October 2 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review………….October 2, 2006


During the week covered by this review, we received 34 articles on the subjects of the Pope and the Vatican, anti-Semitism, archaeology, missionary activity, Christian sites, and culture. Of these:


  • 23 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
  • 2 dealt with interfaith
  • 1 dealt with Christian tourism/sites
  • 3 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
  • 1 dealt with the Gay Pride march
  • 1 dealt with miscellenia
  • 1 dealt with Christians in Israel (repeat)
  • 1 dealt with archaeology
  • 1 dealt with Christians in the Holocaust

The remaining 2 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.

This week’s media review is more varied than has been the case in previous weeks, although many of the same subjects remain of interest. Significantly, the articles reviewed this week take a slightly different slant on subjects previously covered – including Jewish and Muslim responses to the Pope’s remarks, Jewish missionary activity, and an Israeli interfaith visit to Poland.


The Pope and the Vatican

Jerusalem Post: 10 articles

Haaretz: 5 articles (English and Hebrew editions)

Yediot Ahronot: 1 article

Ma’ariv: 2 articles

Israeli: 1 articles

Kol HaIr: 1 article

HaIr – Tel Aviv: 1 article

HaIr – Eilat: 1 article


The Jerusalem Post (September 26) inserted extracts from the Vatican’s official English translation of the Pope’s speech before specially gathered Muslim diplomats, which opened with the greeting, “Dear Muslim friends.” In the speech, the Pope re-emphasized his respect for Islam: “I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers … As I underlined at Cologne last year, ‘Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends’ … Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence; as for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and direct them in this direction.”

Speaking of apologies such as the Muslim world demanded from the Pope, Haaretz (September 28) inserted an article just before the Jewish high holy days, when repentance and confession are the central motifs of Jewish religious life, on the number, range, and content of Israeli apologies. Although the feature was primarily dedicated to Israeli political life, it opened with a paragraph reaching back to the past decade: “The age of apologies began with the beginning of the last decade when, towards the end of the millennium, the Catholic Church initiated a series of apologies ‘before every living thing.’” [The meaning here appears to be that the apologies covered every possible source.] Citing research conducted, the article stated that “by 2000 the Church and its delegates had managed to apologize a hundred times. Since the beginning of the third millennium … at least another hundred apologies by the Church, its organizations, and branches have been recorded. The last expression by the Pope with respect to Islam will certainly contribute several more apologies.”

Jewish reactions to the Pope’s speech continued to receive expression. In an article entitled “Have we anything to add?” (Haaretz, September 27), Eliahu Salpeter examined the role Israel could or should play between Christianity and Islam in the present crisis. Should Israel keep a “low profile” or take a stand, since the conflict will inevitably grow to where sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. Taking the latter course, however, may not be Israel’s choice, Salpeter argued, since “It is possible that the Vatican may not be interested in Israel’s public cooperation in the encounter with Muslim extremists, Israel being perceived as unwelcome even in the eyes of Muslim moderates.”

At the New Year, when people look backwards and evaluate what has happened in the past year, Roni Yaffe in the local HaIr Eilat (September 21) noted the event of his year as “the removal of Judaism from the hatred equation.” “The Pope cited an Emperor from the Middle Ages who claimed that the prophet Mohammed was the source of all evil in the world … and succeeded in angering all the Muslims in the world, causing a fresh war of the religions which came to expression in the burning of churches throughout the world and the demand for an apology from the Pope. The only problem with this request is that according to the Christian faith, the Pope cannot err and therefore cannot apologize. This is one of the few times in history when the Jews can sit on the sidelines and watch how the two main religions confront one another and Judaism isn’t in the middle.”

Another response to the Pope came in a far more personal form – this time not Jewish but Muslim. The local Jerusalem paper Kol HaIr (September 12) printed a letter from a Muslim resident of Abu Ghosh, an Arab village close to Jerusalem, addressed directly to the Pope. “As every Muslim in the world, I too heard your words about Islam, and in response I wish to invite you here, to Abu-Ghosh, during the period of Sukkot [the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles]. It’s well worth your while to come, we have a great festival, to which everyone is invited – Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of other faiths – and in Muslim Abu-Ghosh we welcome everyone with a blessing, happy that they have come and making every effort to give them a good time. But that’s not all. The period of Sukkot, as you may or may not know, coincides exactly with our fast, Ramadan. So it is that we Muslims host during our feast (which is a very difficult one – you try to fast thirty days and under the sun we have here) Jews who are celebrating their festival. While we’re suffering, they’re enjoying themselves – eating, drinking, and listening to good music [Abu-Ghosh hosts a classical choral music series every year during Sukkot]. Despite all this, as I’ve already said, we Muslims recognize everyone, and get joy from their pleasure. You should know, Your Excellency, that this event [the music festival] takes place in no less a place than a church. Thus it happens that we Muslims, during our fast, host in our village, in our church, Jews celebrating their festival. Now I want to ask you, Your Excellency: where is this and where is the so-intimidating Islam which you spoke about? I think that your words not only hurt Muslims but also the relations of Jews and Arabs in general. If you come to Abu-Ghosh, you will find an openness, liberality, love for the stranger and a willingness to accept and learn from the other – and all this in bigheartedness and in a measure that you won’t find anywhere else. If I’m already addressing you, I would ask you for as small favor – to call all your believers [adherents], and even to the Jews (who, even if they aren’t your believers, you have excellent PR instruments), and tell them all that we here in Abu-Ghosh very much request from everyone who comes here not to stay only within the confines of the church but to wander around the village, to get to know the residents, to listen to us. On our part we promise to tell you all about our feast, Ramadan – what its significance is, why we fast, what the purpose is. We are ready and willing to answer all the questions you have about Islam and promise clear and full answers. The time has come for all of us to learn from one another. Therefore our house in Abu-Ghosh to open to everyone, and, as I’ve already said, we really invite you to come. That’s it, Your Excellency. I hope that you will come here and enjoy, like everyone else, the good music, good people, and a warm house. See you at Sukkot.” [Unfortunately, the letter is unsigned. While it is unusual for the media to insert such correspondence, the sentiment is well expressed reading even if “fabricated.”]



Zman Tel-Aviv, September 22, 2006

In similar spirit to the Muslim invitation to the Pope, the local Tel-Aviv paper Zman Tel-Aviv reported on September 22 that one of its municipal schools was sending its regular twelfth-grade delegation of students to Poland to visit the concentration camps. What was irregular about the journey was the fact that of the thirty-one participants, eleven were Christian and Muslim. One of the Arab female students joining the party stated: “I am very excited and happy that as an Arab I have such an opportunity to see what happened to the people whose land I share. It’s crazy what this people have undergone. I live with them, go to a Jewish school, and very much identify. I’m happy that as an Arab I can tell the next generation, my children, the story of the Holocaust. I think that everything will change in my eyes and I will appreciate life much more. I cry, even though my people haven’t experienced anything like this, because I identify.” [None of the Arab students quoted were identified as to their religion. This girl may therefore have been Muslim or Christian.]


Christian tourism/sites

At, September 27, 2006

The travel column in this women’s magazine this week looked at “the two banks of the Jordan.” Having visited the site known as the “Yardenit” [from the root “Jordan”], which “serves as a baptismal site for pilgrims,” the author lamented the lack of visitors. “Only two months ago it was humming with people, and now it stands barren, waiting for Christian pilgrims who come here to unite with Yeshu’s memory, precisely in the place where according to legend he walked on the water. [Which legend this statement refers to escapes the present writer.]


Missionary and anti-missionary activity

Mishpaha, September 21; Yediot Ahronot, September 21; Yom L’Yom, September 21, 2006

Noting once again Yad L’Achim’s “success” against the “missionary” organization “Valley Gate (Mishpaha, September 21) (see previous Reviews), Yom L’Yom quoted a letter of congratulation sent to the anti-missionary organization by a prestigious Rabbi: “For over fifty years the members of the organization have worked mightily towards the saving of precious souls in Israel from the claws of the mission and in the rescue of Jewish girls from Arab villages.” In an appeal for funds, he concluded the letter: “This great merit will be a source of blessing, protection, and support, for an abundance of good and success all your days.”

In a somewhat ironic reverse of circumstances, Yediot Ahronot (September 26) reported on the renewal of aliyah (immigration) of the Bnei Menashe from India. Some of the members of this tribe, which identifies itself as Jewish, have undergone conversion by a special court constituted for the purpose before making aliyah. At present, however the court’s operations have been suspended due to the “protest of the Indian authorities, who opposed missionary activity on their territory.”


Gay Pride March

Yom L’Yom, September 21, 2006

Despite all the previous successful attempts to prevent the Gay Pride march, the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice has finally delivered a verdict that will allow the march to proceed – on the basis of freedom of expression. The religious paper Yom L’Yom (September 21) naturally focused on the religious aspects of the march, lamenting the fact that it will take place on a Friday evening (erev Shabbat), increasing the abomination and profaning the sanctity of Jerusalem to its utmost. The municipality was also hit hard by the decision: not only had it opposed the march, but the Supreme Court ordered it to pay the expenses from the taxes paid by Jerusalem residents. It is no coincidence to the Orthodox that the march will also take place in the week when the Torah portion read deals with the city of Sodom and the acts of its inhabitants.



B’Sheva, September 21, 2006

In a column entitled “In my own opinion/at my own expense” [the Hebrew is a play on words], Avi Segal related to the Israeli version of “American Idol” – “A Star is Born.” In a very strange comment, he remarked, “Who remembers that at the opening of the series … Jacko Eisenberg [one of the contestants] brought a picture of himself as Yeshu. The only difference between the two [Jacko and Yeshu] is that, according to Christian mythology, Yeshu was crucified and only afterwards born.”  [Editors note: This is a play on words since the reference is that Jacko was the star that was born and then later repudiated – crucified, by those who earlier supported him.]

In the same article Avi Segal also commented that while he’s already writing about Christianity, he has few occasions on which he recommends a book written by a nun. He does so by recommending Wendy Beckett’s The Story of Painting, a book reviewing the history of western art.