December 31 – 2005

Caspari Center Media Review… December 2005 #5

During the period of time covered by this review, we received 125 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:


   49 dealt with Christmas in the Holy Land

   12 dealt with Anti-Missionary Attitudes

   13 dealt with Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christians

   10 dealt with Jewish-Christian Relations

   5 dealt with Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Jesus

   3 dealt with Book/Film reviews

   3 dealt with Christian Tourism

   2 dealt with Christian Support of Israel

   2 dealt with Messianic Jews


The remaining 26 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.



Anti-Missionary Attitudes

HaModia Dec. 23, 2005; HaMahaneh HaHaredi Dec. 8, 2005; Makor Rishon Dec. 16, 2005; Kol Bi Dec. 23, 2005


HaModia (Dec. 23) reports about “missionaries” who, “distributed the New Testament to innocent residents,” in Shariya, a suburb of Petach Tikvah. According to the article the “innocent residents” received the “present” and “even passed it on to their children for studying in school.” The director of “HaTalmud Torah,” for independent studies in Shariya reportedly “began moves to collect the books from the students and the residents in order to burn them.”


The same edition of HaModia (Dec. 23) says, “according to the ‘Organisation for the Fight Against Foreign Education,’ nearly 1,000 Jewish children are studying in Christian institutions in Israel.” The organisation says it “removed two children who were studying at missionary schools in Jaffa.” According to the short article “parents agree to their children studying in such places because the conditions are better, and are therefore forced into sending their children to schools run by ‘the mission.’”


In a continuation of a fictional story in the ultra-Orthodox magazine, HaMahaneh HaHaredi (Dec. 8) a dialogue between two religious Jewish men takes place. One of the men received a costly coin from a “Christian.” His friend asks, “Why would a Christian give you such a valuable coin?” The man answers that he is “unsure” but he “knows that in Europe, Christians try to bribe Jews to convert and accept the Christian lie.”


The religious Makor Rishon (Dec. 16) runs an article about “the incredible story” of Jewish-born Michael Izik Wiedar who, in Vienna, “became an Orthodox priest, returned to Judaism and later even tried to convert the Pope to Judaism.”  According to the story, Wiedar “suffered a crisis” and was “troubled by some in Judaism.” Makor Rishon says, “in the hour of his crisis he was caught out by Christianity.” He went on to “study theology at a Christian institute in Vienna,” and “identified with ‘That Man – Yeshu the Christian’ who, like Wiedar, had also been expelled by the Sages of Israel.” The paper asks, “Why did he convert in the first place and become a priest?” Three reasons are offered; a) he possibly believed in the prophecies of “That Man,” b) he could have been “nihilistically cynical” towards the Halacha (Jewish Law), c) he could have sought advancement of his own personal status.


The Be’er Sheva weekend magazine Kol Bi (Dec. 23) relates a “joke” about a priest who gave a Jewish man $1000 to convert to Christianity, on the condition that he would also stop eating gefilte fish. When the Jewish man agreed, the “joke” says, “the priest waved his hand at him and said three times ‘you’re a Christian.’”

The paragraph continues “because its hard to believe Jews who convert so easily” the priest went to the man’s house. There he saw the Jew eating gefilte fish. The Priest “breaks down the door and yells at the Jew for lying.” The end of the joke says when asked why he did not keep the Christian faith, the “Jewish man waved his hand at the gefilte fish and said three times “you’re a chicken.”


In a response letter to Yad L’Achim, the manageress of the Jerusalem Bureau for the Ministry of Absorption, writes, “Like you, we think that new immigrants should not be taken to visit Christian sites,” HaModia (Dec. 23). According to the article, Yad L’Achim “received publication material in Russian, aimed at new immigrants, advertising trips in the name of the Ministry of Absorption to Christian sites.” The Ministry of Absorption “announced these fliers have nothing to do with us.” HaModia says “following the actions of Yad L’Achim a trip that was arranged to Christian sites in November was cancelled.”



Messianic Jews

HaModia Dec. 27, 2005


“The notorious missionary Howard Bass, planned a mass baptism in the monastery, (under their auspices), in HaAvot Street, Be’er Sheva,” says the religious newspaper HaModia (Dec. 27). The paper describes how “the word got out to Yad L’Achim” that a baptism would take place. Following this information, the religious community was “mobilised into action” with “hundreds of protestors arriving at the missionary fortress.” The article says “the ‘Jewish protestors’ arrived at the place and were amazed to see hundreds of chairs set out and many young people all prepared for the baptism in to Christianity.” It says, “because of this work of Yad L’Achim, the shocked missionaries instructed that the baptism be immediately called off.” The chairman of Yad L’Achim, Dov Lipshitz is quoted “the hour has arrived to establish the anti-Missionary legislation, which for once and for all will stop missionary work that knows not to differentiate between young and old in its attempts to convert any, and every Jew.”



Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christmas

Yediot HaGalil Dec. 23, 2005; Yediot Haifa Dec. 23, 2005; Iton Holon Bat Yam, Dec. 23, 2005; HaModia Dec. 26, 2005; Jerusalem Post Dec. 23, 2005; HaAretz Dec. 27, 2005; Globes Dec. 21, 23, 2005; Ha’Ir Ramat Gan Givatayim Dec. 23, 2005


Among a wealth of news articles, features and photos covering the Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem many journals published opinions about the Christmas and New Year festivities. Several papers focused on the “growing interest” from Israelis concerning Christmas. Both Ha’Ir Ramat Gan-Givatayim (Dec. 23) and The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 23) published lengthy features on the “booming Christmas business” in Tel Aviv. The papers tell of different customers buying Christmas paraphernalia from shops in the Tel Aviv bus station. It is noted that one Jewish shop owner, “sells Christmas trees yet does not sell crosses or religious items.” The Jerusalem Post notes “some Israelis want to have a Christmas tree in their home.” MK Ronnie Brizon from the secular Shinui party is quoted “ the notion of Israelis celebrating with a Christmas tree is weird, pathetic, inauthentic and doesn’t feel right.” HaModia (Dec. 26) describes “the combined celebrations” of Christmas and Hanukkah as “another indication of the State’s moral bankruptcy.” HaAretz (Dec. 27) notes “without a doubt this year presents will be exchanged on the same date in Jewish and Christian homes, and in some Jewish homes some will put up Christmas trees so their kids don’t feel left out.” Globes (Dec 21) offers a satirical view that “this year will be noted for the Jews who fought for their rights to celebrate the Christian festival, the birthday of ‘Yeshu’ – may His name be erased.” Two weekend magazines from the north of the country Yediot HaGalil, Yediot Haifa (Dec. 23) report on the decoration of “Jewish places” with Christmas decorations. Yediot HaGalil says, “Ben Gurion would turn in his grave” because “Jewish Nazareth Elite is celebrating the birth of ‘Yeshu’ the Father of Christianity.” The headline in Iton Holon Bat Yam (Dec. 23) reads: “end of year celebrations or another Holocaust day?” in reference to the New Year festivities and reports about a flier which was distributed in Bat Yam calling on the residents not to celebrate “Sylvester” (the secular new year). The flier says, “Judgment Day is near (the Jewish nation) because of Sylvester.” It also gives a “history” of the “Christian Saint Sylvester” who “slaughtered Jews and caused pogroms.”



Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christians

Jerusalem Post Dec. 22, 23, 29, 2005;


The Jerusalem Post (Dec.22) has an article about Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah who was asked to “explain the mass exodus of (Arab) Christians from the Holy Land.” The Jerusalem Post says, “Michel Sabbah denies that Muslim violence against Christians (Arabs) in the Holy Land was a real issue” and he says, “because we are such a small community it is more noticed.” Sabbah is also asked if “his faith would be shaken if archaeological proof was found that Jesus was born in Nazareth not Bethlehem”, to which he answers “no.” In response, the Jerusalem Post also quotes Catholic theologian David Neuhaus who says that Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem “to establish that Jesus was a continuation of the House of David, and therefore has the lineage needed to be the Messiah according to the Jewish faith.”


The Jerusalem Post (Dec. 29) also has an article about “competing churches (in Israel) being on the edge of violence.” The head of the Israel Police Interpol, Asher Ben Artzi, is quoted “the churches fight all the time among themselves” and cited as an example the Easter service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He also says “almost every year a dispute erupts between the Armenians and the Greeks over who enters the cave first where Jesus is believed to have been buried.”


A lengthy feature follows several “evangelical groups” baptismal services in the Yardenit Baptismal site (Jerusalem Post Dec. 23). The paper notes “the difference” between the “grey bearded, stern, Eastern Orthodox priests” and “evangelical” Christians” and notes that it “isn’t your ordinary tourist scene.” The article mentions “televangelists who engage in mass baptisms” including, “Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo, John Hagee and Kay Arthur.”  One pilgrim is quoted “it’s like a dream to touch the water where Jesus was baptised, we feel Jesus through the atmosphere.” When contrasting the “holy” atmosphere at the Yardenit site with Israel at large, the pilgrim says, “I don’t think that people here realise where they are standing.” The paper comments, “The fact that very few of the people living in the Holy Land believe in Christianity doesn’t sit too well with her.”



Jewish-Christian Relations

Yediot Ahronot Dec. 16, 2005; Jerusalem Post Dec. 26, 2005


According to a report in Yediot Ahronot (Dec. 8) the Catholic churches in Israel owe 300 million New Israeli Shekels in taxes to the Jerusalem Municipality. In order “not to bring about a crisis in the relationship with the Christian world” the paper says, “The Municipality of Jerusalem has decided to pass the hot potato on to the Foreign Office.” In response to the news, the Jerusalem Post (Dec. 26) published a letter to the editor that says, “thousands of Jewish senior citizens have to pay heavy taxes and are subsidizing the church,” which is, in the author’s view, “scandalous and most un-Christian.”



Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Jesus

Yediot Ahronot Dec. 26, 27, 30, 2005;


An article in Yediot Ahronot (Dec. 26) features “small churches and places of interest” in the Galilee area. Yediot Ahronot says, “Tiberius is “mentioned only once in the New Testament” as a place that “’Yeshu’ withdrew from the crowds and instead concentrated His work in Capernaum.”

Concerning the Catholic St. Peter’s Church, on the edge of Lake Galilee, the paper says “in the prayer room there are holy symbols of the four ‘evangelists’ and above them Peter, with an inscription of ‘Yeshu’s’ famous saying ‘Feed my sheep.’” There is also a side quote and a photo in the paper, which says, “In this village, according to tradition, one of ‘Yeshu’s’ miracles took place. He came here, saw a young boy’s funeral and resurrected him to life.”


In Yediot Ahronot (Dec. 27) an article about the Hanukkah hymn “Maoz Tzur Yeshuati” (Rock of Ages), plays on the words of the original title and becomes “Maoz Tzur ‘Yeshua’” (Rock of Ages, Yeshua). The paper says, “according to new research the tune of “Maoz Tzur Yeshuati” is actually taken from two German Christian hymns from the middle ages.”


In a satirical paragraph in Yediot Ahronot (Dec. 30) the author notes that in the Pope’s Christmas sermon he asked God to “bring peace to the Holy Land.” The author says “God has only brought wars in His name so it is time to turn to someone else for help.” It also says that “concerning the prayer for poverty, it would be good if the Vatican turned over some of its riches and distributed them among the poor, maybe the Pope wouldn’t like that idea, but ‘Yeshu’ certainly would.”



Book/Film Reviews

HaAretz Dec. 28, 2005


HaAretz (Dec. 28) describes the Hebrew book “Hibiscus Sagol” (Purple Hibiscus, publishers Machbarot L’Sifrut), as “thrilling, unforgettable and strong.” The book tells of Africans who “accepted Catholicism and wanted to be more Catholic than the Pope,” yet were faced with “Africans who wanted to keep to their own faith and way of life.”