December 30 – 2003

Caspart Center Media Review


December 30, 2003 Media Review


During the period of time covered by this review, we received 213 articles as follows:


42 on Tourism, including Christmas in the Holy Land

23 on Messianic Jews and anti-missionary organizations

20 0n matters pertaining to the Catholic Church

16 on Diaspora issues

14 0n Christian support for Israel

11 0n Jewish-Christian relations

10 0n anti-Semitism

9 Book reviews

5 On the status of non-Jews in Israel

9 On political issues

8 About Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”

3 About church-owned properties in Israel

3 On archeology


The remaining 36 articles dealing with miscellaneous topics contained references

to individual Christians, Christianity, or faith in general.


Kosher for Christmas


(Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 21, 22, 24; Sha‘ar L’Matkhil, Nov. 25; Zman Haifa, Nov. 28;

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 19, 25; Ha’Aretz, Dec. 18, 25; Globes, Dec. 24, 25;

Ma’ariv, Dec. 25; Int’l Herald Tribune, Dec. 29, 2003)


A photo of chocolate Santa candies, certified kosher by Israel’s chief rabbinate,

was accompanied by the explanation that supervisors do not check the shape and

packaging of products, but only their ingredients, when approving them for

consumption in the Jewish state (Yediot, Dec. 22).


Other papers report on Christmas in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, as well as in

Bethlehem, where the Palestinian Authority canceled Christmas celebrations. Haifa

celebrated the 10th “Holiday of Holidays,” a festival of co-existence honoring

Hanukah, Christmas, and Ramadan. Most papers covered the different events

there, as well as listing the locations and times of Christmas services in various

other cities.


Finally, Globes reports that just like “Shabbes goys,” the USA also has “Christmas

Jews’-Jews who volunteer, or are scheduled, to work on Christmas so that their

gentile co-workers can take the day off.


Messianic Jews and Anti-Missionaries


(Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, Dec. 23, 25; Yediot Haifa, Dec. 12, 19; HaModia, Nov.

24, Dec. 8, 16, 21, 24; Ha’Aretz, Dec. 24; Sheva, Dec. 18; lton Yerushalayim, Dec.

19; Yated Ne’eman, Dec. 18, 23; Arim, Dec. 19; Mishpaha, Nov. 20, Dec. 15;

Emitza Netanya, Nov. 28; HaShavua B’Yerushalayim, Nov. 27; Ifon Tel-Aviv Nov.

14; Sha’a Tova, Nov. 25, 2003)


Three high school students from Tel-Aviv are accused of beating a schoolmate

after they discovered that he is a Christian and wears a cross necklace. The

defendants claim that they did so only after the Christian boy taunted them for

being Jews (Iton Tel-Aviv, Nov. 14, 2003).


e publication of an add which calls readers to “Return in Righteousness to Your God, Jesus.” The

writer claims that freedom of speech and religion do not apply, since the

advertisement aims to make Jews abandon their faith, ultimately leading to the

destruction of the State of Israel. Also noted is the “fact” that missionary

publications make it clear that those who do not “conform” will be executed by the

“true believers.”


A department store in Rishon L’Zion cancelled plans to have a special Christmas

sales event for foreigners and non-Jewish residents after the city’s chief rabbi

called their marketing gimmick “idolatry” (Arim, Dec. 19). Yad L’Achim warned

Haifa residents of a missionary convention taking place in the local convention

center, which continually refuses to give in to orthodox pressure to ban these

events (HaModia, Dec. 8, Mishpaha, Dec. 15). The articles also mention Yad

L‘Achim’s victory in the signing of an agreement with Jerusalem’s International

Convention Center, according to which no events staged by those considered

“missionaries” by Yad L’Achim will be allowed at the center. Following the signing

of this agreement, the boycott of the convention center by orthodox Jewish groups

was lifted. (Editor’s note: This is the location of the annual “Feast of Tabernacles”

and other large Christian events in Jerusalem.)


A two-page article in Emtza Netanya (Nov. 28) titled “A wave of interest in the

Messianic Jews” presents the local Messianic community’s activities. The

congregation distributed flyers offering information and a free video about Yeshua,

and received a good response. They also have a distribution center where the

needy can get help with food and clothing. Orthodox officials accuse the

congregation of taking advantage of people’s needs in order to trick them into

converting. One former member is interviewed about how he joined the Messianic

congregation and was then “rescued” by friends. A leader of the congregation is

also interviewed, and assures readers that they are simply trying to help those in

need, and are not breaking the law.


Status of Non-Jews


(B’Kehila, Dec. 18; Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 18; Tzafon-1, Nov. 28; Ha‘’Aretz, Dec. 19,

24; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2003)


The Jerusalem Post and others report that Christians now make up 2.1% of

Israel’s population. 115,400 out of 142,000 Christians are Arab, and the majority

live in the north, mainly in Nazareth, with Haifa and Jerusalem claiming the next

largest groups. Some of these Christians, illegal workers, pay into Israel’s national

insurance (social security) fund, but according to new laws they will not be eligible

for payments from the fund, including maternity grants to new mothers who will

now have to return to work immediately instead of caring for their babies (Ha‘Aretz,

Dec. 19).


Yediot Ahronot (Nov. 18) reports that Israel’s chief rabbis are considering allowing

non-Jewish immigrants to obtain civil marriages under the supervision of the

rabbinate. This change would allow the rabbinate to hold on to their monopoly on

marriage, since the civil ceremonies would have to be approved and performed by

rabbinate officials, but it would make things much easier for non-Jewish Israelis

who now have to leave the country in order to get married.


Tzafon-1 (Nov. 28) tells the story of a Russian immigrant family who are suing the

State of Israel over the treatment they have received in the process of immigrating.

Despite rabbinic acceptance of their Jewishness, the Interior ministry will not

accept them as citizens, and they have been denied all help and opportunity for the

past 10 years. When their son tried to join the army, both he and his father were

arrested and spent a week in prison. The mother is quoted as saying that they

won’t give up, that Israel is their home.


Jewish-Christian Relations


(HaTzofeh, Nov. 25, Dec. 4; Zman Tel-Aviv, Dec. 5; La’lsha, Dec. 1; Ha’Aretz, Dec.

  1. Int! Herald Tribune, Dec. 22; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 25, 2003; Azure, Winter


The Int’l Herald Tribune reports that a Jewish group is considering suing the

Mormon Church over their practice of “vicarious baptism,” in which people are

posthumously baptized. In 1995 evidence emerged that Jewish holocaust victims

were being baptized, after which the Mormons agreed to remove Jewish names

from their lists, but new evidence shows that the agreement has been violated. In

response to the uproar, a Jerusalem Post writer states, “I could not care less if the

Mormons baptize me after I’m dead. It won’t affect me. I’ll always be a Jew, in this

life and the next.” The author goes on to praise the Mormons for their support of

Israel, saying that they and evangelical Christians are “our greatest friends in the

world. What will happen when Jesus comes back? Hey, we’ll talk about it then.”


An essay published in Ha’Aretz states that “we need to remind ourselves that

Christianity isn’t some illegitimate offspring of Judaism but a carrier of the message

of the God of Israel to the nations.” The author discusses some of the changes in

Christian theology over the past half-century, and calls on Jews to acknowledge

Christians’ theological courage, while on the other hand stating that Jews need

Christians to “respect our right to define ourselves. That means, of course,

unequivocal repudiation of missionizing, overt or implied.”


An opinion piece in the religious paper HaTzofeh calls on Israeli religious-Zionists

to realize that the USA is not a “Christian” country so much as a country with a

solid moral basis, whose citizens adhere to a “spiritual culture,” not necessarily the

“Christian abomination.” As such, the religious Zionist camp should consider the

USA a friend that supports Israel, not an enemy, and encourage the “moral

advances accompanied by the decline of Christianity.”


Christian Support of Israel

(Ha’Aretz, Nov. 19, 24, Dec. 12; Ma’ariv, Nov. 23, Dec. 19, 22: Jerusalem Post,

Dec. 18; Makor Rishon, Nov. 7; Globes, Dec. 11, 2003)


Ma’ariv (Nov. 23) reports that Italian Christians “conquered” synagogues in Rome

and other cities, one week after the attacks on synagogues in Istanbul, to show

their support for Jews and Israel and to reassure their Jewish countrymen that they

would not be left alone to face terror. Also in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s

granddaughter has stated that “the whole world, including the Vatican and the

Pope, should ask Israel for forgiveness.”


Pat Robertson is quoted as saying that dividing Jerusalem would be a “stab in the

heart” to evangelical Christians, and that if George Bush puts too much pressure

on Israel to do so he will lose their support (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 18). Yechiel

Eckstein, one of the organizers of the Herzliya conference at which Robertson

spoke, says that Jews should put aside skepticism and welcome Christians as

friends (Ha’Aretz, Nov. 19). (Editor’s note: Eckstein’s “International Fellowship of

Christians and Jews” raises support for Israel among American Christians, and has

come under fire frorn both Jews-for accepting money from “evangelists”-and

Christians, who say Christians should not donate to an organization which is

against evangelism.) The articles in Globes, Ma’ariv (Dec. 22), and Makor Rishon

detail some of the donations, and discuss Jewish organizations’ acceptance of

money from “missionaries.” Ha’Aretz published an article in both English and

Hebrew (Dec. 12) discussing whether or not it’s “kosher” to accept money from the

unknown donors who transfer about 1 billion US dollars to Israeli charitable





(Ha’Aretz, Dec. 29; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 21; Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 19, 2003)


Ha’Aretz and the Jerusalem Post report on the ongoing debate over the

authenticity of the James Ossuary, citing both the Israeli Antiquities Authority

report that concludes it’s a forgery and those scholars who believe it’s authentic.

According to one of the latter the IAA team was insensitive to Christian beliefs,

even joking about Jesus, and an IAA team member recently told his colleagues

Yediot Ahronot reveals a “secret” plan to dig a tunnel under the Western Wall

plaza, leading south from the existing tunnel to the gate of the old city, and to

privatize the Western Wall area. In the opinion of the writers, this would be like

playing with matches next to a barrel of gunpowder, despite the fact that the

planned tunnel would not go under the Waaqf-controlled Temple Mount and its

mosques. The plan to privatize the area is a result of the disbanding of the

Religious Affairs Ministry in the Israeli government, which currently oversees holy

sites. The orthodox ministers are concerned that these sites might in the future be

overseen by a secular minister of tourism, and so are transferring them to a non-

profit connected to the National Religious Party and with ties to the ultra-right wing

of Israeli politics.


The Passion


(Jerusalem Post, Nov. 13, 17, 18; Globes, Nov. 20; Ha’Aretz, Dec. 19, 2003)


The Jerusalem Post (Nov. 13) published an essay entitled “The Gospel Untruth”

which attacks both Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” and the authenticity of the New

Testament books on which it is based. As many have done before him, the author

claims that Paul and later church leaders perverted and “reconstructed” Jesus and

his teachings, leading to Christian anti-Semitism. In following editions, the Post

published letters from Christian residents of Jerusalem protesting the ignorance,

hatred and “mudslinging” in the essay. Globes reports that Tyndale House,

publisher of the Left Behind series, plans to publish a book version of “The





(B’Mahane HaShavua, Dec. 5; HaModia, Dec. 12; HaTzofeh, Nov. 18, Dec. 8;

Shtei Arim, Nov. 14; Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2003)


The Jerusalem Post quotes American pastor John Hagee as saying that global

anti-Semitism is growing at an unprecedented pace, and that the weakness of the

western mind is that it does not grasp the mind-set of Islamic fundamentalists. In

Holon, near Tel-Aviv, a synagogue was defiled with a spray-painted cross and the

word “Jesus.” Synagogue officials state that this was done by “some Christian



Diaspora Issues


(Ha’Aretz, Nov. 11; Int’l Herald Tribune, Dec. 9, 12, 22; Yated Ne’eman, Dec. 19;

Globes, Dec. 24; Ma‘ariv, Dec. 21, 22, 23; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 15, 18, 23; Yediot

Ahronot, Dec. 15, 2003)


Maariv (Dec. 22) reports on the lawsuit in Palm Beach, Florida brought by

Christians who want the right to place a manger scene next to the publicly

displayed Hanukah menorah, which the municipality considers an “ethnic” symbol,

not a religious one. In Los Angeles (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23) the number of

religious hate crimes has declined, but the majority (66%) were aimed at Jews.

Yated Ne’eman (Dec. 19) reports that about 10% of ethnic Jews in Canada are

Catholics or Protestants.


All the major Israeli papers discuss the ban of headscarves and other religious

garb in French schools, especially its effect on Jews and the implications for

Israel’s religious-secular divide. In neighboring Spain, the government has passed

a law to strengthen the presence of Roman Catholicism in public schools.


The Catholic Church


(Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, Dec. 18 Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 17, Dec. 15; Ha’‘Aretz,

Nov. 14, 18, 27, Dec. 5, 8, 9, 12; Ma’ariv, Nov. 11, Dec. 12; Int’l Herald Tribune,

Dec. 5, 10; Yediot Haifa, Dec. 5; HaModia, Dec. 2; B’Kehila, Nov. 13; Israel TV,

Nov. 9, 2003)


Israel TV and the major papers all reported on the appointment of a Hebrew-

speaking Catholic bishop in Israel, some calling his community the “first Hebrew-

speaking church.” According to the report, Algerian-born bishop Gourion is a

convert from Judaism, as are some of the 400 members of the church.



(Maariv, Dec. 19; Menta, Dec. 2003; Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24; Yediot Ahronot,

Dec. 3; Israel TV, Nov. 8, Dec. 1; Galileo, Oct. 2003; Azure, Winter 2004)


Ma’ariv and Yediot ran reviews of “The Da Vinci Code,” focusing on its portrayal of

women and their place in the history of the church. The Jerusalem Post reviews

“The Transformation of American Religion,” which chronicles the divide between

Jonathan Edwards’ Puritanism and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “self-affirmation.”

Author Alan Wolfe describes the pragmatic, “if it works for you” faith of many

Americans, along with their fear of being “judgmental,” calling Americans “a

religious people, but … not a zealous one.” The reviewer, a rabbi, concludes thus:

“In high schools across America, students still read Edwards’ terrifying sermon

“Sinners in the hands of an angry God.’ Some of them believe it. But not many.”


Israel TV interviewed Prof. Israel Knohl about his new book (in Hebrew), “The War

of Gog and Magog-Apocalyptic Messianism in Judaism, Past and Present.” The

book covers the use of “Messiah” (“anointed one”) in the Old Testament to refer to

the high priest, and later to the king. He also speaks of the Essene combination of

the kingly with the suffering servant Messiah described by Isaiah. Asked about

Christianity, he says that Jesus was a Jewish messianic figure, and that the heart

of Christianity is in Jewish messianic hope. In the present he sees Christianity

influencing Jewish messianic expectations, with some modern writings displaying

great similarity to those of the Apostle Paul.


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