Caspari Center Media Review………….February 28, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 22 articles on the subjects of the Israeli attitudes to Christianity, the Pope and the Vatican, Christians in Israel, Christian Zionism, and sects in Israel. Out of the total:
- 4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 1 dealt with sects
- 3 dealt with anti-Semitism
- 6 dealt with the Pope and Jewish-Catholic relations
- 2 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 1 dealt with Christian tourism
- 1 dealt with archaeology
- 1 was a book review
The remaining three articles dealt with matters of Christian and Jewish interest.
With a second extended period under review, the number of articles in this week’s coverage remained relatively small. Anti-missionary activity continues to provide a primary source of interest, including reference to the Mormon community in Israel. Old-fashioned anti-Semitism also raised its head in a new book on blood libel – matched, on the other hand, by improving Jewish-Catholic relations and continuing Christian Zionist projects.
HaModia, February 13, 15; Yated Ne’eman, February 8, 13, 2007
While opposition to the aliyah of the falshmura continues to express itself (HaModia, February 8; see previous Reviews), it has now been exacerbated by rumors that “thousands of [non-Jewish] Ethiopians are disguising themselves as ‘falashmura’ in order to immigrate to Israel, and many of them have already succeeded in doing so” (Yated Ne’eman, February 13). Reports that the government will bar the immigration of this group is causing concern both amongst Ethiopians already in Israel – many of whom have relatives amongst the former group – and amongst those in transit camps still awaiting permission to immigrate.
HaModia (February 13) reported on a three-day seminar conducted by Yad L’Achim for “survivors of the mission” in Safed. As noted in previous Reviews, missionaries have recently been active inside the religious high schools in the area, a fact disclosed both by school administrations and by students themselves. These youth, together with those who have escaped the mission’s influence, attended the conference entitled “We shall not let go of one Jew.” The convention included the “testimony” of a Jew who had long strayed into “idolatry,” Torah teaching, and a “moving” lecture by Binyamin Kugler of Yad L’Achim. The response was said to be very touching, with “warm tears” pouring down the participants’ cheeks, most of whom were immigrants from the former USSR – unaccustomed, according to the report, to expressing such emotions. “The fact that they got to this point is a sign that the words penetrated to their inner souls and did their work there.”
The exposure of a “missionary hornet’s nest” masquerading as a soup kitchen in Nazareth Elite was also reported by HaModia (February 15). According to the article, the deception was revealed when a near-by resident heard loud music issuing from the premises on Holocaust Memorial Day, when respect for those killed demands that there be no such entertainment performances. On entering the building, in which a klezmer band was playing and numerous people were dancing to the music, the neighbor was quickly offered a meal, which he politely declined. Having seen people being given food packages, tracts and reading material in Russian, he then left. “He immediately recognized that the place had no Jewish character and a red light went off in his mind as to the true identity of its owners”: its real purpose was to draw immigrants in through the gift of meals and food packages “to what they defined as cultural activities which were in fact regular visits to a nearby church.” While the people attending the soup kitchen had been referred by municipal social workers, once the fraud was unveiled, the city’s mayor “took action without delay and without any compromise” and spoke to all members of the welfare office, making sure that his orders– to the effect that the soup kitchen would no longer receive any municipal funds or referrals – reached all its levels. Yad L’Achim claimed that this action was sufficient to cause the soup kitchen’s immediate closure and that “the inevitable conclusion from such a story is that every humanitarian activity must be monitored with a fine-tooth comb, since this method is one which the mission frequently exploits: distributing food and showering presents on people in need, in order to deceive them.” It also noted that this “victory constitutes a heavy moral blow against the mission which for so many years has been endeavoring to establish a foothold in Nazareth.”
Yated Ne’eman, February 16, 2007
According to a report in Yated Ne’eman (February 16), a plan by the Academic College in Netanya to award an honorary degree to Paul Olstrom was thwarted by Lev L’Achim when one its members recognized the name from his work with the organization: Olstrom was in fact one of the Mormon leaders in Israel. The degree was awarded to Olstrom in honor of the dedication of a chair “designed to strengthen the support of the Mormon community in Israel and in appreciation of the dialogue between Jews and Mormons.” Writing to the head of the Academic College in protest, Rabbi Lachover exclaimed: “Was the College established to strengthen the relationship between Jews and Mormons, since it is clear that these relations will lead to the conversion of the residents of our town Netanya?!” Lachover also sent the letter to the mayor and local council in order to prevent the “shameful ceremony” from taking place in a municipal hall.
Ma’ariv, February 8; Globes, February 13; Ha’aretz, February 16. 2007
All three articles listed above cover the recent publication in Italy of Bar-Ilan Professor Ariel Tauf’s book entitled “Passover of Blood,” which has raised a storm of controversy. Tauf’s claim is that the legal documentation can be shown to “prove” that in at least some of the cases of blood libel against Jews the allegations may in fact have been true. Negative reactions have been expressed by both Jewish and non-Jewish researchers, who argue that, despite Tauf’s reputation as an expert on Italian Jewry, none of the material or conclusions are new and that it contains serious methodological flaws. According to another expert, “The book’s basic presupposition is that all the previous scholars who researched the subject were biased in favor of the Jews, so that all their interpretative efforts were employed in order to prove their innocence.” Moreover, Tauf applied the methods of modern law courts to the medieval inquisition, which operated according to very different standards and values
The Vatican and the Pope
Jerusalem Post, February 15, 19; HaModia, February 14; Globes, February 13; Haaretz, February 14, 15 (English and Hebrew editions), 2007
Contemporary Jewish-Catholic relations demonstrated a more positive aspect than usual with the recent visit to Israel of the Archbishop of Paris (Haaretz, February 14; Jerusalem Post, February 15). The delegation of clergymen, theologians, pilgrimage tour operators, and journalists, hosted by the Minister of Tourism in conjunction with the French Embassy, ended “a decade in which there was no cooperation between the French Catholic Church and Israel.” On their arrival, Andre Vingt-Trois “carried out the traditional ceremony of salt, wine and bread.” [Editor’s note: no such ceremony exists in Jewish tradition but it may reflect a Middle Eastern tradition of bringing bread and salt.] “We are happy to be in the Holy Land. Jerusalem is the center of religions and it must unite all the religions in line with the vision of Jesus for unity, peace and tolerance,” said the Archbishop. In addition to participating in a dialogue on ethics and security in the twenty-first century at Tel-Aviv University, meeting with the Chief Sephardi Rabbi, and traditional sightseeing, Vingt-Trois visited Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath. Almost ten years after the Catholic Church in France officially apologized for its silence during the Holocaust, the Archbishop stated: “Without hope, the remembrance of crime is the despair of men … Keeping the memory with hope – this is faith.” While at Yad Vashem he also signed a “special treaty committing the Catholic Church to joint research on the victims of the Holocaust. At the same time, he plans to declare a visit to Yad Vashem as mandatory for Catholic pilgrims to the Holy Land.”
Having been rebuffed by Hezbollah at his first attempt at mediation, the Pope recently met with the families of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in the Vatican. The families were requesting that he “step up his efforts to effect their release” (Ha’aretz, February 15; HaModia, February 14; Jerusalem Post, February 15). Having given the pontiff a “booklet with paintings from the Bible and photos of the captive soldiers,” it was evident that Benedict XVI “was very touched.” The group also met with the Italian Foreign Minister and the President of the Parliament. “Please, make your voice heard and urge your leaders so that Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev, and Gideon Shalit will not be forgotten. We want to know that they are alright and are receiving proper treatment,” appealed Goldwasser’s mother.
Christian Tourism and Sites
Yediot Ahronot, February 13, 2007
With the recent tendency to place large portions of land in the Galilee in the hands of private developers, a plan has been raised to create a “round the lake path” which would make the Sea of Galilee “accessible to huge numbers of tourists, Jewish and Christian alike” (Yediot Ahronot, February 13). While similar paths exist in Canada and California, the Israel Tourism Ministry is objecting to the proposal on the grounds that it will injure Christian holy sites. Although the report is unclear, it appears that the Ministry has received complaints from Christian bodies that the path will bypass holy sites so that they will remain unvisited.
Lev HaSharon, February 6; Makor Rishon, February 9, 2007
“Keren Or” (Fund/Ray of Light) is the most recent project of the “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” under the directorship of Yechiel Eckstein (Lev HaSharon, February 6). It is designed to provide warmth to the elderly during the winter by providing money to purchase heaters – to the tune of 8.5 million dollars.
According to a report in the religious paper Makor Rishon (February 9), “in many districts of the backwoods of America, support for Israel has become an article of faith.” The article describes an evening of Christian Zionism support in Jerusalem, where, a wintry Jerusalem day not having prevented the group from having “traced the exhausting paths on which their Christian messiah walked 2000 years ago,” the group then listened to an address from a representative of the International Christian Embassy, who “according to theological sources, explained of the necessary connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.” The author acknowledged his positive reaction to the warmth expressed and to the special quality of the occasion. David Parson of the Embassy refuted the theory that Christian Zionism is predicated on eschatological premises such as the war of Gog and Magog: “We aren’t there; only a small minority believes this.” According to the author, “their [the Christian Embassy] theology makes an unbreakable link between the restoration of the people of Israel to their promised homeland and their Christian belief. Their purpose is primarily Zionistic: The people of Israel living securely and peacefully in their homeland.”
Haaretz, February 8, 2007
Oded Golan, the “producer” of the now-dismissed James ossuary, is now claiming in his trial that photos taken in the 1970’s will prove the ossuary’s authenticity. The prosecution is charging that Golan faked the inscription on the ossuary in the 2000’s – but the picture series – from the FBI – demonstrates, according to his defense, that the inscription already existed in the 1970’s.
HaZofeh, February 13, 2007
A new book has recently been published by Prof. Yossi Katz of Bar-Ilan University, entitled “By Their Faith They Shall Live.” The volume examines the history of the “largest communal community in the world” – the Anabaptist Hutterites. Complete with maps, pictures, and statistical data, the books also draws comparisons with the Jewish-Israeli experience – including the original kibbutz lifestyle, the “religious, even radical, way of life – really like the Jewish Orthodox community.” Katz also attempts to evaluate the chances for the group’s long-term survival.