Caspari Center Media Review……November, 2002 #2
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 63 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 13 dealt with archeological and historical issues
- 8 on issues regarding Jewish Christian Relations
- 8 dealt with Status of Non-Jews in Israel
- 7 dealt with Religious Freedom and Rights
- 7 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 5 articles dealt with business development between Christians and Israel
- 5 dealt with Anti-Missionary legislation
- 4 dealt with Anti-Missionary attitudes
- 1 dealt with Missionary Activity
The remaining 5 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
(Ha’Aretz 03.11.02, 04.11.02, Ha’Aretz English edition 03.11.02, 04.11.02, 08.11.02) (Jerusalem Post 03.11.02, 08.11.02) (Ma’ariv 01.11.02, 05.11.02, 07.11.02) (Yidiot Achronot 03.11.02) (Globus 14.11.02)
All of the major secular Hebrew and English daily papers continued to report the discovery of the “James, son of Joseph brother of Jesus” ossuary. The articles focused on two main points. Firstly the casket’s damage during its transit from Israel to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, where it will remain for four months before being returned to Israel for further study. The second focal point of the articles was the owner of the box, Oded Golan, from Tel Aviv, and his purchase of it. Controversy over ownership of the casket was addressed, and according to Ha’Aretz, an artifact that was “discovered or found in Israel” after 1978, is property of the state. Both Ha’Aretz and Ma’ariv affirm that Golan acquired the item between 1967 and the early 1970’s; however, he accepts that it is state property.
Ma’ariv devotes almost two pages to its article on this subject including a section referring to the very high probability of the ossuary’s authenticity. In another three page article, Ma’ariv concentrates on Andre Lemaire, the paleographer who most closely studied the ossuary. Professor Lemaire explains that in order to solve the mystery of the casket, it is necessary to investigate exactly who “James, son of Joseph brother of Jesus” was. Professor Lemaire, who consequently conducted an intense study of the history of the New Testament, declares, “I am holding to the French idea of separation between religion and state. If we do not keep this separation, we will be blamed that our beliefs are interfering with our scientific work.” Half a page is dedicated to the question of whether Mary, mother of Jesus was indeed a virgin, as the New Testament states, and whether or not she gave birth to additional children, including James. The article quotes Mark 3:31-33 and Mark 6:1-3 which mention that Jesus had a brother. In the article’s conclusion, the viewpoints of the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox, who both claim James as one of their own, are discussed.
The English edition of Ha’Aretz devotes four full pages to Oded Golan’s testimony of his life, his fascination with archeology and his experience with the ossuary. The article also deals with doubts about the authenticity of the item by Prof. Robert Eisenmann, an expert on archeology and Middle Eastern Religions, and the circumstances surrounding James’ death, which is believed to be by stoning.
Globus features a positive article explaining how the findings of the casket should remind us of how close Christianity and Judaism are, and that “they shouldn’t hate each other”. It devotes an entire page to the encouragement of Judaism to go back to Christianity and be tolerant of it. The journalist suggests that it is high time that Judaism realizes that the Old Testament has become universal as a direct result of Christianity and missionary efforts.
Christian Support of Israel
(Jerusalem Post 04.11.02, 06.11.02, 08.11.02, 15.11.02) (Blazer 11.02) (Emtza Netanya 08.11.02) (Ha’Aretz English edition 01.11.02) (In Jerusalem 08.11.02) (Makor Rishon 25.10.02) (Yom Hashishi 01.11.02)
Two articles feature a group of German Christians based in Zichron Ya’akov, who manufacture air purification systems in their company called ‘Noah’s Ark’. Their motto is “Saving the Lives of Israeli Citizens”. The company’s marketer in Israel said that as of September 10th, sales of their filter systems skyrocketed by hundreds of percent, especially in the Gush Dan Area, which was Iraq’s target for scud missiles during the Gulf War.
An article in the Jerusalem Post, reported that the ICCC (International Christian Chamber of Commerce), a network of Christians in the business arena in over 75 countries, is launching a new program to assist Israeli enterprises. The program, “Markets Unlocked,” has an internet website where buyers locate suppliers for any product worldwide. Israelis only can register for free and are given certain priorities.
An Orthodox Rabbi from the U.S.A., Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, informed Netanya’s mayor that 250,000 Christian supporters of Israel from the U.S.A. are donating approximately two million dollars to Netanya to purchase items for humanitarian and security causes and that a campaign by Christian supporters of Israel in Europe, Holland and the Scandinavian countries in particular, is being set up, to raise money for Israel.
A group of American Christians distributed one thousand teddy bears to both Jewish and Arab children in hospitals and donated blood to Magen David Adom in a campaign titled “Cargo of Care.”
A couple of articles in the Jerusalem Post enthusiastically reported a solidarity mission by the Christian Coalition. The group’s leader was quoted “We want the people and government of Israel to understand they have friends all over the world, and for that reason we are visiting Israel.”
Makor Rishon printed an article regarding a survey that was taken in the U.S.A. titled “Support for Israel”. The results were that 62% of American Christians, 85% of American Jews, and more than 50% of Catholics and Protestants support the State of Israel.
A rare collection of testimonies of members of the religious national movement in Eastern and Central Europe is being displayed at an exhibition in “Beit HaEdut,” which describes their experiences during the Holocaust. Through the exhibit, a German couple, Hans and Ilka Moltzen, Christian supporters of Israel, are trying to atone for the sins of the Germans against the Jews during the Holocaust. The couple has also expressed regret over the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli attitude of the world media, and German media specifically. They are also involved in organizing demonstrations of solidarity and support for Israel.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
(Yom le Yom 31.10.02) (Hadashot Mishpaha 07.11.02) (Hamodia 08.11.02) (Yom Hashishi 08.11.02)
In a response to an article entitled “Missions Help Occupied Territories” published in Yom le Yom in October, a woman expresses negative attitudes regarding support and monetary donations from Christians abroad, saying that their ulterior motive is to convert Jews away from the Jewish faith. She warns the Rabbis in the occupied territories against receiving any contribution, and against any cooperation with Christians.
The religious political party ‘Shas’ is discussing a project called “Returning the sons to their home” which is warfare against ‘flawed notions’ that non-Jewish immigrants have brought into Israel, by this they mean churches and Christian ceremonies, etc. The article refers to the internal ‘enemy’ as being the Christian immigrants. Politician Eli Ishai argues, “tens of thousands of Christians who have immigrated to Israel have built churches and houses of prayer in our back yards and have brought Christianity through our back doors. We need to bar this.”
In an article entitled “Mission Activity Spreading”, the journalist claims that missions in Israel have never before had such widespread success and this is due to public apathy. Accusations were made that missionaries attempt to convert Jews to Christianity using methods including door to door selling of lottery tickets while preaching the faith, taking children in taxi’s to school while influencing them, and converting non-suspecting new immigrants. The article states that a number of women, Jerusalem residents, infiltrated a ‘mission system’ and discovered their activities.
Yom Shishi printed an article explaining how the large population of families living under the poverty line, have “fallen prey” to missionaries distributing food through an organization called ‘Reshet’ (network/net). The report stated how the current socio-economic situation in Israel is “suitable for the missionaries to hunt victims.” A questionnaire distributed in Ashdod by the “Way and Truth” non-profit organization, in which needy families are asked to state their personal information and needs, and are then assisted either with food or rent money, is viewed by the journalist as a way to “later convert their religion.” He writes that there are close to one hundred Messianic congregations in Israel. According to the article, Yad le Achim, the leading anti-missionary organization in Israel, holds hundreds of documents regarding non-profit organizations run by Messianic Jews/Christians.
Status of Non-Jews in Israel
(Ma’ariv 04.11.02, 11.11.02, 13.11.02) (Ha’Aretz 11.11.02) (Yidiot Achronot 11.11.02) (Jerusalem Post 01.11.02, 04.11.02) (Hadashot Mishpaha 07.11.02)
Ma’ariv published an article in which Head of the Ministry of Interior, Eli Ishai, stated, “I want every person who is not Jewish not to live in this country.” He goes on to say that with all the non-Jewish new immigrants, foreign workers, and Arabs “we will become a multi-national country.” As elections approach, Ishai stresses that ‘Shas’, the religious party, will do all in their power to land the Ministry of Interior seat, in order to do whatever possible to prevent immigration of non-Jewish immigrants.
Articles in Yidiot Achronot and Ha’Aretz dealt with a family of three; Haim Habibi, his wife, who is a foreign citizen, and their 17 year old daughter, who took cover in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and are requesting “political refuge” by Israel. Mrs. Habibi is non-Jewish with no Israeli status. In one of the articles Haim was quoted as threatening to injure his daughter should his wife be expelled.
A new ruling has been made granting citizenship to non-Jewish parents of lone soldiers. The ruling states that parents can become temporary residents with immigrant benefits during the period that their child is in the army. The parents then have the possibility to become Israeli citizens after four years of residence in Israel, provided their child has completed military service. All the Knesset members voted in favor of the new law, except for the religious group ‘Shas’ who abstained.
A four year old boy, son of a Jewish mother and Christian-Arab father, was given into foster care to a Christian Dutch couple due to family distress. The Dutch couple, who are reported to be residing in Israel illegally, refused to return the boy to his birth parents. Israeli courts have ruled in favor of the boy remaining with the Dutch couple. Social workers supported the decision for the boy to remain in “ the home of the missionary couple.”
Rabbi David Benizri, head of the Beit Shemesh Yeshiva, stated that there is a serious problem with ‘Russian non-Jews’ who immigrated to Israel. “Instead of synagogue, they prefer church,” he continued. The Rabbi believes that Russian non-Jewish immigrants are a serious problem that threatens the Jewish identity of the country.
Another article about non-Jewish immigrants from Russia, four pages in length, appeared in the Jerusalem Post Magazine section on Friday (01.11.02) entitled “The New Israelis.” The report dealt with the former Soviet citizen’s struggle in balancing their Orthodox Christian identity with that of being Jewish. All eight of the photographs dispersed throughout the article are of the immigrants in Greek Orthodox churches. The journalist features interviews with immigrants who call themselves ‘Christian’, but are Jewish by Halacha, discusses statistics of Christian immigrants and Orthodox Christians, their struggles and Israeli society’s view of them. The article concludes with a piece about those who represents the Orthodox Christians in Israel.
Jewish Christian Relations
(Jerusalem Post 15.11.02, 07.11.02) (Ha’Aretz English edition 07.11.02)
The Jerusalem Post and Ha’Aretz English edition printed the same article regarding the Vatican’s donation of $400,000 to keep Christians in Israel. This contribution was given in order to “improve their lives and in order to persuade them not to abandon the Land despite the ongoing fighting.” The recipients of the money will be the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Caritas, the Franciscan order and various Catholic communities.
A full one page article in the Jerusalem Post described how the current Pope, Pope John Paul II, has, more than any other pope, brought the Catholic Church closer to Israel. It also deals with the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the Holocaust, and it’s choice not to emphasize the Jews who were the victims. It goes on to speak about the Vatican’s approach to the current situation in Israel quoting Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University saying, “There have been no condemnations of the suicide bombing horror. The Vatican’s newspaper virtually accuses Israel of genocide!” A sub article talks about Avi Granot, the Israeli diplomat in Rome, and his beliefs regarding diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the Jews.
(Zman Haifa 01.11.02)
Arieh Blitnatel, a member of Haifa’s municipality, claims that he intends to file a police complaint in response to “missionary activity in the city” due to thousands of booklets entitled “Who is a Jew?” being distributed in Haifa mailboxes. The article says that “Keren Achva Meshichit” published the booklets. Blitnatel’s allegation is that missionary activity is illegal in Israel, and also states “the missionaries are hiding behind anonymous mailboxes.”
(Olam ha Tzilum ve ha Video 11-12.02) (Kol Ha-Ir Jerusalem 01.11.02)
An article focuses on the Crusader monastery in Abu Gosh. There is also a profile of a resident family in the city and several photographs of the monastery and town.
Two men attempted to remove the cross at the top of the Rosary Sister’s Church in Jerusalem. The men were not caught. Although the police thoroughly searched the area, it was to no avail. The investigation is continuing.
(Yom le Yom 07.11.02) (Yom Hashishi 08.11.02) (Hadashot Mishpaha 07.11.02) (Hamodia 05.11.02) (Makor Rishon 01.11.02)
Four articles reported dismay at the discovery that Israel’s ambassador in Sweden, Eli Avidan, is a “Missionary advocate”. The uproar occurred due to an incident in which the Ministry of Interior is refusing to grant an entrance visa to a ‘missionary’ by the name of Elf Eckman who “intends setting up a large missionary center in Jerusalem.” Avidan is exerting pressure on the Minister of Interior to allow entry to Eckman, founder of the “Word of Life” Ministry. Upon hearing of Eckman’s intended activities in Israel, Yad Le Achim approached the Minister of the Interior, Eli Ishai, as well as Jerusalem Mayor, Ehud Olmert, in an effort to prevent Eckman’s entry into the country. Avidan, to the contrary, has been requesting a decision “to ease his entry process as much as possible since he is a ‘friend to Israel.’”
A full three page article was published in Makor Rishon (01.11.02) stating that Knesset members, Tommy Lapid and Moshe Gafni, have jointly submitted a proposal to terminate missionary activity in Israel, and to increase the punishment for any such action. The article also outlines the following items:
- Israeli law forbids all beneficial favors that are given with the intention of causing a person to
convert to another religion.
- Many Christian organizations offer financial assistance in exchange for conversion.
- Despite the fact that the law forbids missionary activity among minors, material targeted at
minors is freely distributed on the internet.
- The police and legal authorities are closing their eyes to this matter; no legal action has been
taken regarding these activities.
- Strong international influences are standing behind the missionaries, exerting pressure in
order to oppose the passing of such changes in the law.
Baruch Maoz, pastor of ‘Chesed ve Emet’ Congregation in Rishon le Zion, is quoted as saying “If we want to remain a democratic society, we have to allow religious freedom of expression and freedom of persuasion regarding religious matters, in the same way as political freedom of speech is permitted in political matters.” The article goes into detail about the ‘Chesed ve Emet’ congregation as well as the youth magazine distributed by them. There is also a section about the youth internet site called ‘Ach Sheli (My Brother),’ including quotations about music and evangelism.
In addition, Yad le Achim warns that the Israeli right wing parties are aided by Christian communities in the U.S.A., and therefore, unintentionally grant missionary activity in Israel legitimization. Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded saying, “Mr. Netanyahu is opposed to missionary activity.”
Religious Freedom and Rights
(Yated Ne’eman 18.10.02, 25.10.02) (Yom Hashishi 01.11.02) (Hashavua ba Hadashot – Bnei Brak) (Hadashot Hamishpaha 31.10.02) (Hashavua be Yerushalayim 31.10.02) (Ba Kehila 31.10.02)
The World Evangelical Alliance has confronted a report by Roman Catholic bishops that opposes efforts to evangelize Jews. The organization has reprinted a declaration defending Jewish evangelism. This declaration consists of 27 points condemning anti-Semitism and states, “Christian churches have been much to blame for tolerating and encouraging it.” It explains, however, that this background does not remove the right to share the Gospel with the Jews.
The Jewish community in Belarus is divided over a new bill that grants certain religions, including Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity, certain privileges denied to others.
Five articles ran a report about a Jewish (“converted”) American lawyer, Jay Sikilov, who “is setting up a legal practice in Israel to defend missionary activity.” Sikilov currently works in a similar office in the U.S.A. where he devotes his activities to defending missionaries against all harm caused them or to their organizations. The articles discuss how Yad le Achim closely watches for each and every missionary attempt, be it in the work force or via humanitarian means, with the aim of foiling it.