November 2004 #2 – December 2004 #1 & #2 Caspari Center Media Review
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 433 articles as follows:
36 dealt with Messianic Jews and anti-missionary organizations
59 dealt with Christians and the status of non-Jews in Israel, and Israeli attitudes toward Christians
2 dealt with Christian solidarity with Israel
23 dealt with anti-Semitism and Jewish-Christian relations
14 covered archaeology
53 covered Christian tourism and tourist sites
34 were film, music, and book reviews
The remaining articles dealt with domestic Israeli and Christian or Jewish affairs on their own merit.
“Missionaries” and Anti-Missionaries
BaKehila, Nov. 4, 11, 18; Yated Ne’eman English, Nov. 5, 12; B’Sheva, Nov. 18, Dec. 2; Index Dati Haredi, Nov. 18; HaShavua B’Yerushalayim, Nov. 4, 18; Mafte’ah Ha’Ir, Nov. 17, Dec. 8; Sha’a Tova, Dec. 10; HaModia, Nov. 26, Dec. 10, 16, 30; Iton Yerushalayim, Dec. 10; Arutz 7, Nov. 29, Dec. 8, 15, 28; Kol Ha’Ir, Dec. 8; Yom L’Yom, Dec. 16, 2004
In its continuing fight against missionaries, Yad L’Achim has put pressure on the management of the Yad Eliyahu stadium in Tel-Aviv, extracting a promise that “missionary events” will no longer be allowed at this venue (Arutz 7, Nov. 29; Mafte’ah Ha’Ir, Nov. 17; BaSheva, Dec. 2). The stadium’s management agreed to turn away missionaries, as well as to stop hosting events on Saturdays, under threat of a boycott by orthodox religious groups.
In Holon, Yad L’Achim uncovered a missionary daycare center for Russian speaking children (Arutz 7, Dec. 15; HaModia, Dec. 16). The center is run by a known missionary, who reads stories and shows videos about Jesus to the children. Yad L’Achim activists are working to inform parents about the danger to their children, and at the same time educating them about Judaism. According to the articles, some parents have withdrawn their children from the daycare center, one family transferring their son to an orthodox establishment.
Jehovah’s Witness missionaries have been scared away from proselytizing at Israeli hospitals (Arutz 7, Dec. 8; HaModia, Dec. 10; Sha’a Tova, Dec. 10). A nurse at Wolfson hospital spotted two women sharing their faith with patients and called security personnel; the missionaries were evicted and warned not to return. After this incident, according to the articles, the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Israel decided not to send missionaries to hospitals any more. This is seen as a major victory for Yad L’Achim, who have been distributing warnings and information about missionaries in various public places.
Arutz 7 (Dec. 28) and HaModia (Dec. 30) report that volunteer workers at Israel’s National Insurance (Social Security) sent needy clients in the Haifa area to a missionary center to get clothing and food. According to these reports, the Messianic Jewish charity required those receiving help to attend classes and listen to sermons. In response, Yad L’Achim plans to establish its own distribution center to help needy Jews. Kol Ha’Ir (Dec. 8) also reports on “missionaries taking advantage of needy Jews,” and calls on the orthodox Jewish public to reach out to those in need so that they don’t fall into the clutches of the mission. Rabbi Steiglitz of Lev L’Achim is interviewed, and accuses missionaries of “hunting souls” by pretending to be hitchhikers and “spending millions of dollars in the attempt to buy the hearts and faith of wayward brothers.” This article includes a sidebar about Yad HaShmonah, a Christian/Messianic Jewish settlement, which runs a guesthouse. The sidebar focuses on their Kashrut license, concluding that it should be revoked since there are rumors that the inhabitants talk about “that man” (Jesus) with guests.
Christians in Israel / Status of non-Jews
Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 25, Dec. 6; NFC, Dec. 4; Ha’Aretz, Nov. 30, Dec. 6, 7, 23, 24; Ha’Aretz English, Dec. 24; Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 19; B’Sheva, Nov. 25; Ha’Ir, Nov. 18; Kol Ha’Ir, Dec. 10; Iton Yerushalayim, Nov. 19, Dec. 10, 2004
Ha’Aretz (English and Hebrew, Dec. 24) and other media published the results of the 2003 census, which found that Christians make up 2.1% of Israel’s population. Of the 144,000 Christians in Israel, 117,000 are Arab and 27,000 are new immigrants. Sixty percent of Israel’s Christians live in the north, especially Nazareth and Haifa. The birthrate among Christians is falling, with their proportion in the Arab population falling from 20% in 1949 to 9% at present.
Also on Christmas Eve, Ha’Aretz English and Hebrew editions ran an article on Hasidic Jewish attitudes to Christmas. “For them, it’s wholly unholy” explains that according to these beliefs, the “klipot” (shells) – parasitical evil forces that attach themselves to forces of good – are totally in control on Christmas Eve, so that not even a trace of holiness is present. Therefore, Hasidic Jews do not study Torah, conduct weddings, or go to the mikveh (ritual bath) on this night. They also refrain from procreation on Christmas Eve, because of the fear that a child conceived on this day would become an apostate. Instead, they play cards or chess, do paperwork, or cut a year’s supply of toilet paper for the Sabbath (this also expresses disrespect for Christianity, which kabbalistic literature describes as “waste material”). The avoidance of Torah study may have sprung from the desire to avoid anti-Semitic attacks on this day by not going to the synagogue. Some people maintain that these customs need not be observed in the Israel, because of the land’s sacredness, however some Hasidic sects still follow them. In contrast, Lithuanian and Sephardic Jews do not observe any special customs on Christmas Eve, one cynic quipping, “The Hasidim will look for any excuse not to study Torah.”
Iton Yerushalayim (Dec. 10) reports on 2 issues facing Christians in Israel. The first article is a news report about the lack of a burial ground for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in Jerusalem. In the past the community was given land for a cemetery in Azaria (East Jerusalem), but in the past few years they have been harassed and even stoned when holding funerals there, and some graves have been defiled. The Jerusalem municipality shrugged off responsibility for the problem, saying that it’s a national, not municipal, issue. The second article, titled “The Muslim Crusade,” is a feature about Jerusalem’s Arab Christians. This minority is stuck “between the Jewish anvil and the Muslim hammer,” especially since the rise of fundamentalism tied to the intifada. Different viewpoints are presented in the article, some church leaders saying that they have no problems with their Muslim neighbors, others that they suffer daily harassment. Both sides agree that Israeli authorities have not been much help, though, especially in the areas of obtaining visas for clergy and municipal services for their properties. The article concludes that it’s no surprise that many Arab Christians prefer to simply leave, but finds it ironic that the religion that persecuted others for centuries is now being “chased out” of the holy city.
Yediot Ahronot and Ha’Aretz (Dec. 6) cover a report recently released by Union for Civil Rights, (Lisa – does “Aguda L’Zkhuyot Ha’Ezrakh” have an official name in English?) which paints a grim picture of non-Jews wishing to become citizens of Israel. The report includes complaints about families being broken up, intentional foot-dragging by Interior Ministry clerks, black lists, and withholding of rights. The authors claim that the population administration (Lisa – Minhal Okhlusin in English?) Population Registry sees itself as the “watchman on the wall” whose job is to protect the Jewish identity of Israel, leading to the trampling of the rights of non-Jews, Jewish Israelis who have married non-Jews, and their children. A few individual cases are cited, such as a birth certificate on which the non-Jewish father’s name was omitted and a new immigrant who could not even change her address officially, resulting in multiple legal problems. The report points out that the racist policies do not change with the Interior Minister, but are deeply ingrained in the whole system. Former Interior Minister Poraz charges the report with being one-sided, though he admits the deeply rooted problems which were created by “40 years of control by Orthodox Jewish ministers.”
Iton Yerushalayim (Nov. 19) reports on the harassment of Messianic Jews. Sam Nadler, an American Messianic leader, and his wife recently arrived for a visit in Israel, only to be detained by the immigration police and held for 24 hours at the airport. According to the Nadlers, they were barred from entering the country because of their faith, based not on law but on the “opinion of someone at the Interior Ministry.” The Interior Ministry responded that the Nadlers were not stopped because of their faith, but in order to check details of their arrival, after which they were given visas.
“Jesus in Love” (Ma’ariv, Nov. 26) is a feature by an Israeli writer visiting a large, pro-Israel Evangelical gathering in Texas. The meeting, at John Hagee’s Cornerstone “Church-Industry-Communications Empire which makes Israel’s new Supreme Court complex look like a fast-food stand,” included Israeli guest speakers and representatives who received donations from these Zionist supporters. The author is very dismissive of these Christians, who believe every “hallucinated idea” of Hagee’s as well as biblical prophecies about the tribulation and the anti-Christ (whose first messenger is none other than Shimon Peres, according to Hagee). He ridicules Hagee’s (and many Evangelicals’) vision of the end of days, mistranslating “Rapture” as “Rupture” throughout this section. The author also describes Hagee’s sermon about Israel’s right to the entire Holy land (“A Palestinian state isn’t in the Bible, so it shouldn’t be established”), complete with accusations that Arafat was a pedophile. A few individual believers are presented as rather mindless, supporting “an imaginary Israel – which they have never visited and know nothing about” because of their love for Jesus, for whom they would do anything.
Anti-Semitism and Jewish-Christian relations
Ha’Aretz, Nov. 23, 25, 26; Jerusalem Post, Nov. 23, Dec. 1, 2; Jerusalem Report, Dec. 13; Ma’ariv, Nov. 26; Yated Ne’eman English, Nov. 5; Nativ, Nov. 2004
Despite attempts to reduce anti-Semitic hate crimes in the USA, the number of these did not fall in 2003 according to a new FBI report (Ha’Aretz, Nov. 25). Attacks on Jews and Jewish property comprised 12% of all hate crimes in the USA during this period, and 70% of all hate crimes committed for religious reasons. These statistics have stayed stable for many years, indicating that hate crimes against Jews are not, in general, motivated or influenced by external factors – as are hate crimes against Muslims, which spiked following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. In addition, unlike in Europe, American anti-Semitism is not, in general, tied to anti-Zionism or opposition to Israeli policies.
In Europe, which is dealing with a surge of fundamentalist Islam, people can now watch Hezbollah TV easily, thanks to the French government’s generosity (Ma’ariv, Nov. 26). Among the programs aired on this newly registered station are a series on the Rothschild family’s taking over the world, and a show about two rabbis sacrificing a Christian child. The Jewish response is that giving a license to this station is giving a license to kill. European anti-Semitism in general is tied to hatred of Israel and championing the Palestinian “underdogs,” going so far as to compare Israel to Nazi Germany (Nativ, Nov. 2004). This politicization of anti-Semitism creates strange alliances, such as between the radical right-wing parties and fundamentalist Muslims, who both hate the Jews and Israel.
Though not written directly about anti-Semitism, Shmuley Boteach’s column “When it’s OK to hate” (<i>Jerusalem Post,</i> Dec. 2) touches on related issues. Boteach writes about the need – and biblical admonition – to hate evil, which has gone out of fashion because it implies making judgments and holding to absolutes, both of which are “politically incorrect.” According to Boteach, “even many of our Christian brothers and sisters believe that it is wrong to hate murderers. They quote Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate. But … Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to our honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers. Likewise, while Jesus taught that ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God’s enemies.” Boteach argues that God’s enemies are those who slaughter his children, because they have cast off the image of God and lost their divine spark, thus condemned for eternity. To extend compassion to these monsters is to mock God, who demands justice for the innocent.
Ha’Aretz English, Nov. 25, Dec. 24, 30; Ha’Aretz, Nov. 29, Dec. 22, 30; NFC, Dec. 26; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 17, 23, 24, 31; HaTzofeh, Dec. 24, 30; Kochav HaTzafon, Dec. 3, 2004
A rare coin from the 10th century was found by a youth taking part in a Tiberias dig. The coin, with an image of Jesus on one side and the Greek inscription “Jesus Christ King of Kings,” is from a series produced in Constantinople in honor of the first millennium, and was likely brought to Tiberias by Christian pilgrims. (Ha’Aretz Nov. 25, 29; Kochav HaTzafon
In Jerusalem, archaeologists have found a paved assembly area and channel that carried water to the pool of Siloam, dating from the Second Temple period. This is the site at which Jesus restored sight to a blind man, as told in John 9. First century BC coins were found at the site, which is believed to have been used as a ritual bath for ceremonial purification. (Ha’Aretz English, Jerusalem Post, HaTzofeh, Dec. 24)
In the Galilee, archaeologists have uncovered the site of Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. Finds there include potteryshards, a ritual pool, and stone vessels. (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 23; Ha’Aretz, Dec. 22; NFC, Dec. 26)
Ha’Aretz (English and Hebrew, Dec. 30), HaTzofeh (Dec. 30), and the Jerusalem Post (Dec. 31) report on the indictment of five people accused of forging antiques. Among the items in question are the “James ossuary” and an ivory pomegranate believed for years to be the only existing relic of Solomon’s temple. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, the forgers took genuine artifacts and added inscriptions to them, falsely increasing their importance and value. They not only defrauded buyers of millions of dollars, but damaged the science of archaeology and tried to “distort historical facts of great religious and emotional importance to Christians and Jews worldwide.”
Books, Film, and Music
Ma’ariv, Nov. 28, Dec. 12, 13, 14; Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 12; Ha’Aretz, Nov. 24, Dec. 5, 8, 9; Pnai Plus, Nov. 25; NRG, Dec. 6; Globes, Dec. 9, 14; Jerusalem Post, Dec. 13; Nekuda, Dec. 2004
Ma’ariv (Nov. 28) reviews Dean Hamer’s “The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.” The book claims that the tendency to believe in something – anything – is a genetic trait, dependent on the presence and activity of a certain gene named 2VMAT. The review includes reactions of both Jewish and Christian thinkers, who agree that Hamer’s theory is baseless, that faith cannot be reduced to a chemical reaction in the brain. Israeli academics also find the theory difficult to take seriously.
“Al Pacino’s Passion” (Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 12) covers a new version of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” which many critics are calling anti-Semitic. Pacino, who will likely turn Shylock into a sympathetic character, disagrees. Many Jewish leaders are worried about this film, coming as it does on the heels of Mel Gibson’s wildly successful “The Passion of the Christ.” The latter movie had its debut in Israel on December 24 at the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque, as part of a seminar on different religions.
Ma’ariv (Dec. 14) ventures into the world of contemporary Christian music with an article about rock band Third Day. From being “the devil’s music,” Christian rock and roll is now a big business in the USA. Third Day is the most successful of these bands, with a new song playing on mainstream radio stations and a video on MTV. Rolling Stone magazine called them “not one of the best Christian rock bands, but one of the best rock bands, period.” But the band’s members know what comes first, and are outspoken about their faith and spreading the Gospel. The article also describes the growing popularity of “religious” music in the USA in general, calling it the beginning of a revolution in the entertainment industry.