April 15 – 2000

CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW………………………………………………………….APRIL # 1


The number of articles covered in this media review reached a record of 380. This is, however, not surprising since the period of time covered surrounds the Pope’s visit to Israel. The number of articles found in the Israeli media’s coverage relating to the Pope in some way came up to 360. Six articles dealt with missionary and anti missionary activity. The remaining fourteen articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Jewish, or Arab religious matters on their own merit.

Missionaries Offering Free Housing in Exchange for Judaism (Yom L’yom, 17/02/00)

The Messianic Jews have come up with a new way to convert Jews to Christianity. An organization called Brit Olam has rented several apartments in the Jaffa area, with the intent of housing homeless people if they agree to convert to Christianity. In several cases the homeless people were led to believe that the organization was Jewish and taught Torah. Shas activists are planning to battle this phenomenon of illegal missionary activity under the guise of helping the needy.

It should be noted that Yad L’achim activists have lodged a complaint with the police against 10 missionary “soup kitchens” who offer free meals in exchange for conversion to Christianity.

Messianic Jews Cheat for Citizenship (Yom L’yom, 16/03/00)

This article reveals the methods of Messianic Jews when applying for Israeli citizenship. The writer claims that a Messianic organization called Chesed Ve’emet, from Rishon Letzion has published a prospect for Messianic Jews, advising them on the process of applying for citizenship. According to this publication, “the Jewish agency and the Ministry of Absorption usually do not grant Aliya permits to people who believe in that man, and the Ministry of Interior refuses to grant Israeli citizenship by power of the law of return. They base this on the fact that Jews who believe in that man are no longer Jews. So when you go there, make sure you take your birth certificate and do not mention your belief until you receive Israeli citizenship.”

The Israeli High Court of Justice decided a while back that members of this cult are of another religion, and are considered (by law) to have converted of their own free will. Because of this ruling, it appears that people who deceive the Ministry of Interior by hiding their true identity receive citizenship against the law. A complaint has been filed with the police.

Caution: Missionaries Changing Mezuzah Prayers (Yom L’yom, 16/03/00)

The missionaries have been at their dirty tricks again, this time in the north of the country. These missionaries dress like religious Jews, and go from house to house explaining that due to the grim situation in the country, the prayer on the doorpost (mezuzah) ought to be changed. But instead of living up to their promise of an improved mezuzah, they have been replacing the traditional prayer with a photo copied prayer filled with Christian symbols, even a cross!

Rabbis have urged the public to be aware of the situation.

Picture of Nuns and Jewish Boy (Ha’aretz, Hamodia, 17/03/00)

This picture appeared in both secular and religious newspapers, and it captures two nuns holding their hands out to a young Jewish boy. There appears to be something in their hands, but the object itself is not recognizable through the picture. The secular paper does not comment on the picture, but the religious paper seems outraged by it, claiming that the object the nuns are holding is nothing less than a cross.

“What is clear is this: the mission in Israel has no limits. Its activists and messengers try to reach every imaginable place. They approach any Jew who passes their way, be he religious or secular, and offer him their stuff. They do this on an innocent walk, a random meeting, or ever through their jobs as personal managers at big factories (referring to the Jehovah’s Witness working in a big food company).”

Mistaken Missionaries Attacked (Ma’ariv, The Jerusalem Post,23/03/00)

Three youths selling books from door to door were attacked and beaten by a group of about 20 religious Jews. The religious community mistook them for missionaries and gathered around their car, breaking windows and causing the vehicle extensive damage. Police later arrested two suspects.

Supplement: Pope’s visit to Israel

(Note: the articles received for this review did not cover the Pope’s entire visit. They do not include his visit to the Wailing Wall on his final day in Israel. A short follow up will be added as a supplement in the next media review).

As mentioned earlier, the majority of this month’s media coverage surrounded the Pope’s visit. This event became the focus of most papers long before his actual arrival, giving people ample opportunity to express their dismay or content at his upcoming visit.

In very general terms, the religious papers were mostly negative about this visit, lashing out against the Pope and the Catholic church on any possible occasion. The secular papers were mostly positive, but never went over the top with enthusiasm. It is interesting to note that during the Pope’s stay in the country the religious papers were “silent.” They had campaigned all they could before his arrival, and seemed to have adopted an apathetic attitude towards the Pope while in Israel. As one article in a religious paper stated (Yated Ne’eman, 24/03/00) “the main body of the charedi [ultra orthodox] community is not concerned with the visit… They are not like secular Jews who find their Jewish identification with what non-Jews think.” The secular papers, however, covered the Pope’s every move and word extensively, mostly through front page articles.

About a week before the Pope’s arrival, secular and religious Jews seemed united in their disappointment at the Pope’s apology, which asked God to forgive Christians who committed crimes against the Jews. The disappointment stemmed from two things, really. First, that the Holocaust was not mentioned specifically as one of the church’s greatest crimes (its silence) and secondly, forgiveness was not asked of the Jews, but of God. The criticism was extensive, but it seemed to “melt” away as the time of his visit drew nearer.

It should be noted that during the visit, the majority of the articles dealt with objective coverage (in other words, not so much opinion as fact) and political issues raised by the tour (Israeli-Palestinian).

The highlight of the tour, where Christian-Jewish relations are concerned, was the visit to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum). The Pope declared that “the Catholic church is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.” His prayer was that “our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the twentieth century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews.” Later the Pope met several Holocaust survivors, including a woman he saved from starvation in 1945. Edith Tzirer had been released from a concentration camp and was on the brink of starvation when she arrived at a train station several kilometers outside of Krakow. Too weak to continue on, she hid herself in a corner and hoped to die. A young priest (today the Pope) suddenly appeared and offered her bread with cheese and tea. When he realized that even food couldn’t revive her, he put her on his shoulders and carried her into the city. There she hid from him, afraid he would convert her… Mrs. Tzirer told Israeli TV that she felt God himself had come to help her.

In spite of the Pope’s speech at Yad Vashem, Israelis weren’t too happy when the Pope again failed to apologize for the Church’s silence during the Holocaust. On the other hand, the secular media understood that the Pope made an important step with the things he did say. (Ha’aretz, 24/03/00) “The visit of Pope John Paul II to Yad Vashem yesterday was the climax of an historical event which allows us to start over in Jewish-Christian relations. His words regarding the sorrow of the church for crimes committed by Christians during the Holocaust are in union with the spirit of asking for forgiveness by the church, and they open a new horizon in relations between the two religions.”

After this visit the Pope continued on to the north of Israel, to Mount Chorazin, where he held mass for over 100,000 Christian followers. This is by far the biggest Christian gathering ever in Israel. The secular media did not hesitate to quote from the Pope’s very Christian speech, even sometimes comparing the mass to the Sermon on the Mount: “And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.” (Ha’aretz quoting from Matthew 4:25).

Once the religious papers stopped writing about the visit, it was hard to find anything negative about the Pope in the Israeli media coverage. The secular papers began quoting passages from the New Testament, conducting surveys to find how ignorant Israelis really are about Christianity, and so on. His visit seems to have opened up a whole new dimension in the minds of secular Israelis, a dimension willing to learn.