CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW………….. OCTOBER, 2000 #1
During the time period covered by this Media Review (approximately two weeks), 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 34.
* eight articles reviewed events related to the Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles Conference;
* seven articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations;
* five articles detailed archaeological discoveries and exhibitions at local museums, related to the time of Jesus;
* four articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity;
* three articles contained reactions to the current surge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians;
* two articles discussed Christians and non-Jews in Israel;
* one article dealt with Israeli attitudes towards Christianity.
The remaining four articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
The Change of the Millenium (Netiv, September 2000)
This article reviews a book entitled “L’antijudaisme Chretien, La Mutation” (“Christian Anti-Semitism, the Mutation”), written by Paul Giniewski, which was published in France. The reviewer, Rafi Israeli, sees the book as an expression of the nation of Israel’s struggle among the nations and its uncompromising dedication to the existence and survival of Jewish culture.
Giniewski deals with a problematic history, according to the reviewer, in which the entire Christian world was in conflict with the persecuted and humiliated Jewish minority that lived among it. Giniewski speaks in the first chapter of his book of the extent to which Christianity assisted in bringing about anti-Semitism, by “secretly de-legitimizing Jews, and turning them into the enemies of Christianity, and of humanity, by their mere existence,” according to Israeli. Giniewski also speaks of anti-Semitism taking on a new form in anti-Zionism, an idea more common in the liberal circles of today.
The author goes on to describe a new trend, Christianity’s appreciation for Jews and Judaism, which has become especially apparent in the Catholic Church. He sees a further need for the Church to apologize for all it has caused, and to work for the eradication of anti-Semitism. The outbursts of anti-Semitism throughout the Christian world cause Giniewski to doubt the possibility of such a change: Is the change in theological and spiritual terminology enough to bring a change in the beliefs, the prejudices, and the deeply rooted hatred of the simple man?
Giniewski concludes with a chapter about the current wave of anti-Semitism among the Arab nations. He then discusses Christian Zionism, which he dealt with in greater detail in his previous book “History of Zionism,” and tells the stories of many Christian individuals, from the 15th century and on, who dedicated their lives to the return of the Jewish nation to its land.
Most Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are not Jews (Shofar (September 2000), Malabes (22/09/00))
In these two local area papers, the writers speak of the extensive immigration of non-Jews from the ex-Soviet Union to Israel, and the dangers anticipated arising from this situation. They also attempt to discover the reasons for this situation and to apportion blame. Both articles mention individuals with different stories: some who have married Christians and made Aliya with them, some who have proven they have a Jewish grandparent and have then come with a spouse and sometimes children, and some who have simply forged documents that have allowed them to come and receive the benefits of Olim (Jewish immigrants to Israel).
Whatever the case may be, there is a growing fear, especially among religious Jews in Israel, that a sizeable gentile population is slowly filtering in and affecting the demographics of the Jewish country. They say that churches throughout Israel have begun to fill up, mostly with Russian immigrants, some of which are even Jewish by birth. These immigrants are somewhat fearful that their beliefs may be discovered and that they would lose benefits and possibly be kicked out of the country. Others are less so. One Jewish immigrant who had married a Christian woman said that he was a Christian by faith, and therefore attended a Russian Orthodox Church in Haifa. He went on to say that Israel claims to be democratic, but it is not, because people in it do not think democratically. “I am from a Jewish family. What I believe is something else. Each person decides that for himself. Some people want to decide to be atheists, and some people want to decide like this. I decided that I want to be a Christian.”
Another recent phenomenon is growth in the church caused by foreign workers in Israel. Some churches have started special services for these workers in their own languages, and are trying to help them in other ways too.
In an interview with Knesset member Avraham Ravitz from the Ultra-orthodox party Yehadut Hatorah, he claimed that, “There are 300,000 gentiles in this country, according to the Ministry of Interior. The Law of Return is ridiculous, and the “grandchild” category is taken advantage of in a shameful way. Anyone whose grandfather was a Jew, even if he is himself a perfect Christian, can make Aliya. These are people who take advantage of the law and receive benefits… This minority, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews who deny their Judaism and the Arab minority, comprise a big danger to our very existence as a Jewish state.”
Another [seemingly unrelated] fact that is mentioned in the first article, is that there is a Christian group named “Even Ha’ezer” which has been helping Jews from the former Soviet Union to immigrate to Israel. “They claim to be motivated by their love for Israel, but their real motive is grounded in their Christian faith. They believe that the completion of the return of the Jews to their country, is a prerequisite to the revelation of “That Man,” and to all Jews accepting the Christian faith. They may not be doing active missionary work, but that is the root of their interest in Jews.” The article goes on to say that more gentiles than Jews are immigrating to Israel these days. “Many of them continue to live here as Christians, and they are proud of their Christian identity and are joining in the process of blurring and canceling the Jewish character of the State of Israel.”
The Cardinal who Fought Forgetfulness (Bakeren (fall 2000))
A new garden on the slopes of Mount Zion has been dedicated to the memory of Cardinal Alver Decortrey, Archbishop of Lyonnes. Following a visit to Auschwitz. Cardinal Decortrey (1923-1994) became very active in the struggle to found a Carmelite Church on the ruins of the death camp. He was considered a friend of the Jewish people, and helped save many Jews during World War II. The dedication of the garden took place in May, and was attended by Jewish and Christian leaders from Poland, Italy, and Switzerland, the French Ambassador, and several politicians.
Missionaries Attack Yad L’achim Activists, Police Refused to Deal with Complaint (Hamodia (04/10/00)
In this religious daily, an anonymous reporter tells of dangerous missionary activity by Messianic Jews taking place in a building on Lachish Street in Kiryat Yam. He claims that in the past few weeks, propaganda meetings have taken place with over 150 participants, among them Jews who have unfortunately fallen into the trap of the “Mission.”
The writer goes on to describe the situation: The meetings are run by a missionary from the USA, and supported by an Amuta (non-profit organization) called “Ohalei Rahamim,” which is registered and recognized by the Ministry of Interior. The missionaries also run a humanitarian aid station. The missionary center, which has been operating in this location for 5 years, has aroused the fury of the area’s residents. They in turn approached the Yad L’achim’s department for struggle against the Mission, with the demand that measures be taken to remove the Messianic Jews from the area.
According to the report, Yad L’achim activists arrived in the area one Monday night, and started to protest the “Journey towards Destruction,” by distributing information and speaking with the local residents. The people of the Mission in turn called the police and claimed that they were being attacked. The police came and arrested one of the activists and ordered him not to go near the building for 15 days. The next day three more activists arrived in the area and started to put anti-Messianic Jewish propaganda in the residents’ mailboxes. According to the report, the missionaries then came out of the building and began to attack the activists, to threaten them, and to try to steal their camera and bag. When the Yad L’achim activists called the police to the area complaining that this was the second time the activists had been attacked in 24 hours, the police refused to follow up on the complaint, and one of the officers said, “Go to your synagogues and distribute the material there.”
Yad L’achim activists are claiming that the police are aiding the Mission.
Moslem Invasion (The Jerusalem Post (04/10/00 and 05/10/00))
Jan Willem Van Der Hoeven, Director of the International Zionist Christian Center, is quoted in a letter to the editor of this secular daily, speaking about the recent outburst of violence in Israel. The head of the Likud party, Ariel Sharon, and several other Knesset members are thought to have incited the violence by a visit to the Temple Mount. Van Der Hoeven disagrees, “As if he [Ariel Sharon] were the one responsible for the wanton destruction and violence that has erupted all over the land of Israel. Just because he, an opposition leader, wanted to visit the place most holy to Judaism, on one of the High Holy Days.
“How would the British react if Buckingham palace or St. Paul’s Cathedral had been taken over by invading Moslems, who by building four mosques around these places (as they have done on Israel’s holiest and most important site), would henceforth claim sole ownership.
“Imagine if the British were not allowed to visit their own historical royal residential site, or to pray in St. Paul’s Cathedral.”
“The Descent from the Cross” (Maariv, Tel Aviv edition (06/10/00)
Yoram Meltzer, a critic in this secular daily, takes a look at a book entitled “The Descent from the Cross,” written by Binyamin Shvili, recently published in Hebrew. He says, “There is a special place for Binyamin Shvili in Hebrew literature. In a place where so many try to convince us that they are inventing a world and telling us stories about it, when in actuality they are drawing from the shallow and trite surfaces of their own life, Shvili stands out among them with a characteristic that differentiates him from his surroundings: the truth. Not truth in the historical sense…but an inner truth, of soul and spirit, a truth that leads him in the twists and turns of investigation and writing.”
In the book, the hero travels through Italy, Greece, and the ruins of Yugoslavia. “The writer is searching for God, and does so initially in the most obvious way for the areas through which he is traveling: by the Son of God, Jesus the Nazarene… In these countries the seal of the Son of God is supposed to open doors to the Father. Perhaps Shvili believes that in this way, even if only for a moment and even if only in a reflection or tiny shimmer, we may be able to pull the Father and the Son out of the claws of institutionalized religion, which has trapped them in their sanctuaries, crucified the Son, and placed the Father in the distant reaches of heaven.”
Shvili’s journeys take him to the war-torn Yugoslavia, where people are caught up in destruction, hatred, and conquest. He asks himself the question: If Jesus took upon himself the sins of humanity, what significance does that act have in a world that refuses to be redeemed and to remain in that Christian redemption which it received 2,000 years ago?
Shvili is assisted in his writing by his deep familiarity with the New Testament and with hassidic writing. Thus he is able to create short story-like texts that sound like the Christian parables and miracles “before they were buried beneath the heavy hand of didactics and institutional fortification.”
“Shvili is on his personal ‘Via Dolorosa.’ At the end of his journey of suffering, his only hopes: descent from the cross, personal redemption, abandonment of symbolism, and humans becoming human.”
The Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles Conference in Jerusalem (The Jerusalem Post (12/10/00, 15/10/00, 17/10/00, 18/10/00); Maariv (15/10/00), Globes (16/10/00)
Although the current tense situation had already caused many Jewish tourists to cancel their trips to Israel, the Christian pilgrims to the Christian Embassy’s 21st Annual Feast of Tabernacles Celebration did not seem to have been daunted. According to these articles, only two of 100 groups expected for the conference cancelled. About 5,000 Christians, from over 100 countries around the globe, arrived for the eight-day conference held at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem.
On the opening night of the conference, Minister Michael Melchior, who spoke to the crowd, was presented with a petition calling for a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. Over 100,000 church members and Christians from around the world signed the petition. The Christian Embassy, which represents mostly evangelical Christian supporters of Israel, said that the petition, which spoke of Israel’s “exemplary record” in guaranteeing access to biblical sites, represented the sentiments of some 15 million of their fellow believers from around the world, including Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Joseph (formerly Mustafa) Farhan, a signer from Iraq who was born in Basra and now lives in Stockholm, said he came to the event because God sent him as a messenger of love and peace. “I grew up hearing that Israel is the enemy,” Farhan said. “But Israel is right in protecting itself in the conflict.”
Embassy spokesman David Parsons said that the event is intended to demonstrate widespread Christian support for Israel. The Christian Embassy, which consists of 40 branches worldwide, raises millions of dollars annually to support its pro-Israel outreach and charitable causes here. “We can’t just be fair-weather friends and abandon the Jewish people,” Parsons said. “We are here to tell Israel that you are not alone, especially now. People are here not just in spite of the conflict, but because of it.”
Some of the pilgrims also participated in Succoth’s special “Birkat Hakohanim” (priestly blessing) at the Western Wall. According to one article, these “Christian Zionists” prayed for Jerusalem’s welfare and sang hymns for the building of the Third Temple.
Ehud Olmert, mayor of Jerusalem, also spoke at the conference. “Speaking like a revivalist speaker, Olmert told the enthusiastic pilgrims that, ‘We are sisters and brothers in our blood and in our heart,’ and that the few cancellations for the event are a powerful statement. ‘In Sharm e-Sheikh they should hear your strong voice for the future of Jerusalem,’ the mayor said.”
The participants in the weeklong event also joined the Jerusalem march, wearing colorful national costumes. The event featured speeches on a variety of Christian topics and performances by delegations of Inuits and native Americans and dancers from the Caribbean and the Philippines. Many marched under slogans such as, “Israel, we love you” and “Israel, you are not alone,” distributing flags of their native countries and candy to the crowd. “We have been participating in the march for more than 20 years to show solidarity for Israel and as a way to connect with the Israeli people,” International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s director Johann Luckoff said. Among the sea of foreigners in the parade, a single man piqued the interests of many, marching alone under the sign of his native country, Iraq. “I am here to bless Israel and tell the world that Jerusalem belongs only to the Jewish people,” he said.
Many spectators were encouraged by the support Israel received from other countries. One Jewish resident of Jerusalem remarked, “I wish more Israelis would have this fervor.”
Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel Appeals and Prays for Peace (Haaretz (13/10/00); The Jerusalem Post (18/10/00)
A prayer gathering for Jewish, Moslem, and Christian participants was held at the Tantur Institute in Jerusalem, between the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, under the auspices of the Inter-religious Coordinating Council in Israel. The gathering, which took place on the 18th of October, was intended to be a symbolic gesture for peace by people identified with the organization. “We would likel the world to know that not everyone thinks that catastrophe is upon us,” said Dr. Ron Kronish, ICCI director.
In addition to organizing the gathering, the ICCI also issued an appeal to political leaders to return to the path of peace through the peace process. The appeal was published in the secular daily, Haaretz, on October the 13th. “We remind [the political leaders] that achieving peace will not be merely a victory for the political leaders, but also for the peoples in the region who strive to live in dignity and with security. To achieve peace… each side [must] stop blaming the other and [must] abide by the agreements already reached,” the statement said. The statement also called for both religious and political leaders to condemn provocative rhetoric and violence against human beings and holy sites. It stressed that these leaders should express sympathy and empathy for the loss of lives on both sides of the conflict.