December 31 – 2002

Caspari Center Media Review……December, 2002 #3 Holiday Supplement

During the period of time covered by this review, we received 79 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. The following represents a profile of the quantity in which the articles appeared:

19Christian Festivals
13Christian Symbols
11Jewish/Christian Relations
11Anti-Missionary Attitudes
3Christian Support of Israel
3Status of Holy Sites
2Business and Commerce
2Messianic Jews
2Book Reviews
1Status of Non-Jews


The remaining 10 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.


Anti Missionary Attitudes

(Hamodia Dec. 12, 2002, Dec. 13, 2002) (Jerusalem Post Dec. 27, 2002) (Zman Krayot Dec. 20, 2002) (Yediot Hagalil Dec. 12, 2002)

Hamodia (Dec. 13, 2002) informed about Yad L’achim’s sponsorship of an Anti-Missionary event in Toronto, Canada, where Gabriel Aryeh Sanders, a ‘former Christian missionary’ will discuss his life experiences regarding missionary tactics, and advise on how to neutralize them.


“Stop Whining about Missionaries” was the title of a Jerusalem Post article (Dec. 27, 2003) that includes a nonchalant view of the Mormon’s alleged baptism of deceased Jews, as well as the attempt of Christians to convert Jews, calling the ideas equally ‘humorous.’ The attitude of ‘they’re allowed to try’ is explored by arguing that it is not only the right of Christians, but also their obligation, to evangelize. The following statement sums up this attitude, “If Jews are so vulnerable to Christian proselytizing, then we need to think more seriously about Judaism.”


The article claims that Christians have tormented Jews throughout history, whereas, to the contrary, Jews have never tormented Christians. The journalist writes, “We have not burned anyone at the stake for not practicing Judaism, even if that may only be because we never had the power to do so.” The summation is that the Jew’s fear is that, should Christians be freely permitted to ‘convert’ them, they will eventually succeed.


Thirty-five Ultra Religious Jewish families from Nazareth Elite have requested assistance from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon against the ‘phenomenon of missionaries’ in their neighborhood. Yediot Hagalil (Dec. 20,2002) reported that this petition was made because of an increase in missionary activity, specifically preaching, aimed mainly at youth and families in economic distress. The ‘missionaries’ are said to be holding meetings in the local bus stations and parks, and to be providing transportation for ‘innocent’ citizens to their churches in Nazareth. In addition, the families approached the Religious Council, which responded by promising assistance, and by encouraging the concerned citizens that the more synagogues are set up, the more this phenomenon would disappear.


Hamodia (Dec. 12, 2002) published an article entitled, “1500 Jewish Children in Missionary Education”, and claimed that missionary activists are preparing place for the absorption of an additional five hundred children in Jerusalem, intended to be ‘hunted’ from within the Jewish community there. The activity is said to mainly stem from the Anglican-Protestant Mission, which establishes new hospitals, schools and kindergartens. Statistics are given of the number of children currently studying in missionary institutions nationwide, and includes numbers from Haifa, Acco, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva and Ramle. The journalist gives information about a national gathering against foreign education that is planned to happen in February. The article also reports on a group of women who have founded an organization called “Nezach” (Eternity), with the purpose of opposing recently discovered foreign mission education.


The article also mentions:

  • Missionary activity in bookshops, where the Tanach (Old Testament) is sold together with the New Testament.
  • A clerk in a Jerusalem Post Office who was discovered to be a missionary.


A letter to the editor of Zman Krayot weekly magazine (Dec. 12, 2002), by Yoav Zah-Vaks, legal counselor of the “Ichud” non profit organization, responded to an article in the same paper dated Dec. 6, 2002, regarding the Ohalei Rahamim Messianic Congregation in Kiryat Yam. Mr. Zah-Vaks contradicts the article exclaiming that the congregation in question is a Messianic Synagogue and in NO WAY a church! He also insists that the congregation was not established by Russian immigrants. He goes on to declare, “We believe in Yeshua, who was born in Bethlehem and lived before the destruction of the second temple. He is the Messiah of Israel, written about in the Law and Prophets. We fulfill the Word of God not as a disguise, but rather in obedience and faith.”


Mr. Zah-Vaks points out that Rabbi Joseph Aberky, who claimed in the article that anyone who believes in Yeshua is a heretic and practices idolatry in its purest form, published a half page poster in the same edition of the newspaper, with the words, “Long live our Lord… Messiah the King, forever and ever.” A photograph of the Lubbavitcher Rebbe appeared above the text. The lawyer questions why the religious are permitted to make such declarations in a local newspaper and open centers promoting their belief throughout Israel and the world, while those who declare that Yeshua is the Messiah “(see Micah 5)” are committing idolatry and heresy against the religion of Israel.


The letter also accuses the journalist who wrote the original article of not verifying the facts behind his story, but rather writing with the intention of causing harm.


Shas to Film Christmas

(Yediot Achronot Dec. 20, 2002) (BaKehila Dec. 19, 2002)

Two articles (Yediot Achronot Dec. 20, 2002 and BaKehila Dec. 19, 2002) reported that the religious party, Shas, was planning to send film crews to centralized locations of new immigrants on Christmas for the following purposes:

  • To film the expansion of Christian centers in Israel.
  • To show the footage during their election broadcasts in order to present the number of non-Jews among the new immigrants.
  • To act as a propaganda weapon to draw votes from the Likud party to Shas.
  • To produce commercial broadcasts that will convey the message of the ‘danger of the non-Jewish immigrants to Israel, and the political parties that represent them.’


In addition, the journalists claim that the footage shows the baptism of children to Christianity, and many stores that sell pork in Israel.


Christian Support of Israel

(Ha’Aretz Dec. 22, 2002) (In Jerusalem Dec. 27, 2002) (Iton Yerushalayim Dec. 13, 2002)

The Christians for Israel Association in Germany donated 100,000 Euros for terror victims in Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert, Jerusalem’s mayor, received the cheque on behalf of the New Jerusalem Foundation. Besides the German non-profit organization seeing their roots in biblical Judaism, they are also involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue and fight anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Israelism. (In Jerusalem Dec. 27, 2002)


Iton Yerushalayim (Dec. 13, 2002) reported that one hundred Israel loving Christians from England visited the city. Mrs. Bar-Zachai, who stood in for the mayor to welcome the group, was quoted as saying that their visit during this difficult period in Israel is both heartwarming and appreciated.


A formal notice was printed in Ha’Aretz (Dec. 22, 2002) by the Friendship between Christians and Jews Fund, activists for  worldwide Christian support of Israel, in which they recall that more than three hundred million shekels were donated to tens of projects, focusing on immigration, absorption, and welfare in Israel. The Fund also pledged an additional two and a half million shekels to organizations aiding children in Israel. The organization’s president, Rabbi Yehiel Ekstein and its chairperson, Dvora Ganani Elad, signed the announcement.


I.D.F. in Bethlehem

(Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 25, 2002) (Jerusalem Post Dec. 23, 2002, Dec. 24, 2002) (Iton Yerushalayim Dec. 13, 2002)

Ha’Aretz English Edition (Dec. 25, 2002) reported that I.D.F. troops pulled out of central Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, but that they would redeploy on Christmas day, as soon as the holiday celebrations were completed.


“Army to keep low profile in Bethlehem on Christmas” was the title of an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post on Dec. 23, 2002. The article said that the army would try to remain out of sight around the Church of the Nativity area while Christmas celebrations were proceeding. The Greek-Orthodox representative on the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee, Aristorchus, added that the committee was assured that soldiers would not be visible along the route from Rachel’s tomb to Manger Square. The curfew in Bethlehem was also expected to be lifted, and facilities made for visitors and local Christians to pass through the check post from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.


Meanwhile, former members of the South Lebanese Army had difficulty finding churches in the Galilee where they could attend Midnight Mass. Transportation for them to reach Christian villages was organized by the Yedid group in Kiryat Shmona.


The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 24, 2002) featured an article dealing with the heads of the Christian churches in Jerusalem urging an end to all military action and fighting in Bethlehem, declaring that Bethlehem is holy for the entire Christian world. The statement by the leaders was that the city should be maintained as a sacred place, where war and military action be absolutely forbidden. An appeal is made to ‘put an end to the tragedy of the Holy Land’.


Rabbi David Rosen, Israel director of the American Jewish Committee, was impressed by the Church leaders, and said, “Such balance has not always been a feature of previous statements by Christian leaders.”


Christmas in Bethlehem

(Ha’Aretz Dec. 22, 2002, Dec. 23, 2002, Dec. 25, 2002) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 22, 2002, Dec. 23, 2002, Dec. 25, 2002, Dec. 27, 2002) (Jerusalem Post Dec. 25, 2002, Dec. 24, 2002) (Yediot Ahronot Dec. 24, 2002, Dec. 25, 2002) (In Jerusalem Dec. 20, 2002) (Globus Dec. 26, 2002)

The majority of newspapers referred to this year’s Christmas in Bethlehem as ‘gloomy’, largely due to the I.D.F.’s presence in the city. Instead of tourists, of whom the International Christian Embassy has said that there were approximately one hundred thousand in Bethlehem each year for Christmas before the current Intifada broke out, there were mainly Israeli soldiers in the city. According to The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 25, 2002), Bethlehem’s municipality refused to put a Christmas tree in Manger Square, across from the Church of the Nativity, in protest of the Israeli troop presence.


Ha’Aretz English Edition (Dec. 23, 2002) expressed it this way, “Instead of decorations and holiday cheer, a feeling of siege and war was in the air.” Another article in the same paper (Dec. 22, 2002) reported that Bethlehem is a city that lives off tourists and pilgrims, and therefore the hundreds of millions of dollars that are invested in tourism infrastructure have ‘now gone down the drain.’


Apparently Christians around the world were monitoring Israel’s ability to allow freedom of religious worship and free access to the Christian holy sites, since the Christmas holidays in Bethlehem are a ‘showcase for Israel’ worldwide.


The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 25, 2002) reported that Israel’s responsibility goes beyond guaranteeing freedom of worship and protecting the holy places, but that as a land revered by Christians, Israel has Jewish and democratic obligations to respect Christian sensitivities. In Jerusalem (Dec. 20, 2002) quoted Bethlehem Mayor, Hanna Nasser, as blaming the I.D.F. incursions, curfews and damages from army action, for the cancellation of Christmas in the city this year. He also says that the lack of celebrations stem from ‘psychological and economic devastation.’


Christmas in Nazareth and Jerusalem

(Yediot Achronot Dec. 23, 2002) (In Jerusalem Dec. 27, 2002) (Ma’ariv Dec. 24, 2002)

Yeshua was born in Bethlehem; however, his youth and early ministry took place in Nazareth.” These are the words printed in Yediot Achronot (Dec. 23, 2002), followed by reports of the city being decorated ‘just like abroad.’ The celebration schedule was given, and readers who wanted a taste of Christmas overseas were invited to the city to take part in the festivities.


In Jerusalem (Dec. 27, 2002) presented the following Christmas celebrations that took place in the city:

  • The YMCA hosted the general public and over 200 community members at its annual Christmas tree decorating evening.
  • Approximately 600 needy and orphaned children attended the YMCA’s 52nd annual Children’s Christmas Program.
  • The Anglican International School held a Christmas 2002 Carol Service.
  • The American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem held its annual Christmas dinner and lunch.


In addition, a full one-page photograph of a decorated Christmas tree was printed in the same paper, titled “Capital Christmas.”


Christian Symbols – Christmas Trees

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 20, 2002, Dec. 24, 2002, Dec. 30, 2002) (In Jerusalem Dec. 20, 2002, Dec. 27, 2002) (Ha’Aretz Dec. 24, 2002, Dec. 27, 2002) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 22, 2002, Dec. 24, 2002)

The Jerusalem Municipality distributed free Christmas trees to hundreds of Christian residents, according to a more than twenty year long tradition. The trees were donated by the Jewish National Fund (Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 22, 2002). According to a municipality spokes person, the presentation of the Christmas trees is part of an effort ‘to create rapprochement between the three monotheistic religions’ (In Jerusalem Dec. 20, 2002).


The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 30, 2002) reported that Meretz is planning to use a Christmas tree as a prop at their news conference during a Russian campaign. According to the left-wing political party, the tree articulates their position that religion and state must be separate.


Ha’Aretz (Dec. 27, 2002) ran an article dealing with the Christmas decorations sales at the new Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, including plastic Christmas trees imported from Thailand, ranging in price between 10 shekels to 748 shekels per tree. A photograph of Santa Claus dolls is featured, with the caption,  “A mother whose son was drawn to the sparkle rebukes him, saying, ‘This is not for us!’”

Christian Symbols – Santa Claus

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 24, 2002, Dec. 25, 2002, Dec. 26, 2002) (Ha’Ir Dec. 19, 2002)

Articles in The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 24, 2002, Dec. 25, 2002, Dec. 26, 2002) dealt with Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau condemning Israelis who put up Christmas trees and dress like Santa Claus, saying that these practices corrode the character of the state and the Jewish people, and that by engaging in these practices,  we have brought assimilation into our homes.


Ha’Ir (Dec. 19, 2002) reviewed a film, “Nightmare at Christmas”, that exposes the ‘terrible’ truth behind Santa Claus.


New Year

(Yediot Achronot Dec. 30, 2002)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blessed Russian immigrants on the occasion of the New Year. Left wing parties criticized this move, claiming that it is ‘net propaganda’ and that Sharon has the advantage of having an exclusive platform for enlisting the Russian vote.


Christian Population Statistics

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 25, 2002) (Ha’Aretz Dec. 25, 2002) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 25, 2002)

According to the above newspapers, all dated Dec. 25, 2002, the Christian population in Israel is now at 142,000, which is 2.1% of the entire population. The majority, approximately 81% (115,000 people) are Christian Arabs, while 27,000 immigrated under the Law of Return. Most of the non-Arab Christians arrived during the 1990’s wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.


Approximately 20,000 live in Nazareth, with the majority of Christians living in northern Israel (83,000 people). A sample of the Christian population is presented by location, with the highest percentage residing in Nazareth, and other large Christian populations in Haifa (16,000), Jerusalem (14,000) and Shfaram (8,000).


Son of Hasidic Founder ‘Converted’

(Ha’Aretz Dec. 26, 2002) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Dec. 26, 2002)

“Chabad’s Lost Son” is the title given both in the Hebrew and English editions of Ha’Aretz (Dec. 26, 2002). The article tells of Rabbi Moshe who ‘converted to Christianity.’ He was the youngest son of the founder of the Hasidic movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1902-1994), better known as the Ba’al Hatanya and the author of the Likutei Amarim Tanya, a basic book of Hasidic philosophy. According to the articles, conversion to Christianity was not unheard of in Eastern Europe during the last two hundred years. The conversion of a major Hasidic Rabbi’s son is only the most celebrated case.


Rabbi Moshe converted to Christianity at the age of 36, when he was already married with children. Professor David Assaf, a lecturer in Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, who first made the story public, examines several possible motives for the conversion, and concludes that the Rabbi’s decision was made as a result of mental illness. As Assaf puts it, “He lost his mind, and then his religion.”


Boaz Eppelbaum, bureau chief for former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and now a businessman, recently wrote a novel based on the story of the conversion entitled, “The Christian Son of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” The book includes an account of an order given by Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak in 1943, to remove the cross from the grave of Moshe. Professor Assaf says that the book is poorly written and is not historical.



Abraham Burg in Church

(Yediot Achronot Dec. 29, 2002)

Speaker of the Knesset, Abraham Burg, participated in a Catholic Mass on the occasion of the New Year at the Saint Anthony Church in Jaffa. Burg is reported to have asked to leave his kippah (head covering) on when entering the church, and the priest agreed. The article reports that Burg participated in the Mass deep into the night, ‘with Christian prayer books in his hand, and a kippah on his head.’


Katzav and the Vatican

(Globus Dec. 30, 2002) (Ma’ariv Dec. 29, 2002) (Yediot Achronot Dec. 22, 2002)

According to Globus (Dec. 30, 2002) and Ma’ariv (Dec. 29, 2002), many believe that the lamp from the Temple is held by the papacy, although the Vatican denies this claim. As a result, President Moshe Katzav, during his recent visit to Italy, requested that the President of the Vatican compile a list of Judaic objects in the papacy’s possession. Apparently, a high probability exists that many Jewish treasures are in the possession of the Vatican, including writings, Torah scrolls, and additional sacred utensils.


Yediot Achronot (Dec. 22, 2002) reported that the Vatican has accused Israel of violating basic human rights. This is because the Pope claims that President Katzav’s did not honor his promise, made a week earlier, that the I.D.F. would retreat from Bethlehem for Christmas.


Jewish/Christian Relations – Catholicism

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 27, 2002)

A full one-page article in the Jerusalem Post (Dec. 27, 2002) deals with changes within the Catholic Church, and Jewish responses to them. An example of the change is given that the Sisters of Sion, which began as an order to pray for the conversion of Jews to Christianity, has now has reversed its mission and is helping  bring Judaic teachings to the Church. According to the article, the Catholic Church no longer sees Jews as cursed, but rather as blessed. Jewish skeptics, however, view this reverse as the Church still trying to convert the Jews, now through love instead of brutality.


The journalist writes that Christians need to hear that Jews respect their spiritual authenticity and relationship to the House of Israel, and that Jews do not despise Christians as ‘goyim’ or worse, as potential Nazis. He also presses the point that Christian-Jewish dialogue is a sign of hope in these troubled times.


A document recently issued by an American group of interdenominational Christian scholars on the subject of Christian-Jewish relations is quoted, “In view of our conviction that Jews are in an eternal covenant with God, we renounce missionary efforts directed at converting Jews. If Jews, who do not share our faith in Christ, are in a saving covenant with God, then Christians need new ways of understanding the universal significance of Christ.”


Jewish/Christian Relations – Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 26, 2002, Dec. 27, 2002) (Ha’aretz Dec. 27, 2002) (Ma’ariv Dec. 26, 2002, Dec. 27, 2002) (Kol Ha’Ir Dec. 13, 2002)

Controversy arose due to an alleged anti-Semitic letter written by Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Irineos I, to Yasser Arafat. This accusation came only a day after the Isaeli government decided to approve the election of the Patriarch, having prolonged the decision for a year and a half. A section of the letter printed in the front-page headlines of Ma’ariv (Dec. 26, 2002) quoted the Patriarch as saying to Arafat, “You are aware of the disgusting sentiments and lack of respect that we all sense towards the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord Yeshua, the crucifiers of the Palestinians, the Zionistic Jews who conquer the Holy Land, Palestine.”


A Patriarchate spokesman said the letter was a forgery, ‘intended to destroy the good relations between the Orthodox Church and the State of Israel.’ Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is reported as having repeatedly insisted on electing the Patriarch, despite warnings from members of the intelligence community pleading that the Patriarch has close connections with Arafat.


Kol Ha’Ir (Dec. 13, 2002) featured a request by the Latin Patriarchate to build a hotel for pilgrims on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The local council has rejected the petition.


Burial Amidst Suicide Bombers

(Zman Hanegev Dec. 20, 2002)

Zman Hanegev (Dec. 20, 2002) ran an article about twenty thousand Christians from the Negev, most of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who are forced to bury their loved ones in a cemetery where suicide bombers are also entombed. This phenomenon is due to the rejection of plans for a new Christian cemetery in Be’er Sheva because of a lack of 4,000 shekels. The one responsible for Christian matters in the region’s office is said to have committed the office to cover the outstanding sum. However, he said that he has no idea of the deadlines involved.


Book Reviews

(Jerusalem Post Dec. 27, 2002) (Ma’ariv Dec. 20, 2002)

“A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair,” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, is a book reviewed in The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 27, 2002). The book is divided into three parts: Clarifying the Conduct, Judging the Culpability, and Repairing the Harm. The journalist concludes that the book is disappointing and its material unreliable.


“Yeshua has moved to Comics” is the title of a feature reviewing a comic pamphlet distributed in mailboxes in Israel’s central cities. The pamphlet, “The Promise,” is said to be lighthearted at first appearance, but is in actuality ‘a clear call to change one’s religion.’ The name of Kehila Meshichit (The Messianic Assembly) is printed on the back, and is described as a prominent missionary group, with tens of congregations and thousands of members in the country.


Meno, the Jerusalem congregation’s leader, explains that they mostly approach the public with ‘regular’ pamphlets. When asked whether the new method for religious proselytization is comics, Meno replies that he is not too fond of the technique, but that it is an additional way to evangelize. He adds that he knows of those who were influenced by comics, and others who ask, “How can you reduce God to the level of Mickey Mouse?” (Ma’ariv Dec. 20, 2002)