June 15 – 2001

Caspari Center Media Review……………………….June # 1


During the period covered by this review, 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 92.

Of these:

  • sixteen articles dealt with matters related to the death of non-Jews in the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
  • thirteen articles dealt with Jewish/Christian relations
  • twelve articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
  • twelve articles dealt with Christian tourism and tourist sites
  • seven articles dealt with the Pope’s visit to Syria
  • four articles dealt with various Christian conferences
  • four articles dealt with matters concerning the Greek Orthodox community
  • three articles were stories of conversions to Judaism
  • three articles dealt with opposition to a sign with the symbol of the cross at the entrance the Old City
  • two articles dealt with Messianic Jews

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

Radio Interviews: Missionary Conference (Reshet Moreshet, 08/05/01, Army Radio, 15/05/01)

The last Media Review dealt with the missionary conference that took place during the 13-15 of May, and Yad L’achim’s efforts to prevent it from happening. Two radio programs dealt with the same topic, but included additional information. In one of the interviews, the interviewer asks new and interesting questions regarding Yad L’achim activists’ motivations for preventing the “mission conference.”

Radio host Naftali Menashe’s first  question to Ze’ev Shtiglitz (of Lev L’achim) is –   why does Lev L’achim feel the need to prevent a gathering of those who already belong to the Messianic Jewish movement. If they are already a part of the ‘cult,’ do they not have the right to meet together and do what they like?

Shtiglitz: “Because we’re not talking about a meeting that is just for them. We’re talking about (the fact) that they advertise in the papers and on bulletin boards all over the country… and they address all types of Jews and non-Jews as well.”

Shtiglitz claims that such a gathering of Jews and non-Jews is against the law since the advertisement  for the conference includes promises that the lame will walk, the blind will see, and the deaf will hear. “This,” says Shtiglitz, “is promising benefits, which is against the law.”

Menashe later points out that the Messianic Jews are not really Christian, and are not part of “classic Christianity.” Shtiglitz disagrees with this comment saying that the Supreme Court in Israel decided some time ago who is a Christian and who is not, and according to the law, Messianic Jews are Christians. He claims that Messianic Jews believe in the same things Christians do, and their practices are identical.  Shtiglitz clarifies his point by giving an example: “It’s like bringing a special kind of  dog and asking him, ‘who are you?’ and he says I’m a human dog. There is no such thing. He is a dog.”

In closing, Menashe asks why this conference disturbs Lev L’achim if most of the Russian immigrants who plan to attend are not Jewish to begin with. Shtiglitz says “it is enough if there is one Jew among them.”

The other radio interview was a call-in show in which an anonymous caller expressed her fears for the Jewish people who might attend the conference and be influenced to change their religion. She spoke of the extensive influence the mission is having in Israel as a matter for grave concern and highlighted that the secular Israeli is unaware and therefore unafraid. The interviewer defended the democratic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

A Christian Crusade Supported by the Israeli Government (Yom L’yom, 10/05/01)

This religious weekly accuses the Israeli government of not preventing the immigration of Russian crime groups into Israel under the Law of Return. These laws, that “permit anyone” to make aliya without any regard to their Judaism, are the reason so many non-Jews immigrate, and why the crime level has risen in the past few years.

“Not meaning to be racist, there is no doubt that the Jewish nation is different, if even slightly, from gentile nations, and especially different from the Russian people. The violence of the Jewish nation is completely different from gentile-Russian violence.” The writer points out that many of the new immigrants are anti-Semitic Jew haters who were involved in violent anti-Jewish acts before they left Russia. The rest, he says, are “just gentiles that bring their gentile violent upbringing to the land of the Jews. Their violence has always been more severe than Jewish violence (if indeed there has ever been such a thing as Jewish violence).”

Several examples of current court cases involving non-Jewish Russian immigrants follow this introduction. The first example involves a small group of Russian immigrants who look like skinheads and dress disgracefully. They walk around attacking people for no apparent reason. The attack that landed them in court involved a young Israeli solider who was beaten up on a beach in front of hundreds of people. Those who tried to break up the fight had their lives threatened. The soldier was saved when security people arrived on the scene and arrested the Russian crime group. The soldier claims he had never seen his attackers before they knocked him down by a blow to the back of the head.

The writer blames the secular press for turning a blind eye to these occurrences and for trying to cover up the fact that many of the new immigrants are not Jewish. Another example is then presented. A Russian newspaper carried the story of a young immigrant who is about to be expelled from Israel because of his crimes. The paper presented the young boy as a “poor orphan” but the writer of our current article reveals that he is not Jewish at all, and has no right to remain in this country. The writer then states that “it is important to remember that Israeli law only allows expulsion in the most severe crime cases, and/or when one’s Jewish identity was lied about in the Aliya process.”

Several statistics follow these examples: 73% of street related violence is initiated by non-Jewish Russian new immigrants; 82% of youth who consume alcohol are immigrants, 25% of them drop out of high school, 32% do not have any Israeli friends, and over 40% say they would rather not serve in the army. “This is a terrifying statistic,” says the writer. “It demonstrates… that a generation growing up in Israel does not feel a part of the country and the people, and in addition, behaves according to Russian crime-world stereotypes.”

The paper concludes with the message that if the government does not take action, the Jews will soon be a minority in their own country.

The Gospel According to Kleinberg (Magazine Ha’ir, 10/05/01)

This five-page interview can be called a summary of the life of Doctor Aviad Kleinberg. A historian whose field of expertise is Christianity in the Middle Ages, he will soon head the Bachelor of Arts department at the Tel Aviv University. Though he gives his opinion on many different topics, of interest to this review are his opinions and thoughts on Christianity.

The interviewer begins with the question: “Do you believe in God?” Kleinberg says that he doesn’t. One of the reasons he cannot believe in God is the fact that his parents were both Holocaust survivors. He says, “as members of the second generation to the Holocaust you feel that even if there is a God, you’re angry with him.” Despite Kleinberg’s disbelief, he claims to long for God. Religion, he says, actually helps people ask the right questions – the big questions. Religion is not necessarily the easy way out, “since there are religions, like Christianity, that offer people a world that is more terrible than what was previously known. In the ancient world people did not think that another world (the afterlife) was needed as a consolation for this world. They thought the world was just fine. They did not hope for heaven, and were not frightened of hell. Christianity invented both heaven and hell… but it turned this random and insignificant world into a world full of meaning… What religion offers is a language that enables one to grapple with the big questions.”

Next, the interviewer asks Kleinberg to explain his fascination with Christianity. In the beginning, admits Kleinberg, it was a fascination with the “other,” or the more exotic. But, says Kleinberg, “I didn’t fall in love with Jesus.” The interviewer has a hard time understanding this fascination, and reminds Kleinberg that Christians really “hassled” the Jews. Kleinberg agrees this is true, but adds, “We have the difficult feeling that Christianity is the child that succeeded in the place where we failed. We are always saying to them: ‘Hey! That’s not fair! You took away the commandments. Let’s see you observe all this with the commandments.’ O.K. – they gave up the commandments, but now there are a billion and a half Christians, and about 13 million Jews. That hurts. Christianity took the books, prophecies, and myths of Judaism and showed what can be done with them. We were left with a local store and they became an international marketing chain. We feel as though they have taken our inheritance.”  Kleinberg claims that two of the reasons Christianity succeeded where Judaism failed are in the practical day-to-day aspect of the religion that does away with ceremony and the development of a clear theology that deals with the difficult questions.

Kleinberg points out that “despite Christianity’s image of being strict and close-minded, it is a very flexible religion. Catholic Christianity is willing to take on dangerous and difficult material and adjust itself to changing times. This is a daring step that is hard to find in Orthodox Judaism. It is not by chance that one of the most important leaders of Judaism in our day, Ovadia Yosef, knows nothing apart from Judaism, and is proud of it.”

At this point the interviewer re-introduces Jesus, and asks if he wasn’t something of a mystic (the kind of person who returns from a vacation in the Far East).

“It is a mistake to think of Jesus as a mystic,” says Kleinberg. “People say of him (Jesus) that he is the Son of God, but when you check out the texts, he himself never speaks in terms of prophecy, or claims that the spirit of God is upon him. He speaks for himself… Jesus and Buddha, and other religious leaders, all say, ‘look, there is suffering in the world. We can get rid of this suffering, and I will tell you how.’ There is a very strong social aspect in the gospel of Jesus… He demands of his followers to follow severe moral standards… He does not offer an escape (from this world). He demands that his followers spread the gospel and promises them the kingdom of God in return. Until then, he says, it will be terrible for you. I am offering you blood, sweat, and tears.”

While Kleinberg does not believe in God or Jesus, he admires the moral standards that are set by Jesus, or Christianity. “These standards guide me in very significant decisions in my life. For some I have been slapped on the cheek, and for some (a smaller number) I have been applauded.”

Rabbi Makes Controversial Comment (Yediot Acharonot, 15/05/01, Yated Ne’eman, 16/05/01)

In a letter addressed to the municipality of Kiryat Atta, Rabbi Shulzinger warned that the city was headed toward destruction. He writes that this inevitable destruction is the result of non-Jewish “practices” being implemented by the non-Jewish Russian immigrants, such as selling pork and requesting that the New Testament be taught in local schools.

Rabbi Shulzinger is reported to have said:  “a year ago I warned the mayor ‘if you do not destroy the pigs – the pigs will destroy you.’ To our exasperation, the pigs are still gnawing at us.” Shulzinger believes that Kiryat Atta is turning into a suburb of the Russian city of Odessa, and soon will be entirely taken over by non-Jews.  “It ought not to be,” says Shulzinger, “that one must live in a city with non-Jews whose ‘heroes’ inherited the ‘genes’ of hundreds of years of hatred of Israel…”

Rabbi Shulzinger’s words caused uproar in the secular media, and one Knesset member even called for his resignation. The religious daily that reports on the same incident claims that the secular media (“as always”) has twisted the words of the rabbi so that they seem perverse and indecent. The paper voices its surprise that the Ministry of Religious Affairs did not back the words of the rabbi. In defense of the rabbi, the religious paper writes: “the media hastened to twist (his words) and presented the letter as criticism of all Russian immigrants, including Jews. Religious factors in Kiryat Atta have stated that whenever a religious spokesman has commented on the situation of non-Jewish immigrants in Israel and the anti-Semitism involved, he has been preyed upon by secular left-wing factors who are supported by the media.”

The religious community expressed surprise at the outrage caused by Shulzinger’s letter. “His words were clearly spoken against those immigrants who are not Jews!”

“Jews for Jesus in Ramat Gan” (Makor Rishon, 18/05/01)

This religious weekly  paper reports on an encounter a journalist had with a tract distributed in Ramat Gan by two ‘normal secular young people.’ The journalist was handed an attractive tract that he then proceeded to read. The contents of the tract compared the world to a stage and only the last line indicated that it was the product of  “Jews for Jesus.”

Being intrigued by the thought of secular  young people involved with Jews for Jesus, the journalist then called the telephone number given in the tract and had a lengthy conversation with ‘Efraim.’

‘Efraim, ’ who  spoke Hebrew with a distinct American accent explained that Jews who believe in Jesus remain Jews and express their faith in the old and new testaments in a variety of  ways. The conversation was characterized by references to the Jewish aspects of the faith and practice of Messianic Jews.

Only when the question of intermarriage came up did the journalist take exception and relegate the entire enterprise to the realm of theater.

Conversion Stories  (HaTzofeh, 25/5/01; Kol Hashavua, Bnei Brak, 25/05/01, Hashavua B’Yershalaim, 24/5/01)

These three papers each carry stories of Christians who have converted to Judaism. One story is about a Finnish family with four teenage daughters who all converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel and are now living in Raanana. An interesting aspect of this report is that the husband, Ole Brunel, had been a Lutheran pastor in Helsinki for fifteen years before renouncing Christianity and embracing Judaism. He pastored a congregation in Helsinki while at the same time living an observant Jewish lifestyle. Brunel stated that he had always felt Jewish and that ‘angel who looked after births’ made a mistake when Brunel was born into a gentile Finnish family rather than into a Jewish family. The paper (HaTzofeh)  devotes three full pages to this story and has a number of photographs of this typically Finnish looking family.

The Bnei Brak weekly paper tells yet another story of a Christian clergyman who converted to Judaism. Rabbi Yehuda  Pearl of Bnei Brak was not born Jewish. He was born in Mexico into a devout Christian family and his father  was a successful pastor/evangelist. Today he is an orthodox rabbi, living and working in Bnei Brak.

Apparently Rabbi Pearl (his original name is not given) was a prodigy, becoming a  preacher already at the age of 13. He continued as a Christian preacher/leader until the age of 19 when he began to be drawn to Judaism. He eventually converted to Judaism and was very influential in bringing (according to the article) thousands of Mexican Christians out of Christianity to Judaism. His brother was one of those who became Jewish and he too today lives in Bnei Brak. The article is five pages long and has photographs of Rabbi Pearl both before and after his conversion.

The third article tells the stories of three immigrants from the former Soviet Union who  have embraced an orthodox Jewish life style and have converted to Judaism. These three had a Jewish connection (distant) in their backgrounds but were raised without any sense of  Jewish  identity.

Conference Center Threatened for Hosting Messianic Event (The Jerusalem Post, 18/05/01)

The Jerusalem International Conference Center (locally known as Binyanei Ha’uma) is being threatened with legal action by Deputy Mayor Haim Miller. A controversial conference took place at the JICC on the13-15 of May. Religious factors tried to prevent the conference from happening, but their efforts were in vain, and the evangelical/Messianic conference went on as planned (for further details, see previous Media Review).

Miller says he has evidence that missionary activity did take place at the conference, and since “Israeli law prohibits offering individuals financial gain and inducing minors to change their religion,” the matter will be looked into.

Messianic Jew Benjamin Berger is quoted as having said, “When the time is right… the Lord Jesus will come, and through his salvation we will receive deliverance. Together with the love and worship of Jew and Gentile, Jesus will come and sit upon the throne of the earth in Jerusalem.” In addition to such statements, the Post reports that pamphlets were distributed that called on Christians to evangelize the world and contribute financially to this cause.

“The Bible Now” at Yad HaShmona (Yidiot Achronot, 07/06/01)

This wide circulation Hebrew daily carries an article about the guest house at Yad HaShmona in the Judean hills. The article describe the facility in very positive terms, gives instructions as to how to find it, includes the telephone number, and gives the cost of accommodation. The recently opened Biblical Gardens are cited as a worthwhile place to visit while  staying at Yad Hashmona.

The history of the moshav is told and the general atmosphere is described. In the comments about Yad Hashmona, the journalist says “The faith of the residents, Jews and Christians is that Yeshua is the Messiah and the day is coming when he will return.” The article also says that the residents of Yad HaShmona are all characterized by their love of the Bible.