Caspari Center Media Review……December, 2002 #2
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 72 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. The following represents a profile of the quantity in which the articles appeared:
|8||Christian Support of Israel|
|6||Culture and the Arts|
|2||Status of Non-Jews|
|1||Business and Commerce|
The remaining 11 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
(Hamodia 09/12/02, 13/12/02, 19/12/02) (Hashavua 06/12/02) (Hashavua beYerushalayim 05/12/02) (Ma’ariv 09/12/02) (BaSheva 05/12/02) (Kol HaEmek ve HaGalil 29/11/02) (Ha’Aretz English Edition 06/12/02) (Yom Hashishi 06/12/02) (Hadashot Hamishpaha 12/12/02) (Israel Today 11/02) (City Lights 25/10/02) (Zman Krayot 06/12/02)
Four articles (Hamodia 09/12/02, Hashavua 06/12/02, Yom Hashishi 06/12/02, Hadashot Hamishpaha 12/12/02) entitled “More than Sixty Missionary Survivors in Yad L’achim Seminar on Miron”, reported a gathering organized by Yad L’achim, where more than sixty Jews who apparently were ‘saved’ from activities by missionary organizations during the past few months, participated. The gathering included young families with children of various ages. The journalists inform that each of the attendants was “an inseparable part of the darkness that deals with the converting of the Jewish religion”. One of the articles concludes with a statement by the founder and chairman of Yad L’achim in which he states that the purpose of keeping in close contact with these “survivors” is to bring them into a lifestyle of the Law and good deeds, so that they will not return into the “lap of impurity” in the future.
A full two page article appears in Hashavua beYerushalayim (05/12/02), featuring a story about two Jewish boys whose parents are divorced, and are currently living with their Philippine mother in the U.S.A. The children were attending a religious school, and then the mother moved them to another school to receive a “Christian education”. The father of the boys, Zvi Nimberg, an American Jew, has taken legal action to remove his sons from a school in which, according to his words, “every day, instead of reciting Shma Yisrael, they say Christian prayers, against their will and against their religion.” The article gives a detailed account of the occurrences surrounding the Nimberg family’s circumstances, and also devotes a section to the father’s plea to acclaimed Rabbi’s for assistance.
A short statement in Ma’ariv (09/12/02) declares that the Jewish political party, “Yehadut Ha Torah” (Judaism of the Bible), did not achieve any progress in the struggle against Christian missions during the period of the 15th Knesset, and it did not engage in any special efforts regarding the matter.
An article in the BaSheva weekly magazine (05/12/02) entitled “The Hellenists: The Updated Version”, begins by stating that in present day Israel, well-financed organizations whose purpose is to baptize Jews into Christianity are actively pursuing people in various ways. The journalist refers to “those days” when the death penalty was given to those who refused to comply with the attempts of the Greeks to cause them to convert from their religion, and who clung to the Law of Moses. In continuation, he reviews the history of ‘missionaries’ in the period before the independence of Israel and since, also commenting on Jews who lived in the U.S.A., some of whom “fell into temptation and converted to Christianity”, and who then went on to return to Israel in order to raise up congregations that currently exist in every city in the country.
In addition, a member of Yad L’achim is quoted as saying, “The religion that the converted Jews are imposing is Christianity itself, and the congregation members undergo baptism. They have changed their terms from ‘church’ to ‘community’, from ‘Christians’ to ‘Believers’, from ‘Priest’ to ‘Leader’, etc. These are written precisely in the New Testament: Be to the Jews as Jews, so as to win them over, to those under the Law, as one under the Law, so as to win them over, and to those without the Law, as one without the Law.”
The article names the three main missionary movements as being:
- Jehovah Witnesses
- Messianic Jews
- Jews for Jesus
The item states that each of these groups attempt to present itself as wholly Jewish, celebrating the Jewish festivals, with a few twists. Examples are given, concluding with a blessing that ‘missionaries’ recite when lighting the Sabbath candles, “Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe, who sanctifies us by the Blood of Yeshua, and have commanded us to be a light to the nations.” The journalist goes on to name some of the ways in which ‘missionaries’ reach their targeted public.
Two supplementary columns appear, one in which a Hassidic Jew gives his testimony of how he was once involved with ‘Christians’ until he had the revelation to return to Judaism.
A second column deals with three issues respectively entitled: “The Christian World Raises Funds”, “The Missionaries Enjoy the Distress”, and “A Rare Frontier: Gafni-Lapid”.
The first sub-article confronts the theory that Christian groups that support Israel aid missionaries living in the Land in many ways, including financial. The second sub-article points to missionaries in Israel who take advantage of the public’s vulnerability due to the current problematic economic situation, by targeting the emotions of needy people. The last sub-article asks the question, “How does a Jewish nation agree that the above occurrences take place, within its Law?” The journalist reports that every year there are proposals for changing the mission law in Israel, however, these attempts fail. During these days, a new law proposal to forbid soliciting another to change their religion is being advanced by Knesset members Yair Gafni and Tommy Lapid.
Kol HaEmek veHaGalil (29/11/02) ran an article entitled, “The Battle over the Fir Tree”. The controversy it reports is about religious residents of Nazareth Elite who are complaining about the name of a new street, ‘Fir Tree Street,’ in the city. The citizens said that a Jewish city in Israel should not perpetuate Christian symbols.
An article appeared in Hamodia (13/12/02) regarding the Chief Rabbinate’s appeal to the public to ‘join the war against Missions’. The item harshly declares that missionary activity is becoming increasingly widespread in Israel, and that more than four hundred of ‘Satan’s emissaries, missionaries, are instigating and leading Jews astray’. The remainder of the article contained a desperate plea to the public for ‘Help!’
An article titled, “Proselytizing in Hadar School” appearing in City Lights (25/10/02) accused a group of Junior High School students in Haifa’s Hadar neighborhood of ‘proselytizing their classmates during recess’. Yad L’achim claimed that several students in the school were recently baptized and are encouraging their friends to ‘join the church’ too. Apparently the activity began when a student and her mother joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses and started sharing their beliefs with others. Yad L’achim also claims that 32 Jews have been baptized in recent weeks. Action taken in response to the incident includes a letter of complaint to Minister of Education, Limor Livnat, sent by Yad L’achim and the head of the Shas party in Haifa demanding that the police take urgent action against the ‘missionaries’. The Ministry of Education in the Haifa District denies that there is any missionary activity taking place in the school, and the principal personally investigated the complaint and ‘found nothing’.
An opinion regarding Christian missionary work in Israel appears in Israel Today (11/02), in which the writer expresses that the number of missionary organizations and ‘churches’ in the country is very high. He exclaims, “It’s as if the missionaries have nowhere else to bring the Gospel except Israel.” Several New and Old Testament scriptures are quoted, leading to the point that the Jewish believers should preach first to the Jews, and “non-Jews can do missionary work among the two-thirds of the world that have not yet been reached.” The writer’s opinion plainly stated is that missionary work in Israel is inappropriate.
Two full pages in Zman Krayot (06/12/02) are dedicated to an article entitled, “Missionary Activity Kiryat Yam Style.” On the first page of the article, a large photograph of a building where the featured congregation meets, with the subtitle, “From the outside everything looks innocent. The building in which Missionary Activity takes place.” The article deals with a congregation made up of Russian new immigrants, “claiming to be Jews who believe in Yeshua”, who meet in a building in the Industrial Area of Kiryat Yam. The congregants are accused of distributing stickers to thousands of new immigrants, giving them money, playing songs to Yeshua, reciting Christian prayers, as well as dominating the streets and influencing innocent citizens.
Sasha, one of the men in the fellowship told the magazine that the congregation’s former meeting place was burned down, and two years ago, religious Jews punctured holes in the tires of all the vehicles parked outside the building on Saturday. After insisting that the group are not Christians, Sasha goes on to say, “We are Jewish believers in Yeshua, and our place is not in a church, but rather in a Synagogue of Yeshua. The Gentiles turned Yeshua into a Christian, in our opinion He is as Jewish as one can be.” The Zman Krayot journalist visited the congregation, finding the words “Ohel Rahamim” printed on the door (the name of the fellowship), and he describes the hall.
An adjacent column features a response to the article by Rabbi Joseph Averki, Kiryat Yam’s Chief Rabbi, expressing that he strongly opposes the idolatry that the congregation is bringing into the city. The Rabbi’s added, “Whoever believes that Yeshua is the Son of God is a heretic. Yeshua was indeed Jewish, but they claim that He was the Son of God, and we claim that He was a man like any other. This is idolatry in its purest form, and it has no place in Israel, and certainly not in Kiryat Yam.”
The local Kiryat Yam Municipality relayed the message that they will investigate the matter and will act according to the authority of the Municipality Advisory Counsel.
An article appeared in Hamodia (19/12/02) entitled, “Rishon leZion Municipality Responds to Yad l’Ahim and Forbids Missionary Activity in Rishon Center Mall.” The paper reported that regular missionary activity at the city’s mall, led by Igor Hushbetov, was intercepted two months ago. Alexei Vaskovsky and his wife are mentioned as preachers at the ‘cult’s activities’. According to the journalist, both are well known to Yad L’achim.
In response, Yad L’achim approached the mall’s management with a plea not to allow this ‘destructive and dangerous’ activity. When they were rejected due to no evidence of such activities, Yad L’achim responded with documented proof.
The article reports that Rabbi Alex Artovsky, a member of the Yad L’achim anti-missionary department, received a cellular telephone call from Igor Hushbetov, ‘who stands at the head of the cult named Shield of Faith’. According to the article, these were Hushbetov’s words to the Rabbi: “Remember this: If I will have problems, even under the ground, I will find you. It will not be very good for you. I will get hurt, but so will you. I have two relatives serving in high places, I will cause you incredible troubles, so that you will have great difficulties, and I will get out of this situation.”
Rabbi Artovsky recorded the conversation and gave the recording to the police, accompanied by a complaint regarding the threat. A Yad L’achim lawyer has begun to investigate the incident. In addition, Yad L’achim has approached the mayor of Rishon leZion with information regarding a connection between Igor Hushbetov and members of the municipality.
(Jerusalem Post 13/12/02) (Ha’Aretz 11/12/02, 13/12/02) (Ma’ariv 12/12/02, 13/12/02) (Yediot Ahronot 13/12/02)
All of the major Israeli newspapers (Jerusalem Post 13/12/02, Ha’Aretz 13/12/02, Maariv 12/12/02, 13/12/02, Yediot Ahronot 13/12/02) covered President Moshe Katsav’s visit with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on December 12th, 2002. The articles mainly dealt with the topic of the Israeli Defense Force’s redeployment Bethlehem during Christmas, in the event of no warnings of terrorist attacks.
The Pope’s condemnation of Anti-Semitism and terrorism was mentioned; as was President Katsav’s gift of a leather-bound Book of Psalms with the wish he would have ‘strength to continue in his mission.’
Ha’Aretz (11/12/02) printed an article that maintained that the rise of fundamental Islam draws the Catholic Church and Jews closer to one another. The article deals with the reasons for tension between the Church and the Jews as the following:
- The Church’s attitude to the Pope’s ‘Twelve Reconciliations’, and its conduct during the Holocaust. There are books stating that the ‘Twelve Reconciliations’ is sympathetic towards Nazi Germany, and that the Catholic Church abstained from rescuing European Jews.
- The accusation that the Vatican is trying to change the Holocaust into a universal symbol of evil and to undermining the significance of the destruction of the Jews during World War II.
- The position of the Catholic Church is anti-Semitic in local Catholic parishes, especially in Poland and on occasion in Latin American countries. The official removal of the accusation and blame that the Jews killed Jesus has not yet permeated these nations.
Despite the obstacles, Cardinal Walter Casper, commissioner of the Church’s relations with the Jews was quoted as saying, “The Church is obliged now, more than ever before, to improve the communion with the Jews… after two thousand years of rivalry, Catholics and Jews can still disagree with each other, but do so as brothers.”
(International Herald Tribune 05/12/02) (Israel Today 12/02) (Index Yerushalayim 12/12/02) (Ha’Aretz 18/12/02)
The International Herald Tribune (05/12/02) and Israel Today (12/02) both reported that some experts doubt the authenticity of the inscription found on the burial box that allegedly contained the bones of James, Jesus’ brother. Now that several additional experts have studied or seen the box, some suspect that all, or at least part of the script is forged. Apparently the words pertaining to Jesus may have been added by a criminal element either in modern or ancient times. The article presents various opinions, including those of Andre Lemaire, the French scholar of Aramaic who closely studied the ossuary, archeologists, and geologists in Israel.
An article in Index Yerushalayim (12/12/02) features a story about Russian Princess Elizabetha who was buried beneath the Maria Magdalena Church on the Mount of Olives in 1919. A short summary of her life is given, including her residence in and love for the Jerusalem area of Ein Karem. “Here she received inspiration from the fact that John the Baptist (Yeshua’s spiritual teacher and baptizer) was born in the same place.”
“Archaeologists Will Check: Was a Store in Nazareth Yeshua’s Bathing House?” is the title of an article that appeared in Ha’Aretz (18/12/02). A jewelry storeowner dug in his warehouse in 1993 and discovered an ancient bathing house and ritual bath. An archaeologist determined that the ruins dated to the period of the Crusaders (12th-13th centuries). It was later concluded that the remains were from the Roman Period. The storeowner claims that the ruins attract approximately two thousand tourists per month. However, this number has decreased since the Intifada.
(Israel Today 11/02, 12/02)
An article in Israel Today (12/02) recounts a meeting of 60 Israeli Believers that took place in Tel Aviv. The subject was Messianic Jewish Identity and its expression in the Land of Israel. The gathering confronted an issue that frustrates many believers in the Land, that of having a more Jewish, traditional and Israeli expression of their faith, but at the same time being Messianic, rather than adopting Gentile Christian traditions. Joseph Shulam, Benjamin Berger, and Tsvi Sadan are mentioned as being the organizers of the conference, and were assisted by Shimon Nahum and Yaacov Damkani. The official title given to the gathering was “Do Yeshua’s Followers in the Land of Israel Have the Right to Self-Determination?”
Tsvi Sadan is quoted as saying, “The Messianic Jewish Body should not be separated from the Jewish nation. We belong together.” Gershon Nerel expressed that today the term “Messianic Jew” also refers to Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria, and also to followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He also related to the development of Jewish believing communities since the year 500 AD, concluding that the identity and history of Jewish Believers is still intertwined with the Gentile Believers, while Joseph Shulam said that our congregations are too ‘unfamiliar and foreign to Israelis’. The Messianic Jewish identity crisis was summed up in one sentence: We are often too Jewish for the Christians, and too Christian for the Jews!
An article entitled, “Messianic Yom Kippur Service” (Israel Today 11/02) confronts the dilemma of Messianic Jews in Israel and how they should observe the High Holy Days, specifically the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. While many Messianic Jews would like to find a way to express the fulfillment of the day in Yeshua, they do not wish to disregard Jewish prayers and traditions. The article described a gathering of about eighty representatives from various Messianic Congregations, who met in Jerusalem for their own Yom Kippur service. The article concludes with a description of the scene in synagogues in the same area who were conducting their own Yom Kippur services, crying out to God for forgiveness, while the Messianic Jews nearby called on the name of Yeshua: “May His salvation and atonement be revealed to Israel!”
Christian Support of Israel
(Iton Yerushalayim 06/12/02) (Yated Ne’eman 29/11/02, 06/12/02) (Makor Rishon 29/11/02) (Israel Today 11/02) (City Lights 08/11/02) (The Jerusalem Post 12/12/02)
Three articles (Iton Yerushalayim 06/12/02, Yated Ne’eman 29/11/02, Makor Rishon 29/11/02) covered the activities of the Christian Coalition, including their intention to hold mass rallies next year in every U.S. state in support of Israel, their donation of a miniature city with electric trains to the Shalva Hospital in Har Nof, and their recent visit to Hebron.
A photograph captures the Director of the German branch of the International Christian Embassy handing Yehiel Leket, world chairman of the Jewish National Fund, a 50,000 Euro donation, on behalf of the Christian community in Darmstadt, Germany (The Jerusalem Post 12/12/02).
“Birmingham Jews and Christians United in Support for Israel” is the title of an article published in City Lights, The Jerusalem Post weekly supplement (08/11/02), that describes a week long solidarity visit to Israel by ‘ex-Brummies’. The group came to tour Israel, meet the people and express their support of Israel.
An article in Israel Today (11/02) describes the 23rd annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration, hosted by the International Christian Embassy. The journalist states that a ‘much needed financial boost for Jerusalem’s hotels and restaurants’ was provided by this year’s feast. Speakers included Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon, who was quoted as saying, “Pope John Paul II told me that Jerusalem was holy for Jews, Christians and Moslems, but that God promised it only to the Jews.”
A short item at the bottom of the page, entitled, “A Messianic Sukkot” reports on this year’s Messianic Feast of Tabernacles, which took place in Jerusalem under the direction of Barry Segal, Marcel Rebiai, and Ofer Amitai, mentioning that only 10% of the participants were local Messianic Jews, while the majority of the 350 came from abroad for the affair. A list of speakers is mentioned, including Benjamin Berger, Eliyahu Ben Haim and Derek Prince.
Cornerstone Church presented $1.5 million to the United Jewish Communities Organization, for ‘Israel-related causes’, as reported in Yated Ne’eman on 06/12/02. The article mentioned that the monetary transfer was screened via 26 satellites to an audience of seventy million Evangelical Christians in America.
Culture and Arts
(Israel Today 11/02) (Pnai Plus 05/12/02)
A short article about a public art exhibition in Ramat Gan appeared in Israel Today (11/02). Included among the artists were five Messianic believers residing in the Land, namely, Rolf Danielson, Baruch Ma’ayan, Diana Shimon, Mike Bayliss and Joshua Goodman. The journalist pointed out that the Ramat Gan Municipality allowed the two-week art show to be held in the city’s museum, and was not deterred by the Messianic content.
Pnai Plus (05/12/02) described a three part drama series to be aired on Israeli television. The series is about Yeshua the ‘Christian. The purpose of the series is to identify the facts and components of Yeshua’s life by utilizing archaeological and historical findings, actualized by advanced computerized graphics. The series attempts to reveal Yeshua’s legacy and the manner in which ‘He became the symbol of the Christian world.’
(Yated Ne’eman 22/11/02) (Ha’Aretz English Edition 06/12/02) (Yediot Ahronot 04/12/02) (Aretz veTeva 11-12/02)
Two articles (Yated Ne’eman 22/11/02, Ha’Aretz English Edition 06/12/02) dealt with the rejection of a request by a Latin Patriarchal community to establish a hostel designated to lodge priests on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The reason given for the rejection by the Jerusalem Planning and Construction Committee is that ultra-religious objectors claim that ancient Jewish graves from the First Temple Period are under the land in question. The ‘vehement opposition’ argues that it is against Jewish law to build over Jewish graves, and that even in the event that digging is allowed to proceed to determine if there are graves, they “will make trouble for the Christians”. In Ha’Aretz English Edition (06/12/02) a photograph of the grounds on the Mt. of Olives where the building is planned appears, with a caption, “No room for the Christians.”
Aretz veTeva (11-12/02) featured a list of seven Christian sites, including four historic churches. Each site is briefly described, with a sentence about its history, opening hours and contact numbers.
Yediot Achronot (04/12/02) ran a feature entitled, “Solitary on a Mountain Top”, that presents a small church nestled in a gloomy cave, at the peak of the Netufa Mountain, home to two monks. The feature describes the beauty of its surroundings, directions of how to reach it, visiting hours, and contact numbers.
(Ha’Aretz 13/12/02, 19/12/02)
An article in Ha’Aretz (13/12/02) entitled, “Mormons continue to ‘baptize’ deceased Jews”. Two photographs, one of Anna Frank, and the other of David Ben Gurion appear at the head of the item, with a caption, “Anna Frank and David Ben Gurion. ‘Baptized’ by the Mormons”.
The journalist begins by stating that Mormons have been baptizing Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. In the mid-1990’s, however, Jewish investigators discovered that this phenomenon is currently continuing. The Mormon faith maintains that a person can be baptized into the Church even after his/her death. The names of deceased Jews, ‘eligible’ for baptism, were obtained from public records like those in Israel’s Yad vaShem Holocaust Museum. Jewish organizations expressed anger, exclaiming that Jews who were killed specifically due to their being Jewish are being baptized into another religion without their knowledge. In response, the Mormon Church has promised to delete the remaining names of Jews scheduled to be baptized into Mormons.
In response to this article, Hanna Porman, Chairperson of the Israel Genealogical Organization, responded (Ha’Aretz 19/12/02) that the Mormon University on Har Hatzofim in Jerusalem, has committed itself not to engage in missionary activity of any kind in Israel.
Status of Non-Jews
(Shtei Arim 13/12/02) (Hamachane Hacharedi 12/12/02)
An article entitled, “Jews in their Souls, Non-Jews by Definition” appears in Shtei Arim (13/12/02). The journalist takes the stand that non-Jews who immigrated to Israel are discriminated against and gives the following examples:
- Young men who are not Jewish but who immigrate and become Israeli soldiers do not have citizenship, because they are not Jewish. The religious party that controls the Ministry of Interior ‘does them a favor’ by granting them citizenship after their military service. This, however, is not done automatically, even though a law passed in 1982 states that citizenship should be granted automatically in such cases.
- Immigrants who have Jewish fathers are not considered Jewish by Jewish religious law, since their mothers are non-Jews. The article explains how this group of people is discriminated against in Israel.
The journalist reports that on one hand the non-Jewish immigrants receive the message that Israel is happy that they immigrated, while on the other hand, the message is that that they are not ‘really a part of us’.
Hamachane Hacharedi (12/12/02) carried an article about the large number of non-Jews immigrating to Israel. Vice Minister of Absorption, Yuli Edelstein, is reported as being critical of the Jewish Agency, which is encouraging and searching desperately for “Immigration Candidates”, to the extent that they are not making the distinction between Jews and non-Jews. Edelstein accuses the Agency of making efforts to produce large numbers of immigrants, but that they are utilizing resources and manpower that should have been invested into other communities worldwide that are more significant as far as Jewish immigration potential. He also states that some of the non-Jewish immigrants are not ashamed to flaunt their crosses, and that some do not even know why they came to Israel. The Chairman of the Jewish Agency does not deny the accusation that the organization is seeking non-Jewish immigrants, and it is reported that he claims that the rabbi’s should make “wholesale conversions” which would solve the problem.
(Yediot Achronot 19/12/02) (Zman Tel Aviv 13/12/02) (Ma’ariv 19/12/02)
Articles in three papers (Yediot Achronot 19/12/02, Zman Tel Aviv 13/12/02, Ma’ariv 19/12/02) featured various aspects of the Christmas/New Year period. The articles included:
- Recommendations of possible church tours relating to the Season (Yediot Achronot 19/12/02).
- The Tel Aviv Municipality invested thousands of shekels in a festive event in marking Hanukkah, Id el-F’tir and Christmas. Only twenty residents showed up. Reasons for the happening’s failure are being investigated (Zman Tel Aviv 13/12/02).
- Advice regarding how to spend New Years Eve (Ma’ariv 19/12/02).
- Christmas symbols being displayed in store windows and being marketed in Israel. The article (Yediot Achronot 19/12/02), entitled, “A Blue and White Christmas” also deals with Israeli’s ‘celebrating’ Christmas by having Christmas trees in their homes, and exchanging gifts. The journalist devotes a section of the article to the surprising reaction of the Rabbis who are apparently not disturbed by the phenomenon. Rabbi Nathan Elnatan, a member of the Tel Aviv Municipality is quoted, “This is a phenomenon that developed because of the new immigrants, who are more familiar with the Christian festivals than with the Jewish tradition.” The article concludes with the following statements, “It’s not as though there are crosses, Maria’s or Yeshua. Why is Sylvester acceptable, and this not? It is such a sweet scene, not a religious matter.”