Caspari Center Media Review…………………..July, 2002 #1, #2
In the period of time covered by this review, we received 69 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 12 articles dealt with Christian support of Israel.
- 3 articles dealt with status issues.
- 20 dealt with Missionary activity.
- 6 human-interest stories.
- 2 dealt with the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
- 7 dealt with Greek Orthodox issues
- 2 articles were book reviews
The remaining 17 articles dealt with miscellaneous matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Increased Missionary Activity in the North (HaModia, 04/07/02; Yediot Haifa, 28/06/02)
These religious papers both issued strong warnings against increased missionary activity in the Haifa and Nazareth areas. Rabbis in Haifa reported ‘chain letters from Christian groups’ were being sent to residents, and ordered to burn and destroy these immediately. They also reported several additional attempts to publish different articles and ‘missionary propaganda’ in local papers.
One article (HaModia, 04.07.02) reported that missionaries had ‘planted’ a youth in one of the religious schools in an attempt to convert fellow students. The article claims that students were led to a ‘Missionary church’ where they were taught from the New Testament. The school principal turned to the anti-missionary group Yad L’achim for assistance. Apparently, members of the town council were also concerned by this “and other missionary attempts to convince small children to join their messianic cult.” The deputy mayor was quoted as saying “This is a wide spread occurrence, that should concern us…we must find a solution before it becomes too late.”
In response, the boy ‘operator’ was brought before his principal, but refused to sign a paper promising to stop all ‘missionary preaching.’ The boy was forced to leave the school and Yad L’achim announced that it would continue all anti-missionary activities in order to prevent this “evil missionary intrusion.”
Message of Encouragement (Israel Today, 05/02)
Messianic congregations recently posted a message of encouragement in Israeli newspapers, it was published for Independence Day during a difficult time of many terror attacks. In this full-page ad, Messianic leaders expressed their support of the Israeli government. “Israel be strong and courageous! Do not fear, for the Lord our God is with us.” The message also quoted Isaiah 41:8-13, and encouraged nations around the world to pray and support Israel.
CFI Supports Israel (Israel Today, 05/02)
Christian Friends of Israel was founded in 1985 by Ray and Sharon Sanders with one command given to them: “Bless Israel”. This article reports on the support work done by CFI’s 40 some volunteers and staff through its’ different projects. These projects help meet the needs of immigrants, Holocaust survivors, Soldiers, and terror victims. The “Wall of Prayer” is a ministry of intercession through which nations around the world pray for each city, town and village in Israel.
Ray Sanders is quoted: “Everything the church possesses was given to us by the Jewish people-the Bible, prophets, psalmists, apostles, and Jesus. We want to repay the debt we owe to the Jewish people and help undo some of the damage that was done over the centuries by organized Christianity.”
Law of Return (HaAretz 01.07.02)
The government recently decided against a change in the Law of Return by canceling the proposition of M.K. Michael Kliener .The Law of Return states that children, grandchildren and those married to Jews are entitled to citizenship and immigrant rights. If the law were changed, grandchildren would be eligible only when immigrating with their grandparent or upon proving that they were persecuted because of their Jewishness.
M.K Natan Sharanski, head of Israel B’Aliya, said that this change would damage Israeli relations with Jewish communities abroad, while decreasing by only 6% the number of non-Jews receiving citizenship. “At times like this, when anti-Semitism is world-wide and Israel is in a war, and working to increase immigration, we need the support of world wide Jewry…any change in the Law of Return will cause a tear within Israel and abroad.”
Aliya from North America (Ha’aretz 10.07.02), (Yediot Acharonot 10.07.02), (Ma’ariv 10.07.02), (Makor Rishon 12.07.02)
All the major newspapers covered the recent arrival of over 500 new immigrants from the U.S and Canada. This number represents a number equal to one quarter of the annual amount of new immigrants coming from North America during the last years.
By law, immigrants arriving from wealthier western states are not eligible for all the financial assistance that immigrants from other countries receive, but apparently financial help was what enabled many of these families to leave everything behind and come to Israel. The aid came through generous donations from Evangelical congregations who believe in the restoration of Israel and a joint project of the Jewish Agency, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and Nefesh B’Nefesh. Many were young families who said that they had planned on coming to Israel but hadn’t had the funds.
The immigrants were greeted at the Ben Gurion airport with an array of Israeli flags, banners and songs. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was one of the initiators of the project, attended the reception. “Your arrival is the essence of Zionism, and you are the best answer to those who would have us destroyed. The message that you send out to the world is that we will not be cast out or destroyed,” he said.
Controversy Over Greek Orthodox Priest’s Statement (Yated Ne’eman, 05.07.02) (In Jerusalem, 12.07.02) (Kol HaIr 12.07.02) (Jerusalem Post 07.07.02) (Ha’Aretz, 15.07.02)
Much controversy was caused when a local Greek Orthodox priest in interview with the “Gulf News “ expressed support for suicide bombings as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation. Father Hanna Atalla was quoted: “…some freedom fighters adopt martyrism and others use different ways, all are acceptable in the intifada for freedom…The Zionist regime is murdering the Palestinian people and we, the Greek Orthodox community, are part of the intifada.”
Atalla has functioned as a go between for the Patriarch and the Palestinian Authority, holding frequent meetings with Chairman Arafat. After this last interview the Patriarch issued a statement stating that Atalla had never been appointed as a spokesperson and that his opinions were personal.
Yad L’Achim Infiltrates Wedding (HaModia, 12.10.02)
This article in the major religious daily paper reports on Yad L’Achim’s successful infiltration of a Messianic wedding. The wedding was held at Beit Immanuel in Jaffa and “the missionary ceremony was conducted by the well known missionary David Lazarus, whose name and plots are known to Yad L’Achim.”
Apparently the infiltrator recognized the bridal couple from having seen them the week previously in the offices of the rabbinical court where they were married in a religious Jewish ceremony. The head of Yad L’Achim, Rabbi Dov Lipshitz, says: “We are speaking of a new and dangerous phenomena… It is completely clear that at the time when the couple presented themselves to the rabbinate, and had an orthodox Jewish ceremony, they knew full well that in exactly one week they would be married again in a purely Christian ceremony. This is an attempt on the part of the missionaries to create a precedent according to which the couple first receives official rabbinic legitimization under the auspices of the state of Israel. This fact will give them and their descendents the right to be called unquestionably Jewish and after that they can do whatever they want. To our great sorrow, this attempt has been successful.”
The Christian Right and Israel (The Jerusalem Post 05.07.02, 07.07.02, 19.07.02) (Ha’Aretz 17.07.02) (The Jerusalem Report 01.07.02)
Four articles in different major newspapers discussed the changing relationship between American Jewry, the ‘Christian Right,’ and Israel. These articles reviewed a growing acceptance of Christian pro-Israel organizations by Jewish communities in North America. Contrasting political views, differing opinions on the peace process, and long-held suspicions of a hidden missionary agenda have caused Jewish groups to hold Christians, no matter how pro-Israel, at arms length. Lately, after September 11 and the growing crisis in the Middle East, it seems that these groups are more willing to accept the much needed support for Israel.
“There is certainly a much greater acceptance of the Christian role in supporting Israel, a greater awareness of how important it is politically,” said Esther Levis, president of N.U.C.I. Gary Bauer, a leading figure in the Christian Right who ran against Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, stated that with the current reality and America’s continuing war against terrorism Christian Evangelicals realize a greater need for support of Israel. “I think that after 9/11 there is a real sense among Evangelicals and Christians that Western civilization is being challenged again and that Israel and the U.S.A share a civilization based on Western and Judeo-Christian values”
Stewart Weiss, formerly a Rabbi in Dallas, Texas, recently wrote a commentary (Jerusalem Post 7.7.02) with the title of “Sole Brothers.” Once wary of enthusiastic pro-Israel Christians, Wiess cites the need to ‘rethink.’ Recent shows of massive support including funding for immigration, terror victims, and die-hard Christian tourism in the face of the intifada have all increased “At a time when so many others including friends and allies have abandoned us in our moment of need, swallowing whole the lies and mistruths being maliciously spread about us….”
Across America more and more pro-Israel activity can be seen, along with increased cooperation between Christian and Jewish factions. Fundamentalist Christian activists are organizing a campaign called “Stand with Israel” in cooperation with AIPAC, the main Jewish pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. Bnei Brith of Canada is working with Christian Friends of Israel to raise government support for Israel.
Although not all of the Jewish community is so eager to accept this cooperation there is definitely an increasing openness .The Zionist Organization of America has even awarded Pat Robertson, (founder of CBN) the State of Israel Friendship Award “for support of Israel’s religious, historical and legal rights to the Holy Land.”
Two Book Reviews (Eilat Weekly Review 27.07.02) (Jerusalem Post 19.07.02)
Two articles reviewed books dealing with different aspects of religion in the Land of Israel.
1.Christianity and the Holy land, Aaron Liron, Cherry Covers Publications, 1997. This book is introduced as one of the most important books published that deal with the Christian world and Christian sites in Israel. The book also discusses the development of Christian culture throughout history, combining a study of the Church, its sects and concepts.
2.Green Crescent over Nazareth: The Displacement of Christians by Muslims in the Holy Land,
Raphael Israeli, Frank Cass
Israeli analyzes the long struggle for dominance between Muslims and Christians over different Holy Sites such as Bethlehem and Nazareth He uses the standoff at the Church of Annunciation as a prime example.
“The Jewish Jesus” (Israel Today, 05.02)
This article studied the influence of the church’s relation to the Jewish context of Jesus and its influence on how Jews have perceived Jesus throughout history. It quotes Jewish theologians, authors and historians such as Shalom Ben Chorin, Constantine Brunner and Claude Montifiore. Edmund Jacob is also quoted as saying: “There can be no split between Jesus and Israel, all of Israel is present in him. The Church cannot and may not be against this if it does not want to lose its vocation.”
“Anglican Crusade” (HaModia 17.07.02) (Yated Ne’eman 08.07.02, 11.07.02)
Local religious newspapers warned of a crusade to be held by the Anglican Church in England. According to one article, titled “History Repeats Itself,” the crusade was planned during a convention of Bishops with the purpose of converting Jews, Muslims, and other non-believers through coercion and persuasion.” The English have deserted their churches and hope to fill them with Jews and Muslims in order to prevent deterioration” said the article. The article also reported that George Kubar, head of the mission in Israel, announced that his organization is prepared.
A later article (HaModia 17.07.02) reported that the bishop of Canterbury issued a statement clarifying that this ‘crusade’ was not to be of missionary activity.