CASPARI CENTER MEDIA REVIEW FEBRUARY, 2001 #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 59.
- 11 articles presented international Christian opinion on current political issues
- 10 articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- 7 articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
- 6 articles presented Israeli and Jewish attitudes towards different aspects of Christianity
- 4 articles had to do with Messianic Jews
- 2 articles were on issues related to archaeology
- 2 articles related to non-Jews living in Israel
The remaining 17 articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab, or Jewish matters on their own merit.
Students Distribute Tracts in Haifa Schools (Yediot Haifa, 26/01/01)
This Ultra-orthodox weekly reports on an article published in the Ultra-Orthodox paper, Hadshodati, that reported on students supposedly distributing material promoting Messianic Judaism and Jehovah’s Witness in Haifa’s schools.
Not only is this defined by the Ultra-Orthodox population as taking advantage of children, Yad L’achim are outraged that the schools would allow this activity to go on, while Yad L’achim activists are not allowed into the schools.
Moshe Shtatman, the deputy mayor, declared that it is against the law to proselytize minors, and that this phenomenon must be stopped.
Meeting between Roman Catholics and Messianic Jews (Israel Today, February 2001)
According to this Christian monthly, the Vatican initiated a meeting between five Messianic Jewish representatives, from Israel and elsewhere, and representatives of the Catholic Church. The Jews have requested to remain anonymous and the meeting itself was not publicized.
The meeting was a way for the Vatican to show that it would like to improve its relations with Jews, especially Messianic Jews. It believes that Messianic Jews can help bridge the gap between Christians and Jews. Apparently, there are plans for another meeting with senior clergymen in Rome.
Messianic Jewish Identity in Israel (Israel Today, February 2001)
This Christian monthly reports on the semi-annual meeting of the Messianic Jewish Alliance in Israel that took place at Yad Hashmonah, a messianic community about 10 kilometers from Jerusalem. About 80 Israelis participated in the meeting, among them Eitan Kashtan, Joseph Shulam, Eitan Shishkoff, and Dr. Gershon Nerel who took part in a panel discussion entitled “Our Jewish Identity and Our Faith in Yeshua.” Each one presented their view of the issue, with strong differences on what Messianic Judaism means and how to express it. The panel members were, however, in agreement that all Messianic Jews should return to their Jewish roots.
Swiss Christian Organization Working in Reconciliation To Build Facility in Moshav Ora (Yom Hashishi, 02/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox weekly reports on plans of a Swiss Christian non-profit organization to set up a new facility in Moshav Ora, near Jerusalem. According to the rumors, it will be built on 15 dunams, with a 50 meter statue in the center. The land has cost the organization about half a million dollars, and the project itself will cost over 10 million dollars to build. The organization apparently specializes in reconciliation between different religions. Suspicions have arisen, however, that these are not the only intentions of the organization and that it may be using this apparently “innocent” cover to disguise their missionary work. The example of Moshav Nes Amim is mentioned. This moshav had similar purposes when it was founded, and now supposedly has dozens of Jewish youth who come there for relaxation and end up converting to Christianity.
Evangelical Christians from Brazil Deported on Suspicion of Being Foreign Workers (Yediot Aharonot, 13/02/01)
This secular daily reports on an incident concerning a group of fifteen Evangelical Christians from Brazil who arrived in Israel as a tour group. They impressed Interior Ministry officials as impostors who were actually trying to enter Israel to become foreign workers. They were not allowed to enter, and were immediately sent back to Brazil. The incident aroused much publicity in Brazil and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Relations is outraged and claims that the incident has greatly damaged Israel’s image. The Ministry of Interior claims that the tourists showed a lack of knowledge of Christianity, did not have any money, and therefore they impressed the officials as impostors.
Missionaries Attack Yad L’achim Activist (Hamodia (14/02/01), Hamodia, English version, 23/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox daily reports on an incident in Haifa, in which a Yad L’achim activist was attacked by missionaries who had been distributing missionary propaganda near the Beit Hakranot commercial center.
Yad L’achim, who “stubbornly fight 12 missionary cults in Haifa and the area,” were informed of the distribution and hurried to the area to warn passers-by to keep away from the missionaries. They photographed those distributing , who in turn called the police to complain. When the police did not show up, the missionaries beat up one of the Yad L’achim activists, Rabbi Mordechai Tomshapolski, breaking his glasses. Yad L’achim filed a complaint against the group, and state that the violent behavior of the missionaries is an upscaling of their evil activities.
The Association for the Rights of Mixed Couples (Haaretz, 16/02/01)
This secular daily interviewed Elia Adzhiashvili, a man who works for the Association for the Rights of Mixed Couples (Jews and their non-Jewish spouses). He is a part Jewish new immigrant from Russia, with a non-Jewish wife. As a result of the humiliating treatment they received after arriving in Israel, he decided to join the organization to help others cope with the difficulties he himself faced. The organization has existed for a year and a half now, and is supported by the New Israel Fund and a private German foundation.
There are between 200,000 to 250,000 mixed couples living in Israel, who, including their children, number nearly half a million. The recent change in government has them alarmed them on account of the new government’s pronounced Orthodox slant. Many them fear that the bad treatment and bureaucracy will only worsen.
Book Review: “Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography,” by Bruce Chilton (The Jerusalem Post, 16/02/01)
This very positive review, written by Jacob Neusner, of a book written by an Episcopal priest, considers this religious narrative to be a landmark work. Chilton uses the narrative form to reconstruct the interior life of Jesus, “following the development of his thought and teachings within the context of the Jewish world into which he was born. Neusner praises the book as exhibiting an “unapologetic Christianity, emerging from an academic scholar of the Bible and of ancient Judaism and Christianity” – not a common event these days…
The author tells his own version of the Gospel story, and, according to Neusner, “marks an alternative to the positivist lives of Jesus, that pick and choose and come up with a minor figure… In his independence of mind and imagination, [Chilton] also transcends the harmonies of the Gospels and the constructions of fundamentalism.”
Netanya Religious Residents Object to the Construction of an International School
(Emzah Netanya (16/02/01), Hadshot Netanya (16/02/01), Yated Neeman (19/02/01), Hamahane Hakharedi (22/02/01), Zomet Hasharon (23/02/01))
These local and Ultra-Orthodox papers report on the objection of Netanya residents to the erection of a new school on 60 dunams of their town’s land. The American International School in Kfar Shmaryahu is looking for new property to relocate the school. Netanya’s mayor has offered the school an area in the eastern part of Netanya. It would be a multi-million dollar project, including a swimming pool, an auditorium, a sports facility, and a library. The school has approximately 300 students who for the most part are the children of diplomats.
Religious leaders, like Rabbi Yehudah Shlush, have expressed their feelings regarding the school. They believe that it will bring about mixed marriages, the breaking of the Sabbath, Christian influence, and that it will become a place of gathering for Christians from all over the coastal area of Israel. Others claim that the school also accepts Jewish students who are subsequently influenced by Christianity and marry non-Jews. They also accuse many of the school’s staff of being missionaries. Despite the fact that the new school will probably bring more money into the area, Rabbi Shlush is not interested in the project. He vows to spend all his time combating the building of the school, should the council approve it.
The council chairman, Mrs. Shosh Arar, is threatening to have Shlush fired should he follow through with his threats. “We aren’t Bnei Brak,” she says. “Every person will live according to his own beliefs with mutual respect and without religious coercion.”
Conference on Christian Zionism Held in Jerusalem (Faxtours (18/02/01), The Jerusalem Post (19/02/01, 21/02/01), Hazofeh (21/02/01), Index Anashim (22/02/01))
The International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) held a conference in Jerusalem, on February 19-21, encouraging Christians from around the world to support and pray for Israel. The conference was the 4th International Christian Congress on Biblical Zionism, and there were about 300 participants from more than 20 nations.
Rev. Malcolm Hedding, executive director of the ICEJ, said, “Here at the start of a new century, the Jewish people and their Christian friends can proudly point to many stunning successes for the Zionist movement over the past 100 years. But the impressive acheivment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael, realized only through great determination and sacrifice, remains under assault from formidable adversaries both without and within.”
At the same time, the 4th International Sabeel conference, with 250 participants from 21 countries took place at the Notre Dame Conference Center. The organizers described the conference as “one of the most important international acts of solidarity with the Palestinian people since the beginning of the El-Aksa Intifada.”
Rev. Naim Ateek, president of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, said “We want to show the world that part of our Christian faith is to speak the truth and to seek justice. To do that, we will not limit our conference to the walls of the conference hall, but we intend to go out and meet the people to show Christian solidarity with them in their time of trouble.”
Missionary Work in Haifa (Hamodia, 19/02/01, 21/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox daily reports on distribution of Christian tracts in the form of refrigerator magnets in local mailboxes in Haifa. Despite the fact that activists have been removing the material and destroying it, the author warns the public that some of the material may remain, and that the public should not read it.
Vatican Encourages Pilgrims to Resume Visits to the Holy Land (Haaretz, (19/02/01, 28/02/01), Yediot Aharonot (27/02/01), The Jerusalem Post (28/02/01)
The Vatican’s representative in Israel has announced that pilgrims should not be afraid, and should resume their visits to the Holy Land. Papal Nuncio Pietro Sambi, issued a call in the Vatican during a round-table discussion saying that it is time to destroy the television-created image of the Holy Land as the source of terror. He also mentioned the fact that most of the local Christian community makes its living from tourism.
In an iniative to encourage tourism to the Holy Land, Pope John Paul the Second is sending three statues of the Madonna that have received a special papal blessing. These statues will be located in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth and will commemorate his visit last year to these sites in the Holy Land.
Jews for “That Man” ? (Hazofeh, 22/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox daily objects to the phenomenon of “Jews for Jesus.” The writer insists that Jews cannot be “for Jesus” without losing their Jewish image, along with their human image. He believes that modern Christian missionaries have taken advantage of today’s hedonistic mindset to advance their work. He believes that they are no different from African idol worshippers, and are actually worse, because they still claim to be Jewish.
The writer sees Jews for Jesus as fools who boast of their loyalty to Judaism, while not recognizing the reasons Jews don’t even mention Jesus’ name. The writer reminds the readers of the atrocities against Jews committed by Christians in the name of “That Man.”
Catholic Priest Who Understands Jews (Jerusalem Post 23/02/01)
The attitudes and views of a pro-Jewish Catholic priest, Fr. John Pawlikowsky, are reported on in this major English daily newspaper. Fr. Pawlikowsky is a professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and is a leader in the Jewish-Catholic dialogue globally. He has written several books and has worked hard to eliminate anti-semitic references from textbooks used in Christian education.
This feature article also highlights the tendencies of two groups within the Catholic Church: one group supports the Palestinian cause and the other is sensitive to the Jewish Catholic dialogue. Pawlikowsky comments “I won’t get through the problem as a Christian (either) by expressing total support of any position of the Israeli government or (by being) totally indifferent to the local Christian community.” (referring to the Palestinian Christians)
Jewish Community Combats Jewish evangelism Conference (Yated Neeman, 23/02/01)
This Ultra-Orthodox weekly reports on a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, hosted by the Chosen People Ministries, that took place on February 8-10. The conference was called “To the Jew First in the New Millenium: A Three-Day Conference on Jewish Evangelism,” and it drew hundreds of Jews and Southern Baptists.
The message troubled the local Jewish leaders, who initiated a campaign in local high schools and community groups warning students that it is impossible to be Jewish and accept Jesus as messiah.
“It’s a spiritual Holocaust,” said Robin Isaacson, co-director of the Palm Beach branch of Torah Life & Living. “It is so wrong to believe that the New Testament is the logical continuation of the Old Testament.” She went on to say that groups like Chosen People Ministries often target teenagers, who are at a vulnerable age of confusion and open to pressure.
It’s not the message about Jesus that disturbs Isaacson, but the messianic way of “wrapping him in a Jewish cloak.” The Jewish ambiance of the conference – speakers donning Kippot, videos of Israel, referring to Jesus as Yeshua – the Hebrew word for salvation, dancing and singing Hebrew songs, etc. – was distressing to Isaacson. “They basically talked as if they were proud Jews,” said Luis Fleischman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
German Christian Group Designed Kit for Protection From Non-conventional Warfare (Ratzui Vematzui (23/02/01), Kol Zichron (23/02/01))
The owners of a factory that has designed and produced kits for protection from non-conventional biological and chemical warfare, are actually German Christians who live in Zichron Yaakov. The kits have become increasingly popular during recent years and weeks, as tensions escalate in the gulf once again. The factory has cooperated with the Ministry of Defense on several projects, including a current one related to Israeli tanks.
The German Christians arrived in Zichron Yaakov in 1963, and are called the “German gentiles.” Their way of life is very simple and is reminiscent of Kibbutz life in Israel’s early days, combined with Amish culture. They believe in both the Old and New Testaments, without further interpretation. They have no symbols, crosses, or churches, only their direct connection with God.
YMCA Furor Over Articles Castigating Israel (The Jerusalem Report, 26/02/01)
The YMCA of the US has condemned two articles on the website of the Geneva-based World Alliance of the YMCA, which accuse Israel of “widespread human rights violations perpetrated on the entire Palestinian people.”
Kenneth Gladish, executive director of the US YMCA, has expressed his disappointment to Nicholas Nightingale, secretary general of the World Alliance saying, “The language, tone, and characterizations included in these materials do nothing to aid the true cause of peace and stability, nor do they position the YMCA for effective service across the boundaries of the dispute… This material puts in jeopardy much of the great YMCA work done throughout the region – work benefiting all communities.”
The articles were written as a result of a visit of an international team of YMCA officials to the region, and have a Palestinian slant, with no mention of Israeli fatalities. They call on the YMCA community to take “firm and coordinated action [and] to take the side of the oppressed Palestinian people” and affirm “the Palestinian vision of peace.”
Despite Gladish’s objections, the articles will remain on the website.
Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg Plans to Publish Rabbinical Order Calling for Reconciliation with Christianity (Yated Neeman, 27/02/01)
Strasbourg’s Chief Rabbi, Rene Guttman, announced that he intends to publish a “Declaration of the French Rabbinate” that condemns the de-legitimization of Christianity and the criticism of its behavior, and calls for Jews to learn morality from Christianity and Islam. Paris’ Chief Rabbi, David Mashash, says that this declaration does not at all express the opinion of French Jews. Others thought the act might arouse anti-Semitism and damage the Jewish community.
Christians Are Silent (Maariv, 28/02/01)
In a letter to the editor, one reader of this secular daily wonders at the Church’s silence with regard to the current de-legitimization by Muslims of the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. He believes that Muslim claims that the Jewish Temple never existed on the Temple Mount would pull the rug out from under Christianity, since Jesus was a Jew who did much of his work in the Temple.
Another review of Yaacov Yuval’s new book “Two Nations in Your Womb” (Haaretz, 28/02/01)
This secular daily publishes yet another review of Yuval’s new book. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Professor of Jewish History at Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva devotes a full page to review this important book. Previous reviews by this paper and others have been summarized in previous editions of the Media Review (September 2000 #1, and January 2001 #2).