March 15 – 2001



During the period covered by this  review (two weeks), 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 45.

Of these:

  • 18 articles related to non-Jews living in Israel
  • 12 articles reported on the eviction of eight Greek Orthodox Monks from their monastery by the Vatican
  • four articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
  • three articles dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
  • one article presented international Christian opinion on current political issues


The remaining seven articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab, or Jewish matters on their own merit.


IDF Officer States Non-Jewish Soldiers Inferior to Jewish Soldiers

(Yediot Aharonot, 01/03/01, 02/03/01, 06/03/01, 09/03/01, Haaretz, 02/03/01, 06/03/01, The Jerusalem Post, 02/03/01, Yated Neeman, 02/03/01, 06/03/01, Hazofeh, 05/03/01, 06/03/01, Maariv, 06/03/01, Hamodia, 06/03/01)

All the secular and main Ultra-Orthodox papers reported on this incident, in which the IDF’s chief education officer, Brigadier General Elazar Stern, was quoted as having said that non-Jewish soldiers are inferior to Jewish ones. He emphasized that he was referring to Gentile immigrants from the former Soviet Union and not to Bedouin and Druze soldiers. The incident is reported to have occurred following the insistence of several Christian immigrants to be sworn into the IDF on the New Testament, instead of the Tanach. Stern supposedly claimed the immigrants’ connection to Israel was weaker and therefore their motivation to serve in the army was lower. He believed they should all convert to Judaism, even if they chose to maintain a secular lifestyle. This would allow them to feel more connected to the land of Israel and to the Jewish people.

This incident created a storm in the local media, among politicians, and in Ultra-Orthodox circles. Stern denied the allegations, and claimed to have been misquoted. He also said that any soldier who wants to swear on a New Testament may do so. Yuli Tamir, the Minister of Absorption, demanded that Stern be fired. She claimed that the IDF is not a tool for the conversion of soldiers. “I have stood before fresh graves of immigrant soldiers numerous times. How can I look in their parents’ faces after Stern’s words?” she asked. The chairman of Mafdal, a religious political party, Shaul Yahalom, agreed with Stern’s words: “There is no doubt that the one who believes in the Torah of Israel and in the Book of Books will fight with more commitment than the one who believes in the New Testament,” he said.

Barak, as Prime Minister, ordered an investigation of the reported incident, and Stern was called in to explain his statement to the Knesset’s Immigration committee. Following this appearance, Ultra-Orthodox politicians expressed their outrage at his presentation of the IDF’s policy of “friendly conversion” to Judaism of non-Jewish immigrants. This conversion is not an Orthodox one, and affects about 100-150 soldiers a year.

The Ultra-Orthodox daily, Hazofeh, claimed that Stern was correct in his statement, and that it doesn’t make sense that soldiers should be sworn in to the IDF on the New Testament. This article goes on to say that the content of the New Testament doesn’t allow for such a swearing in. The reporter quotes Matthew 5:38-39, 43-44 – “turn the other cheek” – and questions the fighting ethic a Christian soldier might have. He then goes on to condemn the church’s replacement theology as is expressed in the New Testament (Galatians 3:13, for example), and doubts the loyalties of Christian soldiers to the Jewish nation’s army.


Non-Jewish soldier Buried in a Jewish Military Cemetery  (Hamodia, 02/03/01)

This Ultra-Orthodox paper reports that a non-Jewish immigrant soldier was buried on March 1st in a Jewish cemetery in Netanya. The military Rabbinate is outraged at the new military policy, which allows for non-Jews to be buried alongside religious Jewish soldiers, without the permission of the Jewish soldiers’ families. Up until recently, the IDF would bury these soldiers in plots separated by a wall from the rest of the graveyard.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, says that this incident makes clear the fact that religious soldiers cannot serve in the IDF, and that this could cause the disintegration of the military system.


Announcement of Annual Collection for Anti-Missionary Organization Yad Lachim  (Bakehila (02/03/01), Shisha Yamim (03/03/01))

These two Ultra-Orthodox papers announce the commencement of the annual collection for the anti-missionary organization, Yad Lachim. The collection is held annually on the weekend during which the weekly Torah portion, Parashat Zechor, is read. In this portion, Israel is commanded to remember the deeds of Amalek against them and to therefore exterminate the Amalekites. The missionaries are then compared with Amalek, and any donations that are made are declared as consecrated toward the battle against these “Amalekites” of today.

During a special meeting held in Bnei Brak, the activists updated those present on the drastic rise in missionary activities during the past year. Special mention was made of the two “cults,” the Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The papers continued by saying there has been extra missionary activity surrounding the Pope’s visit and throughout the year 2000 as a whole.


“Everlasting Life,” by Eyal Magad  (Hazofeh, 02/03/01)

This review in an Ultra-Orthodox daily discusses a book recently published by Yediot Aharonot. The reviewer warns the public that it is a missionary pamphlet disguised as a romance novel, and that it glorifies Christian-Jewish beliefs such as those of “Jews for Jesus” and “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Despite the fact that the hero is sent to a psychiatric hospital at the end of the book because of his beliefs, the reviewer is not convinced. She believes that the descriptions of Christian liturgy and religious experience are too positive to be cancelled out by the story’s resolution.

The novel contains a number of explicitly sexual scenes, and thus draws in the young crowds, supposes the reviewer. “They are considering a trip to India to find the meaning of their existence… but will tell themselves, ‘Why go far when all the spirituality I’m looking for is found here, right under my nose, at the Via Dolorosa and the Old City’s churches, or at Stella Maris in Haifa.’” She then goes on to suggest that missionary money may be behind the publishing of the book.

Anglican Church Undecided Regarding Conversion of Jews  (Yated Neeman, 02/03/01)

This Ultra-Orthodox daily reports on a booklet recently prepared for the Church of England, in which it is mentioned that Christian opinion still differs regarding the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Some believe that Jews should not be evangelized in view of the Church’s history of anti-Semitism. Others think that it is appropriate for Christians to share their faith about Jesus with Jews, but do not believe that this group should be “targeted” for evangelism. Still others believe that Christians have a “responsibility to convince Jews about Jesus.”


Changes in the Interpretation of the Law of Return Will Greatly Reduce Number of Non-Jewish Immigrants Making Aliya  (Yated Neeman, 06/03/01,  Hazofeh, 6/03/01)

Israel’s Attorney General, Mr. Eliakim Rubinstein, is reported to have given an unprecedented opinion regarding the interpretation of the Law of Return. The number of immigrants coming to Israel under the Law of Return will be limited as a result of family members of a Jewish convert’s family not being allowed to be included in this law, unless they themselves convert, or are born after the conversion. This decision will reduce the number of immigrants by half, but will not include the 18,000 Ethiopians awaiting Aliya from transfer camps in Ethiopia.


Church Teaching Has Changed  (The Jerusalem Post, 06/03/01)

In a letter to the editor, Donald B. Strobe from Jerusalem refers to an article published in The Jerusalem Post, in which the writer says that “Christianity sees itself as the complete fulfillment of Judaism, and its ‘New Covenant’ as supplanting the ‘Old Covenant.’” He claims that although this belief may have characterized the Church in the past, it is fading in many of the churches of today, following World War II. He then quotes from Dr. R. Kendall Soulen’s book, “The God of Israel and Christian Theology”: “After examining again the sources of their faith, some churches have concluded that the teachings that the church displaced the Jewish people in God’s plan is wrong or at least seriously misleading. In its place they have affirmed that the church has not superseded the Jewish people in God’s plan and that God remains faithful to His election of the Jewish people.”


Two New Books on Jewish-Christian Relations  (The Jerusalem Post, 09/03/01)

Two new books are reviewed in The Jerusalem Post, a secular daily. The first is “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews,” written by James Carroll, an American-Catholic. It is an exhaustive study of the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish people. He claims that misunderstandings surrounding Paul’s writings led to Christian assault on Jews. This phenomenon began after Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire and elevated the crucifixion of Jesus (including the Jewish involvement in the act) to the central event in the Church’s theology of redemption.

The second book is a translation of a German book written in the early 16th century by  Johannes Reuchlin, a Christian law professor, about Jewish literature and why it should not be burned by Germany’s Emperor at the time, Maximilian I.  The book is entitled “Recommendations Whether to Confiscate, Destroy and Burn All Jewish Books – A Classic Treatise Against Anti-Semitism.” It was translated and edited by Peter Wortsman.