Caspari Center Media Review… August 2005 #1
During the period of time covered by this review, we received 104 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:
12 dealt with Jewish-Christian Relations
5 dealt with Anti-Missionary Attitudes
5 dealt with Tourism
3 dealt with Christian Support of Israel
11 dealt with Israeli/Jewish attitudes about Christians
1 dealt with Status of Non-Jews
5 dealt with Attitudes about Jesus
2 were Book Reviews
3 dealt with Messianic Jews
The remaining 57 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Messianic Jews (Iton HaTzvi Arad Jul. 7, 2005)
The Messianic congregation in Arad published a full-page open letter to bring to public attention the persecution of the Messianic community by the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) religious community (Iton HaTzvi Jul, 7, 2005). The letter explicitly details 27 ways in which the Messianic community in Arad has undergone intimidation and harassment. These include intimidation in their meetings, at the chess club in Arad, and at believers’ homes. The behavior of the Haredim is described as “insulting, frightening and intimidating” and behavior that “frightens children” and “shows no respect” for holocaust survivors. The Haredi behavior includes “cursing believers, threatening their children, destroying their personal property, and spitting on Bibles.” The letter says that this is “disgraceful” and that the actions of the Haredim are “criminal.” The general public is called upon to ask themselves why the Messianic faith is so threatening for the ultra-Orthodox community and why such demonstrations of “intimidation and terror” are not appropriate for a democratic society. It also says that if behavior like this continues, then the future of democracy in Israel is at stake. At the end of the letter, the reader is asked to come by and sign a petition if he does not agree with the Haredi behavior. If, however, the reader has no problem with their behavior then he is urged to do nothing but is reminded that evil will thus prevail and that one day the Haredim will also get to the reader, the “good man” who sits and does nothing.
Christian Support of Israel (HaAretz Jul. 13, 2005)
HaAretz (Jul. 13, 2005) runs an article following the “first-time” call of leaders in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) USA, who are seeking a “more balanced” approach concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict. Various evangelical denominations are reported to desire to come to a “consensus of opinion” whereby they would support Israel and her need for security but would also work towards the establishment of a Palestinian State. The people within the NAE pushing for the adoption of an official policy are reported to be doing it in response to the president of the NAE, “priest” Ted Haggard, who in an interview with the Jerusalem Post claimed that the NAE supports Israel unconditionally. According to Haggard, members of the NAE believe that Ariel Sharon was “ordained by God” to “lead Israel through this difficult time.” HaAretz says that Haggard now denies his statements but nevertheless his words have been published in the Christian media throughout the USA. Gary Bower, once a candidate for the American presidency, is quoted as saying “an official united policy will be a good thing” and that “evangelicals are not confused and know well who are the baddies and the goodies in the Middle East.” HaAretz notes that for many years the NAE has been unable to adopt an official policy because of divided theological and political opinions concerning Israel. The reporter says that the NAE is “divided into two camps” depending on their interpretation concerning “the last days.” The two camps are “defined as to ones understanding of ‘who is Israel’.” One camp sees the State of Israel as the “fulfillment of prophecies” and the other camp believes that “the church now has replaced Israel.” It is these theological persuasions, that drive the political support in either direction.
Anti-Missionary Attitudes (Makor Rishon Jul. 5, 2005; Iton Yerushalyim Jun. 24, 2005; HaModia Jul. 8, 2005)
Both Iton Yerushalyim (Jun. 24, 2005) and HaModia (Jul. 8, 2005) report on the award of excellence given to the Norwegian Christian organization “Nachamu Ami.” Both papers report “ironically” that Minister of Health Danny Nave, refused to be photographed with people from the organization because of “security reasons.” The Ministry of Health officially stated, “following an investigation into Nachamu Ami, no missionary activity was found” (Iton Yerushalayim Jul. 5, 2005). HaModia claims that despite this statement Yad L’Achim “found an interview” in the Norwegian press in which the representative who received the prize on behalf of Nachamu Ami is reported as saying, “we are missionaries.” The chairman of Yad L’Achim says that the events with Nachamu Ami “requires that hospitals and old people’s homes throw out missionary volunteers who pose as innocent people in the wards” and who only “sow destruction in souls who are already sick, destruction which derives from their base intentions.”
In an open letter to Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Natanel Elishiv writes imploring him not to permit the building of a casino in Eilat or an evangelical center in Galilee even though it maybe “economically logical.” Elishiv says that there is a difference between “individual Christian tourists and an evangelical center which will turn very quickly into a hub of intense missionary activity.” He also claims that behind the “so called friendship towards Israel” lay a “deep loathing for Judaism and the existence of the Jewish people.” Elishiv also reminds Mr. Netanyahu of how, “despite his support for the anti-missionary bill,” he was “forced to withdraw” his support. This, according to Elishiv, is because of “the lobbying of the Knesset by Christians who threatened you that they would not support Israel should the bill be passed.”
Israeli/Jewish Attitudes Concerning Christians (Jerusalem Post Jun. 26, 29, 30, Jul. 5, 2005)
Both the Jerusalem Post (Jun. 30, 2005) and HaAretz (Jun. 26, 2005) carry tributes to Rev. Billy Graham following his final crusade in New York and analyze the changes over the years in “evangelical Christianity.” Billy Graham is described as “speaking clearly, mixing his message of the salvation in Jesus with anecdotes and humor.” Graham’s early sermons were noted as being “steeped in cold-war mentality, the fear of communism and the need for the USA to be a God-fearing country.” The author notes that Christianity’s axis is “shifting from developing countries to developed ones” and that a “more charismatic style of Christianity, known as Pentecostalism is on the rise.” The Jerusalem Post (Jun. 27, 2005) focuses on the differences between “the fearsome lobbyists for Christian fundamentalist power” and the “evangelical Christians” present at the Graham crusades, who “don’t all hate Islam or teach creation science or are gung-ho for the war in Iraq.”
A one-page article in the Jerusalem Post (Jul. 5, 2005) reports on the increasing number of Muslims in North-West Africa who are becoming Christians. The statistics are varied, depending on the source, but the paper regards it as “significant numbers” even though the penalty for such conversion is noted to be “severe.” There is a “striking testimony” of an ex-Muslim woman who decided that her best friend was “impure” after she converted to Christianity. Upon reading the Bible for herself she converted and has reportedly received several death threats. The paper says that the “evangelists are focusing on the young and the poor” and that many Muslims are “disillusioned by the crimes committed in the name of Islam and are looking for something else.”
Theologian Petra Helt is the subject of a feature in the Jerusalem Post (Jun. 29, 2005). Helt, a German Lutheran Minister, who teaches at various academic institutions in Israel, was a victim of a bomb blast in Jerusalem eight years ago. The article reports how the nurses in the hospital were “amazed that a Christian minister could have such knowledge of Judaism.” The thesis of her PhD, obtained from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, dealt with the “writings of the second and third century interpretations of the New Testament by a group of Jewish Christians in Alexandria.” Petra Helt explains that at the time of Jesus there were only “two main outlooks in Judaism, one which developed into rabbinic Judaism, the other developed into Christianity.” Mrs. Helt says that there is “more interest than ever before in the period of early Christianity” and that she and other scholars today “read the early Christian or Jewish-Christian texts in order to understand the developments of the church and the interpretations of the Hebrew Bible.”
Israeli/Jewish attitudes concerning Jesus (HaAretz Jun. 20, 2005; Makor Rishon Jul. 8, 2005; Ma’ariv Apr.1, 2005)
In a small excerpt about the Mount of Beatitudes (HaAretz Jun. 20, 2005) the article says that according to the New Testament the Mount of Beatitudes is where “Jesus preached His sermon” and where he “chose his disciples” which is what makes it a “Christian holy site.”
An article in Ma’ariv (Apr. 1, 2005) compares other modern fiction with the literary success of the book “The Da Vinci Code”. There is a photo of a renaissance painting of Jesus with the caption “Yeshua forgives the woman caught in adultery” followed by text from the Gospel of John 8: 4,5,7.
Makor Rishon (Jul. 8, 2005) expounds on a portion from the Sanhedrin of the Babylonian Talmud, and claims that the whole of history was changed “simply because of a hand gesture from Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Pirchiya towards Jesus ‘the Notzri’ (Christian).” The article says that Jesus came to the Rabbis to ask for forgiveness and the motion of the rabbi’s hands caused Jesus to feel rejected and as result the course of history was changed and Jesus deviated from the Torah.
Jewish-Christians Relations (HaAretz Jun. 26, Jul. 13, 2005; Jerusalem Post Jun. 26, Jul. 1, 4, 7, 2005; Eastern Mediterranean and Tourism Travel May-June 2005)
Both HaAretz (Jun. 26, 2005) and the Jerusalem Post (Jun. 26, 2005) follow the actions of the Anglican Consultative Council (England) that voted in favor of a resolution that considers divestment from Israel and seeks to persuade member churches to pressurize companies who are linked to “Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.” The same papers (Jul. 1, 4, 2005) also report on the United Church of Christ (UCC) and their subsequent consideration of divestment. In an opinion in the Jerusalem Post (Jul. 7, 2005) the writer expresses that it “would be wrong to rely only upon Evangelical support.” He says that the officials of the UCC and Anglican churches are “blinded by anti-Israel political and ideological agendas” and he describes the moves towards divestment as a “setback to Jewish Christian relations.”
In a talk with Ministry of Tourism Director, General Eli Cohen, Eastern Mediterranean and Tourism Travel (May-June 2005) reports on the development of the proposed Evangelical Center to be built near Capernaum in Galilee. Eli Cohen says that the site, which is 35 acres, will be “utilized as an evangelical center and biblical garden with the hope of increasing evangelical tourism to 3/4 million per annum.” He also says that as yet, 35 acres have been offered and it could be “much more than the 35 acres under discussion.” The Ministry of Tourism is hoping that the project will begin by the end of 2005.
Different matters of Jewish or Christian Interest (HaAretz Jul. 8, 2005; Makor Rishon Jul. 1, 2005)
Makor Rishon (Jul. 1, 2005) contains a critique of Ran HaCohen’s Hebrew translation of Martin Luther’s writings. The critic examines the differences between the Jewish and Christian theology of repentance based on what he claims is a mistranslation of Luther’s idea of repentance, which stems from “penitence” (Latin = penitentiam) and not as translated by HaCohen, from the Hebrew concept of “Tshuva.” In doing so, the Christian theology of repentance has “not been noted as different from the Judaic idea of repentance.” He says that the translation has therefore “aligned the Judaic notion of repentance too closely with Christian repentance which is ‘regret and sorrow’ as opposed to ‘Tshuva’ which is ‘restitution and turning away from wrong doing.’”