Caspari Center Media Review…April, 2003 #2; May, 2003 #1
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 68 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 16 dealt with Christian Festivals
- 11 dealt with Anti-Missionary attitudes
- 6 dealt with Tourism
- 5 dealt with Status of Non-Jews
- 4 dealt with Christians and Politics
- 3 were Book Reviews
- 3 dealt with Film Reviews
- 3 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 1 dealt with Archaeology
The remaining 16 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
)Yated Ne’eman Apr. 11, 2003) (Hamodia Apr. 10, 2003, Apr. 30, 2003) (Mishpaha Apr. 15, 2003) (Makor Rishon Apr. 16, 2003) (Bakehila Apr. 10, 2003) (Yediot Hagalil May 02, 2003) (Sha’a Tova Apr. 11, 2003) (Yediot Haifa Apr. 16, 2003) (Kol Haemek ve Hagalil Apr. 11, 2003)
In response to Yad L’Achim’s recent exposure of missionary activity in Haifa, Yediot Haifa (Apr. 16, 2003) reported that government officials are not doing anything regarding the matter. The head of the anti-missionary organization accused the officials of “shutting their eyes” to the phenomenon in the city, due to monetary contributions being received by Israeli politicians.
Articles in Mishpaha (Apr. 15, 2003) and Sha’a Tova (Apr. 11, 2003) dealt with tens of youth from the city of Ariel in Samaria who are expected to participate in a summer camp in the U.S.A., which is organized by American Christian organizations. The journalists described the activities in the camp as consisting of “intensive, systematic, sophisticated and continuous missionary preaching,” as well as participation in Christian prayers and ceremonies in various churches. Following the same arrangement last year, Yad L’Achim’s investigators discovered that the youth who attended the camp have maintained contact with their Christian host families in the U.S.A. since their return to Israel.
Yad L’Achim’s founder, Rabbi Lipshitz, is outraged by the incident, and implied that the reason for ongoing summer camps of this nature is that Christian supporters of Israel donate large amounts of money to the occupied territories and the cities’ municipalities. Yad L’Achim’s attorney is considering taking legal steps against Ariel’s city council and the Ministry of Education, expected to be responsible for the children, who are exposing minors to missionary activity which is against Israeli law.
Hamodia (Apr. 10, 2003) printed an article regarding a cult named the Church of Scientology, which is penetrating schools by distributing a book entitled “The Way To Happiness,” written by the sect’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Rabbi Lipshitz of Yad L’Achim contacted the Minister of Education upon learning of the literature’s distribution, and has been corresponding with several people in the Ministry regarding this matter.
Yated Ne’eman (Apr. 11, 2003) published a letter to the paper’s editor by a concerned parent regarding the same Scientology issue.
“Messianic Group Trying To Tempt Families of Terror Victims With Shopping Coupons” was the title of an article printed in Hamodia (Apr. 30, 2003). The shopping coupons referred to were valued at 500 shekels and given by the “Vision for Israel” Organization on the eve of Passover. The journalist described the organization as “taking advantage of distressed families mourning for their loved ones whom were lost in terrorist acts.” Batya, a “Jew who converted to Christianity,” signed the letters accompanying the coupons. Rabbi Lipshitz of Yad L’Achim said that the very fact that a messianic organization like “Messianic Jews” knows the addresses of terror victims is most concerning.
Bakehila (Apr. 10, 2003) ran a piece entitled “Missionaries At the Heart of Borough Park.” The article states that missionary activity is underway for the first time at that location in New York, where religious Jews are being targeted. The activity began when the church at the park posted a welcome sign in various languages, including Hebrew. When asked whether Jews enter the church in response to the posted sign, the priest hesitantly responded with, “maybe.” The priest made a point of emphatically denying the claim that the church is in any way connected to the “Jews for Jesus” organization. A transcript of a short telephone conversation between the journalist and a Jews for Jesus spokesman in New York was given.
A strong response to a group of German “missionaries” who passed out literature in Upper Nazareth was published in Yediot Hagalil (May. 02, 2003). Avraham Maman, a member of the local city council, is quoted as saying, “We do not want preachers of Christianity in our city. Whoever wants to convert, let him go to Nazareth.” He approached municipality officials demanding that the missionaries be removed from the area.
An article that appeared in Kol Haemek ve Hagalil (Apr. 11, 2003) dealt with a group of “Christians” who believe in the Old Testament but not necessarily in the New Testament. They hold the following beliefs:
- The source of redemption, the Messiah, will come from Zion.
- The graves of the righteous forefathers are holy, and ceremonies should be carried out at
- Ceremonies conducted at the graves will draw them closer to higher powers.
The group travels to Israel from the U.S.A. three to five times a year, dressed in white, barefooted, and holding staffs. The report describes both their practices and appearance in detail.
Makor Rishon (Apr. 16, 2003) ran a piece explaining that the radio station, “The Jewish Voice,” has been established to “rescue immigrants from missionaries and to draw them closer to the Torah (Law) and good works.” The messianic radio station, “Voice of Salvation” was reported to have been “defeated.”
Ceremony of the Holy Fire
)Jerusalem Post Apr. 21, 2003, Apr. 25, 2003, Apr. 27, 2003) (Ha’Aretz Apr. 24, 2003, Apr. 27, 2003, Apr. 30, 2003) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 24, 2003, Apr. 25, 2003, Apr. 27, 2003) (Sha’ar Lamatchil Apr. 29, 2003)
Five articles appeared in wide circulation daily papers (Jerusalem Post Apr. 25, 2003, Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 24, 2003 [two articles], Apr. 25, 2003, Ha’Aretz Apr. 24, 2003) focusing on the Easter Holy Fire Ceremony that was to take place at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Fears of violence arose from the tension between Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy about who would conduct the “Sabbath of Light” ceremony on that day.
Minister without Portfolio Natan Sharansky held several meetings with the church leaders, police, and government officials in an attempt to mediate an agreement between the two churches. In the event that no agreement could be reached, the police were planning to set up barricades near the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, thus preventing thousands of worshipers from entering.
A further five articles (Jerusalem Post Apr. 21, 2003, Apr. 27, 2003, Ha’Aretz Apr. 27, 2003, Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 27, 2003, Sha’ar Lamatchil Apr. 29, 2003) expressed relief at the peaceful outcome of the event, in which thousands of Christian worshipers participated.
Good Friday and Easter
(Ha’Aretz Apr. 18, 2003, Apr. 30, 2003) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 20, 2003) (Ma’ariv Leyeladim Apr. 15, 2003)
A short account of Christians marking Good Friday in Jerusalem was published in Ha’Aretz English Edition (Apr. 20, 2003). Only several hundred people carrying wooden crosses participated in this year’s ceremony of retracing Jesus’ steps towards crucifixion, as opposed to thousands who took part in previous years.
A feature regarding thousands of Israeli families who celebrate Passover as well as Easter was printed in Ha’Aretz (Apr. 18, 2003). The Passover/Easter observers interviewed were new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Ma’ariv Leyeladim (Apr. 15, 2003) presented an interview with a Christian Arab family who celebrate Easter.
Status of Non-Jews
(Ha’Aretz Apr. 20, 2003, Apr. 22, 2003) (Ma’ariv Apr. 27, 2003) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 22, 2003) (Yediot Haifa Apr. 16, 2003)
“Enter a Christian, Exit a Jew” was the title of an extensive article in Ha’Aretz English Edition (Apr. 22, 2003) that dealt with the rabbinical committee that accepts or rejects Jewish conversion candidates. The journalist states that, surprisingly, most candidates are accepted after answering the many questions asked by the rabbinical judges. A few examples of conversion cases are given.
Both Ha’Aretz Hebrew and English editions (Apr. 22, 2003) featured an article entitled “Better a Jew” which expressed the struggle for a sense of belonging which the growing minority of non-Jews living in Israel feel. The journalist uses MK Michael Kleiner’s recent description of non-Jewish Russian immigrants as “dirty water” as a springboard to illustrate the general view held regarding non-Jews by politicians, public officials and ordinary Israelis. The journalist, Nicky Blackburn, testifies of her first hand experience of criticism and the feelings of being an outsider that go with being a non-Jew in Israel. She herself is a non-Jew married to an Israeli.
Ma’ariv (Apr. 27, 2003) ran an article that focused on the life of Avraham Ngosa, an “active Christian missionary” from Ethiopia who immigrated to Israel. Ngosa is now actively working to bring the Falashmura to immigrate to Israel. He is also making efforts to be voted into the Israeli parliament. The comprehensive article details Ngosa’s background, current activities, views, and a brief account of the Falashmura.
“Member of Parliament Makhoul: The Government Disregards the Festivals of the Non-Jewish Public” was the title of a short piece in Yediot Haifa (Apr. 16, 2003), in which Issam Makhoul of the Hadash party expressed discontent with the scorn shown to the large non-Jewish public who celebrate Christian festivals. Makhoul also remarked that the Israeli Parliament terminated all activities for one week in honor of the Jewish festival of Passover, and it would therefore be appropriate to treat the Christian holidays similarly.
The rate of expulsion of foreign workers has recently grown dramatically, with more than five thousand being deported since the beginning of March 2003. This represents an average of one hundred deportations a day. The feature in Ha’Aretz (Apr. 20, 2003) centers on Father Gabriel, a priest at the Saint Peter Church in Jaffa, who has begun to severely criticize the emigration police, accusing the officers of relating in harsh and humiliating ways to prisoners and overriding their rights and freedom of religion.
U.S. Christians Call for “Biblical Road Map”
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 22, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 22, 2003, May 02, 2003) (Ha’Aretz May 02, 2003)
Three articles in English papers (Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 22, 2003, Jerusalem Post Apr. 22, 2003, May 02, 2003) discussed the connection between Christians and the proposed “Road Map.” The following main points were made:
- Several Jewish and Christian groups in the U.S.A. are launching campaigns to have the peace plan dropped in favor of the Bible, and to petition prayer for President George Bush to support Israel.
- Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Benny Elon, urged his political party, the National Union, to strengthen its ties with Evangelical Christian groups who are also interested in Israel maintaining its hold on the territories. Elon addressed an international group of Christians touring the West Bank, saying, “Millions of Christians who support Israel in the U.S.A. have political power than can be harnessed.”
- President Bush’s personal view of faith was presented. Referring to the implementation of the current “Road Map” proposal, writer Michael D. Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team and the Evangelical Israel Broadcasting Network, asks, “What does Bush do with Jesus? Is it real love if you kick Him out of His own house? Since He was born in Bethlehem, He would have to be evicted, and Powell would have to accuse Him and His family of being settlers and an obstacle to peace” (Jerusalem Post Apr. 22, 2003).
- Ha’Aretz (May 02, 2003) ran an item regarding right wing Israeli settlers turning to fundamentalist Christians for assistance. In addition, the article mentions that Benny Elon, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, visited the Bible Belt in the U.S.A., where he met with politicians and visited “Evangelicals.” The journalist stated that whoever believes that the land of Israel belongs solely to the Jews and not to the Palestinians is turning to this group of people for support and backing.
Christian Support of Israel
(Bamahane Hashavua Apr. 11, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 14, 2003)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was mentioned as funding the second Seder (Passover night service), at a hotel in the center of the country, for solitary soldiers and some of their families (Jerusalem Post Apr. 14, 2003, Bamahane Hashavua Apr. 11, 2003).
(Index Yerushalayim Mar. 27, 2003) (Tourist Guide Apr. 27, 2003) (Globus Apr. 29, 2003)
Articles in Tourist Guide (Apr. 27, 2003) and Globus (Apr. 29, 2003) announced that tour groups continued to arrive in Israel in spite of the war in Iraq. Tourist groups who were already in the Land when the war officially broke out decided to continue their tours. Benny Elon, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, explained that special measures were being taken to ensure the safety of the tourists. Stands with information about protective procedures have been erected at the arrivals section in Ben Gurion Airport.
Globus (Apr. 29, 2003) reported that four million shekels are being devoted to a campaign to encourage Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel from the U.S.A. and Europe to visit the Land.
Benny Hinn Encourages Christian Tourism to Israel
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 28, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 28, 2003) (Ma’ariv Apr. 28, 2003)
Ha’Aretz English Edition (Apr. 28, 2003) briefly reported that Benny Hinn met with Tourism Minister Benny Elon and promised to bring some 2,000 Christian tourists to Israel this fall. The Jerusalem Post (Apr. 28, 2003) detailed the meeting and quoted Hinn as saying, “The scriptures command us to pray for the people of Israel. Any Christian who believes the Bible is a supporter of Israel. A true Christian loves Israel, and anyone who doesn’t is not a true Christian. We stand by you no matter what and that’s why we come here—not to see rocks and stones. We love to come here and pray for the coming of the Lord.” Ma’ariv (Apr. 28, 2003) also covered the meeting.
Jesus On The Silver Screen
(Ha’Aretz May 02, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 18, 2003) (Yediot Apr. 24, 2003)
Two articles dealt with the controversy over Mel Gibson’s new film, “The Passion.” Yediot (Apr. 24, 2003) questioned if Gibson is an anti-Semite, bringing to light fears among both Jews and Christians that the production will place the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion on the Jews.
Besides the contention surrounding the film, Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, is in the spotlight for his views as a Holocaust-denier. Ha’Aretz (May 02, 2003) quotes him saying of his son, “He is not at all sure whether the Pope is Catholic or whether so many people died in the Holocaust.” The exhaustive article probes Hutton Gibson’s beliefs and contains additional comments by Mel Gibson regarding “The Passion” from his traditional Catholic perspective.
“The Gospel According to Hollywood” was the title of a feature in The Jerusalem Post (Apr. 18, 2003). The subtitle of the article states, “Forget about water, now Jesus walks on the silver screen.” Many films that have had Jesus as their theme, from 1943 until today, are discussed. Various religious groups have condemned most of these films.
“Was Jesus a Vegetarian?”
(Ma’ariv Apr. 20, 2003)
Tumult has arisen in the state of Florida due to a billboard that declared that Jesus was a vegetarian, accompanied by the slogan “Prince of Peas.” Both Jewish and Christian leaders have protested that this statement is not historically sound, and is indeed blasphemy (Ma’ariv Apr. 20, 2003).
Australian Bishop Ignites Row over Zionism
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Apr. 24, 2003)
The Anglican chaplain of Australia’s defense forces made a public apology to Australia’s Jewish population following his statement that Israel’s problems are a mix of Judaism and Zionism. Ha’Aretz English Edition (Apr. 24, 2003) reported that the row was ignited by Bishop Tom Frame when, during a national radio address over Easter, he said that the “confluence of Judaism and Zionism in Israel was one of the main reasons that country was still embroiled in conflict with its neighbors.” Frame’s comments angered Australia’s Jewish community, who demanded an apology or that he be removed from his position with the defense forces.
German Actress Represents Jewish and Christian Connection
(Hatzofe Apr. 21, 2003)
Hatzofe (Apr.21, 2003) printed a brief item regarding Iris Berben’s view of the connection between Jews and Christians as stated in the April edition of Europe’s Time Magazine. Berben is internationally known for her dialogue between Jews and Christians and for her efforts to bring reconciliation between Jews and Germans in the light of the Second World War.
The Most Widely Visited Museum in the U.S.A.
(Ha’Aretz May 02, 2003)
Why do Americans visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. more than any other museum in their country? This is the question posed in Ha’Aretz (May 02, 2003) with the conclusion that the answer has no correlation to Judaism, but rather to American Christianity. The feature article determines that a visit to the museum causes Americans to feel strengthened in their faith and proud to belong to the “chosen nation.”
(Kol Hazman Apr. 11, 2003)
An invitation to Bach’s oratorio “St. John Passion” explained the meaning of the Christian Passover—Easter—as the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, and in particular highlighted the Last Supper (Kol Hazman Apr. 11, 2003).
Secular Jews with Religious Minds
(Makor Rishon Mar. 28, 2003)
An article in Makor Rishon (Mar. 28, 2003) reports that American scientists have discovered a particular mental disturbance that causes people—even atheists—to experience powerful religious encounters, related to God, heaven, hell, etc. The article claims that the investigators believe that famous religious figures, including those who founded religions having millions of followers, suffered from the disturbance. Jesus and various Messianists were mentioned in the list of examples.
(Makor Rishon Mar. 21, 2003) (Ha’Aretz Apr. 18, 2003, Apr. 22, 2003)
The book reviews featured between Mar. 21, 2003 (Makor Rishon) and Apr. 22, 2003 (Ha’Aretz) included the following:
- Comments about the concealing of Christianity in Hebrew translations of books targeted at children and youth (Ha’Aretz Apr. 18, 2003).
- A review of the classic book “Quo Vadis,” including a description of the events that take place in the epic as Christian and even missionary oriented. The book, however, is highly recommended specifically for youth by the reviewer in Makor Rishon (Mar. 21, 2003).
- “The Hidden Scrolls From A New Perspective,” was the title of a review in Ha’Aretz (Apr. 22, 2003) that dealt with Rachel Elior’s book, “Temple and Carriage, Priests and Angels, Palaces in Ancient Jewish Mysticism.” Christianity is referred to as a sect that diverged from the Essene cult.