Caspari Center Media Review………….May 31, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 24 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christian sites, and the Pope and the Vatican. Out of the total:
- 5 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 7 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 1 dealt with Christian sites
- 3 dealt with anti-Semitism
- 3 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
- 1 was a book review
The remaining 4 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
Christian Zionism in its various guises formed the focus of much of this week’s media coverage, largely due to the women’s conference held this week and the death of Jerry Falwell, to whose life and work the press paid tribute. The anti-missionary activity was also largely directed against the conference, while the Pope’s condemnation of the kassam attacks on Sederot was complemented by his encouragement of the Bethlehem to Jerusalem peace marathon.
HaModia, May 18, pp. 5, 12; Yated Ne’eman, May 18; Jerusalem Post, May 17, 18, 2007
Most of this week’s coverage of anti-missionary activity related to the women’s empowerment conference sponsored by various Christian Zionist organizations in conjunction with the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (see last week’s Review). Four of the five articles dealt with the Chief Rabbinate’s decision to ban Jewish participation in the conference. The ruling confirmed a Rabbinate sub-committee’s verdict that “the conference was in violation of Jewish law due to allegations that participating groups were involved in missionary activity” (Jerusalem Post, May 18). The two organizations singled out were Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy. According to the Post’s report, neither group was prepared to comment on the ruling: “‘We’re in no position to comment right now, since we were given no notice or access to this hearing and it involved matters of Jewish halachic law. We’ll respond more fully once we have a better handle on the nature of this proceeding, the evidentiary standards used, and its possible impact on our ministry of comfort to the Jewish people,’ said International Christian Embassy spokesman David Parsons.” The two articles in the religious press (Yated Ne’eman, May 18; HaModia, May 18, p. 12) claimed that these two specific organizations “serve as a tool for the dangerous activity of the ‘Messianics’ in Israel. Members of these organizations are central activists in the ‘Messianic’ congregations.”
The fifth article (HaModia, May 18, p. 5) reported on the fact that the Haifa district court ruling is being exploited by missionary groups who are continuing to “desecrate shabbat” by holding conferences in the Congress Center which include the baptism of Jews. (For the ruling, see previous Reviews.)
Jerusalem Post, May 17, 20 (pp. 14, 15), 21; Makor Rishon, May 16; HaTzvi, April 26; Globes, May 18, 2007
While the women’s conference has already been dealt with under “Anti-Missionary Activity,’ the Jerusalem Post (May 21) carried an article about it entitled “Sudanese female refugees focus of Jerusalem Christian conference.” The theme of empowering women and improving their status was concretely demonstrated by the presence of two Sudanese who had “trekked to Israel from Egypt.” The two are among approximately 450 Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel. Having initially been declared enemy nationals by the government, there is now increasing public support for the refugees’ plight: “‘As Jewish residents living in the Jewish State, we cannot be indifferent to war refugees who are fleeing for their life from acts of genocide perpetrated by the Sudanese government,’ Pof. Amnon Rubinstein wrote” to the Prime Minister.
The International Christian Embassy recently wrote to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky on the occasion of the city’s celebration of its fortieth year of reunification (Makor Rishon, May 16). The Embassy conducted its own celebrations for the event, noting to the Mayor: “We are celebrating together with you from the depth of our hearts the reunification of the city and the return to it of the Jewish people. This event, in 1967, was the greatest miracle in the series of miracles which took place during the Six Day War, forty years ago. Thus too the promise of Israel’s prophets was fulfilled that one day the Holy One, blessed be He, to restore the people of Israel to Jerusalem.” The letter also strongly denounced the refusal of other foreign embassies to participate in the celebrations.
At the same time as the Negev city of Arad has been the scene of fierce Orthodox anti-missionary activity for some time, other sectors in the town are apparently more open to “Christians.” For the second year running, Arad has hosted the Dutch choir Maranatha 2000, “which numbers 100 Christian singers who are lovers of Israel.” The city is cultivating particular links with Holland and last year the choir members were accommodated in the homes of some of the Dutch-Jewish families in the city (around 30). This year, although the holidays prevented the same arrangements, the choir came from Eilat for the concert and remained afterwards to meet with the residents and travel in the area. According to a spokesperson, “The purpose of the visit was to develop and deepen the cultural and emotional connection with the State of Israel in general and the population of Arad in particular.”
Jerry Falwell’s death was well noted in the Israeli press. All of the articles (Jerusalem Post, May 17, 20; Globes, May 18) marked Falwell’s close ties with and support of Israel, acknowledging his role in creating a broad evangelical backing for Israel, as well as his influence on American policy, both internal and foreign. As the title of the Post’s May 17 feature indicates, the majority feeling among the Jewish community towards Falwell was ambivalent: “Falwell left Jews with mixed feelings”: “Statements from Jewish leaders about his death were duly respectful of a man who loved Israel, but were qualified also by his embrace of values that alienated most American Jews.”
Although not strictly a “Christian Zionist” feature, we have included an article on Francis Beckwith’s conversion to Catholicism here due to his evangelical background. The Jerusalem Post (May 20) devoted a lengthy article to the subject, entitled “Switching churches in midstream: What made the leader of 4,300 Evangelical theologians become a Catholic, leaving colleagues gasping for breath?” The subject was obviously felt to be of interest because of Israel’s increasing recognition of American evangelical support for the State.
Kol HaIr, May 11, 2007
Under its section dealing with “My Jerusalem,” Kol HaIr (May 11) gave a description of the Via Dolorosa. Having explained the origin and meaning of the name (“Way of Sufferings), the brief article went on to note that the term – “and its Hebrew equivalent” – “serve metaphorically as a depiction of a path paved with obstacles and difficulties for the sake of obtaining a particular goal.” Because Jerusalem’s destruction and rebuilding over the centuries means that pilgrims can no longer be certain that they are walking the exact path which Jesus followed, the event is much more a spiritual than an historical one: “The path which the pilgrims follow along the Via Dolorosa is, consequently, a spiritual one of identification with Yeshu’s suffering and not necessarily an authentically historical path … Its true significance lies in the fellowship and identification with Yeshu’s suffering and contemplation of it.” According to the report, the Via Dolorosa’s origins lie not in Jerusalem but in churches across Europe, in which Christians followed the stations of the cross.
HaModia, May 18; Yated Ne’eman, May 21; Ma’ariv, May 21, 2007
Two brief reports noted an act of vandalism which occurred during the week in Haifa when anonymous persons broke into a school, burnt Bibles, and drew swastikas and graffiti on the blackboards (Yated Ne’eman, May 21; Ma’ariv, May 21).
A further article in HaModia (May 18) reported on a special meeting of members of the European Community discussing the relations between faiths and cultures in Europe. Attended by top officials from the Vatican and other religious leaders, European Jewish leaders raised the problem of the new rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and urged the EU to take immediate steps to deal with the issue. At the meeting’s conclusion, Angela Merkel, this year’s EU’s rotating President, declared that “The new regulations of the EU which obligate all the member nations will strengthen the fight against all sources of racism and especially anti-Semitism.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Tourist Guide, May 3; Jerusalem Post, May 21; Globes, May 21, 2007
Two articles (Jerusalem Post, May 21; Globes, May 21) noted the pope’s denunciation of the kassam rocket attacks on Sederot this week: “The clashes among Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip and the rocket attacks against inhabitants of the nearby Israeli cities, which prompted armed intervention are provoking a bloody deterioration of the situation.”
The pope also blessed the participants in a peace marathon which took place this week (Tourist Guide, May 3). “In honor of the fourth pilgrim-marathon from Bethlehem to Jerusalem composed of Italian pilgrims and athletes, Palestinians, and representatives from other nations, the Holy Father expressed his great appreciation for the initiative which promotes sport for peace.” The marathon, named in honor of John Paul II, was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem municipality, the Israeli Olympic Committee, and a Vatican official responsible for pilgrimage. The 10-kilometer-long marathon started from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and finished at the Western Wall. “At the end of the race, a message was read out from the pope and the participants signed a declaration renewing the call from Pope John Paul II in 2000 to all people of faith to come and visit now in Israel.” The runners were presented with special medals imprinted with the image of John Paul II.
Haaretz, May 18, 2007
A Jewish author by the name of Marcel Schwob (1867-1905) wrote a book about the Children’s Crusade in 1896 – portions of which Haaretz is reprinting in installments. This week included an excerpt from the first chapter.