CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW……………………………….FEBRUARY 2000 # 2
The number of articles found in the Israeli’s media coverage of matters related to Messianic Jews, the Mission, and other Christian matters came to a total of 101.
Of the 101 articles, 30 dealt with the upcoming visit of the Pope to Israel, 17 articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity,13 articles dealt with Christian/Jewish relations in some form, 7 articles dealt with Christian tourism and Christian sites in Israel, and 1 article dealt with the status of non-Jews. Apart from the written media, there was one radio broadcast which dealt with the distribution of missionary material in a leading newspaper. The remaining 31 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters individually.
A Municipality Worker is a Missionary (Yavneton, 24/12/99)
This two page article appeared in a Yavne weekly. The writer begins by giving a general background to the missionary problem among Ethiopian immigrants in Israel today. He says that for years missionaries would try to convert Jewish Ethiopians in Ethiopia, but these attempts were unsuccessful. What those missionaries could not accomplish in Ethiopia they are trying to do here.
It is at this point that the writer gets personal, giving the names of two Ethiopian missionaries living in Yavne: Merete and Ambat Raday. Merete is the leader of the Ethiopian congregation in that area, and Ambat works in the social service department of the municipality. The claims against them are mainly of trying to convert other Ethiopian Jews to Christianity. Merete is accused of being a missionary “of international standards.” Up until a few years ago he taught English in his spare time, but the children’s parents quickly put an end to that.
Since this information has become available, several people in the Ethiopian community of Yavne have suggested an organized assault on the Raday’s, intending harm, hoping that such an attack would prevent further missionary activity.
A spokesman for the Yavne municipality said that Mrs. Raday has been employed by them for six years now, and after an initial investigation into the accusations brought against her the municipality has found no grounds for such complaints.
Converted Christian Gives Information (Shavu’on Kfar Chabad, January 00)
This is an interview given by Benyamin Kluger, a religious Jew who is very active in the “finding out” of missionaries in the land. His claim to fame is his unusual conversion from Catholicism to Judaism. Many call him “the missionary hunter.”
In the interview he warns that there are many missionaries in this country, and they act in many diverse ways. “When I saw what the situation is like, I enrolled in the battle, even though I personally wished to forget my past. The head of my yeshiva directed me to Yad L’achim, and since then I work as a volunteer in the organization… Two years ago I was called up to fight against missionaries twice a week. Now I work all day- morning, afternoon and night.” When asked what sort of missionary work he comes across, Kluger answered: “missionaries work everywhere, distributing booklets and other ‘informative’ material, at the malls, the center of town and more…”
Yad L’achim Distributes Anti Missionary Material (Shavu’on Beni Brak)
Yad L’achim has begun distributing thousands of booklets informing the public of the dangers in mission and missionary organizations. Tens of thousands of these booklets have been printed in Russian. This is a counter action to the increase in missionary material being published by Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s witnesses, an act locally branded “the destruction crusade.”
These are some of the anti-missionary booklet titles: “Why We Are Not Christians”, “The Fire That Will Not Burn Us”, “From Heart to Heart”, “The Mission in Israel is Appalling”, “Stop and Open Your Eyes”. The initial results of this endeavor have been promising. Several stands even reported people volunteering to distribute the booklets on their own free time.
In the Footsteps of Jesus (Olam Haisha, January 00)
This article, which appeared in a secular magazine for women, systematically follows the life of Jesus through the most significant churches in the land, encouraging the readers to tour these beautiful places.
With each church, the writer gives a brief summary of the history of Jesus in that particular place. For example, she begins with the church of the annunciation in Nazareth. “2000 years ago the history of mankind was changed when a virgin girl by the name of Miriam was told by an angel that she is carrying the son of God in her womb…. his name would be Yeshua because he would save (yoshia) his people from their sins.”
The writer continues with the church where Mary and Elizabeth met after they had both conceived miraculously; the church where Jesus was born; the church where Jesus performed his first miracle; the site of Jesus’ baptism; the site of his meeting with his first disciples; the church where Jesus fed the 5000; the church where Jesus gave his most famous teaching; the road which Jesus walked on his way to the cross, and finally the place in which Jesus was buried and rose again to life.
Throughout this article the writer freely quotes from the New Testament, but she is also careful to repeatedly say that this is all according the Christian belief.
Missionaries Expanding Work in the South of the Country (Yom L’yom, 06/01/00)
Missionaries who live in the South of the country have been expanding their activities, according to official statistics. There are around 1000 Christians living in the South, most of whom were not there five years ago. Since these statistics do not include foreign workers and unregistered residents, the number of Christians may be higher than estimated.
Missionaries Support the Golan Heights? (Yom L’yom, 06/01/00)
This article is a response to an article which reported the unexpected help of Christians from abroad, who are fighting for the Golan. This religious paper expresses its concern for the Jewish residents of the Golan, since the motives of these Christians seems questionable, and might lead to missionary activity in disguise. Yad L’achim has begun to take action in the Golan to prevent the missionaries from their activities.
Book Review: In the Footsteps of Jesus (Chadashot Haifa Vehazafon, 12/01/00)
A new book has been published which deals with different sects in the Christian world, the country of Israel and the State of Israel. The book consists of color pictures, maps and indexes.
Up until the 19th century there were less than 10 Christian sects in the country, and today the number of these sects has reached 170. In the first part of the book you find answers to questions such as: what Christian sects exist in Israel today? Which denomination does each sect belong to? What is their history in this land?
The reason for writing this book, says Aharon Liron (author), is the lack of material on such subjects as these, though the interest abroad is high.
Christianity Taught in Art Class! (Tmura, 13/01/00)
The father of an 8th grade student was amazed to find extensive material in his son’s notes dealing with Christianity: it’s history, it’s art and it’s leader and his life. The material was taught during an art class, under the topic of paintings dealing with Christianity. Though the lessons were few, the material was extensive and very detailed. The art teacher did not deal at all with the tension that exists between Judaism and Christianity. All in all, claims the father, Christianity comes across in a very positive light.
Where do you draw the line between art and mission? The father claims that it is hard to voice an opinion opposing such lessons since there is a feeling that we ought to be open to everything, and accepting. It puts one in a difficult position. He does not believe the teacher was dabbling in missionary work, but she certainly gave the class a wrong impression.
Radio Program: Responses to Missionary Material Distribution in Newspaper (Reshet Aleph, 16/01/00
This radio program comes in response to the distribution of a missionary booklet together with one of Israel’s leading secular newspapers: Ha’aretz. The act was severely condemned by religious Jews. Avishai Pilchi is interviewing a religious Jew by the name of Stigliz.
Stigliz begins by pointing out the dramatic increase in missionary activity and material due to the millennium. “What they could not accomplish in the first 50 years of 1900 they are trying to make up for in the last 50 years of this century. Sadly, they are finding success among the Jews in Israel… They try in every way. If it didn’t work for them through evil, they will try through good (supposedly). And this good way is to influence us by using millions of dollars, to give us all sorts of things, of course.”
Pilchi: “Tell me… is this not in some way breaking the law?” (he is referring to the distribution of the booklet).
Stigliz: “It is not against the law to publish, unless a minor reads it, and there are lots of minors who read this paper. Proselytizing is even against the law where minors are concerned.”
Stigliz goes on to tell of his ongoing battle with the Messianic Jewish radio broadcast by name of “Kol Hayeshua.” He is interrupted, however, by Pilchi who says “Maybe the fact that you are so against all of this gives it even more publicity, more exposure? Less people would know of it.”
Stigliz: “You are right. And we want this, because the public’s awareness on this subject is close to nonexistent… I just want to explain, beware! These are the same who persecuted us for 2000 years, killed and murdered millions of the Jewish nation, and the church was silent.”
Missionaries Distribute Material in Yeshiva (Yom L’yom, 20/01/00)
Missionaries have no limits to their “hutzpa”, says this article. A few days earlier, Bnei Brak students arrived at their Yeshiva only to find that missionary pamphlets had been placed inside their prayer books. The motives are not clear: perhaps to proselytize, or maybe to provoke, but the Yeshiva students were quick to burn the material.
Book Review: That Man. Jews Write about Jesus (Bat Yam Shtei Arim, 21/01/00)
In celebration of the millennium, Avigdor Shinan, professor of Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University, has published an unusual book, one which brings together different writings on the man Jesus. The subject might not sound so unusual, but it is the writers of this collection which give the book such a unique perspective. Namely, that they are all Jewish.
Shinan gives a lot of space to polemical literature – a thing not often done. According to the writer of the bookreview, it is especially interesting to note the Rambam’s dealings with Christianity. He seems to take the theological debate much more seriously than most modern polemical material would, and surprisingly, he seems much more patient with Christianity than most would imagine. And so, the Rambam clearly states (in a writing which was censored long ago) that Jesus and Mohammed both had a function in the bringing about of the Jewish Messiah. They were to prepare the way for him and bring the whole world together to worship him.
The reviewer notes that the general academic attitude towards Jesus has seen much change in the latter half of this century. He is now being presented as a good Jew from Galilee, with good intentions, who unfortunately got into trouble with the Roman authorities. Even so, the religious stance towards this man has remained extremely hostile to this day.
Protestants Supporting Jewish Settlements (Ha’aretz, 26/01/00)
The CFIC (Christian Friends of Israeli Communities) has been promoting the adoption of Jewish settlements by Protestant churches around the world. If you visit their web page you will the find these opening words, taken from the book of Isaiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” At the bottom of their page, they write “Contact us to find out how you and your church or organization can join with us to encourage these brave Jewish settlers.” So far, 45 settlements beyond the green line (in Judea, Samaria and Gaza), have been adopted by churches and Christian organizations all over the world. The majority of these are evangelical.
The problem arises when these Jews ask themselves whether or not it is right for them to receive the money of Christians, and potentially of missionaries. One of the rabbis involved in this project says “Of course it is necessary to be careful. We have not settled our accounts with them. But those who come to the realization and recognize the sole right of the people of Israel to the land of Israel must be judged positively.”
One of the problems is actually finding evangelicals who suit the project. Only a minority of them support Israel, and out of that minority there are even less who would be willing to give financially. “The Protestants have two approaches. The prevailing approach holds that Christian religion must replace the Jewish religion; the minority approach holds that the two religions can live side by side.”
It is important that these Jews do not mistake the financial aid of the Protestants as charity since charity can only come from Jews. It is for this reason that the givers are never told what there is a need for, or towards what project the money is going. “If we talk about an absorption center, it is forbidden to tell the Christians that the money will go to immigrants who have no money, or have no clothing.”
The controversy is acute. Some say that there is nothing special about the financial aid being offered to the settlements, since these people support mission organizations at the same time. The Christian leader of this organization claims that “we are interested only in supporting the Jews who are settled on the land that God gave them.” No missionary work involved.
This is How Missionaries Hunt for Jews (Hamodia, 27/01/00)
Missionary organizations have found new and inventive ways to hunt for the souls of poor Jewish people who happen to fall into their net. They are now opening Poor Houses, where they offer homeless and hungry people a yogurt in exchange for their faith. Once these starving Jews consent to the deal, they are required to work for the missionaries in the mass soul hunt which is taking place all around the country.
Yad L’achim has submitted a complaint to the police, but so far the police have done nothing to prevent this phenomenon from happening.
It has been discovered that every Saturday night the Poor House gives out free hot meals, while exploiting the financial difficulties in which so many Jews find themselves. This is a huge organization with about 200 missionaries who are all part of the campaign of mass apostasy.
According to these missionaries, who belong mainly to the Messianic Jewish cult, around 500 food portions are given out each day.
Do Messianic Jews Have a Right to Judaism? (The Jerusalem Report, 31/01/00)
This bi-weekly secular magazine, published by The Jerusalem Post, takes up the issue of Messianic Jews through a debate they found on the internet. The debate is between David Chernoff, an American Messianic Jew, and David Rosen, an American Jew. The debate itself is quite interesting, and worth quoting from directly.
David Chernoff: Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) was a Jew born and raised in the Land of Israel who ministered only to Jews… Messianic Jews feel that it is Biblically justified to believe in Yeshua… While it is desirable that we be accepted by our people, we Messianic Jews do not need outside validation.
David Rosen: Your claim that Jews for Jesus should be considered as simply another Jewish alternative strikes me as disingenuous… After all, a large body of observant Jews believe that their rebbe is the messiah, and no one seriously suggests that they be ex-communicated as a result. Jews for Jesus claim something very different, however. They insist that holding Christian beliefs in the Incarnation and the Trinity is compatible with being Jewish. Such a claim makes a mockery of Christianity and Judaism alike… While I am committed to Jewish-Christian understanding, I am certainly opposed to Jews who have become Christians claiming that they are simply part of the Jewish religious spectrum, for this is nothing short of deceit.
David Chernoff: To espouse a definition of a Jew that posits you can believe anything you like and still be Jewish – unless you happen to believe in Yeshua – is inherently wrong. Messianic Jews are born Jews and will die Jews.
David Rosen: The Talmud states that an Israelite, though he may sin, remains an Israelite… The issue here, however, is not the halakhic status of a Jew who has accepted Christian beliefs but whether those beliefs may be considered to be Jewish. The answer to this question is an unequivocal “no.”
Legal Background on Proselytizing and Conversion in Israel (Gesher, winter 99-00)
This article is, in fact, a translation of a lecture given at the International Religious Liberty Conference in Spain, in May of last year. The article deals with the legal aspect of conversion in Israel – both to and from Judaism. It begins by stating that immediately following the war and peace situation in Israel, the relationship between state and religion is Israel’s most difficult, though fascinating, subject.
Following a short summary dealing with the conversion of people to Judaism, the author turns his attention to the problem of converting Jews “out” of their religion. He mentions the law proposal which suggested that all missionary material be banned; a proposal greatly criticized by the liberal world, and especially by Christian groups. The law proposal has been removed, for the time being, leaving only one law to deal with the conversion issue: an old law from 1977.
It seems, says the writer, that the problems connected with conversion arise more from internal disagreement in the Jewish world, rather than inter-religious conversions of one religion with another. This is probably due to the fact that a definition of “who is a Jew” has never been agreed on legally. The definition depends of the interpreter. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many Jews feel the issue of conversion an invasion into their personal identity. The Jew living in Israel, whether he be religious, secular or even anti-religious, is connected to Judaism through history: from it he embraces a language, by it he celebrates his holidays.
It is at this point in the article that the writer sees fit to mention the Messianic Jewish phenomenon. He says it is interesting that this group has not been accepted as Jewish by the Judicial system nor by the general public. This group is constantly dealing with conversion and recently published a two page advertisement in a local newspaper explaining their views (that Jesus is the Messiah). Along side the Messianic Jews, the writer mentions another group not accepted: Jehovah’s Witnesses. This group has recently begun what is called a “conversion campaign” aimed at Jews in the country.
The freedom of religion and conscience is one of the system’s basic principles. The freedom to convert is safely defended by the freedom of religion and conscience. Because of this it is easy to presume that the judicial system will not become involved in such issues as conversion, since they are the domain of the individual, and the individual’s full right. In a free society a man can convert his religion as he pleases. He does not need formal approval.
In the final part of this article, the writer mentions the only law in Israel which forbids proselytizing. It includes two main sections:
- Anyone who promises another man money, something of financial value or any other promise of material goods, in exchange for his conversion or his assistance in the conversion of a third individual will be sentenced to five years in prison or fined the sum of 50,000 Lira.
- Anyone who accepts the offer of money, something of financial value or any other promise of material goods in exchange for his conversion will be sentenced to three years in prison or fined the sum of 30,000 Lira.
An Expulsion Order After Nine Years (Ha’aretz, 03/02/00)
Nearly ten years ago, three Ethiopian girls arrived in Israel under the law of return, received citizenship and began a new life. A few weeks ago, these three sisters received in the mail a notice from the ministry of Interior informing them of the extermination of their citizenship, “which was given under false pretenses and information”. The girls have been asked to leave the country by the 30th of May, 2000.
It is natural, then, to ask what are these false pretenses of which they are accused? When the three sisters arrived in Israel at the ages of 15, 16 and 18 they were registered as the daughters of a man whom they called Father – a Jewish Ethiopian who had worked for the Mosad and had earned the title of “prisoner for Zion” from the Israeli government, for the part he played in smuggling Jews from Ethiopia to Kenya. He was imprisoned and tortured for two years by the Ethiopian authorities. His daughters visited him there regularly, and tell of the hard time the family had to go through during that period. What, then, is the problem? These girls are not legally the daughters of the man mentioned above, and their mother is not Jewish. He was married to her since the mid 1960’s, but following the birth of their eldest daughter, the couple separated. It will be noted that the couple never divorced, and therefore, when they got back together years later (after the birth of the three girls), they were accepted by Ethiopian society as a married couple. The man raised these three girls, though he was not their biological father. “We didn’t think it was worth mentioning all this when we arrived in Israel. It seemed unimportant at the time.” A mistake the girls will pay for dearly.
Their adopted father died only two years after he came to Israel with his daughters. Their mother remains in Ethiopia. The girls have faithfully been building themselves a life in this country. They have learned Hebrew, have studied in Jewish-religious dorms, have passed the Israeli Bagrut exam (which determines a persons graduation from high school), and finally, with the financial aid of the government, were accepted as students at the University of Haifa. These nine years of their life in Israel have turned them from Ethiopian girls into Israeli women.
The girls have never hidden the fact that they are not Jewish. Upon their arrival in the country they even reported this to the authorities. It is a video, handed over to the Ministry of Interior, that “found them out.” The video shows the girls singing in a Messianic choir of an Ethiopian congregation. When the ministry of Interior received this documentation, they decided to check out the identity and status of each person shown on the video (an action resembling the work of the KGB in Russia). It was then that they stumbled on the fact that these girls were never legally adopted in Ethiopia and are therefore living in Israel because of a lie.
In an act of despair, after all legal action failed, the sisters decided to write a personal letter to the Minister of Interior himself, Sharanski. In the letter they defend their position by saying that they are now part of the Israeli culture, and though they love Judaism and all it’s traditions, they see themselves as Messianic Jews. “It is a personal religion. We have not tried to convince other people and we have not been involved in any kind of missionary work. We’ve been Israeli for nine years. We have never hurt anyone or broken the law. All we want is to live in Israel and become part of the society. We feel our citizenship was taken unjustly, and we did not lie when we arrived in this country…” Sharanski has not yet responded to their letter.
When all is said and done, Israel cannot expel them, since their Ethiopian citizenship was taken away from them in 1991 upon their arrival in Israel. Authorities in Addis Ababa say they will not allow them into the country. The real question, then, is quite simple: “will the joining of three young girls to the Messianic movement in Israel be enough for them be sentenced to a life as refugees, lacking citizenship and any kind of rights?” Only Sharanski can answer that question.
Non Jewish Immigrants Turning to Crime (Ha’aretz, 04/02/00)
A group of about ten boys gathers in the evening. They wear crosses, bracelets in the shape of a swastika, and begin parading through the streets. An occasional “death to the Jews” escapes someone’s mouth, though sometimes they are content to only spray paint a swastika on the wall of the local synagogue. This is not the beginning of a neo-nazi organization in Israel, it is just a way for these boys to deal with the harsh reality in which they find themselves.
They are immigrants from Russia, allowed into this country because their father is Jewish, but rejected by society cause their mother is not. They are considered social outcasts. But this is not the first time they’ve dealt with such a title. In Russia they were branded Jews because of their fathers, and so were social outcast there as well.
Statistics show that at the beginning of this decade there was a total of 12% of non Jewish immigrants (under the age of 18) receiving Israeli citizenship, as opposed to 35% today. Along side this development there has also been an increase in the level of crime, drug usage and alcohol consumption. It seems that the girls who fall under this particular category are closer to “street life” than boys. They cannot solve their identity problem by marrying a Jew (like the boys can), and are therefore abused and taken advantage of, especially by Russian Jewish immigrants.
The solution is simple, apparently: Israel must stop giving citizenship to people who are not directly Jewish. “If we can’t turn these people in Jews, it will be very hard to help them.”
Together with this article is a section that deals with non-Jewish children attending Israeli schools. Up until now, it has been standard practice to indicate the religious affiliation of the students on the lists that are sent from the ministry of the interior. Beside each name Jew or non-Jew appears.
The Minister of Education, Yossi Sarid, has announced that this procedure will be stopped immediately. “It doesn’t matter to me if the student is a non- Jew according to Jewish religious law, and if his grandmother was Jewish. The ministry of education will not accept the definitions of the ministry concerning the religion of the students. All of the signs of Jew and non-Jew have no place in the educational system. This will be stopped in regards to the children of foreign workers and of course in regards to those who are who have rights under the law of return.”
Yad L’achim Demands Dismissal of Missionaries from Government Office (Hamodia, 09/02/00)
Yad L’achim is claiming that two missionaries are currently working in the absorption offices of Netanya and Ramle. These women regularly attend missionary meetings and conferences, and there is evidence that one of them has tried to convert Jews to Christianity. “It is inconceivable that there could be missionaries working in an office which deals with the absorption of Jews” says a Yad L’achim spokesman.