CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW FEBRUARY, 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 39.
- 10 articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
- seven articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- five articles reported on Arab Christian involvement in the current political crisis
- three articles presented Israeli and Jewish attitudes towards different aspects of Christianity
- three articles presented international Christian opinion on current political issues
- two articles had to do with Messianic Jews
The remaining nine articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab, or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Forty Days of Fasting (Israel Today, December 2000)
This Christian monthly which is sold on secular news stands, told of a forty day fast called for by Messianic Jews, Arab Christians, and several American Christians. The purpose of the fast was to pray about the violence and destruction of the recent few months in the area.
“In light of the situation in the country, we are calling believers to fast from November 23 until January 2, which falls during Ramadan and Hanukah, in the belief that God will grant security and deliverance.”
The appeal was signed by Messianic believers Reuven Berger, Howard Bass, Avi Mizrahi, and Daniel Yahav; Arab Christians Nizar Shaheen, Andreas Abu Ghazleh, and Naim Khoury; and American Christians Tom Hess and Jonathan Miles.
Messianic Jewish Congregation “Shemen Sasson” and the Myers Family (Iton Yerushalaim, 02/02/01)
This 5-page feature article in a local secular weekly contains a number of interviews with the Myers, a Messianic Jewish family of American immigrants living in Jerusalem.
It tells the story of the family’s history in the city, their relationships with the local population in Jerusalem, and the congregation they lead, “Shemen Sasson.” The article reports on John and Derril Myers and their two sons, Josh (27), and Cabe (26), who is married to Shelly Bar-David and has two daughters.
The reporter goes on to tell about the normal Israeli aspects of their lives: both sons served in the Israeli army, and both are now students at Hebrew University. Then she tells of the less standard aspects of their lives: their beliefs, their participation in the congregation’s services, their conservative practices regarding sex and marriage, and their views on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity as they pertain to their faith.
The reporter also relates her experiences during one of the congregation’s services, and gives some background on the congregants who, to her surprise, all dress normally and are good citizens. The congregation consists of between 40-50 people, most of them in their twenties and thirties. They are from South Africa, England, the USA, and Israel – Russian immigrants and those who were born in Israel (tsabarim). Some of the members are from Yad Hashmona, a village founded by Finnish pilgrims, which is now home to a large Messianic Jewish community.
The reporter tells that she was surprised to find that in twenty-first century Israel, where even the religious Jews are not forthcoming about their faith, there are still people of such a simple, clear, day-to-day faith in the Creator of the universe. She quotes Shelly Myers: “Faith is everything to me. When I wake up in the morning, I dedicate my day to God and say: ‘This day is Yours, help me to behave the way You would want me to, to be honest, to be decent.’ I ask God to give me grace with our daughters, to show me how to be a devoted and good mother, and how to raise them to love Him, because God is their father too, of course.”
Holy Land Theme Park Arouses Negativity From American Jews [International Herald Tribune (06/02/01), The Jerusalem Post (07/02/01 and 08/02/01), The Jerusalem Report (12/02/01)}
A new theme park, “The Holyland Experience,” which opened in Orlando, Florida, on February the 5th, received substantial coverage in the local English language papers. The 16 million-dollar “living Biblical museum” was founded by Rev. Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish-born Baptist minister, and has been criticized for its evangelical message and its alleged targeting of Jews.
The park is intended to depict Israel’s history as recorded in the Old and New Testaments, and mixes these two themes. One example is a high-tech film and audiovisual presentation called “The Wilderness Tabernacle,” which begins with three Jewish prayers in Hebrew, and ends with the narrator saying that the wandering in the desert was a prelude to a greater understanding of the ancient Jewish faith. Then a nativity scene appears.
Jewish Defense League leader, Irv Rubin, together with two others, protested with two others at the opening of the park, calling Rosenthal a soul-snatcher, and accusing the park of recruiting Jews. Rosenthal denies the allegations. Local Rabbis, including Rabbi Merrill Shapiro of Congregation Beth Am, are discouraging Jews from supporting or visiting the park. Rabbi Steven Engel of the Congregation of Liberal Judaism said, “Their philosophy is that you can be Christian and Jewish at the same time. Obviously that’s offensive to Jews.”
The World Council of Churches Calls on Israel to Withdraw From Territories (Hamodia, 06/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox daily reports on a recent declaration made by the central committee of the World Council of Churches to its 342 member churches, calling them to support Israeli withdrawal from the territories. The 158-member committee expressed its sorrow and concern over the recent upscale in the clashes between Palestinians and Israelis, and objected to what it called Israel’s exaggerated use of military force. “We join in the frustration and disappointment of our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” said the declaration..
Arab Christian IDF Soldier Killed by Palestinian Sniper (Haaretz (06/02/01), The Jerusalem Post (06/02/01, front page)
Staff Sergeant Rujayah Salameh (23), a Christian Arab from the lower Galilee village of Tur’an, was killed by a Palestinian sniper on February 5th. He was riding in an armored personnel carrier while guarding soldiers near Rafah in Gaza. He had volunteered to serve in the Israeli army. The family requested that his coffin not be wrapped in the Israeli flag, and requested that the media not cover the funeral.
Fellow soldier Georgie Salim, said that he and Salameh were among the only six Christians in the southern Beduin unit. “We were very close as we were few in a minorities’ unit,” Salim said.
“Missionary conference” Protested (The Jerusalem Post, 07/02/01)
Chosen People ministries held a three-day conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, which began February 8th. The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, as well as local chapters of the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League, joined a coalition of religious Jewish organizations aimed at protesting the event. They believed the event to be a conference “with the goal of making Jews’ conversion to Christianity a priority.”
New Film “Left Behind,” and the Book of Revelation’s Impact on American Foreign Policy (Globes, 08/02/01)
This secular daily reports on a movie that was recently released in the US. The film “Left Behind,” which is based on a book-series of the same name, depicts an end-of-days scenario that might puzzle the Israeli viewer. The film was funded by evangelical Christians in the United States, and, according to the reporter, if it is allowed into Israel “will introduce many Israelis to a breed of radical Christian Messianism that has millions of devotees in America.”
The reporter goes on to say that many Protestant churches, especially in the U.S., have turned the Book of Revelation into their main window on world events. These are mostly churches that are eager to spread the Christian gospel. “It would be a mistake,” says the reporter, “to ignore the effects of John’s Revelation on American foreign policy. If 20 million people buy books based on it, if the series’ author holds a position in the Right wing government, if preachers quote from it and infuse its passages with current political interpretation – then the Book of Revelation is a part of reality.”
The reporter comments on some of the effects he believes this apocalyptic mindset has had on Jewish-Christian relations in the past. The connection that many Christians see between the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity and the return of Jesus, has brought about anti-Semitism, or at least the theological justification of it. He claims that the most anti-Jewish statement in the New Testament is in the book of Revelation, and he paraphrases: “I know the blasphemy of those who claim to be Jews, but are not, rather they are the synagogue of Satan.”
Those who believe in Revelation, says the reporter, have used it to interpret almost the whole of political and military developments in the Middle East according to that vision. In their opinion, every effort at peace has been an unwanted meddling in the natural process of events. The collapse of the Middle East peace process, which happened exactly seven years after it was born, was expected, since John clearly stated that there would be seven years of false peace, that would be ended by the Battle of Armageddon.
Missionary Organization Distributes Food in Exchange for Promises of Conversion (Hamodia, 11/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox daily reports that a Christian organization called “Kibbutz Galuyot” has been distributing food to needy families and in return, asking that they convert to Christianity. The article relates that this has been taking place in the Herzliya area, and that missionaries came to the homes of those who had received food, and offered them books on “That Man.” The article also claims that during a secret meeting, Dominica Birman, one of the missionaries, spoke to some of those who had received food, and emphasized repeatedly that all those present should convert, and that they would thus continue to receive spiritual and physical support.
Yad Lachim, after conferring with their lawyer, decided to file a complaint with the Herzliya police, accusing the organization of proselytizing in return for material benefits.
March of the Living to Include Christian Group (The Jerusalem Post, 12/02/01)
The March of the Living, an annual event commemorating the Holocaust trough a visit of young Jews to Auschwitz, will for the first time have a Christian contingent. The Christian group is being organized by Bridges for Peace, a Jerusalem-based group of evangelical supporters of Israel. The participation is intended to let the Jewish people know of Christian solidarity with them.
“We can walk with these Jewish young people as Christians to make a statement that together we will not let anything like this ever happen again,” said Clarence Wagner, director of Bridges for Peace.