Caspari Center Media Review……January, 2003 #2
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 46 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 10 dealt with Jewish/Christian Relations
- 7 dealt with Anti-Missionary attitudes
- 5 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 5 dealt with Christian Festivals
- 2 dealt with Religious Freedom and Rights
- 2 dealt with Business and Commerce
- 2 dealt with Status of Non-Jews
- 2 dealt with Book Reviews
- 1 dealt with Christian Sites
- 1 dealt with Christian Tourism
The remaining 9 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
(Arei Modi’in Jan. 9, 2003) (Hashavua BaHadashot Jan. 17, 2003) (HaModia Jan. 17, 2003) (Ma’ariv Jan. 19, 2003) (Ha’Aretz Jan. 19, 2003)
“Rage in Religious Sectors Due to Offer of a Free Video Cassette on Yeshua’s Life” was the headline of an article in Arei Modi’in (Jan. 9, 2003). The subject of the article was an evangelistic campaign that took place in the city. The journalist quoted the pamphlets distributed in Modi’in’s mailboxes, and briefly described a telephone conversation he had when he called the number given. Rabbi Dovrat, Chairman of the Synagogues in Modi’in, stated that the public should be notified that the campaign was carried out by missionaries, and that he is investigating the legal grounds to sue those who distributed the material. He added that he intends to turn to Yad L’Achim for assistance against the missionaries. A member of the local council claimed that it was not the first time that missionaries attempted to “work” in Modi’in. For that reason many of the envelopes received were “automatically thrown into the garbage.”
Articles in two papers (Hashavua BaHadashot Jan. 17, 2003, HaModia Jan. 17, 2003) accused missionaries of offering to pay electric bills in exchange for conversion. The missionaries were quoted as saying, “New lives will be opened to you after you convert. All we ask of you is that you agree to join our Church in Jerusalem and change your religion.” Yad L’Achim’s lawyer said that the offer of favors in exchange for conversion is against Israeli law.
An additional article in HaModia (Jan. 17, 2003) entitled “The Church and Its Subordination to Independence” reviews some of the history of Jerusalem including the Christian and Muslim holy sites in the city. The article reaches the conclusion that too much land has been given to the Muslim and Christian population for “non-Jewish development” outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The religious political party Shas ran a propaganda advertisement with a photograph of a pig, entitled “What They Are Really Thinking.” The pig muses, “Four years we are in the mud, and all of a sudden they remember us when elections come around.” The caption under the pig says, “They will make more churches and more pigs” (Ma’ariv Jan. 19, 2003, Ha’Aretz Jan. 19, 2003).
Indictment Against Yad L’Achim
(HaModia Jan. 17, 2003)
HaModia (Jan. 17, 2003) briefly reported that a decision was made to serve an indictment against Yad L’Achim activists who demonstrated against missionaries. The piece also disclosed that missionaries distribute propaganda material using “camouflaged channels and sophisticated means.”
Christian Support of Israel
(Kan Darom Jan. 10, 2003) (Kol Hanegev Jan. 10, 2003) (Hed Hakrayot Jan. 10, 2003) (Sheva Jan. 16, 2003) (Zfon-1 Jan. 17, 2003)
Five articles (Kan Darom Jan. 10, 2003, Kol Hanegev Jan. 10, 2003, Hed Hakrayot Jan. 10, 2003, Sheva Jan. 16, 2003, Zfon-1 Jan. 17, 2003) reported donations by The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded twenty five years ago by Orthodox Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein. Three of the articles dealt with coats that were distributed to needy children in the Negev and Ashkelon, while the remaining two articles spoke of a contribution totaling one hundred and twenty thousand dollars that will be used to assist “youth in distress” and to aid new immigrants, and twenty five thousand dollars which were designated for assisting needy families in Acco.
Greek Orthodox Matters
(Jerusalem Post Jan. 13, 2003, Jan. 23, 2003) (Iton Yerushalayim Jan. 17, 2003)
In response to an article published in the Jerusalem Post (Jan. 12, 2003) in which the Greek Orthodox Church spokesman called suicide bombers “heroes” on the official Hamas website, a denial was printed the following day (Jan. 13, 2003) quoting Archimandrite Attallah Hanna, “I strongly reject terrorist bombings that target innocent people, regardless of their nationality and religion.” Hanna claimed that the report on the website was a fabrication.
An article in Iton Yerushalayim (Jan. 17, 2003) described Attallah Hanna’s proclamation regarding suicide bombings as “Support with no reservation, regardless of what objectors and those who doubt this type of heroism will say.” Hanna, who declares himself to be the spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel and is known to be close to Arafat, called for the “Christian Arabs and Palestinians to join the opposition against Israeli occupation, in every necessary form.”
“Greek Orthodox Church Takes Hesitant Goodwill Step for Christian Unity Week” (Jerusalem Post Jan. 23, 2003) explains that the Greek Orthodox Church has had theological and political disagreements with other churches over the last decades, but has decided to participate in unity week “with reservations.” The article states that despite the divisions, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate “holds the most power over the other churches, as it guards most of the holy sites, is the largest landowner, and was Israel’s official spokesperson and representative for the Christian communities.”
(Zman Tel Aviv Jan. 10, 2003)
“Jesus, What A Debt” was the title of a feature published in Zman Tel Aviv (Jan. 10, 2003) describing the debts of twelve local Catholic churches to the Tel Aviv Municipality. These debts are due to non-payment of property tax bills which total four and a half million shekels. The municipality intends to proceed with confiscation procedures, while the heads of the churches in question claim that these are false charges and warn against “dangerous developments.” The journalist explains that Israeli law states that places of prayer are exempt from property taxes. However, according to Mark Ovadiah, director of the Property Tax Department, the clergy are taking advantage of the exemption to avoid paying property taxes for their private homes, situated on church premises, and for their study halls connected to the churches.
Evangelicals and Politics
(Jerusalem Post Jan. 14, 2003)
An opinion by Elwood McQuaid, a prominent Christian author and syndicated radio broadcaster in the U.S.A., was printed in the Jerusalem Post (Jan. 14, 2003). He expressed the conviction that Evangelical Christians are in general ridiculed relentlessly, and are also mocked because many hold the views of the religious right political parties in Israel.
McQuaid explained that not all members of the Evangelical Christian “flock” in the U.S.A. are Christian Zionists, but that a considerable number hold to Replacement Theology – “a position that makes the church ‘spiritual Israel’ and the true Israel of God,” thereby maintaining that God’s promises to Abraham and his posterity are no longer viable. He reassures readers that there are millions who believe that the Bible teaches that these promises are irrevocable, and who believe that the Jewish people have biblical, moral, historical and legal rights to a homeland in the Land of Israel. He concludes, “It is a commendable coming together that should be encouraged rather than stridently opposed.”
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
(Mishpaha Jan. 09, 2003)
A detailed feature about The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and its founder, Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, was featured in Mishpaha (Jan. 09, 2003). The focus of the article was the funds that the organization raises and donates, described as “impressive” yet “dangerous,” detailing the various causes to which the Fellowship contributes.
Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein’s background is given, as are his fundraising methods. Even though the Rabbi operates hand in hand with Evangelical Christians, he declares, “If they say that the entire world, including the Jews, needs to receive Yeshua, but do not act in that direction, I am willing to work with them. However, if they stray from the domain of theology, and deal with missionary activity toward the Jews, we will not continue with them. If I know that someone is a missionary, I will not work with him, I will not receive his money, and I do not want any connection to that person.” Eckstein insists that he has no relations with missionaries or missionary organizations.
The journalist interviewed the Rabbi and quoted statements made by those who oppose him, including Mrs. Mina Penton, a member of the Jerusalem Municipality, and Rabbi Cook, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot. He also recounts excerpts from the video cassette used by Eckstein to raise funds for bringing immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Israel.
Status of Non-Jews
(Ha’Aretz Jan. 22, 2003) (Ma’ariv Jan. 24, 2003)
Ha’Aretz (Jan. 22, 2003) featured an article about the Interior Minister’s intention to step up immigration from Ethiopia. The journalist questions this activity and states that among the many Ethiopians brought to Israel, tens of thousands have been found who do not qualify for immigration according to the Law of Return. He also claims that this law does not cover those “who changed their religion.”
An extensive article published in Ma’ariv (Jan. 24, 2003) deals with non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union now serving as soldiers in the I.D.F. The journalist takes the view that these “Christians want to serve the country, without being Jews.” Apparently the I.D.F. distributed more than one thousand New Testaments to the non-Jewish soldiers last year. Interviews with non-Jewish soldiers and a discussion with the Chief Rabbi of the I.D.F., Israel Weis, are presented. Rabbi Weis explains that the beliefs and preferences of the Christian soldiers are generously accommodated.
The Anti-Intermarriage Case
(Jerusalem Report Jan. 13, 2003)
A letter to the editor of The Jerusalem Report (Jan. 13, 2003), in response to a debate about welcoming interfaith couples into Judaism (Dec. 16, 2002), applauded the journalist’s opinion as stated in the original article, “Trying to prevent intermarriage is futile. Let’s stop demeaning intermarriage as a bad thing.”
(Eretz Dec-Jan 2002-2003) (Ha’Aretz Jan. 24, 2003)
Eretz (Dec-Jan 2002-2003) reviewed a new guide for pilgrims, tourists and locals that provides comprehensive information about Israel’s Christian religious orders, interviews with their leaders and representatives, and the places they call home. Contact details for obtaining “The Monasteries and Convents of the Holy Land” are given.
A feature about journalist/author Yossi Klein Halevi appeared in Ha’Aretz (Jan. 24, 2003), in which his spiritual journey among “Christian believers” and Muslims in the Land of Israel is described. On reading the article, the reader discovers that the “Christian believers” with whom Klein-Halevi spent time are Catholics, monks in various monasteries, and Greek Orthodox observers. The article depicts his experiences with these groups, as well as with Muslims.
Conclusions of Christianity
(Ha’Aretz Jan. 22, 2003)
A comprehensive feature in Ha’Aretz (Jan. 22, 2003), entitled “The Yearning for Beauty in Christianity: Unity of the Differences,” deals with why so many are drawn to Christianity and the reason why it is such a fast growing religion. Among the conclusions are:
- Man is drawn to beauty and to the concept that perhaps in another place “it will be better.”
- Man longs to believe in eternity.
- The supreme ideologies of ethics, justice, truth and beauty amalgamate into one idea, to love God. This is a general merger of rational concepts like justice with emotional notions like love.
The journalist concludes that the Christian faith is mystical, connecting religious beliefs and stretching man’s understanding of rational thinking.
Catholicism and the Vatican
(BaKehila Jan. 16, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Jan. 24, 2003)
“The Vatican’s Cracked Secrets” was the title of a feature published in BaKehila (Jan. 16, 2003), which looks at the Catholic Church’s role during the Second World War and whether the ecclesiastical establishment aided the Jews or was part of the German camp. Due to great international pressure, the Vatican announced that next month it will release documents regarding the Church’s functioning during those dark days. The direct question of whether the Catholic Church paved the way to the Holocaust is also tackled.
The Vatican is closing its center for Jewish studies in Jerusalem and moving it to Rome. The journalist reported on criticism by Jewish teachers at the institute which arose after the announcement was made, in which they exhibited concern that the move could signal that the Church was abandoning Israel, and would be viewed as “adversely affecting relations between Jews and Christians” (Jerusalem Post Jan. 24, 2003).
Sergio Minerbi, a former Israeli ambassador and author of “The Vatican and Zionism,” articulated his disagreement with Yossi Klein Halevi’s article entitled, “Catholicism is our friend,” published in The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 27, 2002). Minerbi argues, “Halevi is dreaming if he thinks that the Church is ready to be an ally of the Jewish people” (Jerusalem Post Jan. 24, 2003).
(Ma’ariv Jan. 20, 2003)
Beit El Industries, producers of A.B.C. (Atomic, Biological and Chemical) Filtering Systems, received approval from Israel’s Investment Center administration to expand their factory to the value of 1.7 million shekels. The Christian-based company, situated in Zichron Ya’akov, is described as Zionist. Its 250 employees have been living in Israel for approximately forty years, with the purpose of assisting the Jewish nation through “faith.” Beit El Industries is also reported to be one of the leading companies in its field worldwide.
(Jerusalem Post Jan. 24, 2003)
An opinion piece by Jerusalem Post journalist Berel Wein lays out reasons for the hatred of Jews in the Christian world. Wein considers that Jewish rejection of the divinity of the Christian Savior laid the basis for the Church’s hatred of the Jews. She also states that in the 19th century, religious hatred of the Jews transformed into racial hatred. The article deals with these issues as well as with hatred between the Jews and the Moslem world (Jan. 24, 2003).
(Hadashot Hadera Jan. 17, 2003)
A local city paper, Hadashot Hadera (Jan. 17, 2003), briefly reported on five hundred priests and Christian believers who were to be baptized in the waters of the Sea of Galilee, dressed in festive clothing.