March 7 – 2007

Caspari Center Media Review………….March 7 , 2007


During the week covered by this review, we received 20 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Israeli attitudes to Christianity, and Christian Zionism. Out of the total:


  • 5 dealt with anti-missionary activity
  • 3 dealt with Israeli attitudes to Christianity
  • 1 dealt with the Jerusalem syndrome
  • 1 dealt with Christian Zionism
  • 1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
  • 4 dealt with anti-Semitism


The remaining 5 articles dealt with matters of Christian and Jewish interest.

Prof. Ariel Tauf’s book on the Jewish use of the blood of Christian children for ritual rites continues to generate controversy and accounts for the large number of references to anti-Semitism. The defense of Jewish honor is comb with various attitudes towards Christianity – although not linked to the book’s publication. Accounts of various anti-missionary activities are also recorded, largely in response to a televised survey of the Messianic movement in Israel. In a column on “general knowledge,” the issue of the Jerusalem syndrome is the focus of this week’s question.


Missionary and Anti-missionary Activity

HaModia, February 23; HaZofeh, February 23; HaMekoman, February 22; Ma’ariv, February 23; Hed HaKrayot, February 23, 2007

Two different reports concerning a television program shown on Israel Channel 2 on Friday, February 16, came in the religious HaZofeh (February 23) and the secular Ma’ariv (February 23) papers. The former – as indicated in its title – was highly indignant that the program should have aired at peak viewing time. Although the article noted the sympathetic attitude of the program, its own tone was far more negative. According to HaZofeh, Shlomo Raz conducted a “survey of the group known as ‘Messianic Jews [yehudim meshichiim]’ who presented their congregations, their lifestyle, and their religious doctrine. Members of the group, who also according to their own testimony believe in Yeshu and the New Testament, could not have hoped for greater publicity or a more sympathetic public relations promotion.” The various “layers” of the group “all emphasized that they are not Christians and presented a picture – which it must be admitted was extremely convincing – of being a new religious stream in Judaism”: “They circumcise their children, put mezuzot on their doors, observe Shabbat and the commandments, serve in the army, and generally are extremely supportive of the State of Israel.” Whenever a Messianic speaker was being interviewed, “the picture was bathed in a gentle light and he was accompanied by the pleasant sound of a guitar or some other soothing music. The report was interwoven with pictures of children and adults dancing in joy in the aisles of the church – excuse me, ‘synagogue’ – and singing Hebrew songs and verses from the Tanakh [Editor: “OT”] throughout the service [tefilla]. The reporter noted with admiration the growth of such groups in Israel in recent years.”

Having reported the contents of the program, the article’s author began to ask the difficult questions which Shlomo Raz “hadn’t bothered to ask or to investigate”: “But how have they grown so much? What methods do they use? The members of such congregations can call themselves ‘Messianic Jews’ until tomorrow. According to every fundamental definition, they are Christians and their activity has every appearance of being missionary.” He was also concerned by the program’s imbalance: “The report presented the other side – half a minute of poor-quality pictures of Orthodox anti-missionaries, burning books and shouting blasphemies in a Yiddish accent.” Here, the soothing music was replaced with “threatening” notes and accompanied by “negative reporting.” “Such a reversal of roles has not been seen on the screen for a long time – the believers in Yeshua (‘it’s not “Yeshu,”’ as the Messianic speakers explained) as the sons of light and the Orthodox as dark and threatening monsters. A favorable report such as this, at prime time on Channel 2 – the missionaries couldn’t record a greater achievement for themselves than this.”

In conclusion, the article asked how such a “Christian propaganda report” could have been aired on a Channel whose director is an Orthodox Jew. The answer: he could not have been aware of the report. Now that it has been brought to his attention – the reference is presumably to HaZofeh’s own article – “we call on him to pay attention to what’s happening in his own backyard.”

Ma’ariv (February 23) entitled its much shorter notice of the program “The Messiah isn’t telephoning (a reference to a popular song, “The Messiah hasn’t come and isn’t ringing”). Ma’ariv’s author also considered the program concerning the “rising wave of new believers in Yeshu” “depressing.” Identifying the movement with the congregation “Shemen Sasson” (Oil of Joy), its author indicated that its emergence “primarily witnesses to the hollow emptiness of secular Israelis” – caused by the repugnance towards “any true spiritual sense” generated in them by the Israeli educational system. Not only can they understandably not tolerate Orthodox Judaism, but they are put off the Tanakh by the awful way in which it is taught in schools. The only option left “is to turn to Yeshu. Or to Buddha. Or to Kabbala or Chabad … But if they truly understood what is written in the Tanakh, they would understand that no Messiah has yet come – neither Yeshu nor the Lubavitcher Rabbi. For the Tanakh has one and only one proof of the messiahship of the Messiah, as it says in Isaiah 11: ‘Also righteousness will be the belt around his loins, and faithfulness the belt about his waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid.’ In other words, the proof of the redeemer’s coming is very simply the redemption [geula] of the world. As long as the world isn’t saved [nosha], the wolf isn’t dwelling with the lamb, it’s clear that no Messiah has yet come. Every smart and true Jew knows this. That’s why we’re Jews.”

An article noting Yad L’Achim’s annual new-year fundraising drive provides some interesting facts and figures both concerning the organization and its perception of the “missionary threat” (HaModia, February 23). This year marks the jubilee (50th) year of the organization’s existence, it purpose being primarily to stand at the forefront of the “fight against the mission and assimilation in Israel and the diaspora.” The fundraising drive is regularly conducted in the week of Shabbat Zekor, the Shabbat on which the torah portion “Remember what Amalek did to you” is read. This year it is being “marked by a peak momentum in Yad L’Achim’s activities in its various sectors.” Recent months have demonstrated “an impressive, consistent, and continuous increase in the number of children placed in the Torah educational system, through the devotion and loyalty” of its members and the firm establishment of the “kiruv” program of bringing Jews closer to Orthodoxy which has been “heavily influenced” by Yad L’Achim members. All the organization’s work is performed under the slogan “We shall not give up [on] one Jew.” The seminar for “mission survivors” (see last week’s Review) was attended by “hundreds of survivors.” According to its leaders, Yad L’Achim weekly receives “tens of cases of missionary activity which need dealing with immediately,” every one of which costs “millions of dollars every year.”

Two articles also indicated the initiation of legal moves against missionary activity. The local paper Hed HaKrayot (February 23) related to a recent district court decision in Haifa in favor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and “Messianic Jews” and against the municipality’s “discriminatory” policy of barring them from using public halls for their activities. In the wake of this decision – which also imposed court costs to the tune of 50,000 shekels on the mayor – the two chief Rabbis of the city appealed to religious members of the Knesset with a request to introduce a new ruling which would forbid “missionary propaganda which intends to convert people to other religions” – whether they be Jews, Muslims, or Christians who are invited to change their faith. In the words of one of the Rabbis: “We are claiming that this is not a case of discrimination. We are opposed to militant missionizing which exploits the spiritual or economic neediness of new immigrants.”

HaMekoman (February 22) reported that the Council of Chief Rabbis in Israel last week decided “to create a special committee to ‘fight against the mission nationwide.’” Initiated by Beersheva’s Chief Rabbi, Yehuda Deri, the committee will meet with Knesset members, other Rabbis, and the police to encourage them to join the struggle, and endeavor to change the law relating to missionary activity. In Deri’s words, “the work of the Messianic Jewish sect in Beersheva and across the country constitutes the most threatening spiritual risk to us today.” The creation of the committee comes against the background of further action against Deri, this time a demand for compensation in the amount of 1.5 million shekels for the violence and interference with its activities that occurred during last year’s demonstration against the local congregation in Beersheva. According to the report, Deri “is convinced that the charge is a step up in level and is the opening of a frontal war, meant to intimidate him and to constrain his actions in his unprecedented and uncompromising fight against the sect’s activities.”


Attitudes to Christianity

Yated Ne’eman, February 21; Kol HaIr, February, 23; Iton Yerushalayim, February23,  2007

A letter to Yated Ne’eman, printed on February 21, noted how Christian practices have infiltrated Israeli society to the point that even religious brides are being affected. “We are speaking of eggs which are emptied of their content and decorated and then filled with shining glitter which the bride throws up to the ceiling where they shatter and are scattered to the triumphant cry of the crowd.” This custom, together with other related ones, the author writes, “comes directly from the idolatrous places of Christians.” “Let every woman ask her diaspora friends who saw such things in foreign lands.”

Two articles, in Kol HaIr and Iton Yerushalayim (February 23), related to the performance of a high school choir in a Jerusalem church. The concert was part of a series entitled “Voice of Peace” and the mixed Jewish-Arab choir from the school and from a similar institution in Bethlehem was invited to sing by a German Christian Zionist group. Orthodox protests to the school before the concert was held threatened to interrupt it with a mass demonstration. The principal was unmoved, arguing in turn that the performance had been approved by the Ministry of Education. While the demonstration was cancelled at the last moment, Yad L’Achim protested the event, claiming that, “a church is not an appropriate place for Jewish children to perform.” The Augusta Victoria church was specifically singled out as being “unfriendly, because it does not recognize the State of Israel.” In writing to the Minister of Education, Yad L’Achim added further that “visits of students to churches causes inestimable spiritual harm to the children.” The school principal informed his students of the protests and made sure that they understood that not participating would be a completely legitimate choice. Since the concert was held, the students were obviously not intimidated – although Yad L’Achim claimed that their protest was motivated by appeals to them from several of the children’s parents. The musical series, held in the Augusta Victoria church, on the Mount of Olives, and in a Bethlehem church, was sponsored by a German Christian organization which helps fund both Jewish and Arab institutions. (These articles may have been classified, consequently, as representative of anti-missionary activity and Christian Zionism.)


Jerusalem Syndrome

Kol HaIr, February 23, 2007 

Under the title “I wanted to know: what is the Jerusalem Syndrome,” a column in Kol HaIr explained the phenomenon: “The Jerusalem syndrome is a well-known and recognized syndrome which mainly affects devout Christians who come to visit the holy city. Elie Wiesel has an explanation for it: ‘Ancient Jerusalem draws to it the spiritually sick messiahs from all over the world like a magnet.’ These pretend-messiah Christians follow Yeshu’s footsteps through the city and then suddenly begin to feel as though they themselves have been given god-like powers. In the professional literature, this phenomenon is considered a psychosis, and many who are affected by it ultimately find themselves hospitalized in mental institutions. The most well-known example occurred in 1969, when Michael Rowan attempted to set fire to mosques in East Jerusalem after he had been afflicted with the syndrome. This week saw another case: a Swedish tourist tried to burn his son and committed suicide at the airport after he had apparently been affected by the syndrome.”


Jewish-Christian Relations

Haaretz, February 26, 2007

Concurrently with the French Archbishop’s visit to Israel (see last week’s Review), German Catholic-Israeli relations were also strengthened this week by the arrival of a “solidarity pilgrimage” from the Permanent Mission of the German Bishops’ Conference. “The pilgrimage is intended to show a clear sign of solidarity with Christians in the Holy Land, who comprise some 2 percent of the population.” In addition to sightseeing, where mass will be held, the members of the delegation – bishops and diocese administrators from all 27 German bishoprics – will meet with Israeli politicians, German representatives, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and “the bishops of churches linked to Rome.”


Christian Zionism

Zman Holon-Bat-Yam, February 16, 2007

Following the untimely death of Yuri Shtern of the Knesset Allied Caucasus, Orit Noked has been appointed head of the lobby liaising between Israel and the Christian world. Her first assignment was a visit to Canada to become acquainted with the Canadian evangelical communities. “They are great supporters of Israel. I haven’t come across such support for Israel in a long time. The Israeli ambassador to Canada was also there [at the meetings] and was just as amazed as I was by the measure of their support for us. They are a very right-wing group and have very definite opinions about Islam and the Arabs. I think that this will benefit Israel.”