CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW SEPTEMBER, 2000 #1
The number of articles found in the Israeli media’s coverage of matters relating to Messianic Jews, the mission and other Christian matters came to a total of 55. Of these, 13 articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity, eight articles expressed opinions regarding the beatification of Popes Pius IX and John XXIII and the canonization of Czar Nicholas by the Russian Orthodox Church, eight articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations, five articles were on the Vatican’s position regarding the future of Jerusalem’s Old City in a peace agreement, three articles dealt with the changes being made in the Christian Affairs Department of the Israeli government, three articles were on the history of church buildings around the country, and one article reported on the new High Court ruling regarding the status of non-Jews who marry Jews. The remaining 13 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Judaism Seen as a Reflection of Christianity (Haaretz, 25/08/00)
This article, which appeared in a secular daily, discusses a recently published book, “Two Nations in Your Womb. The book is written by Dr. Israel Yuval, a Jewish history professor at Hebrew University, and discusses the ways in which modern Judaism was formed as a reaction to Christianity.
Yuval states that Christianity was not endeavoring to replace Biblical Judaism whilst Judaism remained faithful to it, but rather, in the same historical period, following the destruction of the temple, both religions claimed to be the rightful heir to Biblical Judaism. Moreover, Yuval emphasizes that the Mishnah and Talmud were sealed 100 and 400 years respectively after the New Testament had been written, and thus chances are that the NT and the traditions that sprung from it had a significant impact on these later writings and not the other way around. Regarding holidays such as Shavuot and Pesach, post-destruction Judaism somewhat altered the Biblical celebration and meaning of the holidays in order to highlight the differences between these holidays and Christianity’s Pentecost and Easter. Yuval raises many other such examples. He presents his objection to the current depiction of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as that of a mother and daughter, and prefers to describe them as siblings, much like the twins Jacob and Esau, and thus the title of the book.
When asked by the reporter what his motivation for writing the book was, Yuval replied, “I didn’t write these things in order to be provocative…what motivated me was the desire to understand…”
Yuval further states that the condition for applying lessons learned from history to today’s world is that the historic situation be studied thoroughly, including all its unique circumstances and subtleties. Only then can one attempt a current application, and not in the simplistic manner in which [this attempt] is usually made.”
The Law of Return does not provide rights for a non-Jewish spouse (Haaretz, 27/08/00)
Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak declined a request to further discuss the ruling that a non-Jewish spouse of a Jewish citizen of Israel is not entitled to the rights provided by the Law of Return. This ruling had denied the requests of 31 such couples and had set a precedent which is now being backed up by the Supreme Court. Judge Aharon Barak explained that the Law of Return was designed to gather in the Jewish people from all over the world, and had thus allowed for Jews to come with non-Jewish spouses. The couples represented in this case, however, did not fall under this category. He said that awarding citizenship in such cases would be discrimination against non-Jewish citizens, whose spouses do not get special rights through marriage.
Rabbi Kook speaks about religions other than Judaism (Hatzofeh, 01/09/00)
In this article, Rabbi Binyamin Tzvieli presents Rabbi Kook’s opinions of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. While finding certain positive aspects in the two former religions, he negates the latter.
Tzvieli sees Kook’s negation of Christianity explained by the fact that Christianity negates [good] deeds, the ability to act. He quotes Rabbi Kook: “The idea of Christianity is abstract and disconnected from the real world. Faith is not founded nor does it achieve its purpose if it is not combined with deeds. Christianity thought it knew God. It measured the Immeasurable by the truth of human morality, a measure which could be used when [this morality] appeared, and [Christianity] imagined that it knew what cannot be felt. [Christianity] has grown near to idolatry and has become entangled in idolatrous concepts to such an extent that it cannot be purified from them unless there comes a complete breaking of its independence that would bring about a cancellation of its shape and the return of its good parts to the source from which they were first removed – to the treasure of the Torah and the light of Israel.”
Missionaries at the Briza Festival in Ashkelon (Or Hadash, 01/09/00)
This article appears in an ultra-orthodox weekly and speaks of missionaries handing out tracts at the Briza Music Festival in Ashkelon. Yad L’achim supposedly stopped the activity, and informed the paper that a man named Katz was behind this activity. They said they are making efforts to locate him and to get hold of his picture.
Argentinian Jews protest Messianic Jewish event in Buenos Aires (Hamodia, 01/09/00 and 06/09/00)
These articles appear in a daily Hebrew ultra-orthodox paper and in its English version, which is published once a week. The article tells of a three-day missionary conference that took place in one of Buenos Aires’ most popular parks, and which attracted over 30,000 participants. The writers accuse the Messianic Jewish conference organizers of presenting it as an international festival of Jewish music and dance. The local Jewish community asked a judge to keep the conference from taking place, a request he did not grant. He did, however, ask the event organizers to remove large Jewish symbols such as the Magen David and the Menorah.
A news release issued by the AMIA Jewish Community Center stated, “These so-called Messianic Jews who use Jewish symbols are actually a group of Christian missionaries, who are very active in the United States, whose aim is to attract misinformed Jews to convert them.”
Yad L’achim exposes a missionary preschool in Kiryat Bialik (Hamodiah, 05/09/00, Kfar Habad, 07/09/00)
This article appeared in two ultra-orthodox papers, and speaks of the discovery of a Messianic Jewish day care center in Kiryat Bialik called “Maon Yedidiah”, which presented itself in an ad promising “interesting music classes, reading and math, movement activities, dance exercises, art and sculpture.” Nowhere in the ad is it mentioned that the preschool is Messianic Jewish, but, according to one mother, they teach about “that man” and about the New Testament. She was also astonished to find her son quoting verses from the New Testament. The writers expressed their anger at missionaries who they believe are trying to infiltrate the Israeli education system. They promised to fight in legal ways for the closing of the day care center.
Changes at the Christian Affairs Department of the Israeli government (The Jerusalem Post, 07/09/00 and 11/09/00, Kol Haeer, 08/09/00)
The Christian Affairs Department, which belongs to the dissolving Ministry of Religious Affairs, recently shut down for a few days. The former director of the department for the past twenty years, Uri Mor, and his assistant, Yehudit Sar-Shalom, both retired at the beginning of September. There is no one to take their place. They offered to stay on as volunteers until replacements were found for them, but the Civil Service commissioner rejected the offer.
Yossi Beilin, the acting Religious Affairs Minister, is planning to expand the department into a division, which would then become part of the Prime Minister’s Office. For a few days at the beginning of September, however, the department was almost completely shut down. It re-opened on September 10th and, for now, until a replacement for Uri Mor is found, it is being run full time by Dr. Nissim Dana. He is the director of the division for non-Jewish religions, who had been dealing with urgent matters the department normally deals with, such as arranging visas for clergy and volunteers for Christian institutions. Dr Dana will be assisted by three other employees of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
United States rabbis issue treatise regarding ties with Christianity (The Jerusalem Post, 10/09/00, Haaretz, 10/09/00)
A group of 170 Rabbis and Jewish scholars from North America have issued a treatise on Christianity and interfaith relations, saying that “Christianity has changed dramatically”, and that the change in the Church’s attitude toward Judaism in recent years justifies a more positive, reciprocal approach on part of the Jews towards Christians and their faith.
The statement called ‘Dabru Emet’ (sspeak the truth), which was published on behalf of the Center for Jewish and Christian Studies in Baltimore, appeared in The New York Times on September 10th, and makes the following points:
- Jews and Christians worship the same God.
- Jews and Christians seek authority from the same book, the Bible (what Jews call ‘Tanakh’ and Christians call the ‘Old Testament’).
- Christians can respect the claim of the Jewish people in regards to the land of Israel.
- Jews and Christians accept the moral principles of Torah.
- Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon.
- The humanly irreconcilable difference between Jews and Christians will not be settled until God redeems the entire world as promised in Scripture.
- A new relationship between Jews and Christians will not weaken Jewish practice.
- Jews and Christians must work together for justice and peace.
(Source: Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies)
The document says that since the Holocaust, Christianity has changed dramatically. “An increasing number of official Church bodies, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, have made public statements of their remorse about Christian mistreatment of Jews and Judaism.”
“We believe these changes merit a thoughtful Jewish response. Speaking only for ourselves – an interdenominational group of Jewish scholars – we believe it is time for Jews to learn about the efforts of Christians to honor Judaism. We believe it is time for Jews to reflect on what Judaism can now say about Christianity.”
The document further states, “While Christian worship is not a viable religious choice for Jews, as Jewish theologians we rejoice that, through Christianity, hundreds of millions of people have entered into relationship with the God of Israel.”
Regarding the land of Israel, the theologians remarked, “As members of a biblically based religion, Christians appreciate that Israel was promised – and given – to Jews as the physical center of the covenant between them and God. Many Christians support the State of Israel for reasons far more profound than mere politics. As Jews, we applaud this support. We also recognize that Jewish tradition mandates justice for all non-Jews who reside in a Jewish state.”
With regard to Nazism, the document states, “Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out… But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity. If the Nazi extermination of the Jews had been fully successful, it would have turned its murderous rage more directly to Christians.”
Several dozen academics declined to sign the statement because they objected to specific aspects of the treatise, not because they opposed the purpose of the document.
New company provides computer training for ultra-orthodox Jews (Haaretz, 10/09/00)
The Baan brothers, two Dutch Calvinists, approached the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, and requested that he put them in touch with the ultra-orthodox Jewish world. They established a connection with “Makhon Lev” (The Lev Institute- an ultra-orthodox yeshiva), which opened a one-year computer programmers course. The JBE Company was then formed to ensure them work opportunities once they completed their course.
The company is at Har Hakhotzvim in Jerusalem. Its CEO is Eliezer (“Laser”) Rotestein, and is an orthodox Jew, and the sales manager, Uri Davidovitz, is a secular Jew.
“The missionary criminals enjoy immunity, while Yad L’achim activists get prosecuted” (Hamodia, 11/09/00)
MP Rabbi Meir Porush, chairman of the “Yehadut Hatorah” political party wrote a letter to Dr. Yossi Beilin, Minister of Justice, complaining about the treatment of Yad L’achim activists who are being prosecuted for infringement of the religious rights of a Jehovah’s Witness. In his letter, the rabbi states, “There is no more miserable and painful situation than that in which missionary criminals enjoy a sort of immunity and work without limitations, while the legal system indites, of all people, the Yad L’achim activists who are trying to warn about the missionaries’ criminal acts… I have seen an upside-down world. Instead of prosecuting the missionary who, like his comrades in opinion and deed, spares no means to his end, the legal system chose to put Jews who are faithful to Jewish heritage and who acted within the boundaries of the state law, on the seat of the accused.”