CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW……….DEC. 2000 #2 and JAN. 2001 #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 129.
The articles covered a wide variety of topics, but could be divided roughly into the following categories:
- 35 articles discussed issues concerning Christian Palestinians and Christian Israeli Arabs during the current crisis, and particularly the subdued character of this year’s Christmas celebrations among this population.
- 19 articles reported on Christian supporters of Israel. and a united Jerusalem under Israeli rule.
- 14 articles reported on the death of Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Diodoros I, and ramifications of his passing.
- nine articles reported on Christmas and New Year celebrations among non-Jewish Russian immigrants.
- nine articles dealt with Jewish and Israeli attitudes towards Christians, Christianity and Christmas.
- eight articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity.
- seven articles dealt with the status of non-Jews in Israel.
- seven articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations.
- four articles included opinions of international Christians regarding the current political crisis.
- two articles discussed issues concerning Messianic Jews.
- two articles reported on the South Lebanese Army refugees.
The remaining 15 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab, Jewish, or political matters on their own merit.
Yad Hashmonah’s Biblical Garden (Moreshet Derech, November 2000)
In this publication for Israeli tour guides, mention is made of the new Biblical garden at Yad Hashmonah. In the short item, it is explained that the garden is an attempt to recreate the way of life in the hills of Judea during the first and second temple periods. The item explains that the village was founded by Christian Finnish people who came to Israel feeling they had been sent [by God], and is now home to 12 families who run a guest house and a restaurant on the moshav.
The Messianic Jewish Congregation of Hesed VeEmet (Maariv, 08/12/00)
This secular paper reports on the Messianic Jewish congregation called Hesed VeEmet (Grace and Truth), that meets in the industrial area of Rishon Lezion. The reporter interviewed two people from the congregation: Baruch Maoz, the pastor, and Eitan Kashtan, a member of the congregation. Kashtan also manages Hagefen Publishing that is housed in the same building as the congregation.
According to the article, many of the people who live in the area have never heard of the congregation, despite the fact that it has 250 members. The reporter also states that this congregation is part of an international community that operates branches in Israel and around the world.
Eitan Kashtan, 37, explained that Hagefen publishes books directed at Messianic Jews, of which there are 7,000 in Israel, but that they hope to spread their faith to the rest of the world. He goes on to tell about the purpose of the congregation and its structure and the way it functions. Both he and Maoz strongly emphasized the differences between their beliefs, which are focused on love and moral integrity, and those of Rabbinic Judaism and Catholicism, which are (in the opinion of Maoz and Kashtan) thoroughly corrupted, political, and legalistic. Kashtan sees God, Jesus, and the Scriptures, as the sole authorities for the believer’s way of life.
Kashtan accused Rabbinic Judaism of convincing the Jews that the New Testament does not apply to them and is completely disconnected from Judaism, when this is clearly not the case. He also stated that the Good News is for the whole world, and not for the Jews alone. He said that their congregation does not approach children or talk to children about the faith without the parents’ consent, nor do they offer anything but the gospel to anyone who is interested (“because a soul that can be bought is not worth buying,” says Kashtan). They do, however, send out information through the mails.
Baruch Maoz, 57, the pastor of the congregation who lives in Gedera, tells the story of how he became a believer, despite the fact he was born a Jew and was raised on a kibbutz. He continues by saying that the congregation is completely self-supported, and that it uses some of the money that it raises to purchase equipment to donate to the local municipality.
When the reporter said that the congregational activity was clearly missionary activity, Maoz replied, “We see ourselves as people with a mission. We have a message to pass on and we will pass it on, but we do not buy souls.”
Chairman of the Likud’s Information Center in Haifa Calls for Measures Against Muslim and Christian Leaders (Hadashot Hakirya Vehazafon, 13/12/00)
Following the decision by certain Muslim and Greek Orthodox priests to refuse to perform last rites for Arab soldiers in the Israeli Defense forces, Sami Mazon, chairman of the Likud’s information center in Haifa called on Yossi Beilin, Israel’s Minister of Justice, to have them fired. He claimed that religious leaders should be calling for unity rather than bringing in division. Since these particular leaders are actually government employees, they should be forced to resign or be fired if they are unwilling to do their job as the law specifies. He said that they should serve all people, regardless of their own political opinions.
Israel’s Religious School System Refuses Admission of Non-Jewish Children (Sheva, 14/12/00)
Twelve years ago, the head of the religious public education system included among his directives, a section stating that non-Jewish children would not be accepted into the religious public schools. The Ministry of Education has announced that it is now working to change the relevant section of the directives.
An Archbishop Throws Rocks at Israel (Yediot Aharonot, 17/12/00)
Hilarion Capucci, a 78 year-old Syrian archbishop, participated in the rock-throwing fad at the border between Lebanon and Israel. “I would like to be with the heroes of the Intifada who are fighting for the independence of Palestine,” declared Capucci, former head of the Greek Catholic Church in Jerusalem. Capucci was forced to leave Israel in 1977, after being involved in a smuggling guns.
Latin Patriarch and Vatican Ambassador to Israel and the Palestinian Authority Call for Peace (Haaretz, English and Hebrew editions 20/12/00, The Jerusalem Post 20/12/00, 26/12/00, 29/12/00)
Michel Sabah, the first Palestinian to serve as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the region, added his voice to calls for an end to violence in the region. In his Christmas message, Sabah, one of the most influential Christian clergyman in the Holy Land, called on Israel and the Palestinians to put an end to the nearly three-month-old outbreak of violence. “There should be no more orders to kill… This land should be a land of peace.”
“The empty squares of the city [of Bethlehem] reflect the mood of the people. We can see that the people don’t have any joy in their hearts, but the feasts are a gift from God, and we call on our people to try and have some hope,” Sabah said.
Sabah is regarded as firmly in the Palestinian camp, along with the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, and the bishop of the local Arab Lutheran community, Munib Younan. According to he Jerusalem Post, the three are expected to always back the Palestinian line.
Sabah also said that “Jerusalem is the key to peace and it is at the heart of the Palestinian problem. Everything that was occupied should return, and the rest remain Israeli. Palestinians should have their Jerusalem and so should Israel.” Sabah also called on soldiers to prefer human rights over orders to kill.
“Whether we live at war, or in the intifada, whether our houses are demolished, our brothers are wounded or killed, it is here that God wants us to be Christians,” Sabah said in his Christmas homily at St. Catherine’s Church.
Papal Nuncio Pietro Sambi, the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel and its representative to the Palestinian Authority, said, “It is time to stop preaching hatred and vengeance, a time to speak about justice, about brotherhood, and about cooperation, to start to make peace in our heart… There is no other region in the world about which the world speaks so continuously. To make peace here is a gesture of peace toward all those who have their hearts in Jerusalem and the Holy Land,”
Celebrate Messiah Conference Canceled, (The Jerusalem Post, 20/12/00, Maariv, 20/12/00)
The Celebrate Messiah 2000 conference was canceled due to a strike of Israel’s Ministry of Interior. The conference was due to take place from December 27th to January 2nd. Despite reassurances by government officials, 600 (over half) of its participants did not receive visas in time for the conference to go ahead.
Conversion to Christianity on Holocaust Day (Haaretz, 21/12/00, Yated Neeman, 29/12/00)
Father Elwood McQuaid, an evangelist who recently visited Israel on a Christian solidarity-with-Israel trip, is reported to have said in a missionary guidebook that one of the best days to convert Jews is on Holocaust Day. “This is the time to bring them God’s gospel of hope and comfort, and the wonderful news that the Messiah is alive… How sad that liberal Judaism has no answers for Holocaust survivors! The Orthodox [Jews] perhaps have more answers, but Jesus is their best option.” Rabbi Michael Melchior spoke to this solidarity group and said that had he known that such people were on the trip, he would never have come near them.
“Yated Neeman,” the Ultra-Orthodox paper mentioned above, quoted the secular paper “Haaretz,” and added that these solidarity groups often include dangerous missionaries that present themselves as “Israel lovers,” but their intent is to hunt down souls.
Arab Christians in Jerusalem Fear Prospect of Palestinian Authority Control (The Jerusalem Post, 22/12/00, 29/12/00)
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert’s adviser on Christian affairs, Shmuel Evyatar, said that his office has been getting many phone calls from Christians worried about their future, due to reports that the Christian and Armenian quarters of the Old City may fall under Palestinian rule as part of a peace deal.
A spokesman for the Latin Patriarchate denied that Christians were worried, saying that these were only rumors, and that the problems were mainly due to “Israel’s occupation.” Other Christian leaders said they were putting their trust in God. “The real faithful have the support of God, and are not worried about the future,” said Archbishop Abraham of the Coptic Church, and the chairperson of the Inter-church Committee. “You can face a variety of problems, not just political,… but if you have a good, strong, and genuine faith you are not afraid,” Abraham said.
According to Rabbi David Rosen, Israel director of the Anti-Defamation League, there is a general feeling that most Christian religious leaders would be happier if the Christian quarter and the Armenian quarter were left under Israeli jurisdiction. But they cannot say so publicly.
A Christian layman, who asked not to be identified by name, said that it was clear to him that in the PA, Christian interests would always take a back-seat to Moslem interests. While he admitted that local Christians feared Moslem fanaticism, he said that they also feared fanatics and fundamentalist streams in Judaism. In the past, in the Old City, he said, there have been attacks on religious processions and graffiti about “idolatry.” He also spoke of attacks on churches by Jews.
He went on to say that the most crucial issue today was the fear that Israel would abandon the Christians in the same way they have done before, when they handed Bethlehem over to the PA. Why, Christians ask, should they align themselves with Israel when Israel makes it clear that it won’t protect them?
US Church Leaders Denounce Israel (Yated Neeman, 22/12/00)
This religious daily reports on a visit of a 26-member delegation representing various US churches who toured the Holy Land. Members of the delegation said they were shocked by the bloodshed in the territories in the 11 weeks of Israeli-Palestinian clashes. The church leaders expressed their opinion that Israel should withdraw from lands seized in 1967 and they called on Israel “to end the use of disproportionate force in violation of international norms, as when tanks and helicopters are used to attack civilian neighborhoods.”
Sad for Israel – A letter to the editor (The Jerusalem Post, 22/12/00)
John Reese from Saratoga, California, wrote to the editor of The Jerusalem Post saying, “As an American taxpayer, I am very disappointed in Israel’s continuing attacks on the Christians of Bethlehem. It is my tax dollar and my military arms sent to Israel to protect its citizens that is being turned on the Christian minority in Bethlehem. How sad for a country founded to provide a safe haven for a persecuted minority… I feel sadness for the example you are giving your youth, the hardness of your hearts. Cruelty to others will never make Israel strong.”
O, Troubled Town of Bethlehem, by David Parsons, public relations officer at the International Christian Embassy (The Jerusalem Post, 24/12/00)
This article in a secular daily gives the Christian Embassy’s views on the plight of Christians in the Bethlehem area. The article relates how Moslem elements have infiltrated Bethlehem, and chased away 60 percent of the Christian population so that now Bethlehem is 75 percent Moslem. David Parsons, public relations officer at the International Christian Embassy, goes on to tell of the sad Christmas celebrations that have been going on in Bethlehem since the PA was given Bethlehem in 1995.
“You will hear some Arab Christians – perhaps even in response to this column – telling a completely different tale, of Israeli abuses and good relations with the Moslems,” said Parsons. “But too many of them have privately looked us in the eye and said that they fear for their lives if they openly tell the truth. ‘We are forced to live with two faces,’ they lament.”
He goes on to say, “So this Christmas, Christians and people of goodwill everywhere should say a prayer for the dear Christians who have managed to survive in Bethlehem. And keep in mind, they are singing the same cherished carols heard round the world – but with a gun to their head.”
British Rabbi Talks About Christians and Christmas (Jerusalem Post, 26/12/00)
In an article reprinted from the London Daily Telegraph, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks about what he sees to be the value of Christianity. He sees Christianity and Christmas as part of a moral renewal that is very much needed in the modern world. “People are beginning to search for clear moral and ethical signposts in a world that doesn’t seem to have any maps any more,” says Rabbi Sacks. He goes on to say that “The Jews have suffered a great deal from Christians, but Christianity also gave us extraordinary architecture, art and a powerful commitment to help the poor and welcome strangers.”
“The Christian Grenade” a book review (HaAretz, 27/12/00)
Yakov Turi-Shadi has written a book claiming that the New Testament is a collection of fictional stories written with conflicting purposes from distorted sources and historical counterfeits. Tzuri-Shadi also maintains that the overall purpose of the New Testament is to capture souls for Christianity. The book was published by Yidiot Achronot Press, 287 pages.
Who’s Coming to Israel? (In Jerusalem, JP weekly supplement, 29/12/00)
In this short article, a breakdown of the percentages of tourists coming to Israel is given, 70-75% of all tourists are Christians while the remaining 25% are Jews. The U.S. supplies the largest number of tourists (half a million in the year 2000) and Germany is in second place with 200,000 tourists coming to Israel in 2000. Protestants comprise 60% of Christian tourism with Catholics at 20-25% and other denominations making up the remaining 15-20%. The most popular tourist site for all tourists whether Christian or Jewish is the Western Wall, then Yad VaShem and Masada. Between 600-700,000 foreign tourist visit and climb Masada each year. Of the Christian sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulcre is the most frequented.
Christian Soldier Dies in Gaza (Yidiot Achronot 31/12/00, 01/01/01; MaAriv 31/12/00, 01/01/01; Jerusalem Post, 03/01/01,HaAretz 31/12/00, 01/01/01)
The major secular daily papers all report extensively on the death of Yonatan Vermullen, a Border Police sapper on December 28, 2000. Two of the papers carried lengthy feature articles on the Dutch Christian soldier who had decided to remain in Israel after his family returned to Holland. He was a strong Zionist and felt his place was with the Jewish people. As a non-Jew, Yonatan did not have to serve in the IDF but had fought for the right to serve in the Israeli army. All the articles praise his commitment to the Jewish people and nation and that as a Christian he gave his blood for the Jewish people.