CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW……………………………………….. JANUARY 2000, # 2
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 140.
Of the 140 articles, 41 articles focused on Christmas and the upcoming millennium, 27 articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity, 15 articles dealt with Christian tourism (mostly related to the millennium) and Christian sites in Israel, 10 articles dealt with the upcoming visit of the Pope to Israel (in March), 9 articles dealt with the problem of Christian cults arriving in Israel for the millennium, 2 articles focused on the status of non-Jews arriving from the former Soviet Union, and 2 articles covered land and building disputes. The remaining 32 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing Christian, Arab or Jewish religious matters on their own merit. In addition to these newspaper articles there were 3 Radio programs broadcasted which dealt with various Christian and Messianic topics.
Police Not Protecting New Immigrants From Missionaries (Yated Ne’eman, 19/11/99, Gderaton, 19/11/99, Hamodia, 14/12/99, The Jerusalem Post, 14/12/99, Hamachane Hacharedi, 9/12/99, 17/12/99)
All these articles are similar to those dealt with in the last review (January # 1). According to various religious sources there is a tendency for the police to disregard complaints filed against missionary activity. The focus of most of these articles was on the community of new Ethiopian immigrants, which seems to be suffering most from this missionary infiltration. Many of these Ethiopian Jews have been attending Christian meetings, behaving like any Christian might and ignoring completely what they claim to be their Jewish heritage. A spokesman for the Ethiopian community said that he is embarrassed and ashamed of these facts which have been found out.
“Unfortunately,” said the spokesman, “the phenomenon is much wider spread. In Ethiopia we would reject and expel these people from amongst us. Here we can do nothing. We do not have the right tools. Some of the immigrants should not have come. They are deceivers, and the entire Ethiopian community would agree with me.”
The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Israel Lau, told one reporter 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.” It is also believed that these missionaries receive payments of up to tens of thousands of shekels for their “work” amongst the immigrants.
Yad L’achim Prevents Baptism of Jews (Index Hagalil, 12/1199)
Yad L’achim activists were able to prevent the baptism of some Jews into Christianity by discovering the intended baptismal spot on the Jordan river. They equipped themselves with cameras with the intention of documenting the event. The activists were finally able to get into the sight unnoticed, though upon recognition violence broke out that only the police could later get under control.
Testimony of a Converted Christian (Yom Hashishi, 10/12/99)
This one page article brings in full detail the process and conversion of Binyamin Kluger, a priest-to-be turned religious Jew.
Binyamin Kluger is one of the greatest activists against missionaries in Israel today. This is because of his personal experience and knowledge of the “mind of a missionary.” He was born to a Catholic family in France, and from his childhood was intended (by his parents) for the clergy. As time went on it became clear that he would also be sent to another country as a missionary.
His interest in Judaism began when he noticed that the answers he was getting from the leaders of the church were unclear and lacking in substance. The differences between Baptists and Catholics made him conclude that half of the world’s Christians must be living in a lie, and if this be true, who’s to say the other half isn’t living in a lie as well?
He decided, after much study, that the Messianic-Christian way was meant to destroy the nation of Israel. Upon this discovery he denied the church and as a result was excommunicated by friends and family.
The things he did on the other side, as a devoted Catholic, he does today on the right side, proving to missionaries that they are all liars. He has changed his appearance and dress many times in order to follow and spy on a missionary, documenting their secret work on camera. He claims to know everything about every missionary in Jerusalem.
Messianic Jews and the Millennium (Zman Yerushalaim Radio Program, channel 3, 16/12/99)
This report on Israel Radio consisted of several interviewees, including a rabbi, a converted Christian (Binyamin Kluger, as mentioned above), and Joseph Shulam, a Messianic Jew. The topic: the obsession of the Christian world with the millennium and what the religious Jewish activists are doing about it.
The rabbi and Mr. Kluger accused the Messianic community of being insanely obsessed with the millennium, to the point that they are dangerous. Joseph Shulam responded to these accusations by saying:
“It’s a complete lie. There is no connection. Our congregation, especially ours, doesn’t believe in the millennium, and doesn’t believe in the prophecies. It is a nation of people, both Jews and Christians who believe in this millennium”.
The reporter: “Joseph Shulam is the leader of Netivyah, a congregation that operates in Rehavia. His house was set on fire six months ago, after many threats telling him to put an end to his missionary activity.”
Joseph Shulam: “We do not, in any way, deal with soul hunting, soul selling, giving benefits to people so they will believe, and nothing else. Except for being a free people in our country.”
Binyamin Kluger: “When it comes down to it their speech is meant to deceive people, they do not talk of church but of a congregation, speak of a New Testament to the Bible. They do not speak of Jesus but of the Messiah of Israel.”
After some more accusations by the rabbi and Mr. Kluger, the reporter sums up by saying that the police admit to feeling pressure from America not to act against Christian bodies, adding that most of the complaints received are filed against the violent activity of religious Jews.
Beware! Missionary Material at Western Wall (Hamodia, 22/12/99, Hamachane Hacharedi, 24/12/99)
Shock and anger followed the discovery of missionary material, consisting mainly of New Testament pages, at and in the Western Wall. The act was done on the Sabbath and repeated the following day, causing great dismay to devoted Jews praying at the Wall.
The missionary group accused of this deed is based in Herzlia.
It’s Time for Israelis to Learn About Jesus (Ha’aretz, 23/12/99)
This secular paper printed a half page article, which accused the Israeli public school system of complete ignorance when it comes to Christianity and Jesus. The writer begins the article by telling how a ninth grade class, when asked how much they knew about Christianity, were found to be ignorant in the most basic things. They did not even know the 25th of December was Christmas. “Some thought that Mary Magdalene, the prostitute, was the mother of Jesus.”
According to the Government Education System, students have the opportunity of hearing about Jesus only once during their 12 years of schooling. The writer says that “history lecturers believe that this ignorance is not a negligible matter. Israeli students who do not know anything at all about the figure of Jesus are unable to understand the faith of the approximately two billion Christians in the world, and they have no key to the understanding of the history, music, painting, sculpture and architecture of the western world. Moreover they lack basic knowledge of the history of Judaism and society in the land of Israel 2000 years ago.”
The writer tells how students learn even less in religiously based schools. The teachers there are afraid to talk about this subject, their reason being the impossibility of forgetting what Christianity did to the Jews.
According to a university lecturer “the Israeli educational system must be less concentrated within itself and more open to the study of the other. It would not hurt children if they read a chapter from the New Testament and the Koran…they should read at least something about the Sermon on the Mount.” Another professor adds that “Jesus was the most famous Jew in the world, and students must know why he was famous and why he was a Jew.”
Poll Shows: Israelis Ignorant About Christianity (Ha’aretz, 24/12/99, In Jerusalem, 24/12/99)
A recent poll, which surveyed 479 Israelis found that most Israelis are rather ignorant about Christianity and the Church. The poll indicated a deep divide between people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in their attitude toward the church, Tel Aviv ranking much higher on the “tolerance” scale.
One of the writers said that “the unfamiliarity with Christian tradition in Israel is apparently linked to the fact that most Israelis do not know any Christians on a personal level.”
The press conference which revealed these statistics was attended by Clarence Wagner of Bridges for Peace and Johann Luckoff of the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. In response to these facts Wagner said that “from the standing point of our organization, which has tried to develop an understanding between Jewish and Christian communities in Israel, we have not penetrated the Israeli society enough.” He added that “Interfaith organizations like Bridges for Peace do not have proselytizing on the agenda.”
Book Review: Facts and Myths about the Messianic Congregation (The Jerusalem Post, 24/12/99)
The book mentioned above is by Kjaer-Hansen and Skjott of the Caspari Center. It gives facts they have discovered about the Messianic Jews in Israel. The writer of this report is a secular Jew. She begins by telling the readers she has never read such a boring book so avidly.
She further writes, “converts are found mainly through ‘friendly evangelism,’ meaning inviting people, especially new immigrants, to meetings and other events, which makes a reader wonder how many friendly outreaches synagogues conduct. It follows that ‘Messianic’ and ‘Missionary’ are virtually synonymous.”
The language used in the book is also noted as being sensitive. “They don’t say ‘Old Testament,’ recognizing this word as demeaning. Instead they say ‘Tanakh.’
The writer tells how the activities in the congregations vary from place to place, some as similar to a church service as ever while others desperately try to imitate Jewish traditions. But “in short, the Messianic movement offers a chance to play Jewish while practicing Christianity,” and while they are born Jewish “they have abandoned the Jewish religion, however they describe themselves.”
She ends this report by giving her opinion on the point of this boring book: “wealthy, evangelical Christianity is on a crusade to destroy Judaism one Jew at a time, and to change Israel from a Jewish country to a Christian country.”
New Missionary Cult in Nazareth (Yom Hashishi, 24/12/99)
This religiously based Jerusalem weekly gives a detailed report of all the change wrought by the community of recent Russian immigrants. The writers claim that immediately following the arrival of the Russian immigrants, a dramatic rise in church attendance was noted. These are not faithful law keeping Jews, but immigrants who used the government to come to Israel under the disguise of being Jewish. It is interesting that soon after their arrival, a new church “appeared” in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city. The Messianic cult behind this church recently made a rather important decision, that of no longer working in secret. They now prey on innocent Sephardic children, who have nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon than follow these people to a restaurant, which offers food at no great price – only that of converting your religion.
This restaurant is owned, of course, by the cult with the purpose of feeding the poor newly immigrated Russian Jews. Under this disguised purpose, lively discussions are staged each week, giving those hungry people no choice but to hear all about “that man” and his gospel. All this, though, is but a small part of the cult’s doings. Far worse are their ventures into the streets of Nazareth, where they distribute missionary material and convince innocent people to come to their meetings.
The Chabad house in the city say they are well aware of the problem and are taking good care of it. “On several occasions we have even been able to convince the mayor of the absurdity of Christians carrying out their activities in the land of our forefathers,” they said.
Missionary Material distributed in Religious Neighborhood (Yated Ne’eman, 30/12/99)
Missionaries have begun distributing their material in English in religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem. They arrived in a rented car and distributed their “stuff” in people’s mailboxes. Several residents tried to stop them, but the English speaking missionaries ignored these people and continued with their distribution.
Clarence Wagner and Bridges For Peace (The Jerusalem Post, 31/12/99)
Clarence Wagner is the director of the organization Bridges For Peace, the aim of which is to build an understanding between Jews and Christians in Israel and abroad. He was interviewed for this leading secular paper in response to a recent poll taken which indicated that Israelis are very ignorant about Christianity.
The writer begins by telling his readers that Christians are “among the most fervent supporters of the Jewish state yet who meet here with incomprehension, ignorance and sometimes outright hostility.”
Wagner says that most evangelicals have no interest in converting Jews to Christianity. They are, rather, “indebted to the Jewish nation for the blessing they bestowed on the world by producing Jesus.” He goes on to explain that he understands why most Jews are fearful of Christians – after all “we either wanted to convert you, kill you, exile you or ghettoize you.”
About living in Israel he says “you don’t realize how insensitive you can be until you’ve lived somewhere that the majority can be as insensitive to you… Being Christian here is an act of choice and affirmation.”
About his work here he says “We know the past and we’re ashamed of it. We can’t change the past but we can change the future.”
Jesus the Superstar (Ha’aretz, 31/12/99)
This five page article appeared in the Tel Aviv edition of a leading secular paper on the eve of the millennium, and though very cynical, most of the information given is accurate. The writer begins by telling a little story: what Jesus’ reaction would be like if he happened to rise from the dead today. Would he be surprised at his widespread fame? Would he be taken aback by the complete ignorance his own people display about him? There would be many things going through his mind, no doubt, but “the smile would leave his face when he’d discover that he of all people, he who was so opposed to any form of violence and taught throughout his short life about compassion and mercy, had been the inspiration behind savage blood thirsty acts against any Christian who dared to interpret the Bible in their own way, the crusaders and inquisition, up to the proud missionaries of the Catholic church. At this point… he would declare to hundreds of millions of people… ‘hold on a minute, for it seems you don’t even know me’.”
From here the writer goes into a full history of the life of Jesus, quoting often from the New Testament. It is an excellent summary of the life and works of Jesus, though at times sarcastic. Regarding the lack of objective early writings about Jesus, the writer says “they (the writings) are so scarce or open to so much interpretation that anyone can find in them some proof about Jesus that suits his needs well. This might be one of the secrets of his success.”
The writer ends this article by pointing out that a lot of the tragic history recorded between the Jews and Christians might have been prevented if the Jewish religious authorities of Jesus’ time had understood that his connection with the disciples, and especially the simple folk, was a blessed thing.