Caspari Center Media Review………….September 25, 2006
During the week covered by this review, we received 74 articles on the subjects of the Pope and the Vatican, anti-Semitism, archaeology, missionary activity, Christian sites, and culture. Of these:
- 43 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
- 2 dealt with archaeology
- 2 dealt with Jerusalem
- 6 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- 7 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 1 dealt with Madonna
- 1 dealt with Jewish law
- 1 dealt with Al-Queida
- 3 dealt with Christian sites
- 3 dealt with Christian media
- 1 dealt with Hans Herzl
- 2 dealt with interfaith
The remaining 2 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
The overwhelming theme – 27 articles – of this week’s review continued to be the Pope’s speech at Regensburg. Much comment was expended in the Israeli press concerning the Pope’s motives, Muslim reaction, Palestinian responses, and other political commentaries – many articles cited from overseas papers. Two articles were also devoted to the opening of the Vatican archives from the pre-Holocaust era. In contrast, the anti-missionary topic was also revived, with a lengthy article detailing the history of Christian mission towards the Jews. This latter fact may perhaps reflect the feeling, expressed in several articles, that while the Jewish people and Israel are now “at war” with Islam rather than with Christianity, Christians have traditionally been – and continue to constitute – a significant threat to the Jewish nation.
The Pope and the Vatican
Jerusalem Post: 16 articles
Haaretz: 10 articles (English and Hebrew editions)
Yediot Aharanot: 1 article
Ma’ariv: 3 articles
Yated Ne’eman: 3 articles
Globes: 3 articles
Israeli: 2 articles
HaModia: 4 articles
These articles are divided into two categories, the first being the Pope’s “anti-Muslim” speech, the second, the opening on September 18 of the Vatican archives relating to the office of Pius 11 (1922-39) (see previous Reviews). Out of all the opinions, commentary, analysis, one headline stood out: “How can a person who is ‘infallible’ apologize?” (Israeli, September 17).
The Vatican archives include diplomatic letters, the Pope’s private correspondence, and other material. Ma’ariv (September 19) reported that in the first few hours following the official opening, around 50 researchers arrived at the Vatican seeking access to the documents. Yated Ne’eman (September 20) indicated that “most of the interest of Jewish historians will be directed towards the figure of Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later served as Pope Pius 12 from 1939-1958, and who was the previous Pope’s envoy in Berlin in the 1930’s.” While this material has now become accessible, details of the relations between the Vatican and “the murderous tyrants” who were Hitler’s allies, which are of great interest to historians, “despite requests from many researchers … have not yet been opened, and it is not clear when – if at all – this will happen.”
Yediot Aharanot, September 21; Globes, September 18, 2006
Following intelligence reports, the Israel Antiquities Authority recently discovered the remains of stolen mosaics 1,500 years old – which originally formed the floor of either a synagogue or church from the Roman-Byzantine period (4-6th centuries c.e.) (Globes, September 18). The Greek inscriptions on some of the pieces have been sent for decoding. [No reason is given in the article as to why it is assumed that the twenty pieces discovered had been stolen.]
According to Globes (September 18), what is considered to be the oldest church in the world – discovered in Megiddo jail and dated to the third or fourth centuries – is now buried under sand, due to lack of financial resources in the Antiquity’s budget to develop the church into an international tourist site. Without the necessary funds the Authority had no recourse other than to bury the remains under sand in order to preserve the ruins. The church contains the earliest inscription in Eretz Israel mentioning Yeshua’s name.
Although not in Israel, another recent archaeological find of interest was made in Ireland. A farmer digging in his field discovered a book of Psalms in Latin from the ninth or tenth centuries. Psalm 83 remained in its entirety, and while the Irish saw in this Psalm’s call for the destruction of the psalmist’s enemies an analogy to their own situation, there were Americans who perceived its discovery – at the very time when “From Sidon and Tyre, Israel’s sworn enemies, fire was going forth against her cities” – as a sign of the “eternal proof of the truths of the Old and New Testaments” (Yediot Aharanot, September 21).
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, September 18, 20; Haaretz, September 20, pp. 1, 3, 5, 2006
The indiscriminate nature of “war” (see previous Reviews) expresses itself not in only in military warfare but also in religious conflict. An article by Matthew Wagner in the Jerusalem Post (September 18) pointed out that non-Catholic denominations are being attacked equally with Catholic ones in the Middle East. “Blind rage has proven once again that it makes no distinctions. Anything with a cross is game for firebombing. No matter that the church is Anglican or Greek Orthodox.” Although he also pointed out that “for better or worse Christians in Israel have to get along with their Muslim neighbors because they have no other choice,” his argument was jointly addressed to the Jewish community. “Jews should be concerned as well, according to Rabbi David Rosen, head of Interfaith at the American Jewish Committee. ‘It would have been wise for Israel to overcome its prejudices and embrace the Christian communities,’ says Rosen. ‘Improving our relations with the Christians would be especially advantageous considering the community’s high level of education.’” Interviewed for the article, Daniel Rossing, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish Christian Relations, indicated other reasons. “In the 60’s when the Vatican drafted its landmark Nostra Etate [sic – Aetate], which radically improved the Church’s theological approach to Judaism, the first people to suffer were the Christians of the Middle East. Muslims feared that the Nostra Etate was actually recognition of the State of Israel. Christians were suspected of supporting Zionism and their loyalty to the Arab cause was questioned.”
Ma’ariv, September 21, pp. 1-2, 25; Yated Ne’eman, September 19, 2006
According to Yated Ne’eman (September 19), in the wake of increased warnings concerning terrorist attacks – more specifically Muslim hostility in reaction to the Pope’s speech – the chief of police stated that the police “are reinforcing security also in places designated for Christians.” Israeli (September 1) added that the purpose was “to prevent violent incidents between Christians and Muslims.”
In a very different vein, Ma’ariv (September 21, p. 25) featured an article entitled “The Holy Cave of the Prophets [Malachi, Zechariah, and Haggai] is turned into a Christian site [literally: cult, rite].” The story relates to a French nun from the Russian Church who recently turned the cave, on the Mount of Olives, into a Christian site by filling it with icons of “Yeshu, the Christian savior,” together with other Christian artifacts. Sister Pierre’s rationale for the act appears to be the claim that Christians bought the site a hundred years ago and the cave is therefore also sacred to Christianity. She does explain to visitors, however, that “the site is divided into a Jewish and Christian [holy] place.”
Jerusalem Post, September 19; P’nai Plus, September 21, 2006
Jerusalem’s mayor, Uri Lupolianski, has publicly rejected the Muslim claim on Jerusalem as the new Caliphate (Jerusalem Post, September 19) (see previous Reviews). Relating to the Pope’s remarks – which sparked the Muslim reaction – Lupolianski stated: “Ishmaelites have Mecca and Medina … and Christians have Rome. But Jerusalem is the everlasting capital of the Jewish people … I can say that in the city of Jerusalem, the indivisible capital of the Jewish state of Israel, each religion is given the right to worship peacefully.”
Very differently again, P’nai Plus (September 21), a magazine devoted to leisure, appears to have a regular column entitled “Stories of Jerusalem.” This week’s incident recounted the gospel in a nutshell, through the narration of two women’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem – specifically to the Church of the Sepulcher. “The thoughts flurried through the women’s minds, and made real the events about which they had heard so many times: Here, in this holy place, walked Yeshu the Son of God straight to his death … Here the Romans brought him, who abused him, took him up the hill, and cruelly crucified him. Here, before his mother’s eyes, he breathed out his soul, here, close to the place of crucifixion, they buried him, and here, three days later Yeshu rose from his grave and marked by this sign the beginning of a new period.” A second story recounted the history of the Holy Sepulcher.
Missionary and anti-missionary activity
HaModia, September 21, 22, pp. 5, 28f; Mishpaha, September 14; BeSheva, September 14; Arim (Rishon L’Zion, Rehovot, Nes Ziona, and the surrounds), 2006
According to the Israeli press, the number of missionaries active in the country appears to be growing – at least in terms of the different groups active. Arim (September 15) reported on the return to activity of a group named “Fanta,” operating chiefly amongst the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood. [Fanta is an Ethiopian first name, meaning “part.”] Their work consists primarily of weekend meetings in which the group conducts “ceremonies and religious prayers incorporating words and songs.” Despite the fact that the members of the neighborhood regard them as innocuous, esoteric, exclusive, and non-interfering, the Ethiopian community’s rabbi declared that “They want to exploit the poverty of the neighborhood for missionary purposes.” He explained that it was precisely the restricted nature of the meetings which aroused suspicion, because “normal” Christians in other places “hold their meetings openly and not in a hidden place!”
Mishpaha (September 14) carried the same story detailed in last week’s Review concerning a missionary newspaper offering solutions to Yad L’Achim’s activities.
With regard to Yad L’Achim’s fight against the so-called missionary group “Valley Gate” in Rishon L’Zion (see previous Reviews), HaModia reported (September 22) that the city’s municipality has asked the organization to vacate the premises which the municipality had given them permission to use.
Yad L’Achim have also begun a campaign against the “Anthroposophy” sect in Israel. According to HaModia (September 21), the group have been leasing premises from the municipality “against the law” for three years in Jerusalem under the name “A Step Forward” and operating a kindergarten. Yad L’Achim claimed that “This sect works under the guise of a social-educational movement. They disseminate the racist, anti-Semitic method of their institution without the knowledge of the parents and students, and their purpose is missionary.” In an advert in BeSheva (September 14), Yad L’Achim also charged that the sect operates “a network of kindergartens and schools throughout the country.”
The most extensive indication of the preoccupation with missionary activity comes in a lengthy article in HaModia (September 22), detailing the history of missionary methods and the need to recognize new ones. The introduction gives an accurate portrayal of the traditional Jewish perception of Christianity: “From Mt. Sinai through the Inquisition and the pillars of the auto de fe; beginning with taxes and ending with pogroms, expulsion, ghettoes and settlement areas – eternal hatred for the eternal people runs like a bloodline. Since its origins, the people have never experienced peaceful periods during which each man could sit under his vine and fig tree, and if there were, they served as the quiet before the storm and as creating internal agitation in the countries to which the Jews contributed their wealth and energy. By the slaughter of the sword the Christians took the lives of countless Jews, slew the body and endeavored to conquer the soul. The war of Amalek, which tried to cut off the stragglers and the weak, continues in every generation. The Christian mission, which has as its purpose to bring members of the religion of Moses into its ranks, is not ashamed of any means to achieve its aspirations, up to our days. They stand ready at all times, their finger on the trigger. They hunt out any sign of weakness and exploit it for their purposes. They offer food, clothing, friendship, and false family and their goal is clear in advance: to capture the soul. The Christian mission is at work in Israel, and its agents are trying to sow destruction everywhere. In addition, hanging over the Jewish soul is the danger of cults and sects. New methods and eastern mystical theories attempt to conquer hearts. A mixture of evil thoughts and idolatry reign and lie behind the various methods. We cannot be tempted! We have to examine every new method.”
The article gives an accurate review of the founding of the Protestant mission in Jerusalem, including the second stage of introducing educational establishments. It marks the 1970’s as the period when the “brother” (the case of Brother Daniel) is not “our brother” – i.e., when the Jewish (Catholic) believer is not recognized as Jewish.
The following period is characterized under the heading “Plots for apostasy” and asserts that “It seems that the mission had never had a more successful period in the history of the Land than in these years” – i.e., the period following the Ottoman and Mandatory rules. The next sections marks the flood of immigrants as a specific target of missionary activities and laments the fact that at the very same time as the immigrant is welcomed to the land of his fathers, which he had longed to reach for so many years, he also has to be warned of the dangers posed by the mission in that very Land. The author then cautions against thinking that the Christian mission has disappeared since the opposite is true. It remains the same from its beginning until today.
While Israeli society appears to be Jewish and religious, “paradoxically, ‘mercy and truth’ [which is a Jewish “maxim” and frequently the name of a synagogue] constitutes the name of … one of the hundreds of ‘Messianic Jewish’ congregations which exist across the country.” This section, entitled “A false congregation,” describes the Messianic movement in Israel. The article then goes on to introduce “another sect active today throughout the country” – Jehovah’s Witnesses. “A most dangerous group” is the title given to the Scientologists [see previous Reviews]. Under the title “The obligation: to ask,” the author brings the stereotypical anti-missionary argument that it is only the ignorant who are at risk: “A Jew who is brought up on the knees of the Torah and commandments will never enter a church. Its memory and appearance are sufficient to raise his hackles. A Christian symbol is an abomination, and the developed sense of smell of an educated Jew will keep him far away from the [incense] bowl and things resembling it. The Christian mission constitutes a danger primarily to Jews who do not practice their religion.” The same person is also vulnerable to the “sects and methods from the Far East which were considered in the past to be dark and primitive” but are now “gathering strength and resonance in Israel.” [Significantly, the author makes no distinction between “mainstream” Christianity and “sects”; both, in his eyes, constitute “Christian mission.”]
The article goes on to indicate that the mission is “objectionable according to everyone’s opinion.” In contrast to 99% of the subjects that arise in Israelis’ conversation, opposition to the mission is unified in all quarters. The last part of the article is devoted to the activity of Yad L’Achim. It concludes with the well-known Jewish saying, “All Israel are sureties for one another.” The actions of one Jew will affect other Jews. The author finally quotes a rabbinic authority who gives three ways to combat missionary activity: prayer – that “God will open their [the missionaries’] eyes so that they may see that God is Lord; and volunteerism – first of all with time and then with money to fund the anti-missionary organizations.
Jerusalem Post, September 20; Haaretz, September 19, 2006
The founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had three children, Hans, Trude, and Paula. Herzl died when Hans was 13 and the son was always disturbed by the challenge of having to live up to his father’s reputation. In 1924 Hans converted to Christianity and became an immediate outcast from the Jewish community. According to an article in Haaretz (September 19), “Hans undertook the task of bringing Judaism and Christianity together. At some point, he saw Jesus as a prophet and pleaded with the Jews to embrace the New Testament in the same way they embraced the Old Testament.” Buried together with Paula, whose death he followed on the same day by committing suicide, the two bodies are now being transferred to Israel. Originally buried in the same coffin, which was sent to Vienna, Hans had stated, “This may be a convenient time to transfer our remains to Palestine.”
As the Jerusalem Post noted (September 20), the event was not without controversy. “Haredi leaders and MKs have voiced opposition to the burial of Herzl’s children in Israel, arguing that Hans converted to Christianity, and is, therefore, not permitted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Hans also committed suicide, which obligates a dishonorable burial according to Jewish law.” This opposition notwithstanding, Hans’ body is now interred on Mount Herzl, together with his father’s remains.
HaZofeh, September 25, 2006
An opinion piece in HaZofeh (September 25) looked at the role of Judaism in the current “war” between Christianity and Islam. The writer, Yehuda Zoref, called for “the Jewish people to make itself fit for its ethical status as an arbitrator between the nations. Without discrimination, without legal bias, and straight to the point.” He pointed out that while the traditional attitude in such historical conflicts has been for the Jews to take the side of Christianity, “this only goes to show how little they [the Jews] understand their role in the world as ambassadors between the West and the East and how much they are captive to a one-sided western worldview.”
HaModia, September 19, 2006
On September 18, so the religious paper HaModia reported (September 19), an Iraqi splinter group from Al-Queida declared war on “all Christians in the world” following the Pope’s remarks regarding Islam.
Culture – media
Haaretz, September 25; Globes, September 21; Yediot Aharanot, September 19, 2006
Both Haaretz (September 25) and Globes (September 21) devoted a news article to Fox’s new division “FoxFaith.” The unit is specifically designed to appeal to the Christian population in America. Haaretz’s author opined that the opening of this new section indicates Hollywood’s desire to “capture the heart of the believing Christian audience [and] reflects the growing weight of evangelical Christian influence in popular culture.” Fox’s division joins other Christian media firms, such as Good News Holdings and The Bigger Picture, the latter also making Christian movies available through the Internet. Haaretz made sure to address the issue of “missionizing,” quoting Geoff Vardi of Fox’s home entertainment. “We are focusing on quality and entertainment which contains a message appropriate to the values of our audience, but we have no interest in missionizing.”
On a quite different level – and a different medium –in an article entitled “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Keyboard), Yediot Aharanot (September 19) described the addition of an unusual figure to the site “MySpace,” devoted to finding friends. The site has given space to an organization called “Church Promotion Network” [translated from the Hebrew], whose stated purpose is to bring youth closer to religion. Under the title “Is this Jesus?” the latter – “or whoever decided to take the artistic license to develop a page in his name” – is introduced under “details” – “single; here for friends; hometown – Nazareth; ethnic origin – Middle Eastern; Zodiac sign – Capricorn; occupation – ex-carpenter; and “interests” – extreme waterskiing and beard-care; music – “Kum ba ya, obviously”; and movies – Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian.” The “authors” are quoted as stating: “We know that it’s very arrogant on our part to put Jesus on MySpace, but we decided to start with a pilot project, and we hope that God will guide us in the right direction.”