Caspari Center Media Review…….August, 2001, #2
In the period covered by this review, 44 articles appeared in the Israeli Hebrew and English press that dealt with the subjects of Messianic Jews, the Mission and Christianity. Of these:
- 13 articles dealt with the election of the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch
- 6 articles dealt with Jewish Christian relations
- 4 articles dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 4 articles dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 3 articles dealt with interfaith dialogue
- 2 articles dealt with Messianic Jews
- 2 articles were personal stories of Christians finding their Jewish roots
- 2 book reviews
- 6 miscellaneous articles on Jewish or Christian matters
Saints in the Three Abrahamic Religions (17/0801, Jerusalem Post)
In a full-page feature article, the weekend edition of this English daily reports on a conference held in Mishkanot Sha’anaim that dealt with the subject of saints and holy figures in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. All three religions venerate “holy” individuals, but Christianity is the only religion where saints are a part of the mainstream religion.
Religious figures in Islam and Judaism serve several functions in their respective traditions. In Islam, saints are either mystics or martyrs and in Judaism, saints are ‘tzaddikim’ (righteous ones) who have the power to bless or curse from the grave.
The article also discussed the “darker side” of sainthood and highlighted the role that ‘saints’ play in the politics of the middle east. In Israel, figures such as the Baba Sali (a modern Sephardic saint), Baruch Goldstein (responsible for the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Hebron), Meir Kahane, and even Arieh Deri are sought after as sources of blessing and power by both seasoned and aspiring politicians. Of late, Palestinian suicide bombers (considered martyrs for their cause) have been accredited with sainthood in many circles. These contemporary martyr/saints serve as role models for many.
In the Roman Catholic church the process of attaining sainthood is lengthy and determined by the Catholic hierarchy over time. The recent canonization of Pope Pius XII, the holocaust Pope, has many political implications for the relationship between Israel and the Vatican.
Concerning the function of saints, one thing that all three religions have in common is the idea that saints are in someway mediators between God and man. It is for that reason that cults have developed around the persons of saints. The article closes with a warning for secular society not to underestimate the power of saints in the middle east.
Missionary School Bags! (22/08/01, HaModia, Yeted Neeman, 24/08/01, HaAretz)
Both religious and secular dailies report on the distribution of school bags to needy Israeli children over the past three years by a group called Vision for Israel. The group is apparently associated with Messianic Jews and the religious paper HaModia reports that the leaders of Vision for Israel are also the leaders of the Messianic congregation, King of Kings in Jerusalem which the paper calls the largest Messianic group in Jerusalem.
The anti-missionary organization, Lev L’Achim apparently uncovered this missionary plot through a call from someone in Bnei Brak who wanted information on the group Vision for Israel. In addition to the school bags and school supplies in the bag, a letter from Vision for Israel is included that invites the children who receive the bags to write letters and send them to Vision for Israel. “Labor and Social Affairs Ministry officials say they are worried that if children did indeed write into the organization, the group now has names and addresses of impressionable children.”
The newspaper reports differ in their accounts. One report states that Vision for Israel will stop including the letters and another report says that the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry have stopped distribution of the bags.
Christian Real Estate in Jerusalem (24/08/01, HaModia)
A three page feature article appeared in the major religious daily paper on the subject of the lands in Jerusalem that are owned by Christian churches. The article also gave an extensive overview of the history of the acquisition of the lands and the subsequent development of Jerusalem by Christian elements in the last two centuries.
Churches in Israel today own large amounts of property both within the Old and new city of Jerusalem. The article states:
“The list of churches, monasteries and institutions throughout Jerusalem is extremely long. For obvious reasons we will not give a list of their names. We are speaking of close to 70 church institutions and it is likely that we are relating to only a portion of them. Every church institution, convent or order has under its financial control many physical properties. Almost all of the above-mentioned properties have accompanying properties like buildings, houses and apartments for the accommodation of priests, nuns, and maintenance workers as well as properties for investment purposes in all parts of the city.
A large part of government offices and national institutions in Jerusalem are housed in buildings that are owned by the Christian churches, the Greek Orthodox church … has possession of most of the area of the complex of the government offices and the area on which the Knesset sits today.”
The article expresses grave concern at the amount of property controlled in Jerusalem today by various Christian churches. In the account of the history of the development of Jerusalem, the role of the Christian church is cited as having significantly contributed to the modernization of the city albeit the missionary motive (from the perspective of the orthodox Jewish author of the article) is also emphasized.