CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW……………………………. JUNE 2000 #1
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 40. Of these, 15 articles focused on the Jehovah’s Witness community in Israel. Five articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity, five articles dealt with land issues, four articles dealt with Jewish/Christian relations and two articles dealt with status issues. The remaining nine articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
The Jewish Falash Mura (Yarchon Tel Aviv, May 2000)
The issue of the Ethiopian Jews, known as the Falash Mura, is a sensitive one. Many have tried to answer the ever-lingering question “are they Jews or Christians?” In this article, Rabbi Valdman gives his opinion according to his own experience.
The Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who chose to convert to Christianity over the past 110 years. According to the law of return, people who convert willingly do not have any rights as Jews. This law is based on the Halacha’s ruling (Jewish religious law) concerning Jewish converts. But Rabbi Valdman found yet another interpretation to this dilemma in rabbinic tradition, which says that a Jew cannot abandon Judaism in the same way a man cannot change his mother. “But as long as you are converted, you have no rights as a Jew.” By using this interpretation, Valdman is claiming something new: that the Falash Mura have in fact returned to their Jewish roots.
Even the Halacha states that there is always a way back. The convert has not become a heathen, and his return is seen as repentance rather than conversion. The elders of the Jewish community in Ethiopia devised a way for the Falash Mura to repent. A week of purification granted them their Jewish rights once again. This has completely changed the face of the Falash Mura in the past ten years.
Today, 26,000 Falash Mura Jews remain in Ethiopia. Of these, 18,000 are concentrated in two immigration camps. They have fully returned to a religious Jewish life. Most of these Jews awaiting immigration have close relatives already here in Israel. The people pay a high price with every passing day. In the past three months, 35 infants and children have died due to the harsh conditions of the “waiting camps,” although these conditions seem to have deepened their faith in a Jewish God and their desire to live in Israel.
The great majority of Falash Mura (77%) are fully “repentant” Jews who keep the law. Do they have any hope of returning to their homeland? Valdman ends his article by saying that never in Jewish history were Jews prevented from returning to their roots by fellow brothers. “Imagine how the Israeli government would react if the same process the Falash Mura have come through would happen in Ukraine or America or anywhere else in the world. I am positive that if a Jewish community in any other country had turned away from its roots only to rediscover them years later, every organization in the world would marvel at the Jewish survival in the Diaspora and rush to their aid.”
Minister of Education Thanks Christians (Chadashot Haifa Vehazafon, 17/05/00)
Yuli Tamir, the Minister of Education, personally thanked Elza Scheller for the work she and her husband helped accomplish over the past eight years. Gustav Scheller headed the Even Ezer organization, which brought over 50,000 Russian immigrants to Israel by boat.
In her letter, Tamir wrote, “over 50,000 Jews owe your husband their new life in Israel.” Only last week another shipload of immigrants docked in Haifa.
Scheller passed away a few months ago due to an illness. His work will be remembered for generations by those very families he brought over to Israel.
Court Ordered Marriage to Christian Man Recognized (Ha’aretz, 31/05/00)
An Ethiopian immigrant won a lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior in an unprecedented case. The court ordered that her status be changed from “divorced” to “married” and permission be granted for her Christian husband to immigrate under the law of return.
The Ethiopian woman was married to a Christian man in 1983. The couple lived in Sudan for seven years before the husband was drafted into the army and the wife returned to Ethiopia with her eldest daughter. In 1991 the woman requested to immigrate to Israel, at which point she was accidentally written down as divorced. When she arrived in Israel she was sick and pregnant and therefore did not notice the error in her documents.
Since then she has repeatedly tried to convince the Ministry of Interior that she is a married woman, but to no avail. In 1995 she returned to Ethiopia with the intent of gathering all the necessary documents which prove her marriage to the Christian man. When this failed, she decided to sue the Ministry of Interior.
The court decided that it is more important for the two little girls to be near their father, rather than leave them alone with their mother. “The State of Israel considers it of great importance for the woman to be written down as married so as to prevent a situation where the woman might remarry, and then find herself married to two men.”
Missionaries Spread Word Through Mail (Yated Ne’eman, 06/06/00)
These religious daily reports on a missionary “cult” that decided to distribute information through local mailboxes. The advertisement was for more information in six different languages, and had no return address on it. The paper claims that the postal authority agreed to place these pamphlets in the mailboxes since the missionaries paid them.
A local rabbi told of his shock at receiving such things in his mailbox. “There are innocent Jews who might be tempted and order this material. Then they will fall drastically.”
Three Months in Prison for Distribution of Missionary Material (Yated Ne’eman, 06/06/00)
Knesset member, Rabbi Gafni, handed in a law proposal which states that missionary work through the mail should be prevented. “Whoever distributes material through mail boxes, fax, email or any other way that might be considered proselytizing … without the consent of the recipient, will be sentenced to three months in prison.”
Large Cross Placed on Atlit Chair (Yated Ne’eman, 08/06/00)
People driving on the coastal road were surprised to discover that someone had placed a large cross on the famous “Atlit Chair.” The chair, made of stone and strategically placed on a high spot, has been on exhibition for years. This religious daily claims it received many complaints from people who drove by the offensive cross that day.
Woman Agrees to Marry Rapist if He Converts to Christianity (Ma’ariv, 12/06/00)
A 39 year old man asked a young woman if she would escort him home since he wasn’t feeling well. The woman agreed and walked him home. Not long after, he jumped on her, beat her, and brutally raped her.
The young woman filed a complaint at the local police station. The suspect was arrested. When taken to court the young woman confronted her rapist, and he, in return offered to marry her if she dropped the charge. Much to everyone’s surprise the young woman agreed to marry him if he promised to convert to Christianity.
Stubborn Fight Against the Tel Aviv Soul Hunters (Hamodia, 12/06/00)
Yad L’achim has discovered yet another missionary ploy. Every week the Messianic Jewish cult brings together a number of children for the purpose of convincing them to convert to Christianity.
Yad L’achim gathered around the building in anger and were stunned to see a number of children walk out after their “lesson.” Their distress comes as a result of the devastating work taking place in south Tel Aviv, where many people have already fallen victim to the missionaries there.
Yad L’achim reports that it has changed its tactics for this case, and is planning on protesting outside the building each week, crying the Shema and talking to the children who are falling prey to the missionaries.
When the missionaries saw the success of the activists they began hurling things at them, and even threatened to kill one of them. The activist was quick to file a complaint at the local police station.