September 10 – 2005

Caspari Center Media Review… September 2005 #2

During the period of time covered by this review, we received 67 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:


  21 dealt with Jewish-Christian Relations

   4 dealt with Messianic Jews

   4 dealt with Christian Support of Israel

   2 dealt with Anti-Missionary attitudes

   5 dealt with anti-Semitism

   5 dealt with Israeli/Jewish attitudes about Christians

   1 dealt with Attitudes about Jesus


The remaining 25 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.


Messianic Jews

(Iton Yerushalayim Aug. 19, 2005; Yated Ne’eman Aug.12, 2005; Ma’ariv Aug. 25, 2005)



Ma’ariv, the second largest national tabloid, runs a two-page feature about the situation between the Messianic Jews and the Haredi group in Arad. There are photos before and after the arson attack, and another is of the outside of the club, showing large writing painted on the door, “Wherever they burn books they will burn people.” The introduction describes the situation as one of “mutual harassment, violence and demonstrations,” between the “Hasidic followers of Gur and the cult of Messianic Jews.” Throughout the article the Messianic Jews are continuously referred to as a cult. The club, the distribution centre and hot meals are all described as part of the activities of “the cult.” Ma’ariv says “the chess club alone attracted hundreds of residents on a daily basis.” There are several comments from Debbie Figueras who “heads up the cult” and who is noted to be a “sabra through and through and a mother of four.” According to Ma’ariv, “The cult of the Messianic Jews has been in Arad for a year and a half” and “includes 20 families and hundreds more who participate regularly in the activities of the cult.” It says “the success of the cult’s club and the claims that Yeshu is the one to save Israel from their troubles, angered the followers of Gur.” Debbie is quoted as saying, “we are harassed and intimidated daily, they take the law into their own hands,” and “if the police do not intervene then there will be blood spilled.” She also says its is “sheer gall” for the Gur followers to claim, “we baptise children into Christianity.” The Gur followers “deny anything to do with the arson attack” and say “although the Messianic cult is engaging in missionary activity, we operate within the law.” Their spokesman also says “we will continue with our demonstrations outside their houses until they cease to baptise children into Christianity.”


“Messianic Jews are angry with the Ministry of the Interior,” reports Iton Yerushalayim (Aug. 19, 2005). The article looks briefly into the claims of attorney Caleb Mayers, that the Ministry of Interior hold a “black list” containing the names of Messianic Jews. The article says that Mayers wrote to Ofir Pines, the Minister of Interior, “after much evidence was accumulated” in order to “bring the matter to his attention.” The paper cites a case of an unnamed man, married to an Israeli citizen who applied for citizenship. As of yet no decision regarding the granting of his citizenship has been made. According to a letter sent from Shai Katzir, the head of the Office of Population, “during a legal hearing it was alleged that the couple had engaged in missionary activity,” and “there is a danger to the State following these discoveries that they belonged to the community of Messianic Jews.” The Ministry of Interior says that the case is “being looked into and as yet no official decision has been reached.”  Caleb Mayers is quoted “the claims are speculative based on letters and anonymous phone calls from extreme orthodox organisations.” Mayers has received “no official response” and “is weighing up the possibility of going to the High Court.”


A very short article in the English edition of the religious Yated Ne’eman (Aug. 12, 2005) reports on the “counter-missionary group, Jews for Judaism’s resolve to “confront Jews for J. (Jesus) in the streets of Montreal when they target the city’s Jews” later this year. Jews for Jesus are referred to as “Jews for J.” and are noted to have a “$22 million recruitment drive.” The article also says that the campaign “is aimed at 65 cities world wide.”

Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christians

(Ma’ariv Aug. 25, 2005; HaAretz Aug, 24, 25, 2005)


Both HaAretz (Aug. 24, 25, 2005) and Ma’ariv (Aug. 25, 2005) run reports about the Pope’s appearance in Cologne at an open-air Catholic festival marking “World Youth Day.” Both papers refer to it as “the Catholic Woodstock” and Ma’ariv publishes a photo of a “Missionary dancing with a nun.” HaAretz (Aug. 24, 2005) comments that Pope Benedict XVI “succeeded in shaking off a little of his conservative image,” and according to Cardinal Karl Lehman, who was present at the day, “the Pope managed to dispose of some bad nicknames, because he charmed everyone.” HaAretz (Aug. 25, 2005) runs short biographies – with photos – of five young people who joined in the festivities in order to “share the universal appeal of the Catholic Church.” Maher Oudwan, a participant from Lebanon is quoted as saying “we are not sad, going into our churches to pray. Jesus was joy, and you have to share it with people.”



Israeli fashion model poses as Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

(Yediot Ahronot Aug. 22, 2005)


A large two-page article reports on the controversy that erupted after the Israeli textile and fashion company “Chaos” decided to photograph their fashion catalogue in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Yediot Ahronot (Aug. 22, 2005). Chaos “received permission” for the photographic sessions after stating to the Vatican that they were “researching Christianity and needed to take some photographs.” The paper says that the Vatican is in deep shock about “the kind of research” that Chaos intended. Chaos intended to promote their winter collection with male model Itay Atias, posing as “Yeshu the Christian, in a mystical atmosphere of an ancient religion.”  Ibrahim Zahrur, an Arab Muslim who is responsible for overseeing any photography in the Church is reported as saying “these photos are making Yeshu cheap, and making money off his back, which we never agreed to.” He claims that he had “no idea that they intended Atias to pose as Yeshu.” The producer of the fashion catalogue says that, “following the controversy, we decided to drop the idea” although Zahrur insists that the decision was that of the Church. In a side paragraph titled “Yeshu is turning in His grave” the reporter points out that the name of “Jesus” is already a brand name in Holland and “it is trendy to use elements of Christianity when it comes to fashion.” The article says that in Holland the name “Jesus” was chosen to shock people in a humoristic way” and “there was no opposition from the church.” Atias, who has posed as Jesus once before for another photographer, comments, “I don’t think it’s necessarily because I look like Yeshu, but rather that I portray pain and faith in a positive way.”


Christian Support of Israel

(Jerusalem Post Aug. 24, 2005; Sha’a Tova parashat ve’etchanen 2005)


In an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post (Aug. 24, 2005), Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews says, “Christian support of Israel is either ignored or denigrated in the media.” He claims that “most American Jews are unaware of our organisation” and that many are also ”unaware of the tie that evangelical Christians feel with Israel.” Eckstein says that he “cannot fathom why the Jewish press expends so much energy covering faith groups so clearly contemptuous of Israel” while giving the “larger Evangelical group so little coverage.” Rabbi Eckstein says that he is “not writing this to promote my organisation,” but rather “to highlight the fact that the Jewish media is doing a disservice to their readers.”


Sha’a Tova (Parashat Etchaten 2005) covers a radio interview from the religious radio station  “Arutz 7” with a Jewish woman from Norway who relates that following the disengagement from Gaza “Christians in Norway who support Israel are undergoing a crisis.” The woman relates how the Christian community “called upon Christians to fast and pray,” and that the man who oversees the affairs in Norway from “long distance” Labour Party MK, Melchior, was “the only one who refused to join in the prayers.” She also says “following the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, it is very hard for Norwegian Christians to carry on supporting Sharon’s government.” This has “already been expressed” by “refusal to present a gift to the Israeli Embassy in Norway, which goes against previous traditions.”


A short article about comments on the Christian Coalition of America web site by “televangelist” Pat Robertson appears in the Jerusalem Post (Aug. 24, 2005).  Mr. Robertson reportedly “criticized the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza” and says, “God will judge those who leave parts of the land of Israel.” The paper notes that Robertson is considered by Israeli policy makers “to be an important supporter of Israel” and Israeli sources “declined to say whether his talk of ‘judgement’ would have any effect on his future ties with Israeli officials.”



(HaModia Aug. 24, 2005; Yated Ne’eman Aug. 24, 2005)


Both the religious dailies Yated Ne’eman (Aug. 24, 2005) and HaModia (Aug. 24, 2005) report on the anti-Semitic comments given by Polish priest Henrik Jankovski at a conference in Gdansk, Poland. The article says that high-level politicians were present at the conference that marked 25 years since the founding of Lech Walesa’s Solidaritet Trade Union movement. In his opening speech Jankovski “disparaged Jewish bankers,” and said, “we are filled with horror at the legislations which the Jewish bankers, these anti-Catholic and anti-Socialists have initiated.” (Yated Ne’eman Aug. 24, 2005). HaModia (Aug. 24, 2005) notes that a few years ago “Jankovski was banned by the Church from ‘preaching’ for a whole year, because of previous anti-Semitic outbursts.”



Jewish-Christian Relations

(Jerusalem Post Aug. 21, 25, 2005; HaAretz Aug. 24, 2005; Sha’ar L’Matchil Aug. 23, 2005)


Three papers report on the Pope’s visit to a synagogue in Cologne. It is noted that the “500 distinguished guests all wore kippas” and that the “Pope greeted them all with ‘Shalom Aleichem.’” The articles say that the Pope spoke about the Holocaust as “the darkest period in German and European history” and that the Nazi ideology was “insane and racist.” In an opinion piece in HaAretz (Aug. 24, 2005) the author comments on these remarks and says that the Pope’s explanation for the roots of this “insane and racist ideology” namely, “the holiness of God was not recognised” is a “very convenient explanation for the Church,” in the sense that “the Holocaust therefore took place because of a non-recognition of the Christian faith.” The author says that the Holocaust took place “on Christian soil” and “even four decades later it is possible to hear remnants of the preaching that the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ in Claude Lanzmann’s film ‘The Shoah.’” The writer concludes by saying that “it must be recalled that many Jews and other people were murdered in the name of the Christian God.”


New Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem

(Ma’ariv Aug. 23, 2005; HaAretz English and Hebrew Editions Aug. 23, 2005; Jerusalem Post Aug. 23, 2005)


Four dailies report on the election of Theophilos III, who was elected as the new patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Jerusalem, following the sacking of his predecessor Irineos I. HaAretz (Hebrew & English Editions Aug. 23, 2005) gives a short biography of Theophilos, who is noted to have been a “fairly low ranking cleric until two years ago.” A senior cleric in the church, Atalla Hana, is quoted as saying that Theophilos “vowed before the synod to return all the properties that were leased to the Israelis.”