Caspari Center Media Review………………………… May 2005 #2
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 130 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
- 60 dealt with Jewish Christians Relations
- 7 dealt with Anti-Missionary Attitudes
- 7 dealt with Israeli/Jewish attitudes about Christians
- 5 dealt with attitudes about Jesus
- 4 dealt with Christian support of Israel
- 3 dealt with Messianic Jews
- 2 were Book Reviews
- 2 dealt with the Holocaust and anti-Semitism
- 1 dealt with Early Christianity
The remaining 39 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Messianic Jews (Radio, Reshet Bet, Apr. 28, 2005) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 28, 2005, Apr. 29, 2005)
The morning radio news headlines announced, that, “according to the leaders of the Messianic Jews, their number in Israel has reached ten thousand.” (Reshet Bet, HaBoker HaZeh news headlines, Apr. 28, 2005). A report in the Jerusalem Post of that same day (Jerusalem Post Apr. 28, 2005) publishes these same statistics and says that they were acquired from “Eitan Shishkoff who heads up the Messianic congregation in Kiryat Yam.” The Jerusalem Post says that Messianic Jews are “Christian communities actively courting Israelis,” and that the “considerable growth of the movement is due mainly to immigration.” Eliezer Uzichenko, leader of the Beit Avinu congregation reportedly told the Post by phone that half his congregation is Russian speaking.
In the weekend edition of the paper the following day an eight-page feature expands on this report (Jerusalem Post Apr. 29, 2005) and follows the activities of Yad L’Achim as they pursue the Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who The Post learn, are “known as Jews for Jesus.” The paper claims that “Yad L’Achim’s hands are full,” and that “Christian proselytizers lure easy prey among Israel’s socially weak and recently arrived.” The feature contains several short “testimonies” of people who had been “approached by missionaries,” and as a result reportedly considered “converting to Christianity.” The Post praises the work of Yad L’Achim who “saved them from the trap.”
The paper details “missionary activity” in Kiryat Yovel where the offer to receive the movie “Jesus,” is described as a “tempting offer”. The reporter, Ksenia Svetlova relates her personal experience when she called to ask for the free video. She says she was “encouraged to learn more about the life of the ‘believers’ in Israel.” According to Svetlova, Messianic Jews “wear yarmulke’s, grow long beards and adopt Jewish names”, as well as “consider themselves strictly Jewish, read the Torah, observe some of the Jewish traditions and yet believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.” Eliezer Uzichenko of Beit Avinu congregation explains that Messianic Jews are around since the first century and “refuse to be called Christians because we are not.” Another Jewish believer called “Noam,” affirms Eliezer’s explanations.
The second half of the feature follows a visit of a Yad L’Achim worker to the “Messianic Jewish Church,” in Kiryat Yam. Throughout the article she refers much to her experiences with Jehovah’s Witnesses and does not distinguish between the two. There is a photo of young people playing music in a meeting hall with the title “Immigrant congregants at the Kiryat Yam’s Messianic ‘synagogue’ rehearse a song.” There is also a large photo of Eitan Shishkoff and underneath the picture Eitan is quoted as saying “Why should I wave a big flag saying I am a Messianic Jew just because the Interior Ministry hasn’t yet understood that Messianic Jews make great Israelis?” The reporter writes her impressions of Eitan Shishkoff and notes that although the Law of Return does not apply to “Jewish converts to Christianity, he and his Jewish, turned Messianic, wife and their children immigrated to Israel.” Eitan Shishkoff is reported saying, “there are about 80 Messianic congregations…the most conservative number of Messianic Jews in Israel is 7,000 but I think its more than 10,000.”
Anti-Missionary Attitudes (Iton Ha-Ir Eilat Apr. 4, 2005) (Iton HaTzvi Mar. 31, 2005) (Sha’a Tova Apr. 27, 2005) (HaModia Apr. 22, 2005)
Rabbi Shmuel Shayesh writes a letter to the editor in Iton Ha-Ir Eilat (Apr. 14, 2005) in which he expresses “surprise,” upon learning that the musical The Covenant by the ICEJ (International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem) was cancelled in Eilat. He describes himself as a person who “on the one hand follows the ICEJ” and on the other hand “knew Ehud Manor,” and therefore is “puzzled that anyone should expect The Covenant to be at all mission oriented.” He attended a performance and found it to be “a nice musical which tells in song the history of the people of Israel.” Rabbi Shayesh says that it was “void of any missionary content and void of Christian preaching.” He explains that the ICEJ represents Christian fundamentalists, are a Christian version of the ultra orthodox party Shas and need the people of Israel and the State of Israel for “Yeshu to come back.” He sees it as ironic that “although they are right wingers, it is the right wing of Israeli politics who come against them.”
The religious weekly Sha’a Tova reports on a young man dressed as an Orthodox Jew who walked into one of their yeshiva classes and asked to study because he has a Jewish grandmother. (Sha’a Tova Apr. 27, 2005). According to the report, the other students were suspicious and when the young man asked to say a few words to the class they “grabbed him and pushed him outside.” After inquiring what he wanted to share the man said, “for the sake of peace the Jews must grieve for the pope.” According to the report at that moment another man walked by and claimed “he had seen this ‘Orthodox Jew’ signing himself with the cross at the Western Wall.” The article ends saying that the man was hit several times so that he could grieve for the pope while in hospital.
Iton HaTzvi Arad (Mar. 31, 2005) reports about the activities of Yad La’Achim in the town. They post warning notices about “missionaries” in order to “warn children to be aware.” The report says that the “threatening attitude expressed in the posters is far more alarming and disturbing to the kids than any missionary activity.” The paper notes the timing of the opening of the new Yad VaShem and “the xenophobia which led to the holocaust is once again in town” and being carried out towards those who have a different faith. The author also rhetorically asks what would be the Jewish reaction if such notices went up about Jews in the streets of cities abroad.
Attitudes about Jesus (HaAretz Apr. 26, 2005, Apr. 29, 2005) (Kol HaZman Apr. 29, 2005) (Iton Yerushalayim Apr. 29, 2005) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 21, 2005)
An article translated from the New York Times appears in the Hebrew edition of HaAretz (Apr. 26, 2005) concerning the use of the cross and other religious symbols being used in youth fashion in the USA. The article describes various fashion slogans and pictures of Jesus which have been designed and distorted either “for the use of spreading Christianity or worn as a statement against the religious establishment.” The paper notes the most popular clothes contain the slogans “Jesus saves” “Every one loves a Catholic girl” “Moses is my buddy” and “In the spirit of Jesus.” There is a photo of a young man wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Jesus in which underneath is written “Jesus is my homeboy” the caption says; “religious paraphernalia: ’It’s a way of mocking the ridiculous religious rhetoric’ says a manager of a homosexual night club.”
Iton Yerushalayim has a feature about a reporter’s day out to visit some of the holy places of Christianity. Sigal Manor says she saw “the grave of Yeshu, the father of Christianity, his mother’s house and the church where the head of his cousin is.”
Kol HaZman (Apr. 29, 2005) carries a large photo of the interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and an image of a shining light in the shape of a cross beaming down from the ceiling in the middle of the church. The short account tells of two Israeli photographers, one of whom says that he photographed this image as the specks of dust were falling to the ground and the light hit the dust, claiming that this was what formed the shape of the cross. The other photographer was “troubled in his spirit,” and because they were both in a “holy place” the first photographer felt “obliged to confess” that it wasn’t a true image of a cross but rather the photo came out that way when it was accidentally exposed to light in the dark room. He concludes that when he saw the freak photo he thought, “I don’t believe it!” and then deduces ironically that because it is such an impressive photo then he does believe and there must be a God.
Book Review (Jerusalem Post Apr. 21, 2005).
“Why The Jews Rejected Jesus – David Klinghoffer” is a book reviewed by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. According to Rabbi Boteach, one of the main themes of the book is that “the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people had to occur in order to lead to the rise of the great western civilization.” He says that the thesis is inaccurate because the Jewish people rejected Jesus because He “did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies, his followers abrogated the Torah and He claimed to be God.” He suggests that Islam also contributed great things to the West and “although Christianity has contributed much to the world with great people such as Michelangelo it has also provided inquisitions, hatred of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.” Rabbi Boteach praises the “latter Christianity” which was “embraced by most of the American forefathers” that in his opinion has “proven to be Israel’s closest ally.” However he also praises the author of the book because “of his ability to refute “classic Christian proof texts” as to the Messiahship of Jesus such as Isaiah 53 and emphasizes that “the very essence of Christianity, namely, that a man is God” is something that the Jews “could not, dare not and indeed never will accept.”
Israeli/Jewish attitudes about Christians (HaAretz English Edition Apr. 22, 2005) (HaAretz Apr.22, 2005) (HaAretz Apr. 28, 2005) (HaMekomon Yerushalayim Apr. 20, 2005)
Both editions of HaAretz carry a feature of the Ceremony of Light and Dark on Easter Saturday at the Benedictine monastery at Abu Ghosh (HaAretz Apr. 22, 2005). The writer draws a parallel between religious elements in the ceremony and the people of Israel’s relationship with God through the pillar of fire. The author acknowledges that for her, the ceremony was “spiritually powerful even though I am not of the Christian religion.” Later on in the article she interviews Brother Oliver who resides as a monk at Abu Ghosh. Brother Oliver attributes his connection to Israel with the movie “The Exodus.” He is described as a monk with a “deep connection to Israel and the IDF” and also as someone who is “familiar with all the IDF slang.”
Following the decision of the Petach Tikvah Local Council to push for plans for land belonging to the Baptist Village to be used as a national park, the Baptist Village is suing them for damages of 60 million NIS (HaAretz Apr. 28, 2005). According to the paper, if the plans of the council are approved then the Village stands to lose 50 million NIS because of depreciation of the grounds incurred in the prohibition of planned extension on the 170 dunams that would generate revenue. HaAretz says that the Village has hired a lawyer who, in addition to losses of 50 million NIS, will also be suing for another 3.8 million NIS, the estimated sum of taxes accumulated in transactions of land exchange. The lawyer’s fees are also five percent of the sum bringing the total damages to nearly 60 million NIS.
The Jerusalem Municipality is advocating a new policy that would make churches subject to paying the Arnona, (the local building tax) (HaMekomon Yerushalayim Apr. 20, 2005). The municipality reportedly wishes to enforce these taxes on “all religious institutions” that are also operating in a business sense, including “churches that function as guest houses, restaurants and gift shops.”
Christian Support of Israel (Hed HaKrayot Apr. 22, 2005) (Kol Ha-Ir Apr. 29, 2005) (Jerusalem Post Apr. 28, 2005)
Hed HaKrayot (Apr. 22, 2005) carries a photo of a volunteer from Bridges for Peace handing out a food parcel to an elderly woman. According to the paper, 460 food parcels were donated to the Society for the Blind. “Bridges for Peace” is described as “Christians who came from Canada to Jerusalem to help the needy.”
A short biography about a young, sick Israeli man who was adopted by Dutch Christian parents is the subject of an article appearing in Kol Ha-Ir (Apr. 29, 2005). The article describes in depth his illness, the implications and the “incredibly selfless and merciful attitude” of his adoptive Christian parents. The anonymous parents are quoted, saying, “God gave us a love for Israel and we came here to bless the people.” They also speak of the “terrible history of Christianity towards the Jewish people” and express their desire to “show the other side of Christianity.”
Jewish Christian Relations (Jerusalem Post Apr. 21, 2005, Apr. 22, 2005, Apr. 25, 2005) (Ma’ariv Apr. 21, 2005, Apr. 25, 2005) (Yediot Ahronot Apr. 21, 2005) (International Herald Tribune Apr. 12, 2005)
Several papers continued with coverage of the election of the new pope with many biographies, opinions and suppositions as to the implications for the Jewish world. Opinions in The Jerusalem Post (Apr. 21, 2005, Apr. 22) and Yediot Achronot (Apr. 21, 2005) expressed caution, suggesting that the agenda of the new pope will be “to advocate nothing but his own religion.” Many papers fondly reviewed his paper “God and the World,” published in 2000 (Jerusalem Post Apr. 25, Ma’ariv Apr. 21, 2005, International Herald Tribune Apr. 12, 2005) reminding the readers that the new pope believes that “the Jews are connected with God in a special way.”