Caspari Center Media Review…April, 2003 #1
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 24 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 4 dealt with Jewish/Christian Relations
- 3 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 2 dealt with Early Christianity
- 2 dealt with Anti-Missionary attitudes
- 2 dealt with Christian Sites
- 1 dealt with Messianic Jews
- 1 was a book review
The remaining 9 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
(Hatzofe Apr. 01, 2003)
Yad L’achim claims that missionaries are taking advantage of the social troubles in Israel, disguising their motives by leading seminars where they promise to train participants to become more creative to be able to cope with difficulties. Yad L’achim warned that many are being drawn into these frameworks. Yad L’achim therefore taken the initiative and is publicizing advertisements intended to prevent the public from being tempted into these “deceptions” and to help people to discern the true intent of these courses which is: “to convert the poor to their own religion.” The article in Hatzofe (Apr. 1, 2003) claimed that Rabbi Lipshitz, Yad L’achim’s founder, was shocked that the missionaries attempt to penetrate the ultra religious communities and to cause “innocent Jews to stumble.”
Christian Support of Israel
(Jerusalem Post Mar. 30, 2003) (Yediot Mar. 25, 2003) (Yediot Hagalil Mar. 21, 2003)
Yediot Ahronot (Mar. 25, 2003) reported that The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews donated sixty-five thousand shekels to purchase blankets and heaters for the elderly in the city of Rahat.
Yediot Hagalil (Mar. 21, 2003) ran a short article about the same organization and their donation of ten thousand children’s coats a new security vehicle, and furniture for two immigration centers. Rabbi Ekstein, the group’s founder, was quoted, “The purpose of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is to assist to the best of our ability, citizens in Israel who find themselves in a state of financial distress.”
“I.D.F. ‘enlists’ the help of volunteers” was the title of an article printed in The Jerusalem Post (Mar. 30, 2003) describing the “recruiting” of thirty-eight thousand volunteers from both Israel and abroad, who joined the “Home Front Command Volunteer Program.” The program caters to those who want to give a helping hand without having to carry a gun. Jews from all over the world, as well as Christian groups from as far away as Japan, joined the project. A 74-year old Dutch volunteer, Sam Van Der Huffmen, having had devout Christian parents and being an unabashed lover of Israel, said of his eighth trip to the Land, “It is completely a part of me.”
Effects of the War
(Sha’a Tova Bahadashot Mar. 28, 2003) (In Jerusalem Mar. 28, 2003)
Sha’a Tova Bahadashot (Mar. 28, 2003) reported that Jewish soldiers fighting in Iraq were advised to wear an identification tag stating their personal details and that they are Christians. The proposal arose as Americans feared that should a Jewish American soldier fall into captivity that he would undergo severe torture due to being Jewish. The military Rabbi refused to implement the suggestion.
International organizations headquartered in Jerusalem were evacuated as scores of families returned to their native lands with the outbreak of war in Iraq. Included among those mentioned in the In Jerusalem article (Mar. 28, 2003) were The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United States Embassy, the former, advising American citizens to leave the country if they possibly could, while the American diplomatic service flew many workers and their families back to the States.
International Schools, many of which boast students from diplomatic families, also saw their numbers reduced. The article emphasized that one “embassy” that maintained a full staff was the International Christian Embassy, whose more than 100 employees and their family members all stayed in the country. David Parsons, the Embassy’s Director, said “Staff don’t have a martyr syndrome, but rather feel that leaving Israel in times of crises would undermine their message of support.”
Tourism and Sites
)Arei Modi’in Mar. 27, 2003) (Ha’Ir Mar. 20, 2003)
Arei Modi’in (Mar. 27, 2003) ran a feature entitled, “From Finland With Love,” explaining how the moshav (cooperative settlement), Yad Hashmona, was founded by a group of Christian Finnish citizens who decided to settle in the Land at the beginning of the 1970’s as pioneers. Their purpose was to draw new immigrants to Zionistic ideals and to help Jews occupying Israel to build their homeland. The history, modern day activities, and status of the moshav are outlined. Suggested tours surrounding Yad Hashmona, prices, and contact details for lodging are also provided.
“The Holiest Tree?” is the title of a short item in Ha’Ir (Mar. 20, 2003) dealing with a Ficus Tree situated on a very central boulevard in Tel Aviv which has been noted as resembling Yeshua hanging on a cross. For those who do not believe the account, an informal invitation is given to drive by the site, and “see for oneself.”
White House Sermon
)Ha’Aretz Apr. 07, 2003)
An article which appeared in Ha’Aretz (Apr. 07, 2003) focused on Gary Bower, a Christian Zionist, who publicly explained to a listening public outside the White House that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jews, and it is therefore forbidden to hand it to another nation. This occurred due to pressure on President George Bush to present a roadmap in order to put an end to Israeli occupancy of the territories.
The Spanish Inquisition
(Makor Rishon Mar. 14, 2003)
“500 Years Later” was the title of a comprehensive feature regarding the Spanish Inquisition. The piece deals with the cancellation of the inquisition laws thirty years ago, and the rediscovery of the Jewish roots by many Christians in Spain today.
)Hatzofe Apr. 01, 2003)
The investigation examining the authentication of the ossuary claimed to carry the remains of Yeshua’s brother, James, has begun. Hatzofe (Apr. 1, 2003) reported that two expert committees were set up, with the first inspecting the inscription in order to ascertain its authenticity, while the second committee probes the ossuary’s origin, specifically checking the materials.
Controversy regarding Mel Gibson’s film
)Jerusalem Post Mar. 26, 2003)
The fear that the age-old charge that the Jews are responsible for Yeshua’s death has arisen due to Mel Gibson’s latest film, “The Passion,” which depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life. While Gibson has said the crucifixion is “not a Christian versus a Jewish thing,” other remarks, combined with his apparent apathy toward some Second Vatican Council reforms, have fueled fears that the film may resurrect anti-Jewish teachings.
Among interviews with Time Magazine, the Fox News network, and others, Gibson told Zenit, a Catholic news agency, that, “Jesus himself was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and so were his twelve apostles. It’s true that, as the Bible says, ‘He came unto his own and his own received him not.’ I can’t hide that. But that doesn’t mean that the sins of the past were any worse than the sins of the present. Christ paid the price for all our sins.”
The article explains that dramatic depictions of Jesus’ death have always been a touchy subject for Jews who historically have been portrayed by them in a negative light. The article also explains that some scholars believe that the Gospels themselves are historically inaccurate and inherently problematic in their portrayals of Jews. According to John Dominic Crossan, a professor of religious studies at DePaul University and author of ”Who killed Jesus?” the troubling rhetoric in the Gospels about the role of Jews in Jesus’ death, was the result of “a very nasty fight” between “Christian Jews” and “other Jews” rather than an accurate reflection of what transpired.
United in Pain
)Jerusalem Mar. 28, 2003)
A feature concerning how the death of Abigail Litle, the 14-year old who lost her life in the Haifa suicide attack in March, has brought an “unknown community into the public eye.” The Jerusalem Post (Mar. 28, 2003) covered the irony of the Litle family sharing a message of love and understanding, while mourning their daughter who was a victim of hatred and intolerance.
An interview with Shmuel Aweida, the pastor of the congregation that the Litle’s attend, Beit Eliyahu, is featured and it includes the question, “What defines a messianic congregation?” Greg Kingry, Administrator of the Baptist Convention in Israel (B.C.I.) explains that the only distinction between messianic believers and Evangelical Christians is that “messianic believers are of Jewish heritage. They do not feel they are moving into the Christian faith, but rather completing themselves in the Jewish faith. Acceptance of Jesus Christ is, for them, the logical response to Christ having come to Earth and having died for our sins.”
Sheri Denlinger, a member of Beth Hezda, another Hebrew speaking messianic congregation in Haifa is also interviewed regarding her life as a messianic believer who grew up in Israel.
A side item appears entitled, “Christians in Jewish Clothing?” in which Aharon Rubin, head of the anti-missionary desk at Yad L’achim, maintains that, “Believing that Jesus is the Messiah is idol worship. Messianic Jews are really selling Christianity as Judaism.” The American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen contends that it is possible to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and still be Jewish, however, “if a person believes that Jesus is divine, that he is part of the Holy Trinity, and that salvation comes through belief in Jesus, then these beliefs are incompatible with Judaism. Such people should come clean and describe themselves as Christians.” While Rubin would like to see proselytizing outlawed, Rosen believes that would be a blow to Israeli democracy, in particular to freedom of speech.
Converters to Judaism
(Mishpaha Mar. 20, 2003)
An extensive article in Mishpaha (Mar. 20, 2003) featured the fact that tens of Seventh Day Adventists, “a declared missionary cult,” are being employed by educational institutions and Yeshivas (Rabbinical Colleges) in B’nei Brak. The majority of their employers do not know that their workers belong to the Adventist group since, according to the journalist, in order to find work in the city occupied by mostly religious Jews, they go to any lengths, including wearing black yarmulkes and saying that they vote for religious political parties, while secretly they listen to their own music and eat non-kosher food. The item features an interview with a couple of Seventh Day Adventists questioned about their opinion of B’nei Brak.
(Emtza Netanya Mar. 28, 2003)
Eyal Magad authored a book entitled, “Secrets and Betrayals” which is reviewed in Emtza Netanya (Mar. 28, 2003). His political views are discussed in the article and he states that his conclusion regarding the Christian world is that they are joining the Palestinians in order to “drink our blood.” Magad is quoted, “We have long ceased to be a Jewish society, but are rather currently a Christian society. There are no Christians more Christian than Jews, and the behavior of our generation proves that Christianity stemmed from our people. We are the only nation in the world that turns the other cheek.”