Caspari Center Media Review………………October, 2002 #1,#2
In the period of time covered by this review, we received 74 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Please note that this review covers the period usually covered by two reviews. Due to staff considerations this review is for the entire month of October.
- 16 articles dealt with Church related issues.
- 56 dealt with Christian support of Israel.
- 26 dealt with Missionary activity.
- 2 dealt with messianic related issues.
- 4 dealt with status issues.
- 19 dealt with issues in Israeli society and current events
- 10 dealt with the status of non-Jews in Israel
The remaining 14 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Christian Supporters and the Feast of Tabernacles (Jerusalem Post 23.09.02, 25.09.02, 27.09.02, 29.09.02) (Iton Yerushalayim 27.09.02) (Index Anashim 19.09.02)
More than 15 articles covered the massive demonstration of solidarity shown by thousands of Christians who participated in the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations hosted by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. Participants came from over 70 countries and took part in various activities during the seven days of the feast. Feast events includied meetings, lectures and the traditional ‘Jerusalem March’ in which many marched and danced through the streets of the capital carrying banners and Israeli flags. Nightly, the auditorium of the ICC was filled with enthusiastic crowds who sang and cheered. “These are the rah-rah cheerleaders, the pom-pom squad for the Jews and the land of Israel” said one journalist in the Jerusalem Post (27.09.02).
“God has put a special love in our hearts for Jerusalem and the Jewish people. I’m here to remind you that God is with you and that he will save you ” proclaimed one participant who voiced the sentiments of many in the crowd. These visitors brought millions of shekels to the failing Israeli tourist industry, which has suffered tremendous loss during the last two years of intifada. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was received by the crowds with wild cheering, thanked them for their generosity and support.
- As part of the celebrations, the Christian Embassy hosted and sponsored a dramatic musical production of “HaBrit” (the covenant), that portrayed the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to the founding of the nation of Israel in 1948. Dancers, singers, multimedia and special effects were a part of the production. “At times that are critical for the nation of Israel, the ICEJ wants to show its support for the country. The musical, which is a portrayal of the promises for the future of Israel, is a gesture of appreciation of the bravery and strength of survival of the country and citizens in waves of terror and difficult times,” said Embassy director Malcolm Heding. The Embassy also invited many Israelis and new immigrants to view the production.
- At a press conference organized by the Christian Embassy, Rabbi Yechiel Ekstien (founder of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and an interfaith activist) spoke of unprecedented ties between Jews and Evangelical Christians. He asked to thank the organizers of the feast on behalf of the Jewish people. This overwhelming support has been expressed in many rallies around the world, some of which have been organized solely by Christian Zionists and others that have been in cooperation with different Jewish organizations. Director Malcolm Heding said that Christian Zionists have decided to “take back the streets.”
Messianic Profile (Israel Today 10.02)
Israel today published an interview with Tsvi Sadan, an Israeli Messianic Jew founder of the magazine ‘Kivun’ and writes a column in Israel Today called ‘100 names of the Messiah’. In the interview Sadan said that it was his experience in the Yom Kippur War that led him to change his approach to the Bible and become interested Jesus and in ‘Messianic prophesies’. He also explained that ‘Kivun,’ meaning direction in Hebrew, is a magazine designed to “help create a sense of community in a somewhat hostile environment” by providing original material in Hebrew and a forum for Israeli believers to express their views on various theological and social issues.
Another article, written by Gavriel Geffen, studied the need for Israeli emissaries to the nations. Geffen, who is co-founder and director of “Keren Shlichut” (an Israeli association of Messianic Jewish emissaries) sees this as an inseparable part of Israel’s call to be a ‘light to the nations. He points to verses like Romans 11:29 to emphasize that when Jesus gave the command to go make disciples of the nations, he was addressing the first Messianic Jews, and that in fact all of the first emissaries were Jews. “We should focus our Shlichut (emissary work) on actively sending Israeli Messianic Jews to the nations to impart rather than seek blessing, and serve rather than be served.”
Land Fraud and the Greek Orthodox Church (Ha’aretz 7.10.02)
In what seems to be the conclusion of an investigation that began in June 2000, Jerusalem lawyer Avraham Peri was convicted of fraud against church and state in a multimillion-dollar land deal. Peri apparently is guilty of forging a document and making a false declaration that he witnessed the Greek Orthodox Patriarch sign a document leasing thousands of dunams of church owned land to Israeli Authorities. This deception caused a near breakdown of relations between the church and Israel as well as much internal conflict within the church itself while many accused the Patriarch of giving away land to Israel. (For background see September review #2)
Church Closed Down (Ma’ariv 29.09.02) (Ha’aretz 27.09.02) (Jerusalem Post 26.09.02)
After a month during which their building was broken into three times, Bibles burned, and they themselves were threatened and spit at, leaders of the ‘Redeemed Christian Church of Christ’ were forced to close their doors in the Tel Aviv ‘HaTikva’ neighborhood. The church was attended by foreign workers, who met there on Saturdays, after the long week of hard labor. Their leaders say that they had not intended to give in to the fanatic persecution but after neighboring residents hinted at taking the law into their own hands combined with the massive coverage in many national newspapers, the Tel Aviv municipality ordered them to close.
Pastor Goodwin, a Nigerian worker who is also the leader at RCCC called this ‘sheer incitement.’ Others told papers “We respect all religions and expect and ask that ours be respected as well. We identify with Israel and pray for peace, we are friends, not enemies.” (Jerusalem Post 26.09.02)
The church’s lawyer said that the story, which has been covered in the international press, has caused much damage to Israel’s image. “The persecution of a population on account of its religious belief reminds us of very dark times in history. We would expect the Jews, who have suffered much persecution to be more tolerant and respect people regardless of what they believe.”
Law of Return (Jerusalem Post 27.09.02)
In an article titled “Amending it isn’t the Answer” Arieh Azulai contested the claim written in an earlier article (Yossi Olmert 23.09) that Israel should adopt the religious Shas party’s proposition that the Law of Return be changed so that grandchildren of Jews would not be eligible for citizenship. Azulai states that although the dwindling Jewish majority in Israel is indeed a serious problem, changing the Law of Return would only worsen the situation. This is because the real threat to a Jewish majority is the fact that the natural increase of the Arab population is usually two to four times that of the Jewish population. He says that often statistics about non-Jewish immigration are deceiving and only about 25% of the immigrants who arrive in Israel are not Jewish at all and of these only 1% see themselves as Christians while 99% strongly identify and feel a part of the Jewish population.
Changing the Law of Return would only discourage immigrants from coming, and would erase the only advantage Israel has in keeping her Jewish majority. Such a change would also damage relations with Diaspora Jewry “Closing the doors of Israel to those for whom the doors of Auschwitz were open would constitute an insult to Diaspora Jewry and seriously undermine Israel-Diaspora relations,” wrote Azulai.
Instead he proposes a solution that would include expanding Jewish studies and Jewish awareness both in Israel and abroad, assessing conversion options, and also adopting policies that would make it financially easier for families to have more children.
The Ebenezer Fund (Ha Modia 30.09.02, 04.10.02)
The Religious paper HaModia announced that the ‘Ebenezer Fund,’ an organization that works to bring immigrants to Israel from the former USSR, has been working in cooperation with missionaries. The voyages, according to the report, have been accompanied by missionaries who teach, preach and try to coerce the immigrants to convert on their way to Israel.
In addition, the paper reports that the Messianic Ma’ayan congregation in Kfar Saba hosted these missionaries before their departure to Odessa to accompany the boats, and mentioned the names of Toni Sperandeo, Dimitri Kozminov and Mrs.Dolgov as part of this group. It also warned of the ‘dangerous’ missionary work that they are involved in throughout different Tel Aviv suburbs.
The anti missionary group Yad L’achim warned their counter parts in Ukraine of the missionaries, and promised to meet the immigrants upon their arrival “in order to uproot the poisonous teachings of the missionaries and bring them closer to the light of the Tora and Judaism.”
Christian Zionists and Islam (Ha’aretz 13.10.02) (Ma’ariv 16.10.02)
Baptist minister Rev. Jerry Falwell enraged the Muslim community when he referred to the prophet Mohamed as a terrorist and a ‘violent man of war’ on the CBS program ‘60 minutes.’ In reaction, different Muslim factions called for his death for infringing on the prophet Mohamed’s dignity. In Lebanon, the Grand Ayatollah Mohamed Hussein Fadlalah said that Falwell reflected “U.S president Bush and his backers among the staunchly pro-Israel U.S Christian right” and blamed the president for belonging to Zionized Christianity. Another Muslim cleric accused Falwell of participating in a Jewish plot to bring about a clash between Islam and Christianity.
In a letter to the Ma’ariv newspaper, one reader called for Christians to realize that Muslim hatred was also aimed at them. He said that instead of criticizing Israel for acting against Muslim terrorists, Christians should realize that they too could be victims and should understand Israel’s need for defense.
Archimandrite Attalla Hanna (Jerusalem Post 10.10.02)
Once again Archimandrite Attalla Hanna found himself in the midst of controversy, this time for refusing to sign a document stating that he would not incite against the state of Israel and would not conduct visits in countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations. In the past Hanna has met with figures such as Hizbolah Secretary General Hassan Nassrallah and has also spoken in favor of suicide bombings and violence, complicating delicate diplomatic relations between Israel and the Church.
Hanna was told that without signing the document he would not receive his passport. In response he said “This is a dangerous precedent and a violation of human rights…they want to restrict the movement of a religious figure and stop me from fulfilling my duties.” Israeli sources report that Atallah Hanna has been strengthening his ties with the Palestinian Authority and intends to use this support to unseat the Patriarch and take control of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Jesus in Photography (HaAretz, 10.10.02)
This major Hebrew daily devotes a half page article, including four photographs, to review an exhibition of photographs of Jesus from 1850 until the present. This exhibition is currently being staged in Paris and will come to Jerusalem in May 2003. The curator of film from the Israel
“U.S raps Israel on Religious Freedom” (Ha’aretz 08.10.02) (Jerusalem Post 09.10.02)
In the State Department’s annual religious freedom report, Israel was accused of various discriminations. Although it was not named as a ‘grave violator of religious freedom,’ the report accused the government of interference with election results in the Greek Orthodox Church, and for budget discriminations against non-Jewish citizens.
An article in the Jerusalem Post (09.10.02) reported that the Greek Orthodox patriarch is soon to receive the controversial approval, which has been withheld until now on base of his relations with the Palestinian Authority. Without approval of the Israeli government, his ability to function has been limited, increasing demands that the government recognize the patriarch immediately. Earlier this year 156 members of the US congress called on president George Bush to look into the withholding of recognition.
Anti-missionary activity (Hadashot Hamishpaha 10.10.02) (Ba Kehila 17.10.02) (Hashavua Yerushalayim 17.10.02) (Ma’ariv 09.10.02)
As is customary in the different religious publications, warnings were issued against various missionary activities across the country. One article in ‘Hadashot Hamishpaha’ revealed that the ‘Storytelling Festival’ held at Yad HaShmona during the Feast of Tabernacles was nothing but a missionary ploy to draw unsuspecting families to hear missionary teaching. The article explained that anti missionary activists from Yad l’Achim deployed two teams on the sight in order to warn participants about the content. The activists handed out literature explaining that Yad HaShmona is a Christian missionary community and reported a ‘violent reaction’ from residents in response to Yad L’Achim’s efforts to stop families from entering the area.
Two articles spoke of the cancellation of major religious conferences. They reported that religious organizations refused to hold events at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem until the administration would agree not to permit Christians to hold conferences there. One of the main Christian events at the ICC is the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration, which is hosted by the Christian Embassy and brings Evangelicals to Israel from around the globe.
Maariv (09.10.02) reported that the government refused entry to a Swedish clergyman named Olf Eckman. Apparently, in spite of Eckman’s involvement and assistance in the immigration of many Jews from the former Soviet Union, the Ministry of Interior decided to refuse him entry on the basis of information that he planned to engage in illegal missionary activity.
Anti-missionary activity (Hadashot Hamishpaha 10.10.02) (Ba Kehila 17.10.02) (Hashavua Yerushalayim 17.10.02)
A wide range of articles dealt with the subject of acceptability of Christian support of Israel. While some spoke enthusiastically of the ‘new ally’ Israel has found in the Christian right, others criticized this and frowned on the acceptance while warning of ulterior motives and a hidden missionary agenda.
In an article entitled “Christian Generosity has become a Rabbinic Nightmare” (Ha’aretz 16.10.02) Yair Sheleg reports that the debate that has ‘raged’ among American Jews over the past two years recently reached the Chief Rabbinic council in Israel. The council appointed a committee to deal with these difficult questions and to look into the “Jerusalem Friendship Fund” which has been a channel through which evangelical Christians have donated millions of dollars to Jewish and Israeli causes. (Headed by interfaith activist and fundraiser Yechiel Ekstien who is the chairman of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews). The committee is to decide whether acceptance of such money is halachacly and religiously acceptable. One rabbi, a member of the committee, said that Ekstien tended to blur the borders between the religions and that he had also worked in the past with prominent figures of the Christian world like Pat Robertson, ‘the greatest of missionary teachers.’ This rabbi also said that acceptance of funds from evangelicals was wrong in principle because its source essentially believes that “one third of the Jews will convert and the other two-thirds be destroyed”.
In spite of the theological debate many leading figures have become aware of the necessity of this new ally. Different columnists wrote in favor of accepting Christian generosity and spoke of the need to embrace Christian supporters. While speaking to Christian supporters at a rally earlier this month Mk Beni Elon (Moledet) held up an English Bible and proclaimed, “We have to stop Oslo, and for this we need to use the Bible…”
Aside from different arguments on the subject, newspapers continued to report specific acts of Christian support such as the ‘Road to Victory ‘ rally in the capitol, co-operations between Jerusalem Mayor E. Olmert and Pat Robertson, an event for Christian Zionists at the Israeli Embassy in London and donations to terror victims and needy sectors of society.
Yad Ha Shmona and Nes Amim (A-la kfar 09.02) (Kav lmoshav 30.09.02) (Chanel 33, Siach leli, 19.9.02)
Two separate articles in local newspapers and one television program independently discussed the communities living in Yad HaShmona and Nes Amim. Both were founded by European Christians during the sixties and are now inhabited by a mixture of Messianic Israeli families, Christian families and volunteers from abroad. The articles studied the historical background, struggles of daily life, and relation to Israeli society and visions for the future in these moshavim.