Caspari Center Media Review………….February 20, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the subjects of the missionary and anti-missionary activity, anti-Semitism, and Christian sites. Out of the total:
- 6 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
- 3 dealt with anti-Semitism
- 1 dealt with Christian sites
- 1 dealt with the Vatican and the Pope
- 2 dealt with art
Due to scheduling reasons, this week’s Review covers the last week and a half. Despite the rather scanty coverage, the majority of articles have to do on the one hand with missionary and anti-missionary activity and on the other hand with anti-Semitism, closing with a further report on the work on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Missionary and Anti-missionary Activity
HaShavua beAshdod, December 8, 2006; BeKehila, January 25, pp. 21, 27; Yediot Ahronot, February 7; Kol HaDarom, February 2; Haaretz, February 6 (English and Hebrew editions), 2007
The case of “Pnina Pie” is continuing to garner coverage, especially in the local (regional) media (see previous Reviews). Kol HaDarom (February 2) carried a further report on Pnina’s case against the rabbinate over the revoking of her kashrut license. It would appear that a compromise has been reached by which one of Pnina’s workers will be appointed to supervise the kitchen of her bakery in Ashdod. This condition will satisfy the rabbinate and allow the renewal of Pnina’s kashrut license without her being forced to provide a key to the business to an outside supervisor. The Supreme Court, to whom Pnina appealed against the revocation of her license, has issued a ruling stating that it is to be updated within twenty-one days regarding the implementation of the compromise. The article is written very fairly, stating quite clearly that the call of the “inciters” to boycott her business on the “ostensible pretext” that she was using the bakery as a front for missionary activity had “immediately led to insult and humiliation becoming [Pnina’s] fate”.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses also appear to be active in Ashdod. According to HaShavua beAshdod (December 8), a “new group” has begun operating in the city under the name “Joy.” This constitutes a more dangerous phenomenon than the previous group(s), which were comprised of new immigrants, because they are “Israelis.” The article’s context seems to indicate that the group in question – which is funded by “European States which greatly ‘love’ Israel” and are part of a larger movement responsible for Jewish baptisms in other parts of the country – are in fact Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to the same report, the missionaries (it is unclear whether they are the same group) are also said to be infiltrating the school system – secular and religious alike. The anti-missionary forces are cited as being up in arms over the fact that the schools are refusing them entry, despite the evident danger to the youth.
The disturbances in Beersheva also continue to receive attention in the religious press, BeKehila (January 25) reporting the interview with Howard Bass, together with Yehuda Deri’s response to the concerted “missionary activities.”
Anti-missionary agitation has reached the Knesset, where the Education Minister, Yuli Tamir, was recently attacked for failing to take measures to prevent alleged missionary activity “against the State and against the Jewish people” in an Ort institution in Carmiel and the attendance of “Messianics” in a Talmud Torah school in the Haifa area (BeKehila, January 21; see previous Reviews). While the Ort institution denied any knowledge of the incident and the name of the school was not given, Tamir promised that once she had received the necessary information she would look further into the matter.
Finally, an article in Haaretz (February 6; English and Hebrew) reported on problematic aspects of the Falashmura aliya from Ethiopia. According to the spiritual leaders of the Ethiopian community in Israel, “many of the Falashmura are engaged in Christian missionary activity … and have returned to Christianity and built missions in Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Rehovot.” During a conference convened to discuss the issue, a committee of spiritual leaders was appointed to “map out the missions in each city and prepare a list of all missionaries, which they will transfer to the Interior Ministry, requesting that members be barred from marrying or being buried in a Jewish cemetery.” “The missionaries persecuted us in Ethiopia,” stated the conference participants, “and [we must] not permit them to persecute us in the Holy Land.”
Yediot Ahronot, February 7; HaModia, February 1; HaZofeh, Feburary 4, 2007
A brief report in Yediot Ahronot (February 7) noted that the concerted action of two Israeli ambassadors – in Italy and the Vatican – recently led to the removal of anti-Semitic elements from an exhibition held in an Umbrian church. On visiting the exhibition and seeing pictures and articles accusing the Jews of blood libel, desecration of Christian symbols, and sorcery, the two ambassadors appealed to the local bishop and mayor and persuaded them to remove the offensive material.
HaZofeh (February 4) came out in favor of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the Neturei Carta members who recently attended the Holocaust-deniers’ conference in Teheran. In a meeting with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rowan Williams expressed his “fervent disapproval” of the conference and its participants. In his appeal to the Archbishop to denounce the conference, Yona Metzger stated that “in our times, when many Jews are walking around with a number seared onto their arms and serving as living witnesses, as survivors plucked from the fire of the awful Holocaust – denial [of this] is absurd. It is wicked to distort historical facts in order to pursue twisted political goals.” In response, the Archbishop noted: “Deniers of the Holocaust hurt and injure every attempt of those who wish to see peace.”
A disturbing report was carried by HaModia (February 1) of the arrest of a gang of six high school youths charged with burning the parchments from mezuzot stolen from houses in Bat Yam. Two of the students were Christians, the rest Jewish – all new immigrants. The reason they gave for their behavior: “hatred of Jews and the Jewish religion.” According to the investigating officer, “we are talking here about ‘troublers of Israel’ who hate everything connected to the Jewish religion … most of them are non-Jews who have developed a deep hatred to Judaism and to Israel.”
Kol HaZman, February 2, 2007
In the continuing saga of the emergency exit due to be opened in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (see previous Reviews), Kol HaZman (February 2) carried a report entitled “The Battle of the Keys,” marking the factional struggles within the church over the rights to its terrain and contents. Following intervention from the Christian world, the Minister for Jerusalem’s Affairs recently met with the heads of the communities responsible for the church in order to reach an agreement acceptable to all sides. While consensus was reached on the need for an emergency exit, the practical stumbling block remains: who will have charge of the key?! The severity of the issue is illustrated by the case of the toilet facilities which, because of the guardians’ inability to trust one another not to sweep a broom over space which belongs to another community, must be “the most ancient in the world and haven’t been renovated all these years” and a ladder which has become “fixed in stone” following intense opposition to its being moved anywhere. The real tragedy, as the paper notes, is of course the fact that, without an emergency exit, thousands of pilgrims might be incarcerated in the church if, God forbid, a disaster occurred. The responsibility for this would naturally be laid at the government’s feet – the very entity now pushing for the exit to be made.