January 17 – 2006

During the period of time covered by this review, we received 124 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, Christianity and the Mission. Of these:


6 dealt with Anti-Missionary Attitudes

16 dealt with Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christians

 7 dealt with Jewish-Christian Relations 

7 dealt with Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Jesus

10 dealt with Book/Film/Exhibition reviews

6 dealt with Christian Tourism

1 dealt with Christian Support of Israel

7 dealt with Messianic Jews


The remaining 62 articles dealt with different matters of Jewish or Christian interest.



Anti-Missionary Attitudes

Yom L’Yom Dec. 22, 2005; Globes Jan. 4, 2006; Yated Ne’eman Jan. 5, 2006


The Shas magazine Yom L’Yom (Dec. 22) runs a fictional tale about a Jewish boy who during the Second World War was passed into “the clutches of the mission…where there were about 200 other children who were captives.” The story says, “Very quickly the nuns cut off his pe’ot, and put a huge cross around his neck.” It describes him as “a prisoner” who “felt revulsion when he saw the statute of ‘let-his-name-and-memory-be-erased’ (Jesus) in his room.” Later, upon hearing the news that his rich father had died, the boy was “faced with the decision of burying him in a Jewish cemetery and turning down his $25m inheritance, or letting him be buried in a Christian cemetery and inheriting the money.” The boy chose a Jewish burial in favour of a Christian burial and his inheritance.  


Israeli singer Rikki Gal is the subject of a TV programme reviewed in Globes (Jan. 4). In a brief biography Globes notes “Rikki Gal was born in Mea She’arim and later passed on by her mother to the mission, which in itself is a subject that requires considerable discussion.”


A feature about impoverished immigrants in the fledgling years following  the establishment of the State of Israel, tells about “kindergartens and day care” that were “opened by Bet Yakov in order to provide a shelter and shield from the mission” (Yated Ne’eman Jan. 5). The article says “innocent and poor children often openly received help from missionaries” and “missionaries were very content that with little effort on their part they successfully spread their wings over Jewish souls.”



Messianic Jews

Yediot Eilat Jan. 6, 2006; Iton HaZvi Arad Dec. 29, 2005


Yediot Eilat (Jan.6) has a three-page feature about “the Shelter” and the Messianic fellowship in Eilat. The article describes the events of a meeting and quotes in full a prayer said before the start of the meeting. The author, Lior Yada, notes, “They sing praise and worship to Yeshu and to God, apparently innocently, as if they don’t even know that they are in the conservative and zealous State of Israel.” In the article, Jesus is interchangeably referred to as “Yeshua” and “Yeshu” throughout. The author explains “The Messianic Jews call their prophet Yeshua or Joshua and not Yeshu, because they say it is a curse given to him by the Orthodox Jews.” It is noted, “according to their belief Messianic Jews have existed for 2000 years, since Yeshua rose from the dead” and “the first Messianic Jews were Yeshua’s disciples.” In describing the community life style of Messianic Jews the article says, “Contrary to the urban legend that Messianic Jews live together in a cultish closed group, the members are scattered around because the New Testament doesn’t command people to live in community.” Most Messianic congregations throughout the land are described as “being comprised of ‘converted Jews’ but others consist of Gentiles, but most congregations however are mixed.”  A man who is given the name “R” is quoted in full, explaining the Messianic claims of Jesus when asked the question, “why should a Jew believe in Yeshu?” A brief exposition of Isaiah 53 is also offered. Concerning the Eilat congregation it says, “Despite most of the members being born to a Jewish mother, Messianic Judaism is not considered a legitimate expression of Judaism, by most streams in Judaism except for some reformed Jews.” The article states that there are about 100 Messianic congregations in Israel and “names such as Nativiya, Hesed Ve’Emet, Tikvat Israel and Israel Chai do not arouse suspicion that they are any kind of a Christian mission.” The author says that the Messianic Jews “claim that they are not churches and they use Judaic terminology to minimize their identification with Christianity.” He also says “they refrain from having crosses in their buildings and in its place have symbols such as Star of David…they wear skull caps and prayer shawls and in their hands they hold Torah scrolls while praying to Yeshu the Christian.” The religious council in Eilat is “all too familiar with Messianic Jews” and the head of the council is quoted “I will personally make sure that they will not survive here.”


Iton HaTzi Arad (Dec.29) has a small update about the “continuing war” in the south between the “Messianics and Haredim.” The paper retells, “Many Haredim went wild when, they claim, they discovered that Messianics were baptising children into Christianity.” The article says that the Messianics “refuted the charges by saying they do not force anyone to convert to Christianity, whoever does that does so out of his own will.”




Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Christians

Ma’ariv Jan. 8, 10, 2006; Yediot Ahronot Jan. 2, 3, 6, 2006; HaAretz English & Hebrew Editions Jan. 6, 2006; HaAretz English & Hebrew Editions Dec. 30, 2005; Ma’ariv Jan. 6; 2006


Ma’ariv (Jan. 8) reports about a Haredi pirate radio station that announced a “new Halacha (Jewish law) ruling” that “forbids Jews to rent out their property to unmarried people and Christians.” The ruling, issued by the Chief Rabbi of Safed, Mordechai Eliyahu, says “concerning ‘goys’ there is a difference between Muslims and Christians, It is permissible to rent property to ‘Ishmaels’ but not to Christians.” According to Rabbi Eliyahu “Muslims believe in one God, unlike Christians who believe in the Trinity and say that Yeshu is God, worship graven images and are considered idol worshippers.” In an opinion piece in the same paper (Ma’ariv Jan. 10) Gad Shomron states satirically “if the situation was reversed and a Polish bishop gave an order not to rent to Jews then the public outcry would be huge.” He says, “if such a thing would happen in Poland, France or any other place, then the religious leader would be impeached, his salary stopped and the cabinet would convene in emergency.” He concludes, “Regarding racism… what applies to other countries obviously dot not apply to Israel.”


The largest tabloid Yediot Ahronot (Jan. 3) features a news story about a Jewish Israeli who was attacked in the streets on his way to a January New Year party. The article says that Alexi Shtukin was attacked in front of his small daughter in Tel Aviv “all because he was dressed as Santa Claus.” The report also says that “after beating him up the riotous youths yelled ‘a Christian is dead.’”


Both the Hebrew and English editions of HaAretz (Jan. 6) feature the story of Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest, who has “dedicated himself to the task of locating mass graves where Jewish victims of the Holocaust were buried,” so that “after location the bodies can be given a Jewish burial.” In endeavouring to obtain information from the local Ukrainians, Father Desbois says, “I definitely take advantage of the fact that I’m a priest.” The paper notes that Father Desbois currently works with Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, “who was born a Jew to a family that was destroyed in the Holocaust.” It is also reported that he “studies Hebrew…has many Israeli friends and feels right at home on his frequent visits to Israel.” 


Another article appears in both editions of HaAretz (Dec. 30) concerning the adoption of January 1st as the beginning of the New Year. The paper says, “January was the day in which according to Church tradition, Jesus was circumcised.” It goes on to say “the church prohibited celebrations as they were seen as pagan customs, and maybe also because on that day Jesus joined the Covenant of Abraham, something the church was not eager to remind its faithful about.”


In a satirical piece by Israeli celebrity Ya’ir Lapid (Yediot Ahronot Jan. 6) he says “its clear to me that there are many denominations in Christianity… but how is it that have they bickered among themselves for 1500 years and no one has asked Shimon Peres to intervene?”


In a review of the events of the year 2005, Eldar Beck of Yediot Ahronot (Jan. 2) comments on the election of Pope Benedict XVI. “He might not be a revolutionary, but he is continuing with the late Pope John Paul’s reforms and strengthening interfaith dialogue. He also did not hesitate to condemn terrorism.” Beck concludes “his humble personality has succeeded in capturing the hearts of million of believers world wide, and young people already count him as a superstar.”


In a short review about the Hebrew translation of C.S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Jan 6) Ma’ariv says, “The novel is a Christian allegory where Aslan is Yeshu, who died for His people and rose again, the witch is the anti-Christ and Edmund is Judas Iscariot.” The article notes, “Christians in the US warmly recommend the movie which has its own degree of magic, but the same people will denounce Harry Potter for the very same reasons.”



Jewish-Christian Relations

Makor Rishon Dec. 30, 2005


According to a report in Makor Rishon (Dec. 30) Israel’s relationship with the Christian world is “undergoing a positive revolution, mainly because Christians in Arab countries are being persecuted.” The article says, “The Catholic Church is extending warmth and friendship to Israel as are the Protestants.” Makor Rishon notes however, “the relationship with the pro-Israel lobby in the US is not without its difficulties” and “the most negative event of the year was the release of the movie The Passion.” 



Israeli/Jewish Attitudes about Jesus

Globes Jan. 6, 2006; Makor Rishon Dec. 30, 2005


Globes (Jan. 6) has a small column explaining the significance of Epiphany in the Christian calendar. The article says “epiphany commemorates the revelation of the Holy Spirit to Yeshu” and also “is according to Christian tradition the day when John the Baptist baptised Yeshu.” It is also noted that Epiphany “marks the appearance of the three kings to the baby Yeshu.”


A two-page feature in the religious newspaper Makor Rishon (Dec. 30) entitled “That Man” writes “in light of Christian tourists flocking to Bethlehem, now is the time to pay attention to the Jewishness of Yeshu the Christian.”  The article points out “it was only tens of years after Yeshu’s death, in the time of Paul, that Christianity become a religion.” The article says “among the Protestant thinkers the attitudes towards the Jewishness of Yeshu is different than Catholics.” According to Makor Rishon “influential and renowned German Biblical scholar, Julius Wellhausen is noted to have concluded that Yeshu was a Jew” and “He didn’t start a new religion.” The late Israeli Jewish scholar David Flusser is also singled out to have concluded “Yeshu was a Jew and did not oppose Judaism.” One of Flusser’s points is summarised “Yeshu’s disciples, the first Jewish Christians, serve as proof that Yeshu had no intention of deviating from a Jewish life style” and “his life was lived in the spirit of Halacha.”



Book/Film/Exhibition Reviews

Yediot Ahronot Dec. 28, 2005; Makor Rishon Dec. 30, 2005; Yediot Ahronot Jan. 6, 2006


“Pirchay HaAfela, Aharon Appelfeld – (Flowers of Despair), Keter Publishing.” Israel Prize winner Aharon Appelfeld’s new book is set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and follows the escapades of a Ukrainian prostitute who “is in some respects a true Christian who saves a Jewish boy despite endangering her own life.” The Yediot Ahronot (Jan. 6) review describes the developing physical relationship between the prostitute and the boy and says “although in this respect she may not be classed as a saint, it is often simple people like this who demonstrate true Christian mercies.” The author concludes, “There is nothing quite like a drop of Christian mercy to sweeten the suffering that people cause each other.”


“Meshal HaQadmoni, Fables From the Distant Past” – Isaac Ibn Sahula- translated by Dr Raphael Loewe, Oxford Press. Makor Rishon (Dec. 30) notes “The work is a presentation of the world of Sephardic Jewry in thirteenth century Spain and a work of art making this world more accessible to wider audiences.” It is two volumes of fables with parallel English and Hebrew text. The volumes “comprise moral debates rich in contemporary satire,” and also come with “full explanatory notes, scholarly apparatus and complete sets of illustrations from the Rothschild manuscript and the 1547 Venice edition.”


Under the heading “In bed with Yeshu,” Nazareth Arab-born Noel Jabbour’s photo exhibition is reviewed in Yediot Ahronot (Jan. 6). Jabbour “who poses as Mary Magdalene is naked in six of the seven photos, with only her long hair covering herself up.” Israeli art critique Ruti Direktor says, “The exhibition is thrilling, romantic and mystical.”


“Targum HaShivim Le Sefer BeReshit” – (The Septuagint for the book of Genesis), Bar Ilan University Press. A first-ever back translation into Hebrew from the Greek Septuagint of the Book of Genesis is reviewed in HaAretz (Jan. 4). Lecturer for Biblical Studies in Bar Ilan University, Michael AviOz says, “The author hopes that through his research he will be able to determine and understand differences between the Septuagint and the Masoretic text.” Although Genesis 22:13 is marked out as differing in the texts, “the most detailed discussions in the book deal with differences in genealogy and chronology.” HaAretz concludes “the book will be very useful for people involved in textual research and for anyone interested in the translations but with no knowledge of Greek.” 


Different Matters of Jewish or Christian Interest

HaAretz Jan. 8, 2006; Yediot Ahronot Jan. 6, 8, 2006


Both HaAretz (Jan. 6) and Yediot Ahronot (Jan. 8) reflected on some reactions from the Christian community concerning the deteriorating health of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Yediot Ahronot reports, “The Vatican’s Foreign Minister, Monsignor Giovanni, wishes to express solidarity with the State of Israel and her people in the light of the condition of Ariel Sharon.” Monsignor Giovanni described Prime Minister Sharon as “a central figure in the peace process.” The paper says, “Pope Benedict XVI and other priests are praying for Sharon.” The Jan. 8 edition of HaAretz reports, “Christian TV preacher and American Evangelical Pat Robertson says, “Sharon’s stroke happened because of divine intervention following the disengagement from Gaza.” Daniel Aylon, the Israeli ambassador in Washington is reported to “compare Robertson’s words with the outrageous outbursts of the Iranian president” calling them “shocking.” HaAretz concludes by quoting Aylon; “Robertson is a dear friend of Israel and Sharon, so therefore I am very surprised (by his remarks.)”