Caspari Center Media Review………….July 12, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 20 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, the Pope, Christians in Israel, and interfaith activities. Of these:
- 4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 4 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 1 dealt with Israeli attitudes towards Christianity
- 6 dealt with the Pope
The remaining 5 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
The Pope features largely in this week’s Review, due both to his attempt to revive the Latin mass and to Italy’s hosting of the 12th Maccabiah games. Several articles featured various aspects of Christian life in Israel while anti-missionary activity also continued to be reported.
HaModiah, June 29, July 5; Kol HaZman, June 29; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, June 28; HaZofeh, July 6, 2007
According to a report in HaModia (July 5), Yad L’Achim have identified four premises in Haifa and the Krayot which serve as centers for Jehovah’s Witnesses missionary activities in the North. The article claims that the sect presents public lectures twice a week attended by around 60 people. Having posted “fluent speakers and propaganda experts” at the entrance, Yad L’Achim counted its success in fighting the “mission” by the “moving fact” that “several participants stopped appearing at the missionary lectures.” It rejoiced over the ultimate cancellation of the lectures when summons to the police had failed to stop Yad L’Achim’s protests. “Yad L’Achim announced this week that ‘once again it has been demonstrated beyond doubt that constant and persistent action that knows no rest has proven itself and does its work with the help of heaven. This is the only way [to operate].”
In response to Asher Keshet’s lengthy investigation of the Messianic congregations in Jerusalem (see last week’s Review), a reader wrote to Kol HaZman (June 29) saying that “the movement of ‘Messianic Jews’ is more dangerous than Christianity because people in Jewish guise (and even dressed as Orthodox Jews) seek to disseminate the Christian faith amongst Jews. Their integration into Jewish society, education, work, and the army greatly facilitates their missionary activity. Cheap demagogic claims (such as their comparison with the Messianic stream within Chabad) can’t hide the fact that they clearly represent a Christian sect with all its elements: baptism, faith in Yeshua and the Christian Trinity, the New Testament, and so forth … The police should enforce the anti-missionary law in the same way as it enforces the laws against gambling and drug trafficking in clubs.”
The religious “Aspelaria Theater” which puts on a musical “Chanaleh and the Shabbat dress” had planned to appear at the Pavilion in Jerusalem – until it discovered that the premises served as a “missionary center.” According to the article in HaZofeh (July 6), “a number of years ago it was reported that the Kfir cinema in the Clal Building had been purchased by a Canadian missionary organization that operates preachers from its denomination in Israel and has even established a congregation of Messianic Jews in the country. The group turned the purchased hall into a congregational center and gave it the name “The Pavilion.” [Editor’s note: The group is the Assemblies of God of Canada, under the pastorship of Wayne Hilsden. The Pavilion is intended for the use of local Messianic groups for various public events, as well as housing the King of King’s Assembly.] The article continued: “The congregation’s leaders prominently publicized numerous times that the place serves as a church, a place of worship [pulchan] and prayer. They have even distributed a video showing and praising the missionary activity performed in the place. Chuck Cohen, who serves as a minister in the congregation, even stated that ‘the purpose of the place is to bring Jews and non-Jews [together] so that they will believe and walk in the way of the Christian Messiah.’ In parallel, a commercial firm has been set up to bring income to the Christian church by marketing the place to the public as a social and events hall on the days on which the church has no activities.” Unconvinced by information reaching it about the hall’s true nature, the theater’s management eventually agreed to a meeting at which Yad L’Achim presented “various proofs” that it was a missionary center. A rabbinic personage present at the meeting declared that “attendance at shows in such a place is like participating at a performance held at the gas chambers of Auschwitz while they were working – we’re talking about a place in which Jewish souls are burned.” These words left the Theater little choice but to cancel the scheduled shows at the Pavilion.
The two remaining features repeated articles on the saving of a Jewish soul from the Jehovah’s Witnesses (HaModia, June 29) and the cancellation of the permission granted to Netivyah to renovate its building (HaShavua BiYerushalayim, June 28) (see last week’s Review).
Israeli Attitudes towards Christianity
HaZofeh, June 29, 2007
The coming Jewish year is a shemittah year, in which, according to the Tanakh, the land must not be cultivated but left to rest. Since no produce must be grown, other means of livelihood must be sought for farmers and ways found to import the fruit and vegetables usually consumed. One of the ways of coping with this situation is to buy produce from other countries. The author of this article, writing in a religious paper, criticized the Orthodox practice of doing business with Hamas in Gaza in order to acquire produce from the Gaza strip in this respect. “How in the name of heaven it is possible,” he asks, “for people to commit such a crime? Every tomato and cucumber from the Gaza strip is literally full of Jewish blood. Hamas will take considerable percentages from the sales in order to acquire even more sophisticated forms to kill the Jews residing in Zion.” While this attitude is quite comprehensible, equally striking is the “conclusion” the author draws from such conduct: “We’re talking about desecration – or more accurately Christianity. We have here words extolling heaven and deeds of villainy in reality.”
Christians in Israel
Iton Ayalon, June 28; Iton Yerushalyim, June 29, pp. 26, 43; Ma’ariv, June 29, 2007
In a lengthy article entitled “The Father, the Son, and the Golani Spirit,” Ma’ariv (June 29) reported on the wounding of a Golani soldier in the last Lebanese war – by the name of Yosef Hadad. Hadad is a Christian Arab, apparently the “only soldier in the IDF whose father is a priest.” Hadad volunteered to serve in the IDF. In an interview with the paper, conducted in his home in Upper Nazareth where a picture of the “holy Mary and the crucified Yeshu” hang next to the tree which is the symbol of the Golani Brigade, Hadad senior explained: “Both of these are significant symbols for us,” with Yosef adding: “A winning combination: faith and the Golani.” During his army service, Yosef habitually carried three items with him: a picture of the Holy Mary, Yeshu, and an amulet he received from the Stella Maris monastery in Haifa. “I believe that in every mission we went on, we were successful due to Mary. I prayed before every operation: Peace upon you, Mary full of grace and love. God is with you. Holy Mary, mother of God, prayer for us for we are sinners.” Afterwards, I would cross myself and enter the territory – Gaza, Lebanon, wherever we had to.”
Hadad’s decision to volunteer for the IDF was a direct result of his sense of loyalty to his country: “I entered the army from a simple ideology: Israel is my country and I love it. There were those who said: ‘You’re a traitor, shooting Arabs.’ I never had a dilemma. No Palestinian who sees me says, ‘Wait a minute, he’s an Arab, I won’t shoot him.’ It’s me or them. When a suicide bomber blows a bus up in Haifa, he doesn’t check whether there are Christian Arabs on the bus.” Yosef was completely accepted in Golani, his friends calling him “Yossi” and obeying all his orders: “I was the commander of Jews. I, a Christian Arab, told them what to do …If I said to them ‘Turn left,’ they turned left. It wasn’t obvious to me. I would tell my friend at home: ‘Get this, I, Yosef Hada, an Arab, a Christian, a commander of 31 Jews in Golani. If I can do that, I can do anything.” When he eventually told his fellow soldiers that he was an Arab, the most common response he received was “Good on you.” He developed relationships with all of his comrades, particularly the religious soldiers: “I never once encountered a racist attitude … I also revealed my Arab identity to my inductees that I was an Arab only at the very end. They were in shock. One of them, a religious guy, an evacuee from Gush Katif [i.e., a settler], got up and hugged me. He said to me: ‘I’m getting married in a couple of months. I want you to come to my wedding as the guest of honor.’”
Yosef’s family had no problem whatsoever with his serving in the IDF. His father, Thoma, a Greek Catholic priest, thought that it was something entirely normal. “I remember that I used to take him to the bus station on his way back to his base. He was in his uniform and I was in my clerical uniform.” Out of respect, however, Thoma would not wear his clerical garb when he visited Yosef on the base. “Even when people said to me: ‘You’re a priest, a peacemaker, how can you send your son to kill people?’ I didn’t have a problem. In my eyes the army is peacemaker. A soldier fights to defend his countries borders. We want peace and the Golani Brigade will bring peace.” Yosef himself considered his involvement in the Second Lebanese War also a way of helping Christians: “I served the State of Israel as a soldier, first of all. But this was the first time that I felt, even if only peripherally, that perhaps I could also help Christians. This was something that maybe didn’t occur to my Jewish friends.” His mother, Violet, corresponded with Christians in Lebanon while her son was fighting in the IDF there: “I was proud. I wrote to them: ‘My son is in the army, in the war.’ Everyone wrote back to me: ‘My God preserve him. Send him our thanks, his brothers in Lebanon.” Hadad was seriously wounded in the war, in the face and feet. In addition to the extensive physiotherapy which he now undergoing he is also suffering from post-traumatic shock. While he hopes that he will eventually recover from his physical injuries, he is not so sure about the psychological ones.
Another form of Arab pro-Israelism was evident in an article on an Arab school in Neve Shalom, where the students study both English and Hebrew from first grade (Iton Ayalon, June 28). In the school’s effort to promote coexistence, they demand that their pupils learn both languages. Recognizing, however, that this may be too great a burden, the school has recently decided to defer one language to a later class – English.
The Sudanese refugees who are coming to Israel in increasing numbers are now receiving medical help from Israeli hospitals (Iton Yerushalayim, June 29, p. 43). This week, a representative from the International Christian Embassy brought a refugee from Darfur for medical treatment at a clinic in Jerusalem. “The presence of the woman from this war-torn strip of land aroused great excitement amongst the staff, and in accordance with the guidelines of the emergency clinic she was treated without payment.”
The sons of a man who eighty years ago received permission to marry an Ethiopian nun were recently granted the right to continue residing in the Ethiopian church where their parents had lived, despite the church’s attempt to get them to move following the couple’s demise (Iton Yerushalayim, p. 26). The sons’ father had remarried after his first wife’s death and they were the offspring of this second marriage. The Ethiopian church gave its permission for the family to continue residing in a room on the church premises. When the couple divorced, the sons continued to live in the room. The church claimed, however, that since their father was not a protected tenant, the sons had no rights to the residence. Its appeal was overturned by the district court, which ruled that the sons could continue to live on the premises.
The Pope and the Vatican
Jerusalem Post, July 1, 2; Yediot Ahronot, July 1; Ma’ariv, July 1; Makor Rishon, July 1; Haaretz, June 29, 2007
The Latin Mass which was recited over the centuries in all Catholic churches was replaced in 1969 by the vernacular liturgy is being revived by Benedict XVI in a decision which some believe to represent to “bring the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X group back under the auspices of the Vatican.” The move has been welcomed by conservative groups within the Church, who maintain that “the Latin mass is more moving and authentic that the modern one.” It will allow priests to use the traditional Latin text without special permission from the Pope. While this move may constitute an internal Catholic matter, the revival of the Tridentine Mass – recited every Good Friday – has aroused criticism not only within the Church but also by Jewish groups upset by its potential encouragement of anti-Semitism. The text of the mass refers to “the perfidious Jews” who live in “blindness” and “darkness” and petitions God to “lift the veil covering the hearts of the Jews so that they may recognize Jesus Christ our Lord” (Jerusalem Post, July 1, pp. 1, 2). Despite the fact that the version that will be used “dates back to 1962, when this phrase had already been eliminated,” the “controversy continues over Benedict XVI’s decision to ‘facilitate and clarify’ the possibility of performing mass in this Latin version.” The modern version of the prayer reads: “Lord our God, who chose the Jews before all other men, to receive his word, help them to continue progressing in the love of your name and faithfulness to your covenant.”
The twelfth Maccabia European games will be held this year in Rome (Ma’ariv, July 1; Yediot Ahronot, July 1). Pope Benedict XVI will meet and bless representatives of the 1700 Jewish athletes at the Vatican.