CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW…………OCTOBER, 2000 #2
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 39.
* eleven articles reviewed events related to the Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles Conference;
* seven articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity;
* six articles contained information regarding Arab Christians during the recent political crisis between Israel and the Palestinians;
* five articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations;
* one article on the status of non-Jews in Israel;
* one article reviewed a book about early Christianity.
* The remaining eight articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Yad L’achim Fights Against Messianic Jews (Yidiot Haifa, 29/09/00)
This Haifa weekly paper carries an article describing Yad L’achim’s outrage against recent activities of the ‘missionaries and Messianic Jews.’ The Messianic Jew have been sending materials through the mails that included telephone numbers to call for further information and even a web site to obtain more information about ‘Yeshu Hanotzri.’ Yad L’ achim is warning Haifa residents about this and asking that people not allow this missionary material into their homes. They have also organized several public burnings of the offensive materials.
Complaint Filed Against Kindergarten Teacher in Kiryat Bialik (Hed Hakrayot, 06/10/00)
This local weekly tells of a mother who, upon registering her two and a half year-old daughter in Victoria Yudin’s kindergarten, was shown Christian material and invited to a class on Christianity. The mother approached Yad L’achim on the issue, who then filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education. The Ministry refused to deal with the situation, explaining that the kindergarten is private, and therefore nothing could be done.
Victoria Yudin has been in the headlines before, for warding off a drunkard armed with a knife who infiltrated her kindergarten and threatened to harm her and the children.
Yudin and her neighbors say Yad L’achim activists have been following her recently, and have even broken into her house, suspecting she is conducting missionary activity in her kindergarten. The organization denies their connection to the incidents. Yudin emphasized in the interview that she teaches only on the Old Testament and Jewish holidays, and prays with the children.
Arab Christian Family Fosters Jewish Child (La’Isha 10/10/00
This article appeared in a national wide circulation women’s magazine. Samira and Said Dachwar, Maronite Christians from Haifa, have been fostering a Jewish child with Down’s syndrome for the past 14 years. The boy was abandoned by his parents when he was born, and the Arab Christian couple heard of him through a social worker friend of theirs. “We saw him, and he entered into our hearts,” shares Samira.
The couple has been unable to adopt him, because it is not acceptable for couples in Israel to adopt a child of another religion. The Dachwars, however, regard Hanan (not his real name) as one of the family. The reporter comments that when the boy is observed hugging and kissing his “brothers and sisters” (The Dachwars have five older children of their own!), there is no doubt that Hanan got the deal of his life by entering into the hearts and home of this family. He doesn’t know that he wasn’t born into the family. He considers the couple his parents, and their children as brothers and sisters.
Rim Dachwar, the 24 year-old daughter, says she believes her parents made an excellent choice in bringing Hanan into their family. “Children like him have a kind of love you can’t get from others. I forget that he’s not my brother.”
Hanan’s development was slow, as would be expected. He has a speech impediment, and his mental limitations require around-the-clock supervision, and total dedication. The family has been sending him to Jewish educational institutions. On Sundays, when the family goes to church, he is in school. He does, however, stay home to celebrate Christmas and Easter with the family.
Hanan recently celebrated his 13th birthday, and although he is not required by Jewish Halacha to have a bar mitzvah, the Dachwars didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t. He celebrated it at a reform synagogue in Haifa, with his foster family proudly looking on. They celebrated the special occasion with a family trip to the United States.
In four years, Hanan will turn 18. The foster family agreement will end, and Samira and Said will then need to decide to adopt him or let him go. “We won’t give him up,” says Samir Dachwar (26). “Of course we’ll adopt him.”
Ohalei Rachamim’s Version of the Incident with Yad L’achim (Hed Hakrayot, 13/10/00)
Yad L’achim filed a complaint against the police for what they called a lack of intervention in a confrontation between Yad L’achim activists and members of the Ohalei Rachamim Congregation. According to congregation members, the incident began when the activists intentionally provoked them by arriving at their congregation on a Tuesday evening with a video camera. “[The activists] started to film people and frighten them. They even directly threatened to hurt people and their property and to persecute them. As a result, we called the police, who arrested one of them and asked the others to leave,” said one of the members.
According to the congregation members, Yad L’achim activists disturb them regularly. A few months ago, the tires of 15 cars parked near the congregation building were slashed. “Since then, we post guards outside whenever Yad L’achim arrive,” said one of the members. “These are the people that [the activists] filmed and threatened to persecute and hurt.”
Against the Mission (Shisha Yamim, 13/10/00
A full page advertisement for Yad L’achim appeared in this weekly religious paper in Bnei Brak. It included these words “The holy Torah obligates every Jew to work against conversion to other religions. He must insist that a unequivocal law be passed to forbid missionary activity in the land and must enlist himself and his finances in the struggle.”
New Investigation of Habad (Kol Ha’Ir 13/10/00)
A three page feature article about the history of the Habad (ultra-orthodox sect) movement appeared in the weekend holiday edition of this Jerusalem paper. The article is based on the work of Dr. David Asaph of the History department of the Tel Aviv University.
Asaph’s work particularly investigates the conversion to Christianity of the son founder of the Habad Hassidic movement, Rabbi Shneyor Zalman, otherwise known as the ‘old Admor.’ He was the first of the seven admors of Chabad, the last of whom was Menachem Mendel Shneyerson or the the ‘Rabbi of Lubavatich.’
The article focuses on the story of the old Admor’s third son, Moshe, and his embrace of Christianity. This is a story that the Lubavitch movement would rather have forgotten. It is an intriguing story of power struggles, encounter with the New Testament, relationships with other Messianic Jews, Russian royalty and clergy.
Dr. Asaph has studied the early history of the Hassidic sects. One of his motivations has been to demythologize the history of the Hassidic movement. His findings are soon to be published in the magazine of the Israeli Historical Society.
“Russian Immigrants Open Church in Kiryat Gat” (Kan Darom, 13/10/00)
This local weekly quotes residents of Kiryat Gat complaining, “Russian immigrants have started a church in an apartment on Shderot HaAtzmaut in Kiryat Gat, and they pray there and hold religious ceremonies. When we went to Synagogue on Yom Kipur [the Day of Atonement], they prayed to Jesus.”
“Every Sunday, people arrive at the apartment, close all the shutters, and we hear Christian songs coming from the apartment. In Israel, the year 2000, in the heart of a Jewish city, an apartment is turned into a makeshift church overnight without any disturbance,” said one of the residents.
Haim Shalom, assistant to the mayor of the town and a member of Habad [an Ultra-orthodox Jewish sect], said, “I’ve heard the residents’ complaints. I call on the religious organizations of the city to unite and fight the grave phenomenon of missionary activity and Christian cults. I will look into the matter, and if it is true, we will hold a bitter war against this grave phenomenon.”
Black Market Burial (Zman HaDarom, Maariv, 13/10/00)
This southern local weekly edition of a secular daily reports on a family whose three year old daughter died of a disease. The family called ambulances to come take the girl’s body to a Christian cemetery. Two different ambulance drivers who arrived on the scene asked the family for 7,000 and then 10,000 shekels to bury their daughter. Shimon Navon, a representative of the social security services, intervened and prevented the exploitation. The girl was buried in a non-Jewish section of the cemetery in Ashkelon at no cost, as is required by law which states that every citizen of Israel is entitled to free burial.
Shimon Navon told the reporter, “We have cemeteries in this country that are intended for non-Jews, and we pay the burial fees… The family doesn’t have to pay anything.”
Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Pray for Peace at the Tantur Institute in Jerusalem (Haaretz, 13/10/00 and 19/10/00)
A prayer gathering for Jewish, Moslem, and Christian participants was held at the Tantur Institute in Jerusalem. The gathering, which took place on the 18th of October, was intended to be a symbolic gesture for peace by people identified with the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel. Speakers from the three faiths expressed some of their frustrations about the current situation
Rabbi David Rosen spoke of Cain’s murder of Abel. Rosen said that according to one commentary, the killing was a result of territorial conflict. According to another commentator, each of the men had insisted that the Temple should be built on his own piece of ground. “Violence emerges from absolute claims to territory or absolute claims about faith,” Rosen said.
Issa Jaber, director of education and culture in Abu Ghosh, said that innocent people had been hurt in the name of holy places. “The souls of people should be appreciated more than landscape. The holy places are important for us, but human life is more important.”
Dr. Stanley DeWaal, the president of Jerusalem University College, spoke of the difficulty of truly following Jesus’ teachings to bless one’s persecutors and never seek revenge. Quoting the Lord’s Prayer, he noted that it called upon the worshipers to do God’s will, not their own.
Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles Conference in Jerusalem (HaAretz, 19/10/00; Iton Yerushalaim, 20/10/00; The Jerusalem Post, 22/10/00)
Likud chairman, Ariel Sharon, and Deputy IDF spokesman, Lt.-Col. Raanan Gissin, spoke to 1,500 pro-Zionist Christians at a gathering related to the Feast of Tabernacles Conference. They were cheered on with adoring chants and fervent applause. “After 52 years we have to defend ourselves again and we need your help,” Sharon said. “Jerusalem is at stake. We regard you to be one of our best friends in the world. With your help we may be able to reach the dreams and hopes of all of us.”
Afterwards the crowd thronged into the hallways to secure an opportunity to talk with, bless, or even touch one of the speakers.
Patricia Rossell-Stone of Texas lifted up her skirt to display combat boots on her feet. “We are Christians in combat boots and not fair-weathered friends,” she gushed. “[The Palestinians] will try to take away Jerusalem, and I would like to join the army and fight for Israel if [Sharon] would let me.” Rossel-Stone grabbed Sharon’s hand and implored him to let her join the IDF. “You can join the army,” Sharon responded with a smile. “The army of peace.”
The International Christian Embassy held a press conference on the 18th of October, to affirm Christian support for Israel and the hope that Jerusalem will remain a united capital under Israeli sovereignty. Some 100 Christian pilgrims attended the press conference to air their opinions on the complex issues of the Middle East.
Paddy Monaghan, a Roman Catholic from Ireland, said he believes Israel’s recent actions to safeguard its citizens from the Palestinian uprising have been just, but stresses that the embassy is not anti-Palestinian. “The Israeli government should not fear a national inquiry into the situation,” he said. “Israel should stress the hatred that is bred in Palestinian children in their homes and schools. This hatred is what has incited the violence, not the Israelis.”
Joseph, a singer from Iraq who now lives in Stockholm, said: “God gave this land to the Jews; it belongs solely to them. I want to open the eyes of the Arab nations, including my own family who does not support my beliefs. They [the Arabs] should know that when they go against the Jews, they are not fighting an Israeli soldier, but rather the word of God.”
Dr. B. Bataresh of Jordan said he is optimistic that the current situation will dissipate, and that the Middle East will soon see its “days of glory.” “Jews and Palestinians can live together in peace, and when that day comes, Israel will be the most beautiful place on the face of the earth to live.”
A Statement of Support for Peace (The Jerusalem Post, 20/10/00)
Several hundred Christians expressed their support for Israel in this secular English daily. Above their names appeared the statement, “We, as American Christians, support the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people in your quest for a just and lasting peace.”
Disagreeing Amicably at Jerusalem Anglican School (Ha’Aretz, English edition, 20/10/00)
In an expression of solidarity with Palestinians who were killed and injured over the weekend, five students at the Anglican International School showed up at school the Monday after tensions broke out wearing kafiyehs and black clothing,. One of the students had a friend who was killed during the riots on the Temple Mount on the first day, and another had a friend who was injured. The principal, Chris Wright, didn’t prevent this demonstration of solidarity.
According to Wright, the incident caused “a powerful reaction among the staff. Many said it was inappropriate. But I thought it was important to allow the kids to voice their emotions rather than to stifle them. That might make it worse.”
For the Anglican school, a Christian institution whose student body includes both Jewish and Arab children, these weeks of tension and fighting have been difficult ones. About 35 nationalities are represented in the school’s student body, which is comprised mainly of children of United Nations personnel, foreign journalists, businessmen from abroad, and children of parents involved in Christian organizations and other non-profit work that assists the local population. About 15 percent of the children are Arab – both Muslim and Christian – and four percent Jewish (only a handful of which are Israeli Jews).
Fiery debates have erupted in classrooms – mostly in the high school – and between close friends. The outbursts prompted high school teachers to set aside time in homeroom class and assemblies to allow students to talk about their experiences and feelings. The classroom debates, says 11th grader Bethany Dennison, “Can get pretty heated. I have different opinions than some of my friends. But we walk out and we’re the best of friends again. I’m not Arab and I’m not Israeli so I usually stay out of it but sometimes I do speak up.” Her sister Kelly says, “Everything is more real when you have it in your school, when your friends are people on both sides.”
Debbie Dennison, the girls’ mother, says that while teachers don’t inject their opinions into debates, they are correcting facts. “There is a lot of misinformation. Some kids have been hearing lies about Jews since they their childhood. And generally kids just say what they are hearing at home. Teachers are on a truth campaign – not just to change the students’ attitudes but just to give them the truth,” she says.
Liran Koren, a Jewish Israeli in the 11th grade who attended Israeli schools until this year, says that attending school with Arab students has given him a better understanding of “their side” of the conflict. “Everything is new to me now. I have many Arab friends. It’s different when you go to school with them. I never understood their side before.” Attending school has also given him a chance to explain the Israeli perspective to others, who he says, are willing to hear it. “I haven’t encountered any racism in the school even though there are many more Arabs and Muslims than Jews.”
Palestinian Christians and Israeli Arab Christians in Recent Clashes (Yediot Ahronot, 24/10/00, 27/10/00; The Jerusalem Post, 25/10/00, 26/10/00; Yated Ne’eman, 27/10/00)
During the recent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinian rioters have been using the Christian neighborhood of Beit Jala as a place from which to fire their guns at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. Beit Jala, an Arab neighborhood under PA control, is inhabited by a majority of Palestinian Christians, who have mostly stayed out of the fighting. Muslim rioters run into people’s backyards and shoot from there, thus bringing retaliation upon innocent people and their homes. Many have seen this phenomenon as a Palestinian Authority strategy aimed at involving local Christians in the rioting and thus generating criticism for Israel for shooting at civilians, and raising international support for the Palestinian cause throughout the Christian world.
A couple of the articles stated that the IDF must be extremely careful in choosing their targets, because otherwise they may hurt innocent civilians or church property and play directly into the hands of the Palestinian Authority. Jerusalem’s Mayor, Ehud Olmert, said that before the violence began, Beit Jala residents had good relations with their Gilo counterparts. Some came to use the gym and other facilities in Gilo, he said.
In another incident, a Moslem preacher gave a speech in a Gaza mosque after prayers on a recent Friday, calling on Palestinians to attack Israelis and Christians. Shortly afterward, a group of Christians was attacked in Gaza.
In an article in The Jerusalem Post, it was reported that since the outbreak of the violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hundreds of families have left the country by the assistance of the Foreign Ministry and foreign embassies.
The Latin Patriarchate blasted the article, claiming that the report included a lot of fabricated information. While calling on leaders from both sides to resume peace negotiations, Fr. Raed Abusahlia, chancellor of the Latin Patriachate, said, “The Arab Christian community in the Palestinian territories is an integral part of the Palestinian people. It suffers with it, rejoices with it, and shares with it the same hopes and aspirations… The recent Israeli rumors about getting the town of Beit Jala involved in the recent clashes is not a coincidence, but is an aim to ‘divide and rule’ among one Palestinian people.”
An article in the Israeli secular daily Yediot Ahronot, included a letter from one of the readers who complained of riots in a neighboring Arab village, in which all the inhabitants are Israeli Arabs. In her reports on the rioting, she claimed that the Muslim rioters would destroy their Christian neighbors’ businesses and homes on their way to riot in the Jewish neighborhoods. She complains that there is no one to stand up and defend these Arab Christians, and both sides consider them the enemy. She expressed concern that if the situation continues, and no one defends the Christians, they may be tempted, out of fear and lack of choice, to support the violence and rioting of their Muslim brothers.
Catholic and Jewish Scholars Grill Vatican on its Role in the Holocaust (Ha’Aretz, 26/10/00; The Jerusalem Post, 27/10/00)
The Vatican commissioned a group of three Jewish and three Catholic historians to review allegations against Pope Pius XII’s conduct during the Holocaust. Pius XII was recently beatified by the Catholic Church.
In the initial report, the scholars hesitated to come to any final conclusions, and focused instead on a list of 47 questions regarding the wartime Pope’s conduct. Samples of some of these questions are: “How thoroughly informed was the Vatican regarding details of the Nazi persecution and extermination? What was the Holy See’s reaction, and what discussions followed reports that flowed in describing evidence of the ‘Final Solution’? Why did Pope Pius XII support the anti-Semitic government of Vichi ? Why did he oppose the emigration of Jewish children to the Land of Israel, despite the fact that he knew that upon return to Europe they would be sent to the gas chambers?”
Eva Fleischner, a Catholic scholar from the United States, said that like other world leaders, Pius, who was trained as a diplomat, “failed to recognize the enormity” of the Nazi regime until it was too late. The Church has defended Pius XII, saying he worked behind the scenes to save Jews and did not speak out more strongly in order to avoid provoking further Nazi horrors.
The group of scholars reached one clear conclusion: the Vatican must open its World War II archives to the historians for examination. The scholars asked to see diaries Pius may have kept and memos of discussions in the wartime pontiff’s inner circle. “There is evidence that the Holy See was well-informed by mid-1942 of the accelerating mass murder of Jews. Questions continue to be asked about the reception of this news and what attention was given to it,” said the report.