Caspari Center Media Review………….August 28, 2006
During the week covered by this review, we received 21 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, the Pope and the Vatican, Christianity, Christian Zionism, missionary and anti-missionary activities, and Christians in Israel. Of these:
- 1 was an interview with a Messianic Jew
- 2 dealt with the Pope
- 2 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 2 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 5 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- 1 dealt with the World Council of Churches
- 1 dealt with the Da Vinci code
The remaining 7 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish or Christian interest.
Globes Magazine, August 11, 2006
Globes Magazine carries a regular column profiling various figures and personalities under the general title “People Meter.” The column’s subtitle gives a definition of the person’s profession, under which appears his/her name, age, family status, and occupation. On August 11, the person chosen was characterized under the heading “Missionary” and named Dan Sered, aged 27, married with two children. His profession was listed as “founder and chairperson of the Israel branch of ‘Jews for Jesus.’ Lives in Gush Dan [central Israel].”
The (unnamed) interviewer opened with the direct question, “First of all, why Yeshua? I thought that his name was Yeshu [see previous Media Review]. Following his explanation that “the Rabbis have forbidden remembrance of his real name, in order to break the connection [between Yeshua (salvation) and ‘moshia’ (savior’) – cf. Mt. 1:21], Sered launched into a description of the Jews for Jesus campaign currently being run in New York. The interviewer was more interested in Sered’s personal experience: “However did you become a believer in Yeshua?” Sered explained that he was born to a secular Jewish Israeli family who moved to New York, where Sered received most of his education, also tutoring students in mathematics. Not satisfied and/or impatient, the interviewer intervened, “And then Yeshua appeared?” Sered’s answer was, “yes and no.” In consequence of his tutoring classes, he met Dina, a Jewish believer. “I became curious, and after several meetings and study of the Tanakh (the Old Testament), the real life-style penetrated into me, and I accepted Yeshua as my Lord.” (And also Dina as his wife.)
The following questions focused on the reaction of Sered’s family and friends to his new belief – his family eventually threw him out of the house, his true friends accept him as he is. A more standard question – “what would you change in your life” – came next, to which Sered answered that were it in his power, “I would like more Israelis and Jews in the world to believe in Yeshua.” His greatest dream? To carry out the sort of evangelistic campaign in Israel as in New York. Seeking a more personal response, the interviewer then proposed another characteristic question: what would Sered do with a million dollars? Again, the answer – and the money – went to the campaign and Jews for Jesus. The actual 64 million dollar question came in the form of “What is the most important thing in your life” – to which Sered’s response was unequivocally “Yeshua, of course. He is the teacher, the Way, the Messiah. And, of course, my wife and children.”
Messianic and anti-missionary activity
Sha’ah Tova, June 30, pp. 14, 32; Yom L’Yom, June 29; Mishpaha, June 29; HaModia, August 8, 2006
The situation in Arad continues to gain coverage in the Israeli press. Sha’ah Tova (June 30, p. 14), HaMishpaha (June 29), and Yom L’Yom (June 30) all reported on the court proceedings, in which the judge denied the Messianic community’s request to impose a restraining order on Yad L’Achim protesters. During the proceedings, evidence from a video reputedly demonstrating a “missionary” violently attacking a Yad L’Achim member was exhibited. The Messianic community was ordered to pay the court costs (2500 NIS) and warned not to approach the court with similar requests in the future.
Sha’ah Tova (June 20, p. 32) also noted that the presence of a group of “missionaries” had been detected in Mea Shearim, whereupon the “tourists were attacked, the police intervened, and a great disturbance erupted.”
In the case involving the use of a public school by a Messianic aid organization calling itself “Valley Gate” in Rishon L’Zion [see previous Review], HaModia (August 18) reported that immediately following Yad L’Achim’s proclamation against the group, members of the Valley Gate first telephoned Yad L’Achim to ask that the publications be removed and then forcibly entered Yad L’Achim’s head offices in Bnei Brak where they began shouting and making threats. Yad L’Achim’s head, Rabbi Shalom Lifshitz, immediately asked the “missionaries” to deny their faith in Yeshua, “knowing,” in the words of the paper, that “the mission forbids the making of such a declaration, even at the cost of danger.” According to the paper, having issued further violent threats, the “missionaries” promptly disappeared when Rabbi Lifshitz summoned the police.
Israeli Jewish Press, July; Jerusalem Post, 18 August, 2006
Christian Zionism is not all a matter of financial funding. The Israeli Jewish Press (18 August) reported that when MK Yuri Shtern’s brain tumor diagnosis was made public, “a massive e-mail campaign among Evangelical Christians worldwide [was sparked], who have launched days of prayer and fasting on his behalf.” According to David Decker of Covenant Alliance, a Jerusalem-based Christian Zionist organization, “Yuri Shtern is one of the top five Jewish leaders in Israel known to Evangelical Christians the world over … This is the land of miracles and we need another one.”
A Jewish reader in California, in a letter to the Jerusalem Post (August 18), summed up his view of Christian Zionism in terms to which many of their number would subscribe: “The truth is that ECZ [Evangelical Christian Zionists – apparently the writer’s own coinage], who know the Hebrew Bible better than most Jews, look upon modern Zionism as the fulfillment of promises made by God numerous times in the books of the Hebrew prophets: that He would at some future time return His people to the land which He had given to them. Hence modern Zionism demonstrates that God is alive and keeps His promises.”
Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2006
The World Council of Churches – an umbrella organization representing more than 340 Protestant churches and denominations – recently sent a three-member delegation composed of a Protestant, Catholic, and WCC official to Beirut, “intended to show solidarity with the people in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories,” according to the Jerusalem Post (August 17). Its findings, supported by a joint statement by the council and other sponsoring bodies, indicated that “this destruction [by Israel in and of Lebanon] was planned. And if the action by Hizbullah was the trigger, this was a planned operation all ready to go.” According to the delegation, “There was no sign that the Israeli government noticed the presence of a delegation from the World Council of Churches, whereas (Lebanese) Prime Minister (Fuad) Siniora insisted on receiving us and stressed the importance of a spiritual message in these days of crises.” At a news conference, one of the delegation’s members declared that ‘Israel would not want the existence of a democratic Lebanon where Jews, Christians, and Muslims were peacefully living side by side, because it does not want to see its neighbor state succeeding in what Israel is unsuccessfully trying to achieve.”
Christians in Israel
Kol HaDarom, August 18; HaModia, August 18, 2006
The local paper Kol HaDarom (August 11) interviewed two members of the “French Protestant Federation” which has a branch in Ashdod. Its leader, Jacques Elbaz, who considers himself and the members of the organization to be Israelis [it is unclear whether they are, or whether they are Jewish], maintained that he represents an officially-recognized organization with groups in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Although it possesses links with the Messianic movement, the interview suggests that the organization does not define itself as part of the Israeli Messianic community.
The Ultra-Orthodox community in Ashdod, which is one of the most populous in the country, on the other hand, does associate the FPC with the Messianic community, and accuses them outright of missionary activity. “What did their parents believe in? They believed in the Holy One, blessed be He, in our teacher Moses, and in Torat Israel (the law of Israel). But these, they are the fruit of the mission … Messianic Jews are known to have as their purpose the drawing of more and more Jews to this faith … Maybe they [the FPC] do not evangelize openly, but that is their purpose.”
In response to such attacks, the members of the FPC interviewed – Elbaz and the secretary, Tal – both emphasize the fact that Israelis do not necessarily need to be Jews: “What is a Jew? The tribe of Judah … This is a democratic country of Israelis, and there are Arabs, Druse, Jews and non-Jews. I can choose [what I want to be].”
Under the sub-heading, “Another matter of interest,” HaModia (August 18) reported on the state of the Christian community in Lebanon and the Middle East in general as characterized in the French Christian paper Le Courier. The traditional attitude of the Vatican, so this Vatican-sponsored paper claims, was to keep the Christian profile in the region as inconspicuous as possible, in order to avoid arousing persecution. This approach, it appears, is changing – towards one which identifies Islam and the radical Muslim community as the Christian communities’ greatest threat. One example of the new attitude is said to be the Vatican’s Head of Foreign Affairs chief’s declaration that the Church must “exercise a clear and bold stance in order to strengthen Christian identity …We know very well that radical Islam is exploiting everything which is understood as a sign of weakness.” This line continues his predecessor’s claim that Christians in the Middle East are becoming second-class citizens because “Islam is more determined.”
The Vatican and the Pope
HaModia, August 18, 2006; Jerusalem Post, August 15; Tzomet HaSharon, August 11, 2006
While the Pope has denounced the violence in the region, following his declaration of a planned visit to Brazil for the Fifth Latin American Bishops’ Conference in May, the Pope announced that “Then I’d like to visit the Holy Land, and I hope to visit it in a time of peace” (Jerusalem Post, August 15).
In just such a time of peace, Livia Manos, a sculptress who recently left her kibbutz in order to devote herself to her art, created a bronze statue of “Yeshu and his disciples,” which – according to the local paper Tzomet HaSharon (August 11) – was presented to the late Pope as a gift when he visited Israel in 2000.