August 14 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review……………….. August 14, 2006


During the week covered by this review, we received 23 articles on the subjects of Christians in Israel, anti-missionaries, archaeology, Yeshua, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:

  • 4 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
  • 1 dealt with archaeology
  • 3 dealt with anti-missionary activities
  • 1 dealt with Yeshua’s name
  • 4 dealt with Mel Gibson
  • 1 book review

The remaining 9 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish or Christian interest.

While the period under review continued to remain in a state of war, the situation in the north was far less reflected in the media, the press concentrating to a far greater degree on foreign issues. The two persons in this respect who received most prominent attention were the Pope and Mel Gibson.


The Pope and the Vatican

Eastern Mediterranean Tourism, June 1; Jerusalem Post, August 6; Haaretz (English edition), August 2; Haaretz, August 2, 2006

In light of the war, the Jerusalem Post (August 6) reported that the Pope called “on Christians and others to mobilize against the widening warfare in the Middle East” on the grounds that war “doesn’t bring good for anybody … We know that well in Europe, following two World Wars.”

In connection with the Second World War, the opening of the Vatican’s archives has garnered much attention in the Israeli media. The English edition of Haaretz (August 2) – a translation of the Hebrew version – entitled its four-column article “Countdown to the Holocaust: “The Archive of Pius XI will be opened this fall, shedding light on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.” According to the historian Alberto Melloni, the period covered by Pius XI’s archives (1921-1939) was “calmer” than that of his successor and will therefore enable historians and others to examine the question of “to what extent the Pope reflected the general mood and the prevalence of the approach he represented as an important component of European history.” While the documents relating to the Church and Nazi Germany have been available for some time, this archive, in Melloni’s words, will reveal more about “the internal debate in the Church, about the various opinions expressed in the Vatican regarding the Italian racial laws … or regarding the entrenchment of fascism and Nazism.”

Following the success of the Pope John Paul’s visit to Israel in 2000, the Eastern Mediterranean Tourism (June 1) reports that his successor, Benedict XVI, is due to visit Israel “in the first half of 2007.” The visit is apparently being organized by the Minister of Tourism, Isaac Herzog who, at his meeting with the Papal Nuncio, also suggested Israel as the venue for the next World Conference of Bishops. Both events would, in Herzog’s opinion, “further strengthen relations between Israel and Christian leaders.”


Christians in Israel

HaModia, August 1, 2006

While the war is affecting many people throughout Israel, Christians in Judaea and Samaria have received a special exemption from the closure imposed on the territories due to the situation – specifically in order to “reach prayer sites within Israel” (HaModia, August 1).



Eretz v’Teva, July 1, 2006

The excavation of the archaeological site in Megiddo jail – the ancient Jewish village of Kfar Othnai – which exposed a mosaic carrying an inscription explicitly citing “Yeshua [Jesus] Cristus Son of God, savior” was commemorated on an Israeli stamp in honor of an international philatelic exhibition which took place in May (Eretz v’Teva, July 1). Another colored Byzantine mosaic was discovered in the vicinity of Neveh Shalom near Latrun. In its center was a meter-wide medallion enclosing a large red and black cross. According to Christian tradition, the journal noted, Latrun is to be identified with Emmaus, where Yeshua revealed himself to two of his disciples.


Jesus – Yeshu/Yeshua

Ma’ariv, August 4, 2006

The pronunciation of Yeshua’s (Jesus’) name in Hebrew is a continual source of controversy. In Maariv’s Musaf l’Shabbat (Saturday supplement), in a response section dealing with the question of whether a translation may be criticized without reading the actual source, a reader sent a letter in which he brought Yeshua’s name as an example (Ma’ariv, August 4). In his words, “The name of the crucified one in Hebrew is Yeshua. The choice of this form over the spoken and incorrect ‘Yeshu’ is worthy of further discussion (in general, the use of ‘Yeshu’ is considered to belong to a low standard of language), and it is certainly mistaken to make such a hurried, definitive decision either on the Internet or outside of it.”


Anti-missionary activities

Sha’ah Tovah, June 23; HaModia, August 4; Zman Haifa, August 4, 2006

The religious press in the weekly paper Sha’ah Tovah (June 23) noted Yad L’Achim’s protest against a Messianic channel broadcast on satellite TV which was reported in the previous review.

Likewise, HaModia (August 4) continued to report Yad L’Achim’s complaint that missionaries were exploiting the war in the north by visiting the inhabitants, dispensing aid, and disseminating missionary material. Yad L’Achim’s response was to issue books of Psalms, send a letter of warning and strengthening, and distribute candy and toys.

While the Rabbis of Haifa, one of the cities directly threatened by the katyusha rockets, assembled together and endeavored to put an end to the attack by holding hands and praying together that no rockets would fall on Haifa, Zman Haifa (August 4) also noted that the so-called missionaries were visiting those confined to their bomb shelters and giving out New Testaments.



Globes, August 3; Ma’ariv, August 3; Yediot Aharonot, August 4, 6, 2006 

Mel Gibson’s latest encounter with the Jewish community, like his earlier film one, has generated much reaction in the Israeli press. Globes (August 3) reported that Gibson had directed his apology for his anti-Semitic remarks on his arrest for drunken driving to the Jewish community and asked for their help in kicking his habit. In response, while Abraham Foxman considered the possibility that the apology was insincere, he was willing to engage with Gibson once the latter has dealt with his drinking problem. A local Rabbi has invited Gibson to pray with the community on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Similarly mixed responses from the American Jewish community were noted in Ma’ariv (August 3), under the headline “American Jews: ‘Let Gibson kick his alcohol and racist problems.’” The paper indicated that the harshest reaction came from an interview between two New York Times journalists. The interviewee, Leon Winstler, stated in the interview: “I have always wondered why people – like Gibson – who claim that we [the Jews] rule the world, don’t grant us greater respect. Does Gibson really think that the Jewish policeman who arrested him did so by accident? The truth is that we, the Jews, have been watching Gibson for a long time, and waiting for an opportunity to take revenge on him for his film ‘The Passion of Yeshu.’”

Having explained what occurred, Yediot Aharonot (August 6) succinctly summed up its opinion of the event. On being interviewed, the reporter responded to the pretext provided that Gibson et al were “merely” drunk and out of control of themselves: “Fine, they were drunk. But why didn’t they lash out at Indonesians, Nigerians, Ukrainians? Why Jews?”


Book Review

Haaretz, August 4, ‏2006

Yitzhak Lazar reviewed Karen Armstrong’s book The History of God. Armstrong’s historical “biography” begins with God’s “birth” in the Fertile Crescent in the fortieth century b.c.e. and ends with his apparent “death” in Europe, between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Since, however, the rumor was too early and too arrogant, there is still much to talk about in the wake of his so-called demise. While Armstrong’s expertise is more in the area of Islam, her argument can be said to lobby for interfaith understanding. According to the reviewer, the best chapters in the book relate to Islam and to Judaism under Islam. Her treatment of Christianity is best, in Lazar’s view, in regard to the Reformation.