Caspari Center Media Review………….May 11, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 25 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, Christian Zionism, Christianity, the Pope and the Vatican, and two book reviews. Out of the total:
- 2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 2 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
- 1 dealt with the Bible
- 2 dealt with Christianity
- 2 dealt with music
- 1 dealt with sects
- 2 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 2 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
- 2 were book reviews
The remaining 8 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
This week’s Review is primarily significant for its references to cases of converted Jewish believers – and the laws which the anti-missionary organizations are proposing to stiffen so-called missionary activity. The rest of the articles contain more light-hearted subject, such as music and humor.
HaModia, April 25; Mishpaha, April 26, 2007
Both the articles covering anti-missionary activity related to the so-called work of converts to Judaism who, according to the reports, continue their missionary activity following their conversion. According to HaModia (April 25), “None of the Rabbis who accompany the converts through the conversion process are aware that amongst the converts seeking to be numbered among the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob there are those who continue to stay close to the mission and to the ‘Messianic Jews’ sect and to preach [Christianity] to all those with whom they come in contact.” The report records Yad L’Achim claim that a family in the settlement of Elazar in Gush Etzion have publicly declared that they only went through the conversion process “in order to follow in the footsteps of That Man, God have mercy on us.” A significant number of similar cases are said to exist in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, the city of Ra’anana, and the settlements of Adam and Kokhav Ya’akov. All these “facts” “create an astonishing mosaic of people who appear to their neighbors as righteous converts but who in reality are numbered amongst the Messianic Jewish congregations [kehilot].” One case appeared before the court, in which, according to the article, the couple in question are said to have stated that: “No one asked us if we were Messianic Jews. They only asked if we were Christians. And we’re not.” [Editor’s note: This statement in the mouth of Jewish believers sounds very plausible.] The report asserts that “a watershed” in anti-missionary activities is due to occur, in light of Yad L’Achim’s imminent filing of a charge in the Beersheva rabbinical court against a female convert in Beersheva who “without a shadow of a doubt” is “promoting the dissemination of poisonous missionary ideas.”
In light of the recent events, Yad L’Achim Director, Shalom Dov Lipschitz, has called for the “refreshing [sic] of the rules” through the addition of a “crucial and vital question to be asked of every candidate for conversion: ‘Do you believe in That Man?’” “It is absolutely clear,” he stated, “that the absurd situation in which people who are Messianic Jews, with all the serious implications that this involves, become part of the Jewish people through the front door cannot continue and must be brought to an end.” To this end, Lipschitz intends to appeal to the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel to expedite the change.
The article further notes that Yad L’Achim is concurrently distributing a document ostensibly signed by ten cardinals and top Vatican officials and representative which states: “May it be clear and explicit that we reject all attempts at conversion and change of faith, namely missionizing.” According to the report, Yad L’Achim understands this statement to constitute “full official confirmation” of its conviction that the “decisive majority of the Catholic world vehemently opposes missionary work,” and hopes to use it to hasten the revision of the current anti-missionary law to prohibit all missionary activity in Israel.
According to the report in Mishpaha (April 26), the Beersheva court case is due to take place next week. The article states that the case came to light following the convert’s attempt to befriend the wife of the neighborhood Rabbi and to persuade her to believe that “not the Messiah whom the Jews are expecting will redeem us but That Man, God have mercy on us.” When the Rabbanit asked her why she had converted, the woman answered that “That Man was himself Jewish.” Questioned subsequently, the convert allegedly acknowledged that “had the court asked me if I believe in That Man, I would have stopped the conversion process. But fortunately, no one asked me.” The article notes that Yad L’Achim is aware that in this context converts who are directly asked if they believe in Yeshua “do not deny it and answer in the affirmative.”
Ma’ariv, April 26; Makor Rishon, April 29, 2007
Both these articles note the International Christian Embassy’s successful efforts in locating “more than a million Jews in remote regions of Russia” (Makor Rishon, April 29). Ma’ariv’s title read: “International Christian Embassy concerned over aliyah statistics: The secret weapon of the Jewish Agency – a Christian organization.” This article noted that the dismal reduction in the rate of aliyah is not only of concern to Jewish sources but also to Christian Zionists. The Embassy has compiled a “book of Jewish telephone numbers” of forgotten Jews in Russia, by way of a computer program which identifies Jewish-sounding names, which they hope will encourage their aliyah to Israel. An Embassy official was quoted as saying: “When the numbers of immigrants from the former Soviet Union began to decline and the [Jewish] Agency cut its budgets, we thought about how we could help it reach more Jews and to let them know about the possibility of making aliyah.” According to the report, the Embassy’s next project is to locate the descendants of Jews who migrated from Russia to the States and pass these details on to the Jewish Agency as well. A paragraph at the conclusion of the article explained the Embassy’s purpose: “The ICE is an apolitical organization established in Jerusalem in 1980 in order to support Israel and to work on her behalf. The Embassy serves as an information center for anything related to Israel for Christians across the world. It runs special programs and projects to strengthen the link between Christians and Israel, builds bridges of reconciliation between Jews and Arabs, and organizes projects for the welfare of Israeli citizens and residents. In addition, it encourages leaders, organizations, and churches to support Jewish kibbutzim throughout the country.”
Jerusalem Post, April 30, 2007
The planting of a forest in the name of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow is currently being organized by the Congressional Black Caucus in the States. “The initiative, which includes a partnership with black churches in the United States, would strengthen ties between blacks and Jews dating back to the early Civil Rights movement.”
Haaretz, April 27, 30, 2007
In a fascinating article entitled “Kicking against the Bible,” the author (B.Z.) looked at the increasing trend in Israel to treat the Bible dismissively and contemptuously. He lists five categories of such people. Apart from the obvious – the secular and school students studying for matriculation exams – these also include, rather paradoxically, some of the religious, whose primary if not exclusive biblical “study” is done for the sole purpose of reading the Torah and prophetic portion of the week in the synagogue. This is done with little if any appreciation of the Bible’s literary or historical value. Other guilty parties are precisely the literati, whose focus, for example, on the Bible’s structural-semiotic aspects has driven it out the field of poetic inspiration. A further group includes those who paraphrase its text: “After one sucks all the juice out of the text in such a vulgar fashion it can’t be expected that people will continue to treat the Bible with respect as a sacred, enigmatic, mysterious, and dignified text.” Into the final category fall the archaeologists and certain historians of the “minimalist” school who see the Bible as primarily ideological. B.Z.’s comment on this circumstance is also of interest: “Paradoxically, we have deliberately let drop from our hands the one book which could have truly been considered the cornerstone of the Israeli nation. We are hereby justifying the Christian anti-Semitic attitude which sees Judaism as something which has betrayed the Bible which was given to it and therefore isn’t worthy to still be called the people of Israel – and those who have taken it upon themselves to guard the Bible and disseminate it are the Christians.”
Yediot Ahronot, April 30; Makor Rishon, April 29, 2007
These two reports – both of which include the same picture – relate to the recent completion of a full-scale reconstruction of Noah’s ark. The two articles diverge, however, in attributing the origin of the artifact on the one hand (Makor Rishon) to “German evangelical Christians” and on the other (Yediot) to a Dutchman. While the former states that various pairs of animals have been put into it, the latter identifies these as “life-size statues” – although there are plans in the work to create a mini-zoo for observers to experience the ark’s original features. According to Yediot, the ark was constructed by the Dutchman with his own hands according to plans drawn up by his wife. The ark also houses a cinema for children that will screen Disney’s Fantasia and a museum displaying ancient tools and instruments. While Yediot asserts that the Dutchman is planning to sail the ark himself to Belgium and Germany, Makor Rishon elaborates on this to include Holland and by “anyone interested in sailing on her.”
HaIr Tel Aviv, April 26; Ma’ariv, April 26, 2007
The first of these articles (HaIr Tel Aviv, April 26) is included exclusively due to its use of “Yeshua” rather than Yeshu. In a review of Stephen Marley’s new disc, the article notes that Marley’s namesake, Bob, was considered by many to be “a messenger of God, some sort of modern reincarnation (black, of course) of Yeshua the Nazarene.”
The second is not strictly so much about music as about humor. Asked if he thought there was any difference between Jewish and Christian humor (“if the latter exists”), the journalist and radio broadcaster Jackie Levy responded: “Christianity has always believed that laughter is from Satan, that’s the central difference. True, good Jewish humor doesn’t deal with joy from gloating. A Jewish joke is funny because of the way it’s told, not because of its punchline.”
Haaretz, April 25; Ma’ariv, April 27, 2007
Haaretz reviewed the Hebrew translation of Tommaso Campanella’s City of the Sun, originally written in Italian by Campanella, an Italian monk born in 1568. The book describes a utopia whose society is governed by rationalism and restrained desire. It has been considered important due to the question of whether it may have given birth to modernism’s totalitarian dreams.
The second review, in Ma’ariv (April 27), looked at a new biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Charles Nichol, translated into Hebrew.