CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW…..NOVEMBER, 2000 #1
In the two week period covered by this review, 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 29.
* eleven articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations;
* four articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity;
* three articles contained information regarding Arab Christians during the recent political crisis between Israel and the Palestinians;
* three articles were on the status of Messianic Jews and non-Jews in Israel;
* two articles contained Israeli attitudes concerning Christians;
* two articles discussed archaeological discoveries and exhibitions;
* and the remaining four articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Haifa Religious Leaders Haifa Call for Unity (Hadashot Haifa Vehadarom, 18/10/00)
Various religious leaders from Haifa and the neighboring areas announced that they will “continue on together.” At a conference held at Beit Hagefen, they went on to say that the unique set of relationships among Haifa’s population must be preserved, and that the city, having withstood the recent difficult times, has passed a nearly impossible test.
The conference participants included the mayor of Haifa, Amram Matznea; Bishop Boutrus Moalem, leader of the Catholic community in Haifa and the Galilee; Shlomo Shush, Chief Rabbi of Haifa and Shear Yeshuv; Muslim Kadi, Hasan Asadi; Druz Kadi, Naim Hino; the Ahmadian Kadi; the Secretary of the Bahai sect; priests and nuns who live in Haifa; and members of the Haifa municipality.
Bishop Moalem spoke of his appreciation for the unique relationships between different people in Haifa. Kadi Hasan Asadi said that only in Haifa are the relationships between believers of different religions so important to everyone, and therefore the recent violence has not affected this city as much. The Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Shlomo Shlush, requested that the leaders of all the religions represented call for tolerance and an end to the violence. He emphasized the effect such a call could have, if all the leaders were “speaking the same language.”
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews to Contribute 10-15 Million Dollars to Israel During Next Year (The Jerusalem Post, 27/10/00 and 9/11/00; Yediot Aharonot, 31/10/00; Hatzofeh, 31/10/00)
The Jerusalem Post reported an anticipated visit of 15-20 US Christian leaders, including the entertainer Pat Boone, the pastors of major churches, and heads of denominations, coming to show support for Israel and to pledge 10-15 million dollars in contributions over the next year. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) is a Chicago-based organization that works to improve relations between Jews and Christians, and to foster Christian understanding and support for Israel among Evangelical Christians. Founder and president of the IFCJ, Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, told The Jerusalem Post that “this demonstration to the public of Christian solidarity will make Israel feel that it is not alone, and will hopefully change perceptions of the way Israel is presented throughout the world as the aggressor.”
Eckstein went on to say that the media is trying “to make this crisis into a religious issue of Moslems and Christians fighting with the Jews… What this solidarity will clearly show is that that equation is not valid, and that there are millions of Christians, tens of millions of Christians, all around the world who are standing in solidarity with Israel.”
In response to this article, Fr. Raed Abusahlia, Chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate wrote in to The Jerusalem Post, and said that the article caused him “great unease.” “I would like to refer your readers to the scores of letters of solidarity with the Palestinians that have been issued by numerous churches, church leaders and major church-related organizations worldwide.”
He went on to say that, “those who come here represent the evangelical wing of the Church. Their theology, doctrines and political orientations are still steeped in the Old Testament, and they have little in common with larger numbers of Christian churches and grass roots organizations that are supporting peace with justice here by seeking to assist the Palestinians in struggle for independence and statehood.”
On the 30th of October, the IFCJ gave Israel 3 million dollars, and promised 12 million more during the coming year. These funds are designated for the advancement of absorption projects and for the needy.
Ultra-orthodox Jews Object to Participation of Messianic Jews in the Jerusalem March (Yom Hashishi, 27/10/00; Hamodia 03/11/00)
The Jerusalem March, which is held every year during Succot, is not intended to be a tool for the advancement of interests of various groups, says the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert. Therefore, anyone who wishes to do so, may participate in the march, with just some minor security arrangements.
In last year’s march, one of the bystanders noticed a delegation of Messianic Jews, (characterized by the newspaper articles as a real missionary group), taking part in the march. According to this article, the group was taking advantage of the crowd’s openness and making clear their “intentions.” This bystander complained to the mayor, who wrote back in reply that he was sorry that the group took advantage of the opportunity by trying to advance their cause.
This year, the group was still in the march, only this time accompanied by policemen…
Another Ultra-orthodox daily expressed its discontent with “missionary activity” going on during the march, and announced that the Deputy Mayor, Rabbi Haim Miller, is considering canceling the annual march for this reason. According to the article, the march license had been given on the condition that there would be no use of “missionizing” banners, tracts, or songs. During the march it became apparent that the “missionaries” clearly violated the conditions by displaying messages that were offensive to Jewish feelings.
“Why aren’t Christians speaking out?” (The Wall Street Journal supplement of The Jerusalem Post, 31/10/00)
In this article, Cynthia Ozick, author of “Quarrel & Quandry: Essays,” expresses her disappointment in the Christians for not speaking out more strongly for the Jewish cause and for not supporting the Jewish claims to the Temple Mount. According to the writer, last July during the Camp David accords, Yasser Arafat declared that the Temple never existed, that it is a Jewish invention for local political gain, and that the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem is historically and religiously non-existent. Even Hanan Ashrawi, who is a Christian, often uses the phrase “the Judaizing of Jerusalem.”
“So far, no mainstream Christian voices have been raised against these moral and historical depredations, and one wonders why. Why has there been no Christian protest over Muslim rioting when a Jew walks upon a historic Jewish site?” says Ozick.
“Perhaps Jews ought not to expect, or hope for, vocal Christian empathy. To speak up for the venerable Jewish kinship to Jerusalem during a stormy time of pervasive defamation might require going the extra mile. But should not Christians speak up for the history and central claims of Christianity? If Judaism has no roots in Jerusalem, then Christianity was never born. And yet no Christian theological objection has been lodged against the denial of the Temple’s historicity…. If there never was a Temple, then where did Jesus walk?”
Yad Lachim Demands Expulsion of “Missionary”’ from Raananaa Synagogue (Hamodia, 02/11/00; Hadshot Mishpakha 09/11/00)
These two Ultra-orthodox Jewish papers report on an “infiltration of missionaries to religious communities and synagogues.” According to their reports, a “missionary” who recently moved to Raanana with his family from the USA, joined a synagogue in Raanana. He claims to have converted to Judaism in the USA, and wears a kipah. He is also claimed to have started his own religious sect, which he propagates on the Internet. The articles accuse him of using his membership in the synagogue as a Kashrut certificate for his “dangerous missionary activity.”
Yad Lachim activists are demanding that the unnamed synagogue expel him, and issued a warning that the synagogue not give unwitting authorization to the activity of “seducers.”
Right of Aliyah Refused to Jewish Woman with Baptized Children (Maariv, 6/11/00)
The Ministry of Interior in Beersheba is refusing Louisa Tairov, a woman of Jewish descent, the right to make Aliya, because her two children were baptized. The woman married a Christian Greek man nine years ago, and had her children baptized by his request. They divorced a few years later. The woman’s Jewish mother and grandmother made Aliya 6 years ago. Tairov’s lawyer says that she never told the Ministry of Interior that she had converted to Christianity, and even if she had, she could declare to a Rabbinical court that she wishes to return to Judaism, and they are required to accept her back. The Halachic reason is that “A Jew who has sinned is still a Jew”…
“The Christians Have Surrendered to the Palestinians” (Hatzofeh, 06/11/00)
This Ultra-orthodox Jewish paper reports on a recent demonstration of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem and Beit Sahour. The demonstrators expressed their support for the Palestinian Authority and condemned Israel’s actions, particularly the recent shootings aimed at Christian homes in Beit Jala.
The article further reports that it was informed by an Israeli security source that the demonstration was held as a result of pressure on Christians from the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, in practice, the Christians are contacting the Israeli Defense Forces daily, and expressing their outrage at the PA’s attempts to involve them in the incidents.
Visa Rules Eased for Christian Clergy (The Jerusalem Post, 07/11/00)
Interior Minister Haim Ramon announced that clergy who have been in Israel for 15 years or more can now become permanent residents.
Rev. Petra Heldt, coordinator of the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, said that although this is a step in the right direction, the real problem is not for clergy (this new ruling affects a relatively small number of priests, ministers, monks, and nuns), who receive visas with relative ease. Their staff members, however, often experience great difficulties and are not granted A3 visas, instead being forced to leave the country, though their work is essential for many Christian institutions. Hundreds of such people had been expelled in the past, she said. Heldt said she hopes the new regulation marks the beginning of a more “sensible” policy.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Tova Elinson said that the ministry is trying to help in this matter. In the past, she said, church workers, like other foreign workers, have had to receive a permit from the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry’s Employment Service. She said that the head of the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry is to meet with Labor Ministry officials in an effort to reclassify the religion workers separately from the general category of foreign workers.
A Re-berth Experience (The Jerusalem Post, 10/11/00)
“Two thousand years after being launched on its journey with a gentle shove, The Boat berthed in its final harbor last month with tales to tell,” reports the secular daily in a three page feature article on the “Jesus Boat.” “Its odyssey covered just 300 meters – from the bottom of Lake Kinneret, where it was discovered 16 years ago, to its permanent resting place in the Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginossar, where it was unveiled in a specially-built wing.” The boat was informally called the Jesus Boat, when found to be dated back to the first century CE. It was an evocative name that tour organizers eagerly seized upon.
Experts discovered many interesting tidbits about the ancient boat. The boat builder had cobbled the craft from recycled timber – 11 different kinds of wood, in fact – using a veteran craftsman’s art to make it serviceable. Many of the most important parts of the boat had been deliberately removed in antiquity, after the boat was taken out of service. Apparently, it had served primarily as a fishing boat. In the absence of wind, four oarsmen would have rowed the boat. An oil lamp and cooking pot found in the craft, and the technology used in the boat’s construction, date it to the first century CE, and this is confirmed by the Carbon-14 tests.
The exhibition, which was opened officially last month, displays photographs and texts describing the boat’s historical content and retrieval. On one wall, visitors can see an image of a mosaic found in the 1980’s by Franciscan excavators on the shores of the lake, depicting an identical type of boat, with a mast and two oars on one side, as well as a rudder. The exhibition text suggests the possibility that the boat participated in the battle off Migdal, described by Josephus, in which the Romans, on their way to Jerusalem, built rafts and destroyed the Jews of the area who had taken to their boats. Also suggested is that the boat was witness to the ministry of Jesus and his offer to Simon and Andrew to make them “fishers of men.”
“For a visitor, however,” says journalist Abraham Rabinovich, writer of the article, “it is enough to glimpse the no-frills, workaday side of life in that larger-than-life period. Even as grand theologies were being shaped about them, artisans then were cutting corners by using retreaded material and fishermen were rising early in the morning and squinting at the sky. The distance between the divine and human then, one surmises, was no greater then than it is today.”
Historic Church statements regarding the Inquisition and the Holocaust (Hatzofeh, 10/11/00; Haaretz, 12/11/00)
The first article in a daily Ultra-orthodox paper, tells of an interreligious conference in Lisbon, Portugal, called “Oceans of Peace.” During the event, a march ledby the various religious leaders participating in the conference was planned to take place. The leaders of the Jewish community in Lisbon contacted the twelve rabbis participating in the conference and requested that they refuse to take part in the march, since “Memorial Square” from which the march was supposed to proceed, was the location of the burning at the stake of 14 Jewish people during the Inquisition.
The rabbis then brought the issue before the chairman of the convention. Much to their surprise, the Catholic patriarch of Lisbon, after discussing the matter with the Vatican, suggested that he would take advantage of this opportunity, and request the pardon of the Jewish people for the persecution that took place during the Inquisition, at that particular square.
The second article reported that on November 10 in Braunshweig, Germany, the German Lutheran Church confessed to its part in the Holocaust, and called its 27 million members to turn over a new leaf in their relationships with the Jewish community.
At this convention of Lutheran leaders, the Lutheran Church declared that it was guilty not only of silence and refraining from action during the Nazi regime, but was guilty also of the disaster-impregnated traditions of alienation and hostility towards Jews that helped in preparing the way for the Holocaust. Lutheran leaders encouraged members of their church to join in the struggle against the surge of violence and hate which has recently been directed at Jews, foreigners and other minorities.