October 2004 #2 Caspari Center Media Review
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 91 articles as follows:
10 dealt with Messianic Jews and anti-missionary organizations
23 dealt with Christians and the status of non-Jews in Israel
3 dealt with Christian solidarity with Israel
6 dealt with anti-Semitism and Jewish-Christian relations
5 covered matters of Church and state
10 covered Christian tourism and tourist sites
4 were film and book reviews
The remaining articles dealt with domestic Israeli and Christian or Jewish affairs on their own merit.
“Missionaries” and Anti-Missionaries
Mishpaha, Sept. 28, Oct. 14; HaModia, Oct. 28, 29; Zman Haifa, Oct. 15; BaKehila, Oct. 14, 21; Arutz 7, Nov. 13; Walla!, Nov. 14, 2004
Israel’s Orthodox media continues to report on Yad L’Achim’s “tourist campaign” (see Oct. 2004 #1 Media Review), claiming that it is “causing a sensation” in the international media (Mishpaha, BaKehila, Oct. 14). We still have not seen mention of the campaign outside of these newspapers, and according to one reader of this review, the signs are not even in evidence in Israel. In other news, Yad L’Achim is continuing to pressure the mayor of Haifa, asking him to force the city’s convention center to stop hosting “missionary” conferences (BaKehila, Oct. 21). In the latest correspondence, the mayor informed Yad L’Achim that the convention center’s owners had told him that after the current contract expires in 2005, it will be possible to stop the conferences. In Tel-Aviv, orthodox protesters holding signs that read “Mission = Death and Disaster” and “The mission is worse than Hamas” turned up outside the Yad Eliyahu stadium, where Benny Hinn led a rally (Arutz 7, Nov. 13, Walla!, Nov. 14).
Yad L’Achim also warns the public about a new “mission center” in downtown Jerusalem’s Merkaz Clal (Clal Center) shopping center (HaModia, Oct. 28). The Messianic Jewish King of Kings congregation has renovated a space in the center and plans to use it for “questionable activities such as classes, youth meetings, and preaching events. … This is an attempt by the missionaries to strike roots into native-born Israelis.” Yad L’Achim plans a large demonstration at the site, to protest “the covenant-breakers’ attempt to sink their claws into the heart of the holy city.”
HaModia (Oct. 29) reports on a “wave of legal suits and incitement in the media by missionaries faced with Yad L’Achim’s successes.” The first mention is of the legal suit filed by the teacher fired for meeting with Christians (see Oct. 2004 #1 Media Review), whom Yad L’Achim accuses of pretending to be innocent and persecuted for no good reason. The trial of Ze’ev Bern, a Messianic Jew, has already started. Bern states that he was fired because Yad L’Achim contacted his employer with accusations that he was engaged in missionary work. The judge presiding over the trial refused to address “the argument between the Messianic congregation and Yad L’Achim,” asking only that the two sides agree on the damages to be paid.
“Uncle Saves his Niece from the Arms of a Nun” is a headline in Mishpaha (Oct. 14). According to the story, a four-year-old girl who got lost in the orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood was picked up by a nun from the nearby Romanian convent. When asked by passers-by to give them the child, so they could find her parents, the nun refused, saying that she’d hand the child over only to the police. The girl’s mother is quoted as saying that the child had been taken into the convent’s yard, and then into the church itself, where she was given non-Kosher candy. The girl’s uncle was told she had been seen in the church, went there, and when the nun refused to hand her over he grabbed the child by force from her arms. The family has filed a complaint with the police.
Christians in Israel / Status of non-Jews
Yediot HaGalil, Oct. 22; Jerusalem Radio, Oct. 3; Ha’Aretz, Oct. 27, 28; Globes, Oct. 27; Makor Rishon, Oct. 29; Kan Darom, Oct. 29; Anashim Yerushalayim, Oct. 26; Jerusalem Post, Oct. 27, 29; Int’l Herald Tribune, Oct. 19; NRG, Oct. 28; Ynet, Oct. 27; HaTzofeh, Nov. 3; Kol HaZman, Oct. 29; Yediot Ahronot, Oct. 29; Ma’ariv, Oct. 27, 2004
Yediot HaGalil reports that the church in Migdal Ha’Emek has reopened, despite complaints from residents who say it upsets them. The church, which was unused for years, is now serving Christian immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who have been harassed by those who oppose anything resembling “missionary activity.”
TV’s Channel 2 has been asked by Christians to stop airing a commercial which shows monks dancing with young women wearing revealing clothes (Ha’Aretz, Ynet, Ma’ariv, Globes, Oct. 27). In their request to Channel 2, representatives of the Catholic Church say the commercial is insensitive to the religious feelings of Christians, but the appeal was turned down. Church leaders also appealed directly to “Yes,” sponsors of the commercial for a new cable TV station, who also turned down the request, saying that if Israel’s supreme court approved the screening of the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which was offensive to Christians, there is no reason to curtail freedom of speech in this case. In a letter to the editor (Ha’Aretz, Oct. 28), a reader calls the decision to continue airing the commercial insensitive, and asks rhetorically how the Jewish world would react if the tables were turned and it was a foreign TV ad depicting orthodox Jewish rabbis doing the dancing.
Ma’ariv, Oct. 26; Jerusalem Post, Oct. 31; HaTzofeh, Nov. 2; Ha’Aretz, Oct. 26, 29; Kol HaZman, Oct. 29, 2004
In updates to the Oct. 2004 #1 Media Review, HaTzofeh reports that the commemoration of Hamas leaders Yassin and Rantisi at a German church has been cancelled, following a complaint by MK Sharansky to a German Cardinal. Another follow-up article covers the cancellation of a campaign against anti-Semitism. The campaign, by French Jewish students, which was to employ posters of Jesus and Mary with the words “Dirty Jew,” was cancelled at the last minute because of concerns that it would lead to a new wave of anti-Semitism.
Film, Theater and Books
Ha’Aretz English, Oct. 29; Yediot Ahronot, Oct. 1, Nov. 2; Ma’ariv, Oct. 27 2004
Ha’Aretz English reviews “The Chosen People,” a Canadian film about Messianic Jews. The film, which includes scenes from a Messianic synagogue and interviews with Messianic Jews, gives viewers a chance to “make their own minds up” about it’s topic. Igal Hecht, the filmmaker, says, “Anything I had ever seen about Messianic Jews or Jews for Jesus depicted them as completely evil and dehumanized them. … I was never able to get a sense of what these people were about … I wanted people to get to know them and judge them according to what they said and did.” Interviewees talk about the responses of their families to the news of their faith (“he exploded”), and there are also responses from Jews for Judaism and other non-Messianics.
Ma’ariv carries an article about J.P. Taylor, author of “Shadowmancer” and “Wormwood,” which are seen as competition to J.K. Rowlings’ “Harry Potter” books. Taylor, an Anglican priest, decided to write Christian fantasy books for teens as an answer to the Potter books, which many Christians oppose because of their themes of witchcraft and disobedience.
Yediot Ahronot reports on a new Vatican publication encouraging Catholics—married ones, of course—to have lots of sex. The book emphasizes that God created sex, which has nothing to do with original sin, and that there is no true marriage without it. The articlealso presents the church as not being “the enemy of the flesh.” The book is a response to dwindling numbers and low birthrates in the church. Despite the church’s foray into the 21st century, the writer considers that it is still too traditional in calling abortion a sin and in opposing same-sex marriage.
Church and State
Globes, Oct. 28, Nov. 2; Ma’ariv, Oct. 25, Nov. 1; NRG, Nov. 9; Ha’Aretz, Oct. 27, 2004
Israelis—like many others—are talking about the recent US presidential elections. Ha’Aretz reports (before the election) that though many Catholics in the USA support George W. Bush, some Vatican sources say that if they could vote, they’d vote for John Kerry, despite their disagreement with him on abortion. Globes (Oct. 28) carries a feature article written by an Israeli who went traveling in Ohio to interview “the little people who will decide the fate of the big democracy.” After talking with waitresses, unemployed steel workers, Evangelical Christians, and Jews, he is left with more questions than answers about the outcome of the election. In an opinion piece (Globes, Nov. 2) the argument is put forth that if were up to President Bush, the wall separating church and state would have been torn down long ago—and the erroneous prediction made that Kerry will win.
NRG looks at the alliance between Israel’s religious right and the US Evangelical Christian right wing. Secular Israelis can’t understand this sudden friendship after all the pogroms and animosity, but the writer of this piece says it makes perfect sense, because the Christians support a Biblical vision that orthodox Jews hope to fulfill. The writer also finds it strange that secular Jews view Evangelicals with suspicion—that they have missionary motives—but states that they need not worry, since all the Evangelicals really care about is Zionism, and only a few oddball missionaries still want to convert all the Jews.
In “Running Away from Their Jewish Identity,” Ma’ariv (Oct. 25) looks at American Jewry’s reactions to the US Presidential elections. While most Americans are not afraid of a “believing” president, American Jews are trying to be more and more secular. The writer does not understand why American Jews are so afraid of “missionary” Evangelicals, seeing as how they are destroying their own communities through assimilation and intermarriage. And by taking radical stands against any expression of religion in the public square, American Jews are teaching their children that faith has no value.
The Nov. 1 issue of Ma’ariv carries an article about the separation of church and state, looking at the misunderstanding of this issue in Israel. The main issue is the difference between European and American models of separation: the European model is anti-religious, rooted in the anti-church attitudes of the French revolution, whereas the American model is pro-religious, separating religious establishments from the government. The American “wall of separation” was meant to protect religious institutions from the corrupt and corrupting influence of government, not to protect the people from the church. The result is healthy religious growth, in contrast to the dying out of religion in Europe. Israel’s system, similar to Europe’s, tends to politicize religion and contributes to demagoguery and the debasement of sacred principles. The writers conclude that the separation of religious establishments from the state should be “imported” to the Jewish state; this would not be anti-religious, but would bring religious revival.