Caspari Center Media Review…………………June, 2001, # 2
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 54.
- 22 articles dealt with the drive by shooting of a Greek orthodox monk (shot by Palestinians who mistook him for an Israeli)
- nine articles dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- five articles dealt with matters related to the death of non-Jews in the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
- five articles dealt with Jewish/Christian relations
- one article dealt with Messianic Jews
- one article dealt with the status of foreign workers
The remaining eleven articles were on miscellaneous topics dealing with Christian, Arab, or Jewish matters on their own merit.
The Shelter in Eilat (Yediot Eilat, 04/05/01)
This cover story in Eilat’s local weekly describes how the youth hostel ‘The Shelter’ was born through the ministry of John and Judy Pex. The article begins by describing what a normal Friday night looks like at ‘The Shelter’: dozens of men, women, and children gather “from all the ends of the earth” to “sing songs of thanksgiving and faith in Jesus in different languages. Later they take the books of the Bible and the New Testament and listen to a sermon from John Pex, the owner of the hostel… The evening is made all the more enjoyable by a warm meal shared with everyone – the food is free. Those who participate share a common faith in Jesus.” The article then goes on to describe how such a place offers a taste of home to the many foreign workers in Eilat.
A history of ‘The Shelter’ and its owners is then given. John Pex was born in Holland to a Catholic family after WWII. He claims to have been drawn to the Jewish people from a very early age. A trip around the world when he was 22 brought him to Israel. He soon moved to Eilat, where he worked at the port. In Eilat he found what he had been searching for for years: the love of God.
Soon after this, John met Judy, an American born Jew. Judy had spent three years in Alaska when she decided to travel east. Initially she planned to go as far as India, but a quick stop in Israel turned into an extended visit. It was in the Sinai desert that Judy came to believe in Jesus. John and Judy met for the first time on a road trip in the desert. When Judy returned to the States not long after, John followed her and they were married in 1976. They eventually returned to Israel with their four children.
At this point in the article, the writer explains to the readers what is a Messianic Jew: “A Messianic Jew is a Jew who believes in the Holy Bible and the New Testament all in one. A Messianic Jew does not convert and does not become a Christian, but merely adds to his Jewish faith the belief in Jesus as Messiah. Messianic Judaism does not have a religious institution. They do not have rabbis or priests, and there is no leader. The congregations are independent, and are in touch with one another. In Israel there are 7,000 Messianic Jews, 100 of whom live in Eilat.”
John told the writer how different congregations in the land have been harassed in the past. “Happily,” says the writer, “there have been no such incidents in Eilat.” John claims that Eilat is the perfect example of co-existence. The writer states that “the congregation (in Eilat) is not involved in missionary activity, does not target youth and children, and does not try to force people to convert, but they are happy to share their faith with others.” John later explains what it means to be born again: a spiritual re-birth as described in Ezekiel 36:26.
‘The Shelter’ is the result of the couple’s love of people. When they could no longer travel because of their young children, the Pex’s decided instead to bring the world to themselves. They thought a hostel would be the perfect solution. 17 years ago they found the right place for such a hostel, and named it ‘The Shelter’ because of a nearby shelter and the spiritual connotations of such a name. The Friday night gatherings (described at the beginning of the article) began in the Pex’s home. But the number of people wanting to participate grew rapidly, forcing them to move the meeting’s location to ‘The Shelter.’ Even so, the Pex’s have managed to achieve what they hoped for: a home away from home for many of Eilat’s foreign workers and visitors.
Canadian Christians Apologize (Yom Hashishi, 01/06/01, 08/06/01, Index Anashim, 07/06/01)
500 clergymen and Christian pilgrims from Canada met with Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Lau, in an emotional ceremony at Yad V’shem. These pilgrims made their way to Israel with the intention of apologizing to the Jewish nation for Canada’s role in the death of 600 Jews during the Holocaust.
In 1939, a ship carrying 900 Jews was turned away from the ports of Canada. The refugees were forced to return to their native Germany, and as a result many of them were murdered in the Nazi death camps.
The group also met with the minister of tourism at the Knesset.
Messianic Jews in the Former Soviet Union (Yated Ne’eman, 01/06/01, Hamodia, 13/06/01, The Jerusalem Report, 18/06/01)
These articles, although not directly related, deal with the same “problem” of the rapidly growing messianic community in the former Soviet Union. The two page story in the Jerusalem Report (JR) investigates this growing phenomenon by first contacting Rabbi Lakshin, an orthodox Jew, who has just established the first ever anti-mission (Messianic) office in Russia. Lashkin emigrated from Russia in 1992, but returned from the States with the sole purpose of combating the mission. One local secular Jew from Kiev told the JR that “for every one Jew going to synagogue there are 10 going to churches.”
The messianic community in Kiev is growing so rapidly that it “boasts” one of the largest messianic congregations in the world. Well over 1000 people claim membership, while many others participate in the weekly gatherings on a regular basis.
The reason for the rapid growth and expansion of the messianic community is blamed on ignorance. Jews who were part of the Communist regime “are largely ignorant of the faith of their fathers, and in keeping with Communist teaching, often consider themselves part of an ethnic group, not a religion.”
Ukraine seems to be the most affected area, with around 70 messianic Jewish congregations operating among the 500,000 Jews of the country. The JR claims that exact numbers of congregations and members of these congregations are hard to come by since “congregations are often registered with the Ukrainian government as part of evangelical Protestant movements.”
The large response from Soviet Jews has also led to an increase in missionary activity in the region. This missionary activity is an outreach form both Messianic Jewish congregations in the U.S. and from Protestant Evangelical groups, also mainly from the United States.
A second article reveals that missionary organizations in the United States invest up to 40 million dollars a year in the conversion of Jews. The JR explains the complex theological thinking behind such an investment, but reveals that most “Soviet Messianic Jews” have no such elaborate theology (as do their U.S. supporters). For these Jews, choosing to believe in the messiah of Christianity is merely a logical step, and a fulfillment of what they call “True Judaism.” This, says Rabbi Lishkin, is precisely where the danger lies. “Were these people to say, ‘We are here to convert Jews to Christianity,’ I would say, ‘You are wrong,’ but I would not be fighting them.’”
The third article exploring this phenomenon reveals that the “cult” Jews for Jesus has been banned from working on the streets of Minsk. This is a result of the severe anti-Semitism that their work has evoked. Local Christians have been complaining that the Jews have taken everything from them, and now they want to take Jesus as well.
Yad L’achim Blame Messianic Jews for Break-in (Yom L’yom, 07/06/01)
A break-in was reported at one of the Yad L’achim offices in central Israel. Much damage was caused, although nothing was actually taken from the office.
The head of the office claims missionaries from Hadera are responsible for the break-in. These missionaries have recently expanded their work in Hadera, and were responsible (according to this paper) for an attack on a Yad L’achim activist two months ago.
Yad L’achim activists in Hadera say they will not be bullied by the missionaries and will continue their efforts with even more courage and determination than before.
Christian Money (Iton Yerushalayim, 15/06/01)
In a recent municipality meeting, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert announced he was putting together a committee for the purpose of strengthening relations with the Christian world. The situation in recent months has led to a serious lack in finances, and donations from the Christian world would go first and foremost to needy families in the city.
Religious participants in the meeting were astounded when they heard this. One religious representative said: “It is clear to me that we will pay for this as Jews. Many Christian organizations are at work in this country, and missionary activity is only increasing.”
Church of Scotland vs. Religious Jews in Tiberias (Yom Hashishi, 15/06/01)
Jews regard burial sites as holy ground. This two page article opens with the question, “do you remember?” The writer asks his religious audience if they remember a bitter fight over burial ground fought some years ago. That fight, he assures them, was nothing in comparison to what awaits them now.
The burial site in question is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The land is owned by the Christian Scottish Church. Though today there is no trace that the land once was a burial site, the writer states that, based on a painting from 1849, this is an incontestable fact. The painting illustrates clearly that this piece of land was once a holy burial site and was visited by pilgrims. Apparently the site was visited by Jews for centuries until it was gradually forgotten ca. 100 years ago.
Although it is unacceptable in Judaism to desecrate a burial site, the desecration of this site is not the main issue. The paper reveals that the Scottish Church plans to build a hotel on the aforementioned piece of land, but this hotel is only a cover for what is really meant to be a missionary center. “This,” says the writer, “is too much.”
Since so many Christian sites are located in the area of the city and the lake, missionary activity is in full swing in Tiberias. The building of this center will only increase this activity in Tiberias.
The article continues with a reminder to its readers of a messianic school that recently opened in Tiberias. “The students who study there are, quite obviously, directly exposed to that cult’s noisy propaganda.” The writer describes some of the many Christian sites in the vicinity of the Scottish Church: the Galilee Experience, the Yardenit Baptismal site, a restaurant run by messianic Jews, and others.
After these descriptions the writer returns to the article’s main topic – the “hotel” missionary center. He claims the Scottish Church has begun the building process in secret so as not to evoke a response from the local religious community. The writer knows this because certain religious factors sent volunteers to the site to spy on the work being done.
Another claim the writer makes is that the missionaries in Tiberias have the exact addresses of all the residents of the city, and they are taking full advantage of this information (for missionary related purposes). Missionary activity in Tiberias (and especially that which is supported by the Scottish Church) is a kind of war against the people. One side will eventually win, and one side will lose.
The writer concludes his article by asking his readers if they are ready to fight to win.