October 9 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review………….October 9, 2006


During the week covered by this review, we received 25 articles on the subjects of the Pope and the Vatican, conversion and spirituality, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism/tourism, and the historic churches. Of these:

  • 7 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
  • 5 dealt with Islam
  • 4 dealt with conversion
  • 1 dealt with spirituality
  • 3 dealt with Christian Zionism/tourism
  • 2 dealt with the historic churches in Israel
  • 1 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity


The remaining 2 articles dealt with matters of religious interest.

Although the Pope’s speech remained the dominant theme of this week’s Israeli media, attention has shifted towards Islam and Muslim reaction to it rather than a continuing analysis of the Pope’s words. Much of the discussion revolved around whether the Muslim threat –acknowledgement of that fact being universal – will generate a war of religions or of civilizations. Of more specific interest to the Media Review reader, three articles focus on “conversion” from different angles – from Judaism to Christianity, to Islam from Christianity, and from Jewish to “Hebrew Catholic.”


The Pope and the Vatican

Jerusalem Post, October 1; Globes, September 29; Hazofeh, September 29; Yated Ne’eman, September 29, pp. 2, 21; Haaretz, September 29;  (English and Hebrew editions)

 The Vatican’s firing line has recently been taken over by its Foreign Minister, Archbishop Giovanni Legello in a speech before the UN. According to Yated Ne’eman (September 29, p. 21) and Globes (September 29), in an attempt to elucidate the Pope’s words further, the Foreign Minister added “insult to injury” by suggesting that terrorists who seek to destroy human civilization represent an example of “barbarity”: “Violent reactions are always a counterfeit of religion.”



Ma’ariv, October 4, pp. 6, 1; HaZofeh, October 3; Yated Ne’eman, October 4, 2006

The response to the Muslim reaction to the Pope’s words has been clearly interpreted as Islam’s attempt to destroy or take over the West. Whether this is understood in terms of religion or culture, the titles of the articles included in this section clearly indicate that the West is understood to be under threat. HaZofeh (October 3) gives the headline, “Radical Islam threatens the world” – signifying the latter’s expansion from “legitimate” means to “illegitimate” methods to obtain its goal, citing the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Raad Salach to demonstrate that Jerusalem will become a Caliphate and all the world will adopt Islam as the true religion. Yated Ne’eman (October 4) only slightly alters the wording: “Islam threatens European culture” – a reference, among other things, to the Berlin opera cancellation – to which Ma’ariv (October 4) also relates in its headline: “Terror reaches Mozart,” telling the story of the intimidation of the opera’s director by Muslim threats and the consequent cancellation of an opera in which the bleeding heads of Yeshu, Muhammed, and Buddha were to have appeared. Likewise, in its edition of October 9, Ma’ariv noted the cancellation of part of an exhibition employing naked puppets – due to sensitivity to Muslim feelings.



Haaretz, October 9; Jerusalem Post, October 5; HaZofeh, October 1, 2006

Conversion has many faces, and this week covered a variety of sorts. The first took rather violent form in the high jacking of a Turkish airliner on its way to Italy. The perpetrator, according to the Jerusalem Post (October 1), was a Turkish army deserter seeking asylum in Italy because he feared “persecution in his Muslim homeland after his conversion to Christianity and wanted Pope Benedict XVI’s protection … ‘Having taken up the Christian religion, he feared going back to Turkey,’ said [Italian prosecutor Giannuzzi], who interrogated the suspect after he surrendered.”

In an article entitled “Forced converts of their own accord,” Haaretz (October 9) inserted a feature looking at the phenomenon of people ignorant of their original background. The first – and perhaps most well-known example – is that of Madeleine Albright, whose Jewish background is now familiar to most media readers. The author then connected Albright with Republican senator George Allen. Both, he stated, “have something common in their past and identity. Both of them have clear Jewish roots, but their parents – because of the fears of the Holocaust and persecution of the Jews – preferred to ‘release’ their children from the nightmares of the past and to bring them up as Christians in order that they might integrate and succeed with their new American-Christian identity.”

Although judged so by the World Jewish Congress, “convert” is not the word which Cardinal Lustiger would use to describe his identity. According to the religious paper HaZofeh (October 10), while Lustiger – who was recently appointed to the policy council of the World Jewish Congress – should be praised for his stance of opposition to anti-Semitism, the WJC is making a mistake in giving him too much honor. “The WJC prides itself on the good relations it has forged with the Vatican, but very unfortunately, the public respect given to an apostate from the Jewish religion is an example of a mistake. Cardinal Lustiger is a respected man, a Holocaust survivor, and there is no doubt regarding his opposition to anti-Semitism. But he remains an apostate who insists on calling himself ‘a Jew who has fulfilled (realized) himself.’ There are legitimate reasons for cooperating with Lustiger, but his repeated appearance as the Vatican’s liaison officer for Jewish affairs on the platform of the WJC … demonstrates a lack of respect and sensitivity towards his people in a task undertaken by a Jew who has changed his religion to Christianity.”



HaIr – Tel Aviv, September 29, 2006

Over the period of the High Holy days, when repentance and heart-searching are the order of the day, the local weekly HaIr –Tel Aviv (September 29) included an article lamenting the fact that “One of the simplest phenomena in Israeli secularism is the rejection of the Jewish religion as if it was the worst religion in the world.” Despite the fact that Israelis display such an antagonistic response to Judaism in general, and to soul-searching in particular, “the spirit [still] breathes,” the author contends. “Our teacher Moses, the Prophet Muhammed, Buddha, Yeshua [sic], Osho, Krishnamurti, and all the rest – all sought the same eternal truth. And they all endeavored to give directions to the place of truth, of human dignity, creation, the godhead, of purity of hands and heart.”


Christian Zionism/tourism

HaZofeh, October 9; Ma’ariv, October 5; Jerusalem Post, October 1, 2006

During the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) period, Christian Zionism and tourism reach their combined height. This year, invited as Prime Minister to speak, per tradition, Olmert took the occasion to address a gathering of “thousands of Christian tourists” organized by the International Christian Embassy to emphasize the sanctity of the “City of God”: “Jerusalem was chosen by God to be the capital of the Jewish people. There is no power in the world which can change that” (HaZofeh, October 9).

Christian Zionism, sites, and tourism are also combining in a project already referred to in a previous Review. Under the headline, “The Americans recommend building ‘hotels’ in the Galilee,” (Ma’ariv, October 5) reported that the American firm employed by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to do the market research is suggesting the development of a chain of “boutique hotels” in the Galilee to resuscitate Israeli tourism. One of the rationales for the location, according to the paper, was the fact that “Many Christians prefer the Galilee because of the abundance of holy places to their religion there.”

Further evidence of Christian Zionism fervor is evident in the calling of this year’s “Day of Prayer” for Israel (Jerusalem Post, October 1). “The annual event, which is timed to coincide with the High Holy Days, is expected to be marked by as many as 30 million people in 100,000 churches in more than 100 nations.” The session will also be broadcast from Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum, an event to be attended by MKs Natan Sharansky, Benny Elon, and Yuri Shtern. As Robert Stearns, the founder of the annual event, stated, the political-religious reality of the century has served to reawaken Evangelical support for Israel. Significantly, this support has recently come under attack, as the article notes, by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Michel “Sabah issued a proclamation which stated that the Evangelical Christians were leading the world to Armageddon.”


Historic churches

Haaretz, October 10; Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2006

The Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem originally belonged to the Georgian Church, until the latter was forced by financial pressures to sell the property to the Greek Church. Two years ago, the Georgians were upset by the defacement of the only extant painting of Georgia’s national poet in the monastery, followed more recently by the painting over of the name of St. Serapion in Georgian script – leaving only the Greek inscription. According to Haaretz (October 8), the latest episode has “turned into an international diplomatic incident involving Israel, Georgia and Greece.” Since the Israeli government failed to keep its promise to permit Georgian experts to participate in restoring the defacement, “Israeli experts believe that the Greek Church, and perhaps the Israeli government as well, fear that Georgia could demand the return of its properties in the country. In light of the fact that many plots in strategic locations in Jerusalem and other cities are leased by Israel from the Greeks (including the land on which the Knesset stands), Israel behaves with great caution in its dealings with the Greek Church.”

Such apprehensions also relate to the Catholic Church in Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported on October 5 that one of Jerusalem’s well-known institutions, Ulpan Etzion, “a landmark Jerusalem absorption center which served as one of the pillars of North American immigration since the establishment of the State of Israel is losing its main dormitory building after the Vatican terminated its half-century-old lease.” Interpreted as an “economic decision,” the resolution parallels Putin’s alleged claims on buildings in the historic Russian Compound owned by the Russian Orthodox Church. The worrying conclusion is that “Israel is concerned over the precedent such claims may have on other Church properties in the city, including the prime minister’s official residence.”


Missionary and anti-missionary activity

HaModia, September 29, 2006

Practicing their own form of “soul-searching” at a conference held at the end of Yom Kippur, HaModia (September 29) reported that Yad L’Achim had looked back at the past year and was delighted with the results of their work. “The fight against the mission this year has brought impressive success. A special report from this branch of the work summarizing the operations of the previous year demonstrated that a series of missionary preaching centers have been closed following a protracted struggle. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ashdod, Netanyah, and Kiryat Gat, the members of Yad L’Achim have succeeded during the course of the year in closing 27 mission stations.” The article went on to catalogue the additional places to which the mission had reached: “At the same time, the worrisome enlargement of the arms of the missionary organizations was noted which came to expression in the troublesome fact that there is no city in Israel in which the mission is not at work in some form, seeking to desecrate the souls of innocent Jews and deceive them.”