuli Tamir, minister of immigration, who stated that “if we change the law of return and allow into the country only those who are Jewish according the Halacha we will lose a large part of the population.” She continued by saying that “as long as there are laws we will abide by them.” Her statement came in response to a question posed by Rabbi Gafni.
The remaining three articles went into further detail (two of which gave this subject the space of two pages), stressing that the problem is severe and has fatal consequences to the future of the Jews in this country.
Statistics were given, revealing that 208,000 of Israel’s new immigrants are not Jewish, while 58% of Jewish men arriving in the country are married to non-Jews.
What makes these immigrations possible are certain sections in the law of return which allow the grandchild of Jewish grandparents to “make aliya”, or likewise the whole “goy” family of one converted Jew.
A debate in the Knesset is covered in two of the articles, claiming that Ehud Barak (Israel’s prime minister) promised in anger that as long as he is prime minister the law of return will not be changed. Natan Sheranski, on the other hand, who is himself a Russian immigrant and the minister of internal affairs, revealed that he has already given orders to the judicial section in his office to begin making suggestions for “repairs” to the law of return. He promises to deal with the problem. Members of the Arab and Meretz parties said that the state of Israel should be a state for all her citizens.
The overall tone of these four articles is very negative about the law of return, and all suggest that it must be changed soon.
Consequences of Jewish-Christian Co-operation (01/12/99, Ha’aretz)
This article is a follow up on another article (see Dec. Media Review) which told of a Protestant Christian’s plans to erect a model of the tabernacle at Tel Shilo. Ya’acov Sharvit and Moshe Hayat, religious Jews from the settlement of Tel Shilo were accused of co-operating with missionaries, an accusation which nearly led to the terminating of the whole plan.
Hayat calmed down when he discovered that “we are not even dealing with missionaries. These are Protestants who tend to resemble ‘Noah’s Sons’.” To be completely sure that this co-operation is permitted Hayat turned to the most well known Religious authority – Bnei Brak. He was told that there is no problem in his co-operation with Protestants. He says “Protestants are the only gentiles who are not idol worshipers. As opposed to the Catholics, they are not missionaries and do not bow down to pictures and images of Jesus and Maria.”
Book Review: Christianity, the Big Fraud (03/12/99, Iton Yerushalaim)
This is a full page book review in a Jerusalem weekly, promoting the sales of a book warning Jews (both religious and secular) of the many Christians who are expected to arrive in Israel in the coming year, and of the lies they will bring with them. Religious activists are distributing the book all over the country.
The book emphasizes the impurity and heresy of Christianity, and presents all Christians as “enemies of Judaism, revealing their true face as the persecutors of the Jews throughout the ages and in particular during the terrible Holocaust in Europe, in which they denied the Jews a place of refuge and refrained knowingly from saving the persecuted Jews. They have a great part in the Holocaust through their hate and influence”.
The book mocks all Christian symbols, especially the cross which they compare to the worship of an electric chair or the gallows. They disapprove the status of women in Christianity since “they are seen as faulty objects which have their origin in the devil himself, so much so that the Pope and Catholic priests are forbidden from marrying any woman.”
They “reveal” the real story behind the birth of Jesus, that of Mary being unfaithful to Joseph, and conceiving the child of a Roman soldier by the name of Pandira. “This fact”, they say, “is of course not very pleasant to Christian ears.”
Beware! Missionaries (03/12/99, Yediot Hagalil)
This front page article, under a 9 cm heading, describes the fruitful efforts of some spies, who discovered the secret work of missionaries in Nazareth Elite. They describe the missionaries as a cult of Messianic Jews that has been at work for five years, and focuses on the newly immigrated community of Russian Jews.
A Russian Jew who is aquainted with some of these people tells “they are organized like an army unit. Equipped with maps of the whole city they know just where to go and are expert convincers.”
The head of this organization refused to respond to these accusations, only saying that they are not missionaries.
“It will be noted”, say the writers, “that they have printed testimonies of people who have been brain washed and have become part of the cult.” Nazareth Elite’s head Rabbi, Yishayahu Herzl says these are strange people.
The Nazareth Elite police department responded to these facts by stating that every person can believe what he likes, “and up until this point in time we are unaware of any legal offences in the activities of the Messianic Jews.”
Legal Advisor Looks into Missionary Activity and the Lack of Police Response (07/12/99, Hamodia)
Members of the anti-missionary activity group “Yad L’achim” were trying to file a complaint against a Messianic Jewish missionary, accused of trying to force a Jewish girl, under aged, to convert to Christianity. Their request to file a complaint was turned down by the police station investigator who claimed that no offense had been committed. Other police investigators also refused to file a complaint saying “the girl must come herself.”
The girl agreed to file a complaint, but was astonished to find the investigators were trying to persuade her to “let it go”, claiming that Yad L’achim was only trying to gain another vote for the Knesset.
Yad L’achim claim this is not the first time they’ve been treated with disrespect by the police. They stress that the Legal Advisor to the government has given no order forbidding the interrogation of missionaries.
TV Series About Jesus to be Shown at Israel Museum (The Jerusalem Post, 08/12/99)
Willy Lindwer, a Dutch filmmaker, recently finished making a three part TV series about the life of Jesus. His motives for this series are the millennium and his desire to portray the Jewishness of Jesus to the non – Jewish world. He says “many Christians around the world have forgotten how deeply Christianity is rooted in Judaism.”
There have been requests from 400 TV stations around the world to view the film, but Lindwer is hoping that Israel’s Channel 2 will pick it up.
Lev L’achim Activists Break Up Missionary Hanukkah Party (Yated Ne’eman, 10/12/99)
Lev L’achim discovered a plot by Messianic Jews of the Prophets Streep congregation, who were planning a Hanukkah party for Jews, with the intent of slowly bribing them to convert to Christianity. Activists from this group gathered some people together and began protesting outside the building of the Messianic congregation. As a result the participants of this Christian party scattered immediately. Some of the invitees claimed they were not aware of the missionary activity of the Messianic Jews.
Reactions to Jehovah’s Witness being fired from his job (Hamodia, 10/12/99)
It was discovered last month that the head of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Israel (Campus) was to be fired from his job at Vita (a food product company) because he is a missionary. This information began what turned out to be a secular ban on all Vita food products. The ban was suggested and supported by a leading secular newspaper (Ha’aretz). The outrage towards this undemocratic act resulted in Vita’s re-employing Campus. It should be noted that the reason behind Vita’s decision to fire Campus was a threat issued by the Kashrut Authority to remove the company’s Kosher label.
The article summarized here is one from a religious paper which brings to light quite a different view of this ordeal (scandal) – that of the religious community.
The article fiercely attacks the credibility of the Ha’aretz newspaper, claiming that the paper never got all the facts right. The writer states “let there be no mistake. Campus is not quite so innocent – he is the leader of the missionary cult “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in Ashdod.”
The article goes on to reveal that the reason behind Vita’s threat (the writer makes it clear that Campus was never fired, only warned) was that Campus is suspected of trying to convert the factory’s workers. They were, unfortunately, unable to speak with these workers since they refuse to reveal their identity.
The writer claims that the reason this leading secular paper (Ha’aretz) was able to go so far with such misleading information is because the “enemy” is religious Jews, and “when hate is blinded you cannot expect even the smallest amount of sanity to accompany it.”
His conclusion then? To open a religious information center that will represent the biblical and halachic (Jewish legal ruling) side, that will sometimes get the facts straight, as in this case.
A Rabbi’s Thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention (The Jerusalem Post, 13/12/99)
This article, written by a rabbi who has “devoted his life to fostering better relations and understanding between evangelicals and Jews”, looks into the SBC’s new approach to evangelism. The writer claims that the SBC’s “narrow interpretation of its religious duty outweighed the good relations with other denominations and other faiths that so many have worked so hard to build over the past several decades.”
The writer is attacking the SBC’s decision to “target” the Jews in their evangelism, reminding the Baptists that the Jews don’t like to be targeted in that way for good reason: there is a bloody history between the Christians and Jews, who have so often been “loved to death by the presentation of the gospel” to them. The Jews, says the rabbi, will never forget this though the SBC chooses to.
The rabbi is sure to make clear that he is in no way taking away the right of “evangelicals to fulfill what they see as their Great Commission by sharing their faith clearly.” He only asks that the Jews will not be targeted and proselytized, adding that other “more serious” Christians would agree with him completely, recognizing that the Great Commission can be fulfilled “uncompromisingly without making enemies unnecessarily.”
CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW………………………………..JANUARY, 2000, #1
The Caspari Center Media Review is pleased to offer you a supplement from the Russian language Israeli press. This is in addition to our usual review taken from the Israeli Hebrew and English language media. We are doing this on a trial basis and would be interested in any response you might have to this initiave. Thank you.
The State of Immigration or the State of Aliah? (2/12/1999, Nasha Strana)
In a lengthy article this daily Russian newspaper responds to the reaction of the head of the government Ehud Barak to the suggestion of changing the law of return. The author of the article Rivka Rabinivitch (one of the 70-s immigrants from CIS) comments widely on the Russian immigrants’ attitude to the law.
“The law reminds more and more of a holy cow, that will die of old age, even if nobody slaughters it considering its holiness and the protection of those at power. There are things that have outlived their significance, even though it looks like the whole society is based on them. … But even recognizing it as a rudiment doesn’t solve the problem. There needs to be courage to change it, and it oftentimes is lacking even with progress fighters.”
- Rabinovitch goes on to express the attitudes of the Russian speaking immigrants: “The Russian speaking community… in its majority… is for changing of the law, for creating hindrances to immigration of non-Jews. I am speaking not only for the “olim” of the 70’s, but also for the “last wave” of expatriates.”
The author is convinced that the Jewish society can no longer be “dissolved” with people denying its Jewishness. ”The number of people, who were and will remain foreign, is getting close to the critical point, where the decline of anything Jewish in this state is inevitable, and where the Jews themselves will feel foreign”.
The article compares the attitudes of religious and secular citizens of Israel: ”We, non-religious, have long time ago sacrificed the national substance of life for a moment’s convenience. It’s naturally easier to read a Russian book, listen to the Russian radio, watch Russian TV. And to blame this “barbarian language”, the culture itself. Isn’t it ironic that the religious Jews have to double their efforts to preserve Jewishness in a Jewish society?”
- Rabinovitch comments about the basis for the law of return, it having the same criteria of the “25 percent of Jewish blood” as the criteria in the Nazi’s philosophy. In the end she suggests her variant of the law of return: “To come to Israel and receive the citizenship and privileges should only be allowed to families, who have at least one living Jew in them or have direct relatives (parents or children) in Israel. If the Jewish grandmother or grandfather have lived their whole life in CIS and died there, if they declared their descendants as Russians, then it’s too late for them to remember their 25 percent. They have their own people, and they should be able to live its fate, like the Jews are living theirs.”
Heralds of Apocalypses (23/12/99, Novosti Nedelia)
This lengthy article in a Russian daily presents a two page expose of Jehovah Witnesses’ beliefs and their present-day position around the world. A short history of the organization is given with a particular emphasis on how Jehovah Witnesses are viewed in Israel today.
“The high court in Strasbourg has legitimated the right of Jehovah Witnesses to preach in all the countries of the EU. The high courts of in a number of American states, followed by the State of British Columbia (Canada) have recognized, that the religious convictions of “jehovists” “are not dangerous for people’s health and social order”. Before this the same verdict was passed by the State of Southern Wells in Australia. A similar decision has been recently made by the Constitutional Court of Russia. … Now… their (Jehovah Witnesses) number all over the world amounts to six millions.”
A number of people were interviewed for a varied picture of JWs in Israel. Grigoriy (a JW himself) tells about his experience with JWs: “The have firm discipline – like in the army or a labor camp. The elders are entitled to punish anyone who “walks the road of sin”. Questions and discussions on theology are forbidden. Adults have to learn chapters from the Bible and recite them by heart. Those who are late for meetings are exposed and punished by prohibition to attend lessons”.
Another view is given by Erik Miller, the leader of “The Watchtower” (the JW magazine) in Israel: “Why should we lie? We want the person to fully realize why he is with us and what ideals he adheres to. We don’t buy anyone and don’t force anyone.”
The article goes on to give another interview with a Jewish JW, who “was convinced that he had chosen the road of true Judaism. They said they were fulfilling the commandments of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And they always slandered the ultraorthodox. But the time passed, and I more and more wanted to leave them.”
The article is to be continued in another publication.
Traders Have Cast Christ Out of the Temple (27/12/99, Vremia)
Together with three photographs of Christian holy places on the river Jordan and in Jerusalem, this feature article in the Russian daily reflects the attitude of the author towards the “secularization of holiness” in Israel and her concern about the present state of the holy places. The article describes the author’s visits to the river Jordan, Christian churches in Jerusalem, the mount of Calvary, and relates the attitudes of both pilgrims and those who keep the places.
“Jesus cast traders out of the temple. But many temples today live only thanks to traders. Holy places have been turned into paid attractions. Israel is the promised land. Believers of all religions have always tried to get here to bow to the holy places. How do these holy places look now?”
How to Reach Peace in Nazareth? (29/12/99, 24 Chasa)
Together with a picture of the mosque in Nazareth, this short article in the Russian weekly reports on the new plan of the Catholic patriarch Michelle Sabbah to regulate the inter-religious conflict in Nazareth.
“After consulting the Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy, he declared that the framework of his plan would involve building of a cultural center for followers of all three religions on the square near the Good News Basilica. In this case the plan of building the mosque would have to be forgotten.”
“The future will show whether Sabbah’s initiative will lead to resolution of the conflict or not.”
Irish Pilgrims Are Not Allowed into the Territory of Israel (29/12/99, Novosti Nedelia)
This short article informs about the recent denial of entry to the 26 Irish pilgrims by Minister of Internal Security Shlomo Ben-Ami. This has been done despite the many warnings about endangering the diplomatic relations between Israel and Ireland coming from the Ministry of foreign affairs.
“The Irish government has addressed Israel, asking to rethink the decision of Minister of Internal Security, and Ben -Ami has already ordered the General Police Inspector Yehuda Vilko to thoroughly check the situation with specialists on sects. As of yet, the police have not changed their mind about the pilgrims belonging to a sect.”
The Divided Jerusalem (4/01/00, Vremia)
Together with two pictures, the daily Russian publication carries a two-page feature report on Christmas and New year celebration in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The article comments on the division of the three religions in Jerusalem during Friday, 24 and the disappointment of foreigners over the insufficient Christmas decorations and celebrations in Jerusalem.
After reporting on the many expectations of Christians, Muslims and Jews of the festivities, the article expresses disappointment with the way the Israeli officials handled security issues in the end of year 1999, especially between Jews and Muslims. The conflict, concerning the building another security entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, is depicted. The result of the conflict was that the feast of Ramadan gathered even more Muslims than had been expected, who wanted to “protect the mosque”.
In the end the article expresses hope that year 2000 will become a step towards a new understanding and love for all three religions.
Leaders of the Orthodox States in Israel (5/01/00, Vesti)
Together with a picture from the Holy Sepulcher Church service, the Russian daily publication surveys the visit of the presidents and religious leaders of the ten Eastern European Orthodox states in Israel, the patriarch of Jerusalem Diodor hosting the visit.
The article mainly reports on the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s visit. His recent resignation hasn’t influenced the agenda of his meetings in Israel. His official visits included meetings with the patriarch, breakfast with president Ezer Weizman, official talk with Yasser Arafat, the Christmas service in Bethlehem, meeting with acting prime minister Yitschak Mordechay.
The article ends by commenting on Israel’s refusal to grant the entry visa to president and prime minister of Yugoslavia Slobodan Miloshevitch and Miloutinovitch. The article suggests that in this decision the Israeli officials might have anticipated the reaction of the West.