July 16 – 2007

Caspari Center Media Review………….July 16, 2007


During the week covered by this review, we received 29 articles on the subjects of missionary and anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christian sites and tourism, Christians in Israel, Christian Zionism, Israeli attitudes to Christianity, the Christian media, and the Pope. Of these:


  • 7 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
  • 1 dealt with Israeli attitudes towards Christianity
  • 2 dealt with Christian sites
  • 2 dealt with Christians in Israel
  • 2 dealt with Christian tourism
  • 1 dealt with the Christian media
  • 7 dealt with the Pope
  • 2 were book reviews


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

The Pope continued to feature largely in this week’s Review, following his decision to revive the Latin mass, the Maccabiah games in Rome, his planned new book, Vatican support of pilgrimage to Israel, and Benedict’s meeting with a kibbutz leader. Christians in Israel, Christian sites, Christian tourism, Christian Zionism, and the Christian media were all also represented – together with the anti-missionary activity to be expected in response to the perceived growing threat.

Anti-Missionary Activity

Yediot Haifa, June 29; HaModiah, July 12; HaZofeh, July 13; Yom L’Yom, July 5; Iton Yerushalayim, July 6; Kol HaZman, July 6; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, July 5, 2007

The Orthodox community is up in arms over a recent campaign in Haifa to distribute free copies of the “Christian missionary” video “Yeshua” in mail boxes throughout the city’s neighborhoods, particularly, so Yad L’Achim claimed, in poor areas (Yediot Haifa, June 29). “What have we come to? They are marketing Yeshu in the mail boxes and distributing free videos … There is a serious misinformation here, because the flyers don’t say anything about them being missionary tracts. They say that this is a film based on historical facts, filmed in Israel, and that all the actors are Israelis. The fact that there are subtitles in Russian demonstrates that the flyers are intended for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, an audience frequently composed of people in need – and they are trying to exploit this hardship for the purpose of conversion.”

Two days before it took place, Yad L’Achim discovered plans for a youth “missionary marathon” to be held at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem (HaModiah, July 12). “Hundreds of youngsters from all over the country got together for the destructive activity of the ‘Messianic Jews’ and were assimilated into it two weeks ago for a marathon of workshops and teaching lectures. The leaders of the sect, whose names are well known to Yad L’Achim, stood before hundreds of youth who for three days joined together for workshops and panel discussions of clear missionary preaching.” Not having been able to prevent the conference from taking place, Yad L’Achim’s director subsequently approached the chief and local Rabbinates with the request that Ramat Rachel’s kashrut license be revoked.

With the arrival of the summer holidays, the Ministry of Education has embarked on a campaign to make sure that the numerous children’s camps offered are suitable to the children’s age, offer appropriate activities, and meet the necessary security standards. According to a report in Iton Yerushalayim (July 6), fifteen camps in Jerusalem have been disqualified, including “scientology camps and Messianic camps which, according to the Ministry of Education, are of a missionary nature.” [Editor’s note: I have no information which substantiates this report.]

Four articles repeated early stories concerning the Aspeklaria Theater’s cancellations of their appearance at the Pavilion (HaShavua BeYerushalayim, July 5; Kol HaZman, July 6), Netivyah’s building plans (Yom L’Yom, July 6), and Yad L’Achim’s activities against the Jehovah’s Witnesses center in Haifa (HaZofeh, July 13).


Israeli Attitudes to Jesus and Christianity

Iton Yerushalayim, July 6, 2007

During a lengthy interview with Doron Sheffer, a well known basketball player who has recently undergone a spiritual journey, the athlete was asked about the Jewish figures from whom he derived inspiration. Following King David in first place and Moses in second, Sheffer added that he also felt great affinity “with someone identified with Christianity but who is Jewish. To this day I haven’t delved the depths of my view and our view [as Jews] as to the story there – and that’s Yeshua of Nazareth. I’m greatly attracted to this figure, but I still haven’t figured out the story and what happened in the way that till today they’re crucifying him. I’m an insignificant person, but I can say that the place he gave to forgiveness and love means a lot to me. Christianity is already something completely different. I don’t see Yeshua as a Christian but as a Jew, because Christianity is a religion which arose after this [him]. David, Moses, and Yeshua – they’re my opening three.”


Christian Sites

Iton Modi’in, July 6; The Marker, July 1, 2007

The regional paper Iton Modi’in (July 6) surveyed the Latrun monastery near the city, giving some interesting details about the origin of its name: “The name comes from the Latin ‘latro’ – ‘thief.’ According to Christian tradition, when Yeshua the Nazarene [haNotzri] was crucified in Jerusalem 2007 years ago, he was crucified with ‘the good thief’ – a thief who repented before he was crucified. The name Latrun was given to the place following the crusaders visit – who believed that ‘the good thief’ was born there.”

A similar tour of Christian places was undertaken by The Marker’s reporter, this time in Jerusalem’s Old City (July 1). Describing the visit, he commented: “Only in Jerusalem does time not seem to be hurrying anywhere. Here they haven’t heard that fashions must change at least every thousand years. It’s already 3,000 years since the city has been adorned with carved stones the color of beige-rust, its priests wander around with the same scraggly beards, and its most celebrated star – still – is Yeshua of Nazareth.” At the same time, however, he acknowledges that “the truth is that the Jewish tripper to the Via Dolorosa is primarily interested in the shops along the way.”


Christians in Israel

Zman HaKrayot, July 6, 2007 

A research study conducted at the University of Haifa surveyed the reactions of Jewish and Arabs students to the Second Lebanese War. Part of the findings related to the “distinction along religious lines”: “The Christians expressed the highest level of fear – 4.17% – followed by the Jews with 4.11%, the Muslims (3.93%) and the Druze (3.85%) … The Muslim students expressed fears related to the harming of Arabs in Lebanon and to Nasralla’s importance as a strong and significant leader. These subjects did not come up amongst the Jewish students and were rare amongst the Christians and Druze.”

Ma’ariv (July 12) this week carried an article on the Sobotnik sect founded during the nineteenth century in Russia by “peasants and simple people who adopted Judaism to various degrees.” The term is the Russian for “shabbat,” indicating the sect’s adoption of Jewish practices. Some remained Christians, other converted to Judaism on immigrating to Israel at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They suffered both from anti-Semitism and from discrimination on the part of the Rabbinate. When the Russian authorities prohibited their conversion, they immigrated to Israel. Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, has recently reached a decision to allow them to convert, and “tens of thousands” are now expected to make aliyah. “Rabbi Amar determined that the Sobotnikim while not being Jews have a deep connection to Judaism.”


Christian Zionism

Zman HaDarom, July 6, 2007

Under the title “And thanks to the Christians” Kol HaZman (July 6) devoted an article to the Christian financial support which enabled Kiryat Malachi to complete the revitalization of a municipal park, a project initiated by the Jewish National Fund which subsequently failed to come up with the promised monies. “Following the completion of the first stage of the repair, an additional amount of money from an American Christian Zionist organization arrived, which will serve to equip the park with game areas and a tennis court.”


Christian Tourism

Jerusalem Post, July 10; Haaretz, July 9, 2007

According to the Jerusalem Post (July 10), “The Tourism Ministry has launched a program to bring Christian ‘youth pilgrimages’ to Israel … ‘There is a very large movement of Christian tourists to Israel, and we are working to bring more tourists,’ [Tourism Minister] Aharonovitch told The Jerusalem Post … Various projects will include youth visits to Israel’s holy sites and vacation spots. Large travel companies are said to be marketing exciting pilgrimage packages geared towards a younger audience focusing on the holy sites of Israel, but also including visits to the Dead Sea, Eilat, and Tel Aviv. Another project includes 1,000 trips sponsored by Telecom (the Italian equivalent of Bezeq) and the postal company of Italy. Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land Boutros Nabil El-Sayah is smitten with the idea. He told The Jerusalem Post: ‘We like young people to come to the Holy Land, it is where their roots are as far as the faith is concerned’ … Aharonovitch suggested that the project, which will be kicked off by Pope Benedict XVI, should be in honor of previous Pope John Paul II. One of the attractions, in its fifth year, is the ‘Jerusalem-Bethlehem Marathon,’ otherwise known as the ‘Pope John Paul II Peace Run,’ which will take place in April of 2008.”


Christian Media

Yediot Ahronot, July 12, 2007

Under the title “Get off my screen,” Yediot’s reporter Raz Shaknik reported that “after a year on the air, the [TV] cable [companies] are removing the Christian channel [Day Star] from their broadcasts, apparently due to pressure from religious elements.” Although the cable company Hot claims that the official reason behind their dropping of the channel derives from “repeated and constant complaints” from observant viewers, other sources in the company suggest that it has been pressured by acquaintances of Shas Minister of Communication, Ariel Attias. According to the report, “Day Star channel went on the air in May 2006 both on Hot and Yes [the two Israeli cable channels], and broadcasts free Christian programs, some of which preach conversion to Christianity. The channel is identified with Christian evangelicals as well as with the conservative Right in the States.” In the meantime, Yes is still airing the channel.


The Pope and the Vatican

HaKibbutz, July 6; Haaretz, July 8 (English and Hebrew editions), 12; Ma’ariv, July 8, 12; Jerusalem Post, July 8, 10, 2007

In addition to the continuing press concerning Pope Benedict’s revival of the Tridentine Mass (Haaretz, July 8 [Hebrew and English editions]; Jerusalem Post, July 8), the Pope figured largely in the Israeli press this week also for the fact that he is planning to write a sequel to his newly published book on Jesus (Jerusalem Post, July 10), his announcement that non-Catholic streams of Christianity are essentially heretical (Ma’ariv, July 12; Haaretz, July 12) – and for his invitation to Zev Shor to a personal interview in the Vatican (HaKibbutz, July 6). The latter, the secretary of the kibbutz movement, was among the party which welcomed John Paul II on his visit to the country in 1999 [sic]. The two spoke of the kibbutz system, the pope indicating that he had understood that it “wasn’t like it was a hundred years ago.” Shor, being somewhat frustrated that even in the Vatican he had to talk about this subject, replied: “Your excellency, when people dream and believe, they can create something like the kibbutz.” Shor relates that upon hearing this, Benedict’s face “immediately lit up, and several times he repeated and mumbled: ‘Dream and believe, dream and believe.’”


Book Reviews

Ma’ariv, July 6; Haaretz, July 6, 2007

Haaretz (July 6) continues its publication of excerpts from Marcel Schwob’s book on the Children’s Crusade.

Micah Goodman in Ma’ariv (July 6) reviewed Jonathan Sack’s book Radical Then, Radical Now (Fount, 2001). Claiming that because Judaism – unlike Christianity – has never formally defined orthodox Jewish faith, Sacks proposes a refreshing and innovative approach to Judaism. “The book offers a general look at the religion of Israel which does not focus its discussions on Judaism’s worldview but on the demands it makes from the world. This is the heart of the book’s thesis: to be Jewish means to take part in an ancient protest movement responsible for many of the humane achievements of humanity, whose goal has not yet been reached … the essence of Judaism is not only worship of God but primarily work with God [in Hebrew, the two roots are the same], with the aim of creating a more perfect and just world.”