Caspari Center Media Review………….October #4, 2006
During the week covered by this review, we received 28 articles on the subjects of Jewish attitudes towards Jesus, anti-Semitism, anti-missionary activity, and Jewish law. Of the total:
- 2 dealt with attitudes to Jesus
- 2 dealt with missionary activity
- 1 dealt with the Gay Pride march
- 2 dealt with Jewish law
- 1 dealt with pilgrimage
- 4 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
- 1 dealt with anti-Semitism
- 1 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 1 dealt with Christians in the Holocaust
The remaining 13 articles dealt with matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
Interest in the Pope has finally died down, relatively speaking. This week’s Review focuses much more on events in Israel, including anti-missionary activity and anti-Semitism, Jewish law (churches and synagogues), attitudes towards Jesus, and Jewish-Christian relations.
Iton Kol HaEmek ve-ha-Galil, October 13, 2006
An article in the regional journal of the Emek (Valley) and the Galilee reported the incident of a resident of Nazareth Elit who was house-sitting for Orthodox friends who were on holiday during Sukkot in the States.(Iton Kol HaEmek ve-ha-Galil (October 13). On one of his regular check-ups around the house, the friend discovered a swastika daubed on the front door. He made a complaint to the police which, it appears, was merely one of several regarding the appearance of swastikas on public buildings in a neighborhood of the town. According to the paper, “The drawings were attributed to missionaries operating in the city, but no evidence was found linking their members to the offense.” Although they stated that they would follow all leads, the police themselves were more inclined to believe that the graffiti was the work of “youthful pranksters.”
Arim, October 5; Yated Ne’eman, October 18, 2006
Following the emergence of the “Fanta” group of “missionaries” in an Ethiopian neighborhood of Jerusalem (see previous Reviews), Arim – which originally reported the phenomenon – noted on October 5 that Jewish religious leaders had convened a meeting of the local residents and “proclaimed war” on the so-called missionary group: “We need to go to the place as a large group of people and the confound those involved in the missionary activity [and get them to] understand the great wrongness of their activity.”
Events continue to unfold in Arad (see previous Reviews). Yated Ne’eman (October 18) reported that the latest development came in the form of a counter-complaint by the human rights group “BeTzedek” “[In Righteousness”]. In compliance with the latter’s request, the Supreme Court had ordered the Arad police to explain the grounds on which they had forbidden a demonstration in front of one of the houses of the “missionaries.” In response, the Arad police gave authorization for holding of the demonstration.
In a further development, the Orthodox residents of Arad delivered a second request to the police, asking permission to demonstrate in front of the house with the participation of a “limited” number of 250 people, “a number to which the police had been compelled to agree during the Supreme Court’s discussion of the BeTzedek petition.” This request was granted, on condition that the demonstration was held in one place, at a distance of half a kilometer, without the use of loudspeakers or complaints by the neighbors. This offer was turned down by the petitioners, who believed the conditions to be unjustified. In order to avoid canceling the demonstration in its entirety, the Ultra-Orthodox appealed to BeTzedek for assistance in making the event possible – preferring to make use of a site permitted by the police where the use of loudspeakers would also be allowed. BeTzedek turned down this “deal” and the demonstration was abandoned. BeTzedek subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court against the action of the Arad police in relation to the Ultra-Orthodox community
The report is instructive from several perspectives. It demonstrates the attitude of the Supreme Court, which initially supported the police – and Orthodox – stand against the Messianic community. It also reveals the grounds on which BeTzedek turned to the Supreme Court. In the words of the paper, the organization “petitioned the Supreme Court against the unreasonable rationale which denied the right to demonstrate next to the house of the missionaries, which constitutes an infringement of the basic right of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate.” The Ultra-Orthodox description of the events was expressed in terms of the police “plotting against the Ultra-Orthodox public” – and their adherents were willing to cooperate with BeTzedek in order not to have to cancel the demonstration. Be-Tzedek consistently – if not with actual intent to act against the “missionaries” – appealed for decisions that favored the Orthodox over the Messianic community. According to the paper, their opinion was based on the belief that the police function is merely to keep public peace and security, excluding the authority to interfere to curtail the content of things spoken during demonstrations as long as these do not constitute incitement against the law.
Attitudes towards Jesus
TimeOut, October 12; Mishpaha, October 19, 2006
In a letter written to Mishpaha (October 19) following the High Holy days, the Bernes family of Jerusalem allowed themselves, as “veteran readers” to express their feelings regarding the mention of “oto haIsh” (that man – Jesus) in a religious paper over the festival period. “How can we have in our house a paper which contains a festival interview with the Prime Minister of a wicked government? And how in any fashion can it be right that oto haIsh be part of an edition of religious paper coming out just before Rosh HaShana [the New Year] …?”
In an article entitled “Jesus Christ!” (TimeOut, October 12) – which appears to be a list of the author’s attitudes towards various Israeli figures – Itamar Handelman begins with the question of how Israeli law squares itself (or does not) with the biblical prohibition against charging interest. His comment on this point is that his understanding of Judaism on this basis turns him off the religion. “So too Islam. Yeshua of Nazareth at least preached love and died for the sins of everyone.”
Jesus’ love is again pointed to in connection with couples’ therapy. Having been told that the latter is “the beginning of the end [of the marriage],” Handelman remarks, “ No one else can help us, as Yeshua of Nazareth preached, only love. Ramadan [the Muslim festival] and Sukkot [the Feast of Tabernacles] are now at their height, but I’m really waiting for Christmas. When the Admor of Kanidinov [?] [a Rabbi from a certain town] invites me to Simhat Beit HaShoeva [a celebration at the end of Sukkot], I don’t go. I prefer to dance with Iggi Wachsman … and wait for Yeshua of Nazareth to rise from the dead and redeem me from all this nonsense.”
A further reference is linked to the current political scandals. “In a State whose President is suspected of rape, Prime Ministers get involved in all sorts of schemes, and the Chief of Staff leads us into useless wars; I get issued with a prison sentence [because of a bank claim regarding interest on his account]. But God will have mercy on their souls. Yeshua of Nazareth died for all these sins.”
The final allusion is a more personal one and may suggest that the article is more serious than it appears at first glance. On the way home from a demonstration with friends who had just appeared in “Hamlet,” Handelman confesses that: “I told everyone that I had looked at all the religions and faiths. Only Yeshua of Nazareth interests me now. Perhaps he will really rise from the dead and redeem us from all the evil which surrounds us here. From all the dullness, boorishness, wickedness, nastiness, ignorance, and general stupidity which holds so many of us in its grasp. And what in the meantime? In the meantime, I’ll turn the other cheek.”
Gay Pride march
HaZofeh, October 22, 2006
Jesus’ love is interpreted in a very different way in relation to the Gay Pride march by at least one author. If the march is to go ahead after all (see previous Reviews), the religious HaZofeh (October 22) suggests – it would appear seriously – that its occurrence in Jerusalem of all places may be justified on what the author admits may be considered unusual grounds. “Perhaps it’s worth considering a rather different idea. This march precisely in Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv – where various forms of entertainment can be found non-stop – certainly excites opposition. The objection is based on Jerusalem’s world centrality, its being the capital of Israel, and its sanctity to Judaism and to other religions. These factors can lead to other, better places – for instance, the Via Dolorosa. There ‘that man’ who arrogantly claimed to redeem the whole world through his suffering marched. It is also clear that this ‘religion of tolerance’ will welcome the highlighting of the differences of the marchers and will be able to demonstrate the love for everyone spoken of in its scriptures.”
Ma’ariv, October 19, 2006
A rather strange phenomenon is reported in Ma’ariv (October 19) regarding the pilgrimage of Catholic Christians to the tomb of a Jewish Rabbi in Brazil. Due to the fact that at his death in 1910 no Jewish cemetery existed in Manaus, Shalom Emmanuel Moiyal was buried in the Catholic graveyard. His tomb has recently become the center of Catholic pilgrimage – in good Catholic fashion consisting of assembly at the tomb, the lighting of candles and the leaving of gifts, “all in the hope that the saintly miracle-working Jew will heal them of their serious illnesses.”
Zman Haifa, October 6; Ma’ariv, October 19, 2006
If Catholics are visiting Jewish graves, Jews are now seeking access to a Greek church in Tiberias. The former synagogue of HaRav Isaiah Halevi Horovitz [in its Hebrew acronym, “Shela”], considered one of the most sacred to Judaism due to its reputation for beauty and miracle-workings, was subsequently built over the site covered by a Greek church. While Jewish law prohibits Jews from entering churches, in this case the favor was replicated by the Greeks, who refused Jews entrance. After protracted negotiations, the Greek patriarch allowed a limited number a one-time visit. Since the synagogue is sacred to Jews all over the world, the Greeks may have good reason to fear, the article suggested, that an open-house policy would lead to the Shela’s followers taking control of the site.
In similar vein, the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one of the most influential leaders in the Israeli Orthodox community, recently issued an edict prohibiting Jews from visiting the Bahai gardens in Haifa. The gardens are considered amongst the most beautiful sites in the city, if not the country. Even if Avraham Yosef is not blind to their beauty he is mindful of the fact that Jews may be tempted to enter the church. “I do not have anything against any religion, and this [edict] is also not my personal opinion, but the limitations of Judaism forbid us to enter a church, and so they include the Bahai gardens, because they are part of an idolatrous complex.”