October 16 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review………….October #3, 2006

During the week covered by this review, we received 36 articles on the subjects of the Pope and the Vatican, conversion and spirituality, missionary activity, Christian Zionism/tourism, Jerusalem, and Judaism. Of these:


  • 14 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
  • 2 dealt with interfaith issues
  • 1 dealt with conversion
  • 1 dealt with spirituality
  • 2 dealt with Jerusalem
  • 1 dealt with missionary activity
  • 2 dealt with Christian Zionism
  • 2 dealt with Judaism


The remaining 11 articles dealt with matters of Jewish and Christian interest.


This week’s topic remained the Pope, although his “spotlight” was increasingly shared with the Vatican – its archives and alleged “treasures.” Along with the Muslim-Western (Christian) conflict, much greater interest was reflected in various interfaith endeavors, together with a long article on a Japanese Protestant minister who converted to Judaism and another on spirituality. As frequently occurs, Jerusalem and Christian Zionism converged in at least one article, while the relation between Judaism, Christianity and Jesus provided items of considerable interest.


The Pope and the Vatican

Jerusalem Post, October 10, 13, 15; Mishpaha, October 5; Yediot Aharanot, October 13; Makor Rishon, October 6; Hod HaKfar, September 22; Zeh HaDerekh, September 20; Kol HaKfar, September 20; Sharon Plus, September 19; HaZofeh, October 12; Haaretz, October 13 (English and Hebrew editions), 2006


In light of the increasing emphasis on the Pope’s declaration of support for interfaith dialogue and cooperation, Isi Leibler of the Jerusalem Post (October 10) asked the question natural for a Jew: “Where should Jews stand in relation to this?” His answer was multifaceted and quite instructive: “Obviously with Muslims loudly proclaiming that the Pope is a Zionist stooge and is being manipulated by the Jews, we have no reason to become embroiled in this conflict. At the same time, any initiative which exposes the lie that Islam as practiced today is a religion of peace, warrants our support. In this context, it was appalling that Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar degraded us by sending a demeaning communication disassociating himself from the Pope to a Qatari Islamic cleric renowned for advocating violence and suicide bombings … By kowtowing to blackmail and refusing to condemn Islamic violence, they [western leaders] are encouraging the fanatics into believing that their intimidating tactics will achieve their objective of subjugating the world. I am no champion of popes. But on the same grounds that we condemn the silence of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust, we should commend Pope Benedict for having had the courage to confront the Islamist menace which today threatens civilization and Jews in particular.”

Despite his preoccupation with Islam, the present Pope has also deliberately engaged in expressing his support for the Jewish people. Both Yediot Aharonot (October 13) and the Jerusalem Post reported on the same day (October 13) that, in a meeting with the Anti-Defamation League, Benedict had “reiterated his condemnation of anti-Semitism, saying that ‘the Church deplores all forms of hatred and persecution directed against the Jews and all displays of anti-Semitism at any time and from any source.’” Asked to be “’a strong, constant voice against anti-Semitism,’ the pope responded: ‘I will always be available for you as a voice against anti-Semitism.’”

In this sense, the opening of the Vatican archives may also prove welcome to the Jewish people. The religious weekly Mishpaha (October 5) ran a lengthy story concerning the visit of Chief Rabbi, Yirmiahu Menahem HaCohen, and his secretary, David Damen, to the Vatican library to examine the “Jewish treasure” which the Vatican “boasts” it holds therein. While the Chief Rabbi was particularly interested in rare Jewish manuscripts, of which there are said to be about 800, the question was inevitably raised at the end of the Israelis’ visit regarding the (Second) Temple treasures reputedly stolen by the Roman army and thence arrived in Rome and were ensconced in the Vatican’s basement. The last page of the article, headlined, “Who was the last person to see the Temple vessels?” gives a detailed chronicle of their documented history, beginning with Josephus’ witness and reaching up to the modern period. Nevertheless the question still remains: “Where truly are the Temple vessels to be found? In Rome? In Africa? In Jerusalem? Or perhaps they were lost during the wars between nations? No clear answer to the question exists, only a variety of testimonies and flimsy assumptions.”

If the Roman connection with the Jewish people goes as far back as the Second Temple period, it is the more recent relationship during the Holocaust which, with the opening of the Vatican’s archives, is now preoccupying much Jewish scholarship (see previous Reviews). In an article in the Jerusalem Post (October 15) given the title “Newly opened files helping historians understand priorities of Pius XII,” one of the researchers – Rev. Gerald Fogarty – was quoted as saying that Pius XI’s Secretary of State, who succeeded him as war-time Pope (Pius XII), was “frequently seen as being indecisive because he sees all the nuances.” According to the paper, Fogarty “cited Pacelli’s dismay that Chicago Cardinal George Mundelein had publicly derided Hitler of [sic] being an inept ‘paperhanger.’ Germany’s Nazi regime officially protested to the Vatican about the remark. Pacelli thought the remark undiplomatic … although the prelate went on to defend the Cardinal by arguing that he had only exercised the right of bishops to speak freely in their diocese.”



Deot, September 1, 2006

Interfaith dialogue has constituted a major form of counteraction to religious violence and wars in the modern world. The Bnei Brak (bastion of Orthodoxy) paper Deot, devoted to “the faithful of the Torah and work linked to the Yaakov Herzog Center,” headlined one of its articles as “Interfaith dialogue instead of a Third World War.” The event in question was organized by “Kids4peace,” and was a meeting involving a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim set to discuss “identity, religiosity, fundamentalism, and forgiveness.” The participants were Henri Cars, the organization’s President, a Catholic; Hanan Abdallu, a Muslim from Beit Safafa; and Yair Englard, an Orthodox Jew. [The spelling of these names is a transliteration from the Hebrew.] The lengthy article, which also explains the nature and purposes of the local organization, quotes extensively from all three participants, giving their insights into the Arab-Israeli conflict and interfaith dialogue.



Makor Rishon, October 6

The Bnei Brak weekly demonstrated its Jewish interest in other religions in a second article in this week’s review in an interview with a Japanese convert to Judaism. The story of Nabukta Hatori is summed up in the subheading of the article: “In the heart of Jerusalem’s [religious] Sha’arei Hesed neighborhood, buried in an overflowing library, lives a Jerusalem talmid chakham [Talmud scholar]. He looks like an Admor [Adonenu, moreinu, rabbeinu – “our lord, teacher, and master,” a title reserved for prominent scholars and leaders], devotes all his time to Torah study, perceives himself as a Litvak [following the Lithuanian tradition] according to the customs of the Gaon of Vilna. 20 years ago he was still the head of a Christian congregation in Japan. His searchings expose the roots of our Jewish experience.” The last clause refers to the fact that Hatori reveals in the interview that his primary reasons for converting were the fact that he never understood the Trinity and that he gradually came to comprehend that “there is no faith without works.” [Here again, the Japanese name is a transliteration from the Hebrew.]



Deot, September 1, 2006

Still in the period of the High Holy days, an article in Deot (September 1) addressed the issue of the poetry recited on Yom Kippur. During the course of explaining why a particular piece had been included in the liturgy for the day, the author described the poet’s conception of divinity and humanity as “creating” one another. In this context he remarked that, “On Yom Kippur, when conjugal relations are forbidden, the apprehension that God will turn to the Covenant but will only actually see its human nature, is slighter than on any other day.” He then went on to elaborate, seeing it fit at this point to compare Judaism’s attitude on the matter to that of Christianity: “Here too it is appropriate to compare the attitude of early Christianity and that of the author of this early poem, who lived, in all probability, in a Christian environment. Yeshu’s recommendation of self-castration [becoming a eunuch] is known from the New Testament: ‘There are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it’ (Mt. 19:12).’”



Kol HaZman, October 6, pp. 34, 54, 2006

Although Prime Minister Olmert claimed before the gathering of Christian Zionists at this year’s Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles that “This is the city God has chosen to be the capital of the Jewish people and it will remain the capital of the Jewish people,” the previous Review already noted the fact that much of Jerusalem’s real estate does not actually belong to the State of Israel. In another article dealing with the subject, this time in Kol HaZman (October 6, p. 34), the paper reports “Prime Minister Olmert and his colleague Vladimir Putin are soon to discuss the future of property in the center of the city which belongs to the Russians. Putin wants to return the property to the Russian people, Olmert is in the meantime keeping his silence. Putin is not alone: there are innumerable important properties belonging to various nations. For example, the Knesset, which sits on ground owned by the Greek Church. When will they [the other nations/churches] also awake?”

The preservation and accessibility of other important historic Jerusalem sites arose in a different context, that of the opening of the “Jerusalem Path.” According to Kol HaZman (October 6, p. 54), the path consists of a circular route which encompasses Jerusalem and is designed, among other things, to connect Jerusalem to the “Israel Path” – a route which runs the length of the country from North to South and is frequented by numerous tourists, walkers, and hikers wishing to get to know the country first hand. The Jerusalem Path “passes through some of the most important historic Jewish and world heritage sites and brings together various periods of the history of the Jewish people, including the First and Second Temples, early Christianity, and the beginnings of Islam.”


Missionary activity

HaMekoman, September 21, 2006 

The history of Jerusalem is also one of the Jewish mission, and many Israeli historical geographers interested in Jerusalem in particular are currently conducting widespread research into the history of the mission as part of the development of the city in the nineteenth century. HaMekoman (September 21) devoted an article in its series on Sites in Jerusalem to “The American Institute,” written by Dr. Adam Akerman. The feature provides a fairly accurate history of what is now known in Christian circles as “Jerusalem University College.” Located on Mount Zion, the building was originally constructed by the second Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, Samuel Gobat, for use as a boys’ school for orphaned Arab youths. The institution only closed in 1948, due to the fact that it was situated in no man’s land and fighting took place in the vicinity. The American Institute was established in 1966 for the study of the Bible and Eretz Israel. While most of its students come from abroad, its staff includes Israeli and Arab lecturers as well as Christians. Gobat himself is not buried in the cemetery which he erected on neighboring land, but in his church, next to the first Jewish Bishop, Michael Solomon Alexander. The cemetery does form the resting place for “famous people connected to the history of the city,” the founders of the American colony in Jerusalem, British soldiers killed during the Mandatory period, German soldiers from the First World War, prominent Arab Christians, and British consuls.

Conrad Schick, the well-known architect who designed many of the early buildings in Jerusalem and worked closely with the mission, is also buried in the cemetery, together with several other prestigious archaeologists and researchers responsible for the beginnings of scholarship of Eretz Israel.


Christian Zionism/tourism

Haaretz, October 11; Yediot Aharonot, October 10,  2006

The number of Christians who took part in the Jerusalem March over Sukkot was counted as 5,000 by Haaretz (October 11). While the previous Review noted other Christian responses to the Evangelical participation, this article also remarked that, “Earlier this year, the Vatican’s envoy in the Holy Land and bishops from three other churches launched a rare attack on the Christian Zionist movement, accusing it of promoting ‘racial exclusivity and perpetual war.’ ‘The Christian Zionism program provides a world view where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism,’ a declaration read.”



 Haaretz, October 13, pp. 2, 9, 2006

In an article in the Bnei Brak weekly Makor Rishon (October 6), the author suggested that Judaism’s response to the Christian-Muslim confrontation was in fact to search out the Jewish roots of Christianity. For Judaism, he claimed, “The Western-Christian world is the potential and natural ally, and it is still that today, at least on a civil basis: The democratic world strengthens, to a certain degree, Israeli democracy. But we deserve – and we need – more than that. [We need] deep support, whose roots are theological and ideological, not only pragmatic and based on interest. The time has come to reevaluate, theologically, the Jewish roots of western Christianity.”

In an article pointing to the fact that secular Judaism has now become so strong that it can be termed a “stream” of Judaism in its own right (Haaretz, October 13), the author cited a promoter of the multiplication of such movements within Judaism as justifying the phenomenon by way of Jesus and his disciples: “Yeshu began with twelve disciples and look what they got to?” [This was also the headline of the article in general.]

Finally, of course, in an article addressing the attitude of Israelis to Israeli Arabs (Haaretz, October 13) the issue of revisionist history was raised. “Moreover, there is developing a phenomenon of writing history backwards: the rich literature of Eretz Israel which has accumulated in western nations over the generations is increasingly being located in a Arab-Palestinian category. The work of researchers, travelers, archaeologists, writers and others on the Land, written out of a deep respect for its biblical heritage, for the sake of truth, and out of little interest in the Arab inhabitants, is being increasingly taken over by the Palestinian connection. You can already find in the West an attitude to the patriarchs, to the prophets, and to Yeshua and his disciples as Palestinians [this word was in English in the original], out of a blurring of their Jewish identity. This phenomenon, as is known, has already existed for years in nationalist-Arab and Muslim ideologies and naturally their followers today perceive this development quite serenely.”