Caspari Center Media Review…………March, 2001, #2
The number of articles relating to the subjects covered by this review that appeared in the Israeli media during the second two weeks of March totaled 68. Of these,
* 11 articles dealt with the status of non-Jews in Israel
* 15 articles dealt with Jewish/Catholic relations
* 8 articles dealt with the Greek Orthodox church in Israel
* 2 articles dealt with Messianic Jews
* 5 articles dealt with missionary activity
* 4 book reviews
The remaining articles were single articles concerned with miscellaneous Christian or Jewish matters on their own merit. It should be noted that of the 4 book reviews 3 were of the same book.
Missionaries Offer Jesus Film, Anti-Missionaries Are Enraged (Yidiot Haifa, 02/03/01)
This Haifa weekly reports on a recent campaign that was held in Haifa and the surrounding neighborhoods. According to the article, “The cult of Messianic Jews offers: missionizing by direct mail.” The article relates that thousands of persons have received, directly in their mailboxes, blue envelopes that say “See and Live.” Inside the envelope is a flyer and a sticker advertising a free video of the life of Jesus. The information appears in both Hebrew and Russian.
Religious elements are outraged at the boldness of the ‘missionaries.’ A religious member of the Haifa city council, Haim Vilinger, states: “ This is a very dangerous missionary cult that is acting openly and without restraint.” The religious spokesmen have issued a warning to the public and have asked people not to open the envelopes but to destroy them unopened. They have confiscated large amounts of the envelopes
The article features a full-color photograph of the flyer with the telephone number to call to receive the free video clearly visible. (Editors note: according to sources in Haifa, a number of people who did not receive direct mailing have called and asked for the video as a result of the newspaper article.)
Christianity and Judaism (Makor Rishon, 02/03/01)
This religious weekly paper devotes a lengthy article to a discussion based on five recently published (or re-issued) books: That Man, Jews talk About Jesus, Shenan; Jesus the Christian, Klausner; Jesus the Christian and his Milieu, Klausner; The Christian Grenade, Turishedi; Approaching Jewish Christian Dialogue, Don.
The author, Michael Bronstein, uses these books as a basis to deal with the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the historical context of a post modern world. He examines questions of the possibility and desirability of Jewish Christian dialogue at this point in history.
“Eternal Life,” a Controversial New Book (Iton Yerushalaim, 02/03/01, HaTzofeh, 14/03/01,Yidiot Achronot, 15/03/01)
Although this book was reviewed in the last Media Review, (see March #1, 2001) it continues to be the cause of much interest and not a little controversy from widely diverse sectors. Both the secular and the religious press have reviewed it and the wide circulation weekly Jerusalem paper carries a three- page interview with the author. Understandably, the religious press sees the book as dangerous and written with a missionary motive. The secular press, however, looks mainly at the racy elements of the plot and after describing the novel as a journey, concludes their review with these words: “You must not miss this journey.”
The interview with the author, Eyal Meggid, gives insight as to the issues that he was trying to tackle in the novel. In answer to the question, “What is the message of the book?” Meggid answered, “For the secular Jew who is really seeking for his faith, the Messiah is more available than he thinks.” The reviewer says that Meggid’s personal gospel is “the natural possibility for us as Jews to also believe in Christianity.”
Meggid says, when questioned about Christianity, “In Christianity, I found what I couldn’t find in Judaism- my personal God, that means to say, a God who is flesh and blood to whom you can turn. Jesus, in opposition (to Judaism), is human and equal with God. This mediation, between man and God, is the most truthful thing for secular Jews who are looking for meaning. He is a far more Jewish solution than an ashram in India.” Meggid continues, “I am not leading the Jewish people to convert to Christianity, but we have no choice other than to weigh that option because it is always there in our consciousness and we are hiding from it. I certainly believe that Christianity is flesh of our flesh but we have a psychological block, clearly we need to recognize it.”
While it is apparent that Meggid is neither a Christian nor a Messianic Jew, his books all deal with issues that are relevant for him personally.
Soldiers Swear Allegiance to Israel on the New Testament (Kol HaBira, 09/03/01)
In the past month, several articles have dealt with this phenomena of new soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces choosing to swear allegiance to Israel on the New Testament rather than on the Tenach. This article cites one incident where in January this year, out of 436 new immigrant soldiers, 92 chose to swear their oaths of allegiance on the New Testament.
Cult of Messianic Jews in Historic Brenner Building ( Yidiot Achronot, 12/03/01, Radio Moreshet, 12/03/01, 18:40, Yom HaShishi, 16/03/01)
Both the secular and religious press as well as a religious radio program covered this story. This is an update and an expansion of a story that first appeared in the religious press over a year ago under a large headline “Expose.” The religious press complains that just now the secular paper Yidiot Achronot is uncovering this story when they had already reported on it over a year ago.
The weekly religious paper, Yom HaShishi, devotes one and a half pages to this story. They begin by reporting on the activities of the ‘missionary cult of Messianic Jews’’ activities during the festival of Purim. According to the report, a number of the ‘Messianic Jews’ dressed up as ultra-orthodox Jews and sang and danced on a street corner in a secular neighborhood near their center on Brenner Street. Throughout the article the theme of masquerading reappears in a negative sense to refer to the activities of the ‘Christian Cult.’ The use of Jewish language and symbols is deplored in the context of the activities of the Messianic Jews.
Also appearing in this article is a section of what apparently a part of the announcement sheet of the congregation that meets at Brenner Street. In it, names of soldiers who are serving in the army are featured with a request for prayer on their behalf. Also there is an announcement of a youth conference to be held just before Passover.
In addition to the story about the activities on Brenner Street, the article deals with “a church in the heart of Tel Aviv,” at 34 Yitzhak Sadeh Street and headed by the “well known apostate, Avi Mizrachi who lives in Alfeh Menashe.”
As is usual in articles of this type occurring in the religious press, the reports are highly sensationalized and they praise the activities of the anti-missionary organization, ‘Yad L’Achim.’ The same tone is also evident in the radio interview with the director of ‘Yad L’Achim,’ Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipshitz.
Rabbi Lipshitz uses the occasion of the article in Yidiot Achronot to give his views on the recent activities of Messianic Jews, both at Brenner Street and in Gadera where a new congregational facility is being built. He complains that the group in Gadera/Gan Yavne have brought in a crew of German workers to build their missionary facility. “They brought Germans, in addition to bringing millions of dollars, they’ve come to build with their hands. They have already rented the first building near Gan Yavne… And we cry Auschwitz, the oven that burnt the souls of Israel and everyone is silent. How did they get permission? Wee went the regional council in Beer Tuvia, aren’t you ashamed? When they authorized the permit they knew that it was the mission, we found it in the protocols.”
Demonstration Against Missionary Building (HaModia, 14/03/01, 22/03/01, 23/03/01; Yom L’Yom, 15/03/01)
These major religious papers give much coverage to the building of a “missionary center” near Gadera. They report on a public demonstration that was held on March 22, 2001 in front of the offices of the local regional council Beer Tuvia that authorized the building project. The ultra-orthodox public is enraged that the Beer Tuvia local council authorized this building project and they have vowed to work for the cancellation of the building permits. Rabbi Lipshitz, Director of Yad L’Achim, states “If any soul in Israel is caused to change his religion, the guilt for the act will be on the members of the Beer Tuvia regional council.”
According to HaModia, 14/03/01, the congregation of Messianic Jews (whose center is in Rishon L’Tzion) gave the building permit for the construction of a large, eight story multi-purpose building to the missionary, Baruch Maoz. The paper quotes reliable sources that the building will contain lecture halls, study rooms and baptismal rooms.
The Rabbis of many of the settlements surrounding the building took part in the demonstration together with some religious members of the Knesset.
Christianity Still Rules (HaAretz, 22/03/01)
In a front page article, the secular daily paper, HaAretz extensively reviews the contents of a recently published book, The Encyclopedia of the Christian World, 2nd edition, edited by David Bart and published by Oxford Press. (No date given)
Although, according to the title, the book is an encyclopedia of the Christian world, in reality, the book gives information on all religions worldwide. It documents the membership statistics of all world religions and makes comparisons between relative numbers at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century and makes a projection up to the year 2025. The article states that Bart’s intention was to “publish factual data…and he recognizes that the book has a purpose: to be
used as a basis for Christian missionary work.”
This edition of the encyclopedia identifies 10,000 separate religions, 150 of which number over one million adherents. Christianity is divided into 33,830 different groups. Catholics represent the largest number of Christians (1 billion), independent churches are the second largest (386 million), Protestants are the third largest (342 million), Orthodox groups are the fourth largest (215 million), and Anglicans are in fifth place (80 million).
In the year 2000, Christianity was the largest religion in the world with 31.2% of the total world population (as compared to 32.2% in 1900). One major change is that whereas in 1900, 8-0% of Christians were white in the year 2000, 45% were white. Islam is the world’s second largest religion with 19.6% of the world’s population (as compared to 12.3% in 1900). Jews represent .2% of the world’s population (as compared to .8% in 1900). Buddhism and the Chinese folk religions have both lost members while Hinduism has grown stronger.