Caspari Center Media Review………….November 6, 2006
During the week covered by this review, we received 30 articles on the subjects of the Gay Pride march, the Pope and the Vatican, political issues, Jewish-Christian relations, Jesus, and the Christian media. Out of the total:
- 3 dealt with the Gay Pride march
- 2 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
- 1 dealt with Israeli attitudes to Jesus
- 1 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 1 dealt with Early Christianity
- 1 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 2 dealt with the Christian media (films and books)
- 4 dealt with political issues
- 2 dealt with the Vatican and the Pope
- 1 dealt with archaeology
- 2 were book reviews
The remaining 10 articles dealt with matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
Like last week’s, this Review continues to focus on events in Israel, although several of the articles addressed diaspora and general political events. The anticipated Gay Pride march this week is again taking up much media space and we give some of the reactions it raises. A fascinating glimpse into Israeli attitudes to Jesus comes through emotions generated in a musical actor, and another side of Jewish-Evangelical relations is seen through a review of voting appeals in the run up to the American elections.
Gay Pride March
Ma’ariv, November 1, 2; HaZofeh, November 1; Ma’ariv, November 3; Haaretz, November 5 (English and Hebrew), 2006
Despite strong hints that the march may still be cancelled at the last minute, the police warning that Orthodox violence will cause too great a disturbance, it is still scheduled to take place on Friday (November 10). A letter and an article in Ma’ariv on successive days address different aspects of the idea of a homo-lesbian demonstration taking place in Jerusalem. The first appeals on both interfaith and national grounds: “As is known, the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem arouses strong opposition amongst the residents of the nation’s capital, Jews, Christians, and Muslims. A large part of the public perceives it as pure provocation, and the police are not forbidding its occurrence. When Jews want to go up on the Temple Mount on significant dates, the police prevent them, because this is likely to cause a war, and they bring large forces to stop Jews from going up. The Gay Pride march is also likely to cause wars. So why do the police not prevent it from taking place?” (2 November).
Another article is of interest because it is written by Kobi Arieli, a member of “Open House,” Jerusalem’s primary gay rights organization. He also belongs to “Tzav Pius” (“Command for Reconciliation”), a group which fights for tolerance and acceptance amongst all the various factions and divisions within Israeli society. The two organizations got together this week in an attempt to issue a joint declaration designed to calm the tension generated by the march. Kobi regularly attends all such meetings – “but not this time.” “I have no urge to go to any false embrace and pretended cheerfulness in the presence of such boorish close-mindedness and irresponsibility which in fact expresses the obstinacy of Open House members towards holding the march. The only meeting I would be prepared to participate in is one in which I would say, painfully, to those opposed: You have another week to decide. You and I and every sane citizen knows that you’ve gone too far. You’re doing this, in the midst of daily living, just to put your fists in the face of the thousands of Ultra-Orthodox, Muslim, and Christian Jerusalemites, to annoy them. You know as well as I that it’s not worth it. I want to reveal a secret to you. The Ultra-Orthodox fight – and maybe that of the Muslims and Christians in the city – against the march in the capital, against a Gay Pride march, isn’t a battle against the homo-lesbian community. It’s a childish mistake in the reading of reality, characteristic of people in the grip of a holy war … Can you take a minute to understand that the Ultra-Orthodox are hurt a thousand times worse by the march than you are by its cancellation … The close-minded attitude of the Open House which insists that the march must go ahead at any cost … frightens me. Most of all, it doesn’t add any dignity, not to the community and not to what it represents. There is a Gay Pride march in Tel Aviv every year. The Ultra-Orthodox aren’t up in arms about that. Over the years a painful compromise has been reached by which Tel Aviv is considered the secular-cultural capital and Jerusalem the religious capital. Everything is so simple, so clear, so logical. Do you really want all this mess?” (November 1).
The Ultra-Orthodox response is indeed clear and evident from the headline in the religious HaZofeh (November 1): “Ultra-Orthodox representative: The Rabbis have ordered people to stop the demonstration with their bodies.” The article cites in its opening words from the discussion held in a stormy meeting of the Knesset Internal Committee, attended by religious and secular alike. The following quotation from the Shas leader, Eli Yishai, appeals, once again, to interfaith grounds: “‘The opposition to the march crosses lines between religions and people. People of all religions express their opposition and this is without precedent. The fact that many people have signed a petition against the march gives great weight to our request for its cancellation.’” A parallel statement was made by Sheik Abed al-Salaach: “[Allah] can sink Jerusalem just like Sodom and Gomorrah and we shall be left without a capital city. My community will not respond physically but Jerusalem must be as clean as the heavens. Jerusalem is the heart of the whole world and if, God forbid, something bad happens [here], it will affect the whole world.”
Jerusalem Post, October 30, November 1; Mishpaha, October 26, 2006
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post of October 30, interfaith cooperation is now being conducted around the issue of AIDS. A delegation of Jewish Rabbis, headed by the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, consulted with senior Vatican officials at the first meeting of the Jewish Catholic International Liaison Committee, held in Cape Town November 4-7. David Rosen, participating in the conference, summed up the delegation’s purpose: “Judaism’s goal is to be a light to the nations … Presenting Judaism’s views on issues such as contraceptives in cases of life-threatening diseases such as the pandemic AIDS is central to fulfilling this goal.”
While Jewish-Catholic relations are progressing in this case and the evangelicals involved in Christian Zionism are increasingly being courted by Israel, reservations towards the evangelical community in the States were also raised this week. In an article examining the Jewish vote in the American elections, Samuel G. Freedman in the Jerusalem Post (November 1) addressed the issue of the “purportedly common ground between Jews and Christians.” From numerous researches and polls conducted, the common ground appears rather to be a “chasm”: “More than identifying this schism on any specific topic, the research describes a visceral distrust, bordering on antipathy, for Evangelical Christians on the part of American Jews.” As one report demonstrates, “only 25 percent of Orthodox Jews … express a favorable views of evangelicals.” Freedman gives his opinion regarding this phenomenon: “The major reason, I would argue, is the fear of an official Christianization of American public life and public policy. It is one thing for right-wing American Zionists to enjoy the alliance with evangelicals on Greater Israel. It is one thing for Orthodox Jews to appreciate the solidarity of evangelicals in the campaign to enact taxpayer-funded vouchers for parochial school tuition. It is something altogether different for a population constituting about 2 percent of the American whole to want the country to operate on the premise of ‘What would Jesus Do?,’ as the popular evangelical slogan has it.”
Jewish-Christian relations in Israel are not always as positive. Mishpaha (October 26) reports an initiative taken by a secular Jewish state school in Lod to bring a Christian priest to “lecture to the students.” According to the report, some of the students expressed their response in a “spontaneous and natural Jewish outburst” – by taking out their prayer shawls and phylacteries and shouting “Shema Israel.” The priest – whose identity (personal and “denominational”) and goal are left undisclosed in the article, but who can be presumed to have been asked to explain Christianity to the students – quickly took his leave “with a fallen face.” In an attempt to revoke their suspension, the students responsible justified their action on the ground that they were living in a Jewish state. They were also able to return to school through the intervention of Lev L’Achim, an organization similar to Yad L’Achim. A representative of the latter is quoted as saying: “The students’ behavior towards the priest was very moving but on second thought also very predictable. What is shocking is the dangerous idea which arose in the school administration to bring in a priest to make the students familiar with Christianity.”
Attitudes towards Jesus
Yediot Aharanot, October 31, 2006
Jewish attitudes can arise in all sorts of circumstances and from all sorts of situation. Hanukkah is the time for pantomimes and musicals in Israel, and this year the musical “The Wizard of Oz,” with Shalom Asiag playing the part of the strawman. Under the heading “The crucified scarecrow,” the reviewer stated that during the filming, “Asiag understood that he was crucified [bound] to boards and was shocked, so it was decided to begin the day’s filming again.” In Asiag’s own words, “I felt like a scarecrow in Yeshu’s garden … It was even more problematic for me than for others. I grew up in a religious home, to the point where we weren’t allowed to draw a cross.”
Haaretz, November 3, 2006
Under the heading “Reponses” a letter appeared in Haaretz (November 3) referring to a previous article by the archaeologist Magen Broshi entitled “A philosophic delegation to Qumran,” published in the same paper on October 1. In relating to the latter, Rivka Nir argued that Broshi’s own piece was nothing other than an attempt to advance his own views – that the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls were Essenes and “to present those who do not agree with this theory as sensation seekers.”
Although Nir obviously felt that she falls into the latter category, she also criticized Broshi for his criticism of fellow colleague Joshua Efron for the view that “not only the Scrolls but all the genizal (from Geniza, a place for storing books that have become unusable) and apocryphal books – which the whole world attributes to the Second Temple [period] – are really Christian texts.” This, argued Nir, is an obvious misreading of Efron, who certainly believes that such books as Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, Ben Sira and others are Jewish and central sources for the understanding of the Jewish world of that time [the Second Temple]. In the next sentence, however, Nir explained: “Ephron does not claim that the ‘external’ books [the name for “apocrypha” in Hebrew] are Christian but that what are known as the ‘apocryphal books’ (according to Catholic terminology) or the pseudepigrapha (according to Protestant terminology) are Christian, primarily because they are apocalyptic and, according to his view apocalyptic, or the apocalyptic composition, originated in the bosom of Christianity and its sources are embedded in the New Testament.”
Jerusalem Post, November 5, 2006
While American evangelicals have now become established supporters of Christian Zionism, the phenomenon has not been so visible or vocal in Europe. The Jerusalem Post (November 5) reported on just such a European venture in the form of a “delegation of European Christian leaders from the Pentecostal European Fellowship,” who recently voiced their “unflinching support” for Israel on a solidarity trip hosted by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. According to the article, the umbrella organization “represents over 40 denominations across Europe and has nearly five million members. Most Pentecostals are Evangelicals [sic!]. PEF leader Ingolf Ellsell hopes to harness this constituency into a “lobbying force in Europe” on behalf of Israel: “Our agenda will include more than prayers and words of support, but practical measures such as encouraging business investment in Israel and Christian tourism to the Holy Land.”