Caspari Center Media Review
The Passion of the Christ
Approximately 200 articles from all media; Feb. 13 – March 25, 2004
By far the most “popular” topic of materials covered in this review is Mel Gibson’s film, The
Passion of the Christ. Predictably, most articles are against the movie, claiming it is anti-Semitic,
and consider it violent sensationalism. Israelis themselves have few opportunities to see The
Passion, as no Israeli distributors have expressed an interest in screening it. Other than East
Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority venues, only the Jerusalem Cinematheque has considered
showing the film, which would be followed by a panel discussion with religious leaders. An
orthodox member of the Jerusalem city council, however, has threatened to cut the
Cinematheque’s funding if they go ahead with the screening.
The orthodox daily HaTzofeh (March 23) finds it entertaining that The Dawn of the Dead (a
horror movie) replaced The Passion at the box-office. Shlomo Shamir, writing in The Jerusalem
Post (Feb. 25) warned that seeing the film could weaken the faith of Jews. Numerous other
articles comment on the commercial success of The Passion and related materials: the future of
Jewish-Christian relations; and beliefs about culpability for the death of Jesus (according to an
Anti Defamation League survey quoted in The Jerusalem Post and Ha’Aretz on Feb. 25, 25% of
Americans believe the Jews are to blame).
Ma’ariv (March 19, 26) and The Jerusalem Post (March 16) ran profiles of Maia Morgenstern,
the Jewish actress who played Mary in the film. She rejects questions about whether she feels
guilty,” saying that that is a dangerous way to relate to art. She also says that it is clear that the
film is not about blaming the Jews, but is a metaphor for the fact that each person can “turn into
an animal when a helpless, chained person is standing before him.”
Four additional articles (Ma’ariv, Ha’Aretz, Yediot Ahronot, March 18; HaTzofeh, March 19,
2004) cover Gibson’s plan to produce a movie about the Maccabean Revolt, quoting him as
saying that “the story of Hanukah is like a Western.”
Missionaries and Anti-Missionaries
HaModia, March 3, 8, 12, 14, 19; Moreshet Radio, March 9, 21; Sha’a Tova, March 21; Ynet,
Feb. 17; HaTzofeh, Feb. 29, March 19; Yated Ne’eman, March 14; Kol HaZman, March 5:
Ha’Aretz English, Feb. 17, March 5; Reshet Bet, Feb. 23; Iton Tel-Aviv, Feb. 13; Sheva, Feb. 12
A number of articles address “problems” in schools. HaModia (March 19, English edition) reports
that Yad L’Achim has demanded that a kibbutz high-school replace Bibles given to the students
by “missionaries,” which contain the New Testament, with “kosher” Bibles donated by Yad
L’Achim. The anti-missionary organization is also warning that there are “missionary pupils” in
orthodox schools, and that the phenomenon is a “plague.” A parent of one of the accused
students stated that he preferred to send his child to a school where he would learn the Bible,
rather than to a secular school. In cooperation with the schools’ administrations, some of these
students are being expelled; Yad L’Achim hopes to “save” others from mixed marriages or those
who are not active believers. (HaTzofeh, March 19: Moreshet Radio, March 21)
Another warning is given against lectures about blood transfusions at Soroka hospital in Be’er
Sheva, which were to be taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yad L’Achim uncovered the truth in
time to have the lectures cancelled and send the missionaries packing (Moreshet Radio, March
9: Sha’a Tova, March 21; HaModia, March 3). Another danger, according to the Lev L’Achim
anti-missionary group, is the mystical cult known as “The Center for Kabbala Studies” (Yated
Ne’eman, March 14: HaModia, March 14) Leading rabbis have stated that it is prohibited to even
look at the center’s books on Jewish mysticism, since they could lead the innocent astray. In Tel-
Aviv, the municipal rabbis have accused the “Messianic Jews” of trying to influence minors,
which is illegal; and, with the help of Knesset members and the municipality, are attempting to
shut down their facilities and activities (Iton Tel-Aviv, Feb. 13; Ynet, Feb. 17).
In a report on another legal issue (Reshet Bet, Feb. 23), a lawyer is interviewed about the right
of newspapers to reject paid advertisements on ideological grounds. The Jerusalem Post
recently refused to run an ad by a prominent Messianic leader, and the courts upheld their right
to do so because they claimed many of their orthodox readers might be offended and that would
cause the paper financial damage.
Israeli Views of Christians
Radio Jerusalem, Feb. 4; Channel 2, Feb. 3, 4; Channel 10, Feb. 3, 4; Ha’Aretz, Feb. 24; Yediot
Ahronot, March 22; Mishpaha, March 4, 2004
Radio Jerusalem and channels 2 and 10 report on the arrest of two men who took advantage of
Christian charities by pretending to be victims of a terror attack. The attitude of the reports is that
the people involved cynically abused the goodwill-and naivet’-of those trying to help the needy.
On the other hand, Rev. Alex Awad, a pastor in East Jerusalem, wrote a letter to Ha’Aretz
asking why Christians are treated as enemies in Israel. In his letter he refers to the difficulties
Christians encounter when applying for visas and other permits, especially when they turn to the
very office that was set up to help them, the Christian department of the Religious Affairs
A family from the Philippines is also experiencing visa problems, according to Yediot Ahronot.
The couple and their 3 children love Israel and Judaism, are part of the Bnei Noah community
who live as orthodox Jews, but since they were not converted according to Halakhah (Jewish
law) they are facing jail and/or deportation.
Mishpaha carried a 6-page profile of Walid S., a Palestinian former terrorist who is now a pro-
Israel evangelical Christian. He was converted after reading the Bible and lives in the US, but his
dream is to go into prisons and preach the gospel to other Palestinian terrorists.
Christian Support for Israel
In Jerusalem, March; Ha’‘Aretz English, March 17; HaKibbutz, March 4; The Jerusalem Post,
Feb. 26, 29; Kol-Bi, Feb. 12; Channel 1, Feb. 4; Makor Rishon, March 5; Ha’Aretz, March 16
Makor Rishon, a weekly religious paper, ran an article entitled “The Zionist Theology of Van der
Hoeven” under the heading of “Logic in Madness.” The writer notes that Van der Hoeven’s
words sound militant, and quotes him as saying that “the Palestinians are murdering you, and
you’re acting like a battered wife.”
Ha’Aretz and television Channel 1 report on a ground swell of European Evangelicals who are
going against the dominant paradigm in their countries by choosing to support Israel. Some of
these visited Israel recently and were interviewed, complaining about the European media’s bias
and the disinterest of most people. They all agreed that what is needed is more and better PR,
so that people will know the truth.
In Jerusalem reports on the new “Christian Allies’ Caucus” in the Knesset – the first official
recognition of the Christian pro-Israel movement by the Israeli government. Israeli
parliamentarians will meet periodically with representatives of the Christian community to
discuss various issues such as pro-lsrael PR efforts abroad and charitable works in Israel. There
is some concern, however, that due to the visa hardships experienced by many clergy,
representation of the Christian community will be weighted toward the “better-connected.”
Ha’Aretz, Feb. 20, 27: Ha’Aretz English, Feb. 27, 2004
These 3 reviews covered a Hebrew translation of Shekhina, the Virgin Mary and the Song of
Songs: Reflections on a Kabbalistic Symbol in its Christian Context by A.Y. Green. In the book,
Green posits that the female image of the Shekhina in medieval Jewish mysticism is a reaction
to Christian veneration of the Virgin Mary. He draws parallels between the descriptions of the
two, but in the opinion of the reviewer, Yehuda Liebes, these parallels, though interesting and
evocative of the spiritual atmosphere of the time, do not prove his thesis.
The book contains a survey of both Jewish and Christian exegesis of the Song of Songs: Jewish
tradition mostly associates the “beloved” with the community of Israel, which in turn is equated
by kabbalists with the Shekhina.
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