Caspari Center Media Review… September, 2003 #1
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 60 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 9 dealt with Christian Clergy
- 7 dealt with Anti-Missionary Attitudes
- 5 dealt with Religious Freedom
- 4 dealt with Christians and Politics
- 4 were Film Reviews
- 3 dealt with Jewish Christians Relations
- 3 dealt with Status of Non-Jews
- 3 dealt with Christian Sites
- 2 were Art Reviews
- 1 dealt with Tourism
- 1 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 1 dealt with Early Christianity
- 1 was a Book Review
The remaining 16 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Anti Missionary Attitudes
(Yediot Haifa Aug. 29, 2003 – two articles) (Hamodia Aug. 27, 2003; Aug. 27, 2003; Sept. 04, 2003) (Hatzofe Aug. 31, 2003) (Sha’a Tova Aug. 29, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Aug. 28, 2003)
A campaign entitled, “Proud to be Jewish” was launched in Canada with the intention of informing members of Toronto’s Jewish community about the activities of “Jews For Jesus.” Rochelle Wilner, president of B’nai Brith Canada said, “Targeted missionizing, especially when done in a manner calculated to deceive the unsuspecting, is offensive to our community. Christianity is not a branch of Judaism – it is a different religion altogether, and any attempt to portray it as anything but a different religion is subterfuge.” She also said that the term “Jews For Jesus” makes about as much sense as “Baptists for Buddha” or “Catholics for Krishna.” (Jerusalem Post Aug. 28, 2003)
The religious newspaper, Hamodia (Aug. 27, 2003) reported that Allan Schwartz, a former Jewish officer who served in the U.S. Air Force, has organized a petition to remove a large cross from the entrance of a military cemetery in California. The petition is demanding that the Christian symbol be removed in order to give honor to the Jews buried in the cemetery. This would also make it easier for visiting Jewish families.
Two articles (Hamodia Aug. 22, 2003; Sha’a Tova Aug. 29, 2003) dealt with the new “missionary tactic” of visiting the elderly in old age homes. The items focused on recent activity in an elderly citizens’ home in Kiryat Haim, a suburb of Haifa, that began as an “innocent” visit to an elderly woman. Later on, the missionaries began holding Bible studies with her. The management of the residence has forbidden entrance to missionaries following recent occurrences of this phenomenon.
Hatzofe (Aug. 31, 2003) reported that former Chief Rabbi, Avraham Shapira, has called on several members of parliament not to participate in a ceremony honoring The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, on the occasion of the three year anniversary of its founding. In Rabbi Shapira’s opinion, Rabbi Yehiel Ekstein, the organization’s founder, “is deceiving both Jews and Christians alike, by leading innocent Jews into a distorted religion, while leading Christians astray to believe that there is a common faith involving both Jews and Christians.”
Yediot Haifa (Aug. 29, 2003) ran an article about the intention of the Jehovah Witnesses group to hold their annual conference at The International Convention Center in the city. Following municipality opposition to the gathering, the manager of the Jehovah Witnesses’ legal department responded that it is irrelevant that the municipality is not permitting the event, since it is not the city council that owns The International Convention Center.
A protest rally against missionary activity at The International Convention Center was organized by the city’s leading rabbis. Hundreds of participants, many from Yad L’achim, joined the rally that was also held in demonstration against the baptism of six Jews “into Christianity” the weekend before. (Hamodia Sept. 04, 2003)
Falashmura in Israel
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Aug. 25, 2003; Aug. 26, 2003)
Two articles in Ha’Aretz English Edition (Aug. 25, 2003; Aug. 26, 2003) focused on the Falashmura in Israel. The first was a warning by Colette Avital, chairperson of the Parliament’s Immigration, Absorption and the Diaspora Committee. Avital said that in light of the current economic austerity in Israel, the plan to bring some twenty thousand Falashmura from Ethiopia would be “more problematic than ever, given the unique needs of the Falashmura.” The Ethiopian group is described as “Jews who converted to Christianity, while maintaining some Jewish traditions.” Unable to prove their Jewish roots, most of the Falashmura were not permitted to immigrate to Israel, even though many have family ties to the Jewish state.
The second article dealt with the Falashmura who are waiting to immigrate to Israel. The article reported that the community is in reasonably good health and is not in danger of death or starvation. In some cases, the Falashmura are better off than other Ethiopian citizens.
Murder of Former Priest, John Geoghan
(Hatzofe Aug. 25, 2003) (International Herald Tribune Aug. 27, 2003 – two articles) (Jerusalem Post Aug. 25, 2003) (Maariv Aug. 25, 2003) (Ha’Aretz Aug. 25, 2003) (Yediot Aug. 25, 2003)
All of the major Israeli newspapers (Hatzofe Aug. 25, 2003; International Herald Tribune Aug. 27, 2003 – two articles, Jerusalem Post Aug. 25, 2003; Maariv Aug. 25, 2003; Ha’Aretz Aug. 25, 2003; Yediot Aug. 25, 2003) covered the prison murder of former priest, John Geoghan. He was a convicted child molester serving a nine to ten year sentence for assault and battery of a ten-year-old boy. Geoghan molested nearly one hundred and fifty boys over three decades and became a catalyst for the clergy sexual abuse scandal that shook the foundations of the Catholic church.
Ten Commandments Monument Removed from Court
(International Herald Tribune Aug. 27, 2003; Aug. 28, 2003 – two articles) (The Jerusalem Post Aug. 26, 2003; Aug. 28, 2003)
A Ten Commandments monument in Alabama’s state judicial building was removed from public view following a dispute over the constitutional separation of church and state. The International Herald Tribune (Aug. 27, 2003; Aug. 28, 2003 – two articles) and The Jerusalem Post (Aug. 26, 2003; Aug. 28, 2003) reported that a federal judge ruled that the monument violates the American constitution’s ban on government promotion of religion and ordered its removal.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Roy Moore, who installed the monument two years ago, said regarding the incident, “It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our laws, and the acknowledgment of God have to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge.” He intends to appeal to the supreme court. The International Herald Tribune (Aug. 27, 2003) published a photograph of about one hundred pro-monument supporters on a weeklong vigil on the building’s front plaza, bowed in prayer. A sign stating, “God’s Law Above Man’s Law” is clearly visible in the photograph.
Missionary Deported From Lebanon
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Sept. 04, 2003) (Jerusalem Post Sept. 04, 2003)
Ha’Aretz English Edition and The Jerusalem Post (Sept. 04, 2003 respectively) reported that a Canadian missionary was deported from Lebanon shortly after a military court acquitted him of collaboration with Israel. Bruce Balfour was in the Middle East directing an evangelical project to help replant the biblical cedar forests in northern Lebanon. The military court has now barred Balfour from returning to the country for five years.
(Yediot Haifa Aug. 22, 2003) (Ha’Aretz Aug. 22, 2003)
Rabbi Sha’ar Yeshuv Cohen, Haifa’s Chief Rabbi, has rejected the Vatican’s invitation to participate on a religious committee entitled, “Peace in the Middle East,” set to take place in Germany. His decision not to take part is due to the participation of terrorist Lila Haled of the Shahid organization. (Yediot Haifa Aug. 22, 2003)
A brief paragraph in Ha’Aretz (Aug. 26, 2003) discusses the Catholic non-Jews who have immigrated to Israel under the auspices of the Law of Return, most of them having been Orthodox Christians who were deterred by the (Pravoslavic) “Red Church.”
Catholic Church Accused of Supporting Torture
(Yated Ne’eman Sept. 04, 2003)
General Raynaldo Bignone, Argentina’s last dictator, said that between the years of 1976-1983 the Catholic Church gave their approval for torture in the country. Yated Ne’eman (Sept. 04, 2003) informed that the Church has rejected these “incorrect and unacceptable” accusations saying, “It is absurd to tie the Church to these kinds of crimes, the very crimes which it has always unequivocally criticized.”
The Patriarch and Patriarchate
(Maariv Aug. 05, 2003) (Kol Ha’Ir Aug. 29, 2003)
An extensive article was published in Maariv (Aug. 05, 2003) about the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Irineos I. The feature included the following:
- Police investigation of four illegal events connected to the elections involving the Patriarch.
- Documents found including a pornographic magazine linked to usage of the Patriarch for election propaganda.
- The issue of the Patriarch owning several land properties.
An article appearing in Kol Ha’Ir (Aug. 29, 2003) stated that a lawyer, the head of the church union offering legal counsel to the poor, is suing the Latin Patriarchate on account of her dismissal.
(Kol Ha’Ir Aug. 29, 2003)
A plan to expand the Rosary Sister’s Monastery in Ein Kerem was officially approved. The new wing to be built will contain rooms for residency, study and prayer. The item in Kol Ha’Ir (Aug. 29, 2003) briefly details the monastery’s history.
Judaism and the Origins of Christianity
(Jerusalem Post Aug. 26, 2003)
A notice offering a volume of the late Professor David Flusser’s contributions and articles from obscure journals regarding the Jewish background of early Christianity was published in The Jerusalem Post (Aug. 26, 2003). Professor Flusser taught at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University on the subject of Judaism in the Second Temple Period, and Early Christianity.
Christians and Politics
(Jerusalem Post Aug. 26, 2003, Sept. 04, 2003, Sept. 05, 2003) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Aug. 24, 2003)
A split emerging among influential pro-Israel evangelical Christians over the plan for peace in the Middle East was the subject of an article in Ha’Aretz English Edition (Aug. 24, 2003). On one side, Christian activists are threatening not to vote for Bush in the 2004 election, accusing the White House of pressuring Israel into “dangerous concessions,” while establishment evangelicals are defending Bush’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, insisting that evangelicals continue to back Bush to the hilt. Comments are made by several leaders concerning the road map, Rabbi Yehiel Ekstein and Gary Bauer are both quoted.
Two articles featuring Pat Robertson appeared in The Jerusalem Post. The first (Sept. 04, 2003) deals with Robertson’s stern warning to President Bush that “any attempt to divide Jerusalem would cost him votes in next year’s presidential election.” He also criticized the road map and the U.S.A. for not allowing Israel to uproot Palestinian terrorism.
The second article (Sept. 05, 2003) was an extensive interview with Robertson covering issues such as his opinion regarding the change in Jewish-Christian relations, his concern regarding Christians living in areas under Palestinian control, and the road map. He also said that there is a terrible wave of Anti-Semitism emerging and that the Jews themselves must come together.
“What Would Jesus Tax?” was the title of a piece in The Jerusalem Post (Aug. 26, 2003) dealing with Bob Riley, Alabama’s governor, and his intention to raise taxes on families and businesses in his state by $1.2 billion, telling residents that it’s their “Christian duty” to support him. The article delves into a discussion about Riley’s position.
(Jerusalem Post Aug. 22, 2003) (Maariv Sept. 08, 2003)
The Jerusalem Post (Aug. 22, 2003) featured details of an unusual exhibition of dozens of 19th century art works by both professional and amateur artists, on view at Jerusalem’s Ticho House, an annexe of the Israel Museum. The review entitled, “Painting Palestine – in the steps of a Christian Zionist,” particularly focuses on the life and works of Sir Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888), described as one of the period’s most active Zionists. Oliphant’s interests were stated as being a blend of politics, economics, and “fervent” Christian mysticism.
An ancient picture of “Yeshu” was removed from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, since the museum’s management claimed that its “energy field” was killing the workers. According to one of the museum employees, the picture led to the death of several ushers. Apparently, once the seats of the ushers were moved away from the picture, “the problems stopped.” (Maariv Sept. 08, 2003)
Christian Support of Israel
(Hatzofe Sept. 08, 2003)
A ceremony in a Jerusalem Hotel to mark three years since the founding of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was covered by the religious paper Hatzofe (Sept. 08, 2003). The article included the mention that enormous amounts have been provided by the organization in support of various institutions, social welfare needs, and Yeshivas (Rabbinical Colleges). Rabbi Yehiel Ekstein, founder and head of the organization, presented a certificate of appreciation to the commander of the Jerusalem Police Department for his attempts to ensure the safety of Jerusalem residents.
Hebrew Letters Discovered on Church Door
(Hatzofe Sept. 08, 2003)
The religious paper, Hatzofe (Sept. 08, 2003) ran an item about Hebrew letters that were discovered on the door of a church in New Mexico. The find is arousing much curiosity among local Jewish residents and church attendees. Leaders in the Christian community ascertain that behind the Hebrew letters, lies a story of a “charitable deed” performed by Jews to Christians in the town one hundred and fifty years ago. As a sign of their appreciation, it is assumed that the Christians engraved the Hebrew words on their church’s door.
Making Fun of God
(Ha’Aretz Aug. 27, 2003) (Ha’Aretz English Edition Aug. 27, 2003)
Articles in both the Hebrew and English editions of Ha’Aretz (Aug. 27, 2003) printed a feature regarding the Comics, Caricatures and Animation Festival held at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque that included a special session entitled, “God on the Line.” The question raised during the meeting was whether it is permissible to laugh at God, or at least include Him in caricatures.
Many objected to the subject matter, including Yoni Gerstein, a caricaturist who works for Yated Ne’eman, the ultra-Orthodox newspaper. The journalist comments that even the law may consider such humor a criminal offense, in accordance with the prohibition of “offending religious sensitivities” which requires a jail term for anyone who “publishes an advertisement that may blatantly offend the faith or religious sensitivities of others.”
The comprehensive article examines the law and some historical cases of such offenses. A ruling involving criminal violation by the English House of Lords in 1979 was mentioned. An indictment was issued after the publication of a poem that attributed homosexual tendencies to “Jesus Christ” and it included a description of sexual relations between him and other men, some of whom were his apostles.
Letters to the Editor
(Ha’Aretz English Edition Aug. 22, 2003 – two articles) (Jerusalem Post Sept. 02, 2003)
Two letters to the editor of Ha’Aretz English Edition (Aug. 22, 2003) related to a recent article that traced the history of the Aleinu prayer. In the first article an answer was given by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the most famous authorities on Jewish law in the last generation, to the question of whether Jewish children are allowed to pray together with non-Jewish children in a joint service. Rabbi Feinstein ruled that it was permissible on condition that the service was not run by priests, and only used the word “God,” so that each participant could direct his prayer appropriately.
In the second letter (Aug. 22, 2003), entitled, “Wrestling with Jesus,” the topic of the Jews of Europe being challenged by the Christian world was referred to. In conclusion, the writer states that “as there have been, and still are, quite a few converted Jews among the heads of the Catholic church, the Jews have had to fall back on homily, allusion, mysticism and numerology to survive.”
A Christian believer from Florida wrote to The Jerusalem Post (Sept. 02, 2003) expressing his joy at seeing a Jewish newspaper saying, “Christian friends,” in reference to an article entitled, “This battle is Christian, not Jewish” printed on Aug. 24, 2003. He states that it is his belief that anti-Semitism and Christianity are mutually exclusive, that the Jews are God’s chosen people, and that he knows that many Jews are offended by Jesus Christ and Christians’ insistence that He is the Jewish Messiah. He states that the Jews “cannot help but not see Him as the Messiah until He removes the blinders He has placed on Jewish eyes.”