October 30 – 2006

Caspari Center Media Review………….October #5, 2006


During the week covered by this review, we received 38 articles on the subjects of Christians in Israel, anti-Semitism, anti-missionary activity, the Christian media, the Gay Pride march and spirituality. Out of the total:


  • 4 dealt with Christians in Israel and Christian sites
  • 2 dealt with archaeology and ancient texts
  • 3 dealt with anti-missionary activity
  • 4 dealt with anti-Semitism
  • 1 dealt with the Gay Pride march
  • 3 dealt with the Christian media
  • 1 dealt with spirituality
  • 1 was a book review

The remaining 19 articles dealt with matters of Jewish and Christian interest.




This week’s Review focuses much more on events in Israel. Following the trend evident in the last Review the focus is primarily on internal Israeli matters (although many of those not reviewed also deal with the Diaspora). Christians and Christian sites in Israel claim a large portion, together with several archaeological reviews. The inevitable anti-missionary activity reports are paralleled this time with a disturbingly high reference to anti-Semitism. The Christian media also remains in the news, as does the Gay Pride march. A fascinating book review ends this Review with a plea to restore Jesus and Christianity to (secular) Judaism!


Christians in Israel/Christian sites

Yediot Aharanot, October 23, pp. 2, 8; Kol HaZman, October 20; Haaretz, October 24, 2006

The Lebanese war has hit the Israeli economy hard, but especially in the North. One of the main casualties has been the city of Nazareth, due in no small part to its Christian connection In an article entitled “Introduction to Christianity, Chapter 1” (Yediot Aharanot, October 23, p. 2), the author takes a look at the city. Reviewing its history, he writes: “When Yeshu left his home in the Galilee and turned southwards to the districts of his death, his home town – Nazareth – was left behind, orphaned and superfluous for generations. Today it is a beautiful mountain city with a Tuscan outlook … Nazareth is the center of the Arab towns and villages of the Galilee. Its streets are a mixture of Muslims and Eastern Christians (Maronites, Melkites, Greek Catholics, Armenians, Greek Orthodox, Copts, Pravoslavs) and Western Christians (Anglicans and Latins, and the latter Silesians, Franciscans, and Carmelites) – and each of these divided and arguing between themselves and with their neighbors over the nature of their Messiah. Although he is Jewish he is called by Jews – and only by them amongst all the other nations – ‘Nazarene’ [usually translated “Christian” – literally Notzri, from the same word as Natzrat in Hebrew] – because he grew up and was educated here in Nazareth. And because his mother Miriam received an angelic visitation here saying that she would bear the Messiah, he is called by all the Gentiles ‘the Messiah’ (Christ) [brackets in the original].” The history lesson continues with an account of Jesus’ life, including the miracles he performed. “Many miracles took place here [in Nazareth], through Yeshua son of Joseph the Jew who is called ‘Yeshu’ and the nations of the world say that he is the Son of God and that his true father was not Joseph – an innocent and upright carpenter from Nazareth – but the Sovereign of the world in His glory, by means of the Holy Spirit who came upon a virgin, Miriam, a daughter of the city, and caused her to conceive.”

The history which belongs to the town makes it one of the primary Christian sacred sites – one which could be expected to be a place of Christian pilgrimage. In a “usual” year, millions of tourists do visit the city. But now, according to a resident interviewed for an article in Haaretz (October 24), this has all changed. “Here Yeshu walked, here he lived most of his adult life. And Joseph. And how many tourists come every year? But when I look around I understand [why tourists are not here].” Its not only the war that’s responsible for Nazareth’s woes. The Muslim attempt to build a mosque opposite the Church of the Annunciation has upset many of the Christian residents. Their opinion was summed up in the words of the same person, Daoud Zaidan: “Do you understand how silly it was on the part of the Muslims to think that they would be allowed to build a mosque opposite the most important church in the world?”

The Jerusalem paper Kol HaZman (October 20) devoted a lengthy article to “Santa Katarin,” the head of the White Russian Church in Israel. In an in-depth interview, Katarin speaks about the politics between Russia and Israel, between the White and Red Russians, and about her experiences with the Palestinians. As the subtitle describes: “She goes in and out of Olmert’s [Prime Minister], Peres’s, Lupolianski’s {Jerusalem’s Mayor], and military officials’ offices. She meets with the magnates of the world and controls vast property and real estate. She was a medical student at Berkeley, a good girl from San Francisco, until an earthquake brought her to live in a monastery … [she is] the only woman to hold such a high position in the Christian Establishment.”



At, October 25; Haaretz, October 27, 2006

The women’s magazine At [You] includes a travel column that on October 25 was devoted to Akko (Acre). The “excuse” for the reference was one of the music festivals held in the “most beautiful festival places in Israel.” Crusader Akko was discovered in the 1970’s, “entirely by accident, hidden under the earth, and since then has been continuously excavated. During the crusader period the garden was close to the wall, east of which rose up the king’s palace. Westwards stood the fortress which was established by the Order of Knights Hospitaller, in order to protect the Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.”

On a more textual note, Haaretz (October 27) carried an article reviewing “The Hymn of the Pearl and the Hymn of the Bride: Two Christian Hymns from an Aramaic text ‘The Acts of Judas Thomas.’” The latter figure, the article claims, was Jesus’ twin brother, the Thomas who refused to believe Jesus’ resurrection in the Gospel, and the book was written in “Christian Aramaic (Syriac).” To be distinguished from the recently-popularized “Gospel of Thomas,” this text tells “how Judas Thomas was sold by Yeshu in exchange for three litres [358.8 grams] of currency into slavery in India, where he became a carpenter (and it is mentioned that Yeshu was the son of a carpenter) [original brackets].” The author of the article understands that the story is clearly based on the biblical account of Joseph and his brothers – “the sale of a brother, an apparently cruel act, but with great potential benefit for everyone or salvation in the meantime hidden from the eye.” He also finds it evident that “Yeshu’s sale by Judas Iscariot in the Gospels is based on the sale of Joseph, whereas the acts of Judas Thomas are a sort of paraphrase – perhaps ironical-mystical – of the two stories mentioned together.”


Anti-missionary activity

HaModia, October 24; Mishpaha, October 19; Arim, October 19, 2006

Following Yated Ne’eman’s report (October) on the situation in Arad, the religious Mishpaha (October 19) also reported on the same events. Although neither paper is sympathetic to the Messianic community, Mishpaha’s account was strikingly objective in comparison to the former paper: “The decision of the commander of the police station in Arad to move the location of the long-planned demonstration against missionary activity to an insignificant place according to its organizers, led to its cancellation. The latest development is part of an exhausting and years-long program conducted in the southern Negev city against a group of missionaries working illegally to persuade innocent people to change their religion. The struggle has gone through ups and downs. At the present time it is dependent upon a petition submitted to the Supreme Court by the organization BeTzedek in the wake of which the Supreme Court instructed the State to justify the grounds on which it refused the holding of the demonstration in front of the house in which the missionary activity was being carried out.”

Arim (October 19) also followed up its account of “missionary” activity amongst the Ethiopian community. According to the paper, the Rabbi of the community in Rehovot not only asked the municipality to instruct the owners of the building to put a stop to the prayer meetings being held there but also announced that “people participating in the mission will not be given a Jewish burial or marriage.”

The Minister of Defence has also become involved in anti-missionary affairs in relation to the army. According to HaModia (October 24), Peretz sent a letter to the chairperson of the Finance Committee in which he stated that, “When the phenomenon is noted, the distribution (of missionary material) [brackets in the original] is forbidden and is enforceable by the First Sergeant of Unit Discipline.”



Ma’ariv, October 27; Et-mol, September 1; Yediot Aharanot, October 24; HaModia, October 25, 2006


Anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise in many forms around the world. Et-mol, a paper devoted to the history of Eretz Israel, carried an article on September 1 reviewing the history of Jewish censorship. “Over the course of hundreds of years Jews have been compelled to pass over their books for examination and approval by the Christian authorities. The result[s] included erasure, emendations and even the daubing of tar” – from the days of the medieval popes to Czarist Russia.

Even more disturbingly, the charge of blood libel continues to be resurrected. HaModia (October 25) reports that in the province of La Guardia in Spain “the Spanish residents conduct regular ceremonies in memory of a child – whose deep significance lies in the fact that this child disappeared and was killed by Jews for religious ritual purposes.” While it is expressly declared that the incident occurred in 1491 and the Jews are deliberately not named as the perpetrators, “the event is clear to all the observers of the ceremony who know the historical background.” Complaints to the district authorities have brought no response – even at a time when Spain is endeavoring to encourage Jewish tourism to the provincial capital, Toledo. “While the ancient synagogues have been rebuilt, they refuse to stop the ceremonies,” the article concludes.

In Italy as well voices are making public anti-Semitic declarations. In an article entitled “Former Italian Prime Minister: ‘There were Jews who supported Hitler’” (Ma’ariv, October 27), the author stated: “Attempts are being made to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, it appears, not only in Iran – but also in the heart of western Europe.” Andreotti – who is now 87 – made the statement quoted at the launching of a newly-published book by the historian Alexandro Roce, The Holy See and the Question of the Jews 1933-1945. “Andreotti emphasized that because the Jews had cooperated with the Nazi enemy “they hold some responsibility for their own fate.”

Political anti-Semitism is also rearing its head as usual. In a notice commenting on America’s role in the Iraq war, Yediot Aharanot (October 24) remarked that when (not if) America pulls out of Iraq, people will soon be looking for scapegoats. “But this will be nothing in comparison to what awaits in the Middle East: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims will interpret the withdrawal as a religious victory, the victory of Islam, Muhammed’s personal victory over Yeshu and the God of the Jews. Millions of these Muslims will lift up their heads, thrust out their breasts, and perhaps with the help of Iran attempt also to solve their Palestinian problem by the sword.”


Gay Pride march

Ma’ariv, October 24, 2006

The march – long planned and earlier cancelled after much protest and judicial procedures – is now scheduled to take place in November. As with the first round, objections to it are again being raised, this time, according to Ma’ariv (October 24), in an even more radical cooperative fashion. “The proposed march has already led in the past to cooperation between Jewish religious figures, Muslims, and Christians, but this time it includes representatives from even greater extremes: Channel 7 (a news media service that represents the settlers viewpoints) and the northern division [Jewish settlers], and the Islamic Movement.”


Christian media

HaIr – Ramat Gan, October 20; Givatayim, October 20; Kol-Bo, October 20; Ma’ariv, October 25

The increasing warmth displayed towards Evangelical Christian Zionism and Zionists amongst Israelis is apparently paralleled in the Israeli media’s recent burgeoning interest in the Christian media (see also previous Reviews). Three articles this week relate to Christian films – “Tomorrow’s Children,” “One Night with the King,” and “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.” The latter is reviewed – none too seriously – under the title “The Father, the Son and Ice cream Sunday,” the author writing that he had expected “a sort of collection of scraps from “Buffy the Vampire Hunter,” but it became clear that I had fallen into a low-budget ‘bollywood’ film which traced the life of Yeshu.” The author of Ma’ariv’s review (October 25) of “Tomorrow’s Children” identified it in his title with “Apocalypse Now,” characterizing it as a “Christian film” with a “profound Christian message” which, due to its very successful staging and filming, “might turn into a hit film.” According to a list of the ten top box-office breakers listed in Kol-Bo (October 20), “One Night with the King” (based on the book of Esther) came in at number nine. “And how did it come to get into the top ten? Well, devout Christians love biblical films.”



Makor Rishon, October 20

Under the headline “Spirituality and Spirit,” the well-known professor of Jewish mysticism, Yehuda Liebes, wrote an article for the moderate religious paper, Makor Rishon (October 20) in which he examined kabbalistic [Jewish mystical] and eastern studies and practices. Speaking of “Foreign religions and Kabbala,” he stated: “In general, academic study compels one to learn Kabbala not just for its own sake but also to give it its proper framework in world culture. But for that reason I would more recommend the study of Christianity and Islam, which both have a deep relationship to Judaism and not to the religions of faraway India, because in contrast to what has become the accepted view – especially in America – there is no close connection between Judah and Buddha … The link between Judaism and Christianity is greater than Judaism’s link to Islam. For Christianity’s origin is from Judaism and most of it is a new interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures.”


Book review

Makor Rishon, October 20, 2006

In modern Jewish history a long-running debate has existed from the time of the argument between the Chazon Ish (HaRav Avraham Isaiah Karlitz) and Ben Gurion over the proper nature of the Jewish State, summed up in the former’s claim that secularism is an “empty cart” which needs to be “filled up” with the “Jewish cart.” One of the latest additions to the discussion of Jewish/Israeli identity is a book edited by Jacob Malchin, The Culture of Jewish Secularism – New Thinking in Israel. Jewish secularism, according to Malchin is a Judaism that believes no less than “religious” Judaism. Secular Judaism is not a heresy because it derives from a different belief. On the contrary, out of the religious belief in the accuracy of the biblical narrative comes a heresy [belief] in evolution and in the propriety of research findings into the history of the universe. According to secular Judaism, the belief in the God of the commandments is a heresy [belief]  against the belief in human choice.

The reason that the book appears in this review is because, as the article’s subtitle indicates, “with a little effort it can include Philo, Paul and even Yeshu” as “secularists.” Malchin travels backwards through a “time machine” to rediscover texts which have been “exiled for over 2000 years” in Jewish history. “Relying on Jewish (‘secular’) sciences, he seeks to restore to us Jewish Hellenistic literature like the works of Philo of Alexandria, which have left no trace on later Jewish literature); the historian Josephus [Yosef ben Matityahu] – of whom it is not clear whether he was or was not a secularist, but who clearly betrayed his people; and even ‘the Jewish texts in the New Testament.’ If he would restore the Dead Sea Scrolls to secular ‘Scripture,’ he would find religious stringencies that would make Neturei Carta [an Ultra-Orthodox group called ‘The Guardians of the City’ who are virulently anti-Zionist] become completely secular.” The volume concludes, according to the review, with “a list of books which represent the “changing attitude to Yeshu and to early Jewish Christianity.” The reviewer then adds his own opinion: “Perhaps we should also recall and restore to our bosom ‘that man’ [oto ha-ish – Jesus] and then he would be considered a secular Jew. As far as I know, he actually laid tefillin [put on phylacteries] every morning.”