CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW…………………………………………………..APRIL 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 120.
The majority of these articles (71 in all) focused on the Pope’s visit and the implications of such a visit. Of the remaining articles, ten dealt with Jewish -Christian relations, five articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity, and five articles dealt with history and archeology. The remaining 29 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Jewish Students Meet With Christian Students (Kan Darom, 17/03/00)
Rabbi Gafni (a Knesset member) was outraged to discover that Jewish students from a secular school in the south of the country met up with Christian students from Nazareth. He immediately submitted a *sheilta* to the Knesset demanding an explanation for such an act. Gafni asked the school principal if he was aware of the fact that Anglicans teach people to convert to Christianity. “It is more than likely that they tried to convert there.”
A parent of one of the students commented on this ordeal by saying that “the fact that we support understanding between the two religions does not mean that tomorrow we will become Christians. We are all for openness between the two. Gafni has the choice of not going to the Anglican school, and I’m sure they would not show much willingness in having him come.”
The Number of Christians in Israel Today (Yated Ne’eman, 31/03/00)
“During the 20th century, while absolute numbers increased, the relative number of Christians declined.” This is the result of a recent statistics report on the population of Christians in Israel. According to the report, Christians of all denominations make up 2.1% of the population.
The largest Christian population is found in Nazareth (19,600). Other Christian concentrations are: Haifa, 15,600, Jerusalem, 14,000, Shfaram, 7,600 and Tel Aviv – Jaffa, 4,600.
Falash Mura as Suspects (Hatzofe, 10/04/00, The Jerusalem Post, 12/04/00, Ha’aretz, 13/04/00)
The Ethiopians known as the Falash Mura (descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity) have been under a lot of pressure in recent months. They are being accused by several different factors, that their conversion to Judaism was never fulfilled, and that they remain Christians. This accusation is a serious one since the Falash Mura are living in Israel as Jews with all the benefits of new immigrants.
The Minister of Interior, Sharanski, recently returned from a trip to Ethiopia where he looked into the situation of the Falash Mura, and their right to return to Israel as Jews. Apparently there are some 26,000 Falash Mura wanting to make aliya.
A video released a few months ago has been at the center of this controversy. The video shows Ethiopians in a Christian setting, but it remains unclear if the Ethiopians shown are Falash Mura , or just tourists. If it is proved that the Falash Mura Ethiopians are indeed still Christian, their status will be looked into, and further decisions will be made.
Missionaries Celebrating Passover (HaModia, 13/04/00)
The missionaries are at work again, this time using the Passover meal as their ground for destruction. They have invited people of low or no income to attend a Seder meal organized by three congregations: Beit Avinu, led by David Lazarus, Adoni Roi, led by Avi Mizrahi, and Kehilat Hasharon which is led by Ari Sorko Ram.Yad L’achim begs the public to support them in their efforts to bring an end to such destruction.
Supplement: Pope’s final day in Israel
In an intensely emotional moment, Pope John Paul the Second placed a note in the Western Wall on his last day in Israel. The note read: “God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your name to the nations. We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking Your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant.”
The note was later removed (with the Vatican’s approval) and placed in Yad Vashem on a permanent display.
The chief rabbi of Norway later said that “the very fact that the Pope had chosen to visit that place, so sacred to the Jewish people, showed that we are entering a new era. It has a theological significance, the recognition of the end of the period of humiliation of the Jewish people.”
RUSSIAN LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER SUPPLEMENT……………………………..April #1, 2000
The period of two weeks (1.04.00- 14.04.00) was active from the perspective of the Russian media’s coverage of matters related to papal visit to Jerusalem and Jewish matters. Of the 51 articles in “Vesti”, “Novosti Nedeli” and “Nasha Strana”, 13 dealt with the visit of Pope to Israel, 11 with the ideas of Judaism and Zionism, 9 with the visit of Natan Scharansky to Ethiopia in relation to the aliah of falash murah, 6 with the status of non-Jews and religious rights, 6 were interviews with or stories about prominent people in Judaism, 6 dealt with miscellaneous matters.
The Third Temple and the Field of Death (30.03.00, Vesti)
The Tel-Aviv based daily investigates possibilities of building of the third temple in Jerusalem in a one page feature article. Accompanied by a photograph of the draft of the temple, the text tries to convey the idea of the third temple and to talk about the eschatological meaning of it.
“To many, the building of the third temple seems an eschatological task, a so-called mission, an effort, the point of which is to break free from history. Such sentiments can be hardly called fair. The temple is designed for our sinful world. So the re-building of the temple is precisely our return to history, not escape from it.”
“The first and the second temples existed in history, Shechina abode in them, so there is no ground to think that the building of the third temple is synonymous with the end of the world.”
“The third temple should be built the way it’s depicted by Ezekiel. And to this end we need additional prophesies.”
“But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make preliminary steps, that we shouldn’t strive at restoring the temple service, the religious meaning of which is very big and is not reduced to just the atonement of sins.”
Separate Religion from the State or Jews from the State? (30.03.00, Vesti)
In a feature article the author Yuval Steinitz expresses dissatisfaction at the denial of the liberal circles to celebrate the 50-th anniversary of the state of Israel.
“Struggle against racism and religious dictatorship has a lot more expressed character, than the struggle for the very existence of Israel as a home for Jews. So, when the democrats dwell on the necessity to separate religion from the state, we hear in their words the call to separate the Jewish people from their own state.”
Afterword to the Visit (30.03.00, Vesti)
In a two-page feature article, with the photo of the Pope during his visit to Israel, the Russian daily presents Dr.Shmuel Berkhovitch’s evaluation of the papal visit.
“Even though the idea of a Jewish state contradicts the Christian theology, many Christian countries have supported the establishment of the Israeli state.” Which, in Shmuel Berkhovitch’s opinion, is explained mostly by the feelings of remorse. “It’s Christians who are responsible for the birth of anti-Semitism, and this rewarding soil served as the beginning of the Nazi ideology.”
The article goes into the history of Jewish -Christian relationships in considerable depth, touching upon the relations between the Vatican and Israel and their leaders. In the end it evaluates this Pope’s visit to the Holy land.
“The behavior of the Pope John Paul II was dual – on the one hand, he was ready to be close to Israel and Judaism, on the other – with Islam and Palestinians. ..At the same time Pope John Paul II has taken the most considerable steps towards Israel and the Jewish people, which never had been done by his predecessors.”
“This papal visit means establishing peace between Christianity, persecuting Jews for many hundreds of years, and Judaism, — although, of course, anti-Semitism will not be over even after this peacemaking visit.”
Find Your Rest (30.03.00, Vesti)
In a two-page feature article, together with the photo of the hero of the story, the author interviews a German Holocaust survivor named Luther Sheine. Luther Sheine is the author of an autobiography, in which he portrays the life of his parents before and after the Holocaust. His mother was a Jew married to a German Christian. The interview was occassioned by the refusal of Rabbis to bury Luther Sheine’s mother according to Jewish law, as it was her last wish.
“The Rabbi listened to him up to the point where Sheine said that his late mother had wished to be buried next to her Christian husband. Here the Rabbi interrupted him and said: ‘I cannot come. This is impossible from either a theological or historic viewpoint. Your mother is dead – the thread ends here, the connection is broken. Peace be to her soul.’ “
“July, 26 they came to the graveyard… Luther had a little sack with soil in his pocket. Not from Eretz Israel, but from a Jewish graveyard. Only a narrow path separates the Jewish cemetery from the Christian one. The coffin… was lowered into the grave and covered with soil. The priest said the speech. Fred said kaddish in Hebrew. After that Luther gave in and also said kaddish. ‘Mother won. It was her last request, and I decided to fulfill it. Without any connection to Jewishness’.”
The First Official (06.04.00, Vesti)
The minister of foreign affairs Natan Scharansky is trying to get to know the situation in Ethiopian refugee camps in Addis-Ababa and Gondara, where at the moment live around 26.000 representatives of falashmurah, stating that they have the right of repatriation.
“We are talking about human fates, — the minister said. – On the one hand, it’s necessary to do everything possible, so that those, who have the right of repatriation, could do it. On the other hand, we are not going to fling the gates open before those who have nothing to do with Jewishness.”
The Freedom of Choice (06.04.00,Vesti)
The article presents an interview with the founder of amutah “The Free Israelite” Yakov Shultz, and touches upon the problem of separating religion and the state.
“When we read, that the main problem of the government and the state of Israel in general is the conflict between the parties SHAS and MERETZ, these conclusions seem outrageously superficial to me. In reality the problem is much wider – it lies in the opposition of ultra-orthodox parties to the rest of Israel.”
“I have founded a fellowship “The Free Israelite”, whose goal is to attract public attention to the conflict between religion and the state in Israel. ..The only thing that can take Israel out of this vicious circle of inner confrontation between ‘the radical’ and ‘the moderate’ is separation of the state and religion.”
Rebbbitzin of Her Own Soul (30.03.00,Vesti)
In a two-page interview with a former Muscovite, now Reformed Rebbitzin Yelena Rubinshtein, the article touches upon the problem of women in the rabbinic ministry. The text under a photograph of Yelena Rubunshtein tells the story of her life and decision to become a Rabbi. Now Yelena is convinced that there are no secular people – everybody prays to someone.
“The Reformed Russian –speaking community in Beer-Sheva was formed around … a jewelry store. And Yelena has become its soul. Gradually, a group was established, where people wanted to talk not only about mortgages and lost status, but about something more eternal.”
“I think that the first commandment should be that of relationship to people, not to rituals. Progressive Judaism allows a person to choose the commandments, which he is prepared to observe sensibly and responsibly.”
The Red Cross and the Red Shield of David (30.03.00, Vesti)
The article is concerned with the future development of relationships between Israel and the Red Cross organization. The author investigates possibilities of adding the Magen David to the symbols of the Red Cross and disagrees with the decision of the Red Cross not to develop too many symbols of the organization.
“The chairman of the American Red Cross Mrs. Hili has addressed this issue to the president of the International Committee Mr. Sommaruga. He answered: ‘ If we agree to the Magen David, why not to the swastika then?’”
“The American Red Cross intends to leave this international organization, thus signaling their support of Israel, and to stop paying their annual fee, which amounts to five million dollars.”
The Pope in the Holy Land (30.03.00)
The article under a photograph of the Pope near the Wailing Wall comments on the accomplishments of the papal visit in the area of forgiveness and peacemaking between Christians and Jews.
“The Pope tried to improve relations between religions, but here as well encountered misunderstanding – the scared Orthodox Jews didn’t trust inter-confessional dialogue. The intolerant sheiks refused to talk with the rabbis altogether, and the Jerusalem mufti didn’t show up for the three-sided meeting with the participation of rabbis and the most forward-looking of all Roman Popes.”
“It’s easy to foresee, that the peacemaking trip of John Paul II will lead exclusively to aggravation of Palestinian-Jewish relationships – each side, whose ambitions have now been backed by the friendly position of the Pope, will be claiming their rights for the Holy Land and Jerusalem with an even greater stubbornness.”
A Little Bit Longer And… (11.04.00, Vesti)
In a lengthy feature article the Russian daily looks into the issue of the immigration of non-Jews. The author Yakov Aronovitch says:
“These people come to the country illegally, using the imperfection of the Law of Return, the irresponsibility and … corruption of our representatives, who are entrusted with controlling of the repatriation process.”
“According to some data, today Israel hosts more than three hundred thousand illegal foreigners: from prostitutes and representatives of the criminal world to highly qualified construction workers. .. Illegal immigrants constitute about 15% of the country’s working population.”
“Easiness, which the state displays in giving its citizenship to all the Jews, has promoted the birth of a special industry in the countries of CIS, which involves itself in ‘producing’ and ‘transportation’ of new citizens to Israel.”
“All the illegal immigrants, if they are not guilty of anything else, have to be deported to their permanent homes. It will require great efforts, but we don’t have any other choice.”
Discussing the Problems of Conversion (12.04.00, Novosti Nedeli)
The Supreme Soviet in its enlarged membership, with participation of 11 judges, is in the process of discussing a principal issue – is the state obliged to acknowledge non-orthodox conversion. The focus of the debates is the disagreement of the state with the ruling of Chairman of the Jerusalem District Court Vardi Ziler, according to which a number of reformed conversions are acknowledged, which were performed both in Israel and abroad. In relation to non-orthodox conversion the ministry claims, that it goes against the fact, that there is only one “Jewish community” in Israel with the Head Rabbinate ruling it.
“If the conversion monopoly is no longer in the hands of the Head Rabbinate, there will be complete anarchy in this area, and the Jewishness of any eager citizen will be acknowledged.”
“The appellation, presented by the ministry of internal affairs to the Supreme Soviet, underlined the necessity to acknowledge conversion, performed abroad, only when the person is the member of the Jewish community which has performed the conversion.”
“Reformed” Brit-Milah (12.04.00, Vesti)
This week a special course will be started by the Israeli movement of progressive Judaism. The course will carry out training of professional mohels (people, who perform circumcision). In the course of studies the students will be given the necessary medical skills, as well as the idea of the religious and philosophic aspects of the ceremony.
“ ‘ We are convinced that they will have a lot of work in the future: almost every newborn in Israel undergoes brit-milah, but not every family wants this ceremony performed by an orthodox mohel’, said the head of the Jewish pluralism Center Uri Regev.”
Citizens Against Haredization (14.04.00, Vesti)
Secular citizens of Jerusalem district Neve-Yakov, supported by their neighbors in Pisgat- Zeev, have started a struggle against the intention of the ministry of education and the city establishments.
“Chairman of the local council of Pisgat-Zeev Dani Fridman has written to the minister: ‘Our district is fighting for its image. We don’t want its haredization. However, with the help of the majority in the city council, the haredim are trying to use every opportunity to open their establishments in the very center of the secular quarters. Just like we don’t try to open disco clubs in haredi districts, they shouldn’t impose their schools on us.”
The municipality has refused to comment on the situation, stating that this issue has been taken up by the department of religious affairs.