September 18 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review………….September 18, 2006


During the week covered by this review, we received 44 articles on the subjects of the Pope and the Vatican, anti-Semitism, archaeology, missionary activity, Christians in Israel, and culture. Of these:


  • 29 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
  • 1 dealt with archaeology
  • 2 dealt anti-Semitism
  • 1 dealt with missionary activity
  • 3 dealt with Christians in Israel
  • 2 dealt with Madonna
  • 1dealt with Christians in the Holocaust
  • 1 dealt with freedom of religion
  • 1 was a book review

The remaining 3 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.

The overwhelming theme – 27 articles – of this week’s review was, very predictably, devoted to the Pope’s speech at Regensburg and the reactions and responses it generated. While the speech induced further coverage, including Muslim outrage, the Pope’s and the Vatican’s own explanations, other Christian responses, Jewish reactions, European and worldwide political comment, it also provoked Palestinian protest, which directly affected the local Christian population.


The Pope and the Vatican

Jerusalem Post: 8 articles

Haaretz: 3 articles (English and Hebrew editions)

Yediot Aharanot: 2 articles

Ma’ariv: 3 articles

Yated Ne’eman: 7 articles

Hatzofeh: 3 articles

Israeli: 1 article


With the exception of one article reporting on the Pope’s visit to his home town and the graves of his parents and sister (Jerusalem Post, September 14) and another on his revision of the Church’s policy of interfaith dialogue (Haaretz, September 13), the Israeli media coverage of the Pope concerned his allegedly anti-Muslim speech in Regensburg from all possible angles. The Pope himself asserted that his quote from Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus – “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached” – did not represent his personal view, a statement backed up by his call for dialogue at the conclusion of the speech. While the Vatican and many European leaders insisted that the Pope’s words had been “ripped” out of context, the Muslim world was universally outraged.

The Muslim reaction will not be covered here. It did have direct implications for Israel, however, in the Palestinian reaction by the attacks on churches in Gaza and the West Bank. While some sources (HaTzofeh, September 18; Ma’ariv, September 18) suggested that the events were a continuation of the “agitation in the Palestinian Authority against the Christian world,” most of the media covering the events linked them directly with Muslim reaction to the Pope’s speech [see also below]. Significantly, not all the churches affected were Catholic. [For the local Christian responses, see below.] Responsibility for one of the Gaza attacks was claimed by an hitherto unknown group calling itself “The Swords of Islamic Right,” whom the Jerusalem Post reported as threatening to “blow up all churches and Christian institutions in the Gaza Strip to protest [the] remarks made by [the] Pope” (September 17). The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, on the other hand, denounced the hostility, announcing that such unfortunate incidents “would not influence the unity of the Palestinian community” (Yated Ne’eman, September 18, pp. 5, 8).

A huge demonstration was held in Um al-Fahm under the title “Al Aksa in danger.” The approximately 50,000 participants were treated to a speech by the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, in which he declared that “Very soon Jerusalem will become the capital of a new Islamic Caliphate and the Caliph will reside in the city” (Israeli, September 17). The Sheikh linked his remarks directly to the Pope’s speech, declaiming that, according to the report in Ma’ariv (September 17), “Such declarations unfortunately call the people of Europe to unite behind the American-Zionist position” – which the Sheikh defined as hostile “to everything Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian.”

Jewish reactions to the Pope’s words were also not lacking. Two of the most reasoned came in an interview in the Jerusalem Post (September 15). Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee and the ADL’s co-liason with the Vatican responded, “It is very sad that the Pope cannot even make a reference to a historical text without it leading to violence.” Father David Neuhaus – a Hebrew-speaking Catholic living in Jerusalem – added: “The Pope’s speech was about how there was no room for violence in the relationship between reason and faith … The violent reaction was out of proportion … But I believe that all religious peoples are hypersensitive because of Western culture’s highly anti-religious attitude and lack of tolerance.”

Meron Rapoport in the English edition of Haaretz (September 17) declared that the speech was an “embarrassment” due to factual error and insensitivity. He suggested two possible explanations, given that the Pope is said to write his own speeches: “If so, why did he say these things? Perhaps out of political inexperience … Perhaps he was unaware of the consequences his remarks would bring.” The second related to the Pope’s intentionality: “But maybe this was a calculated move. A few months ago, when the issue of Turkey’s accession to the European Union was mentioned, Pope Benedict opposed it in the name of preserving Europe’s Christian character. A few months ago he downgraded the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and merged it with the Council for Culture. Now talk is of reciprocity: Europe cannot provide religious freedom to Muslims when the Muslim world does not give Christians religious freedom.”

Yated Ne’eman’s (September 18, p. 13) author agreed, on more Jewish grounds: “The Pope’s words in defaming Islam were not spoken in wisdom. The western world is already suffering from a wave of Muslim violence and there was no need to fan the flames.” But his “central point” related to the fact that, as the head of Christendom, the Pope was the “last person who could preach morality to Muslims …The Jewish people have a long account with Christian extremism, which has brought about the terrible massacre of hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the Christian world.”

  1. HaLevi, in the same paper (September 18, p. 7), following a review of Muslim reactions, asked the question: “How does all this relate to Israel?” His answer reflects a general principle almost universally noted by Israelis: there is no connection, but one will be invented. He cites the editorial of an Iranian paper which claimed that “essentially those who dictated the Pope’s speech were … of course … America and Israel. ‘We’re speaking here of things which the Zionists and the Americans wrote and presented to him.’” The purpose? To divert attention from Israel’s defeat at the hands of Hizbullah towards Muhammad and Muslim violence. The editorial continues to argue that the Pope cannot express his opinion concerning other religions “because of his silence and the silence of the Church in the face of what the Zionists are doing to the Palestinians.”

Ma’ariv (September 18) inserted a somewhat ironic piece suggesting the advice Israel should give both to Muslims and Christians: “To the Muslims: In your place we wouldn’t have forgiven the Pope. And it’s not just the Pope, it’s the feeling in the Christian world. You’re being made an object of contempt, being disrespected. And you are a people of honor. You can’t keep quiet now. It’s a Christian-Muslim war. You have to prove to them that you can’t be humiliated … To the Christians: Who are these Muslims anyway? What right do they have to speak like that about the Pope, the most important figure in Christendom. And what did he say, anyway? A slip of the tongue. For that to humiliate all Christians and to make him apologize? Such humiliation of the Pope – the symbol of Christianity – has never been done! You need at least a new crusade here against the Muslims … To the Jews: what fun, heh?


Christians in Israel

Ma’ariv, September 18; Jerusalem Post, September 18, 2006

The situation of Christians in Israel and the surrounding region was covered quite extensively in the Israeli press during this period. A lengthy article appeared in Ma’ariv (September 18) entitled “Guarding their tongue” – a reference to the silence and discretion kept by Christians in the face of harassment and persecution by their Muslim neighbors. The subtitle encapsulated the circumstances in which the local Christian communities currently find themselves: “Last week five Muslims beat a Christian boy. We’re scared. They have knives and pistols and they can do what they like. They can simply kill you if you don’t speak nicely to them ▪ The Christians in the Palestinian Authority are afraid for their lives ▪ Long before the Pope’s speech they felt persecuted because of their faith ▪ Now they are looking to emigrate on humanitarian grounds.” According to Christians in Ramallah interviewed by the Jerusalem Post (September 18), “‘We’re living in fear,’ said a Christian shopkeeper. ‘My children are afraid that the Muslim extremists will come to burn our house. They can’t sleep.’” Another woman employed by the PA stated: “The feeling here is very bad and many Christians are afraid … I don’t understand why Palestinians are the only ones doing such ugly things. How come we don’t have these attacks in other Arab and Islamic countries?”





Haaretz, September 12, 17, 2006

In a report looking at the influence of the war in the North on the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide, Haaretz (September 12) indicated that research conducted demonstrated that “the number of Muslims in Europe holding prejudicial views towards Jews was 8 times higher than amongst Christians,” and that other surveys conducted in Muslim countries indicated that there, “huge numbers held anti-Semitic views.” The same paper, in its archive section (September 17), noted that a church-wide protest took place in 1965 with a ten-minute ringing of bells, objecting to a Vatican document “releasing the Jews from responsibility for the crucifixion of Yeshu of Nazareth.”


Christians in the Holocaust

HaTzofeh, September 18, 2006

The Catholic Church continued to be in the Israeli news not merely in relation to the Pope’s speech but also in its honoring of a Righteous among the Gentiles. The religious paper HaTzofeh (September 18) included a brief notice of the ceremony honoring the memory of Sara Zalkhazi [a transliteration from the Hebrew; the European spelling may well be quite different], a Hungarian woman who saved “tens of Jews” during the Holocaust in Hungary.


Missionary activity

HaModia, September 15, 2006

An article in HaModia (September 15) reported that in the “framework of guidance to messianic youth” a missionary newspaper had inserted a section of “questions and answers” which revolved around the issue “How do you deal with a member of ‘Yad L’Achim’ who exposes your activity and interferes with your work?” The author concludes that the mere presence of the article and the raising of the question in the paper reflected “the constant pressure under which the missionary sects and the messianic congregations in Israel labor” [as a result of Yad L’Achim’s successful efforts]. Assuming that the article was indeed composed of questions and answers, HaModia asserted that “the responses to the questions were many and varied” – even though they any lacked successful strategies, since they all acknowledged that Yad L’Achim had an answer to every missionary objection. It also deduced from the number of replies “the widespread presence of the messianic congregations … from Haifa in the North to Beer Sheva in the south.”

Although the Media Review does not usually respond to articles such as these, in this case we thought it instructive to give the reader the “other side” of the picture. The article in question was published by HaChotam – indeed in one of their youth magazines (Mashehu Acher, no. 30, Summer 2006). It was not, however, a “question and answer” feature but part of an ongoing series of a study of Romans by Johnny Khouri. The reference to Yad L’Achim occurred in his commentary on Rom. 12:14, 13:8-10, which carried the heading “Our attitude to those persecuting us.” Khouri’s explanation, in translation, read: “Shaul relates to the messianic attitude to those who persecute us. Perhaps the title of the article [“Love, God, and Yad L’Achim …”] may seem strange to you, but if we summarize what Shaul says in verses 14, 17-321 and 13:8-10, we see that we have to love even the members of Yad L’Achim.”

As is frequently the case, HaModia’s article demonstrates more about Yad L’Achim’s own presuppositions, miscomprehension, and intent than giving accurate information concerning the “missionary sects and messianic congregations” about whom they write. Two other things are of interest (and accurate) in the article: the regular use of the term “messianic congregations” and the deduction that these congregations are spread throughout Israel.



Haaretz, September 12; Yediot Aharonot, September 18, 2006

Religion was treated on a much “lighter note” in two notices during this week. In a letter to Haaretz (September 12), a correspondent reminded the readership that the Ministries of Immigration and Absorption and that of Culture and Sport were advising Israelis on ways of observing the month of Elul, known as the month for mercy and forgiveness: by attending concerts at the monastery at Latrun on shabbatot (Saturdays), “to listen to music and drink from the monastery’s wine.” In addition, on the Jewish New Year they were urging people to attend similar concerts both at Latrun and the Church of St. John in Haifa, to enjoy Mozart’s Requiem and Ramirez’s Missa Criola.


From the ridiculous to the sublime: Barbie and Bratz dolls are facing opposition, according to a report in Yediot Aharonot (September 18), from two biblical figures, Moses and Jesus. The website <> is marketing alternatives to the secular toy versions, with a rag-doll-like 30 cm. Yeshua spouting such verses as “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” and “This is my commandment, that you love one another” from the Tanakh (Isa. 54:10; Jer. 29:11) and the New Testament when a red heart on his chest is pushed. “These are just two examples of the “torah” which the children are absorbing while they clasp the dolls to their chests,” commented the article’s author. The other choice is Moses, with a gray beard and two soft cushions representing the tablets of the covenant. Pressing on Moses’ “heart” produces a recitation of the Ten Commandments. For the girls: Queen Esther, who recites verses from her book. Future figures are expected to include King David, Jonah, and Noah. And as a sign of the times, the article concludes with the question: “And, we ask, what about a Muhammed doll?