Caspari Center Media Review………….July 25, 2007
During the week covered by this Review, we received 28 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, the Christian media, and the Pope and the Vatican. Out of the total:
- 1 dealt with Messianic Judaism
- 3 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 4 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 1 dealt with the Christian media
- 13 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.
This week’s Review reflects the continuing and apparently growing interest in Messianic Judaism in Israeli society, this time in a lengthy article on two young members of the Kiryat Gat congregation. The Pope and the Catholic Church also featured largely, due to the recent abuse settlement in the States and Benedict XVI’s decisions to reinstate the Latin mass and to proclaim the Catholic Church as the sola ecclesia. Various matters concerning Christians in Israel are also included.
Ma Nishma, July 6, 2007
The local Kiryat Gat paper Ma Nishma (July 6) carried a lengthy article on two high school believers in the city, including an interview with the two (under pseudonyms) and their “testimonies [edut].” It may be presumed that the reporter’s interest was aroused not only by the subject but also by the boys’ ages – eighteen and nineteen. The two had met “miraculously” when one, about to become newly religious but still hesitant that the step would full satisfy his yearnings for truth and spirituality, met the other who told him about Yeshua. The two youngsters demonstrated considerable maturity and intelligence in their responses to questions about Yeshua’s deity – it was a Jewish concept even in the Second Temple period; idolatry – lots of Jewish communities revere “saints” and visit their graves; their right to speak of God and forgiveness of sins to their elders – “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings …”; politics – “we pray for our government, that it will rule justly and not with hypocrisy, bribery, and corruption and act according to God’s will”; and their Israeli and Jewish identity: “We celebrate the Jewish festivals, we don’t have any connection with non-Jewish holidays … We don’t let tradition come before our faith … We celebrate [the festivals] and observe the commandments, but that’s not what sanctifies us before God, because only atonement atones for sins …We encourage our friends to serve in the army and to give help in all sorts of social areas.” While not all their replies went directly to the questions, they were based first and foremost on Scripture, of which the article was consequently full. According to the report, the Kiryat Gat congregation numbers “twelve residents, among them families.”
Missionary and Anti-Missionary Activity
Al HaMakom, July 12; Mishpaha, July 12; Yom L’Yom, June 28; HaModia, June 28, 2007
The religious weekly Yom L’Yom (June 28) ran a story about a Jewish soul saved from the clutches of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mishpaha (July 12) repeated last week’s story about the youth conference held at Ramat Rachel (see previous Review). Al HaMakom (July 12) published a letter from Tzippi Lieder encouraging people to remain strong in the face of missionary activity: “The ‘Messianic Jewish’ movement is more dangerous than Christianity, because disguised as Jews (and even religious ones) their members seek to disseminate their Christian faith amongst Jews.”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, July 16, 19; Ma’ariv, July 15; Yediot Yerushalayim, July 13, 2007
Nazareth’s economic and tourism crises, largely a consequence of the violence of the past two Intifadas, have been the cause of much concern (Jerusalem Post, July 16; cf. Ma’ariv, July 15). The situation is currently being addressed by group of “affluent Christian business from Israel and abroad” who are “floating” a proposal to construct “the world’s largest cross” in the city in order to “draw millions of Christian tourists to the boyhood town of Jesus … The privately-funded building proposal, which is being promoted by an NGO comprising various Christian denominations, is meant to increase tourism to the economically hard-hit city.” The “Nazareth Cross” is intended to rise to a height of sixty meters, being decorated with mosaic tiles made from Nazareth stone. As the article’s subtitle indicates, “Initial building plan under consideration needs municipal approval and is likely to face Muslim opposition.”
Under the title, “The Sea of Galilee is converting to Christianity,” Ma’ariv (July 18) reported on the fact that “priests from the Church of Notre Dame have purchased the Hawaii Beach on the Sea of Galilee and intend to establish a resort and religious center there.” In explaining why Christians would be so interested in this “most Israeli of locations,” the articles states: “The New Testament contains around 125 references to places around the Sea of Galilee, from Mount Arbel in the west to Susita in the east, in which Yeshu lived, gathered his followers, or performed his miracles.” [Editor’s note: Neither Mount Arbel nor Susita are mentioned in the New Testament itself.] On an accompanying map of “The sites important to Christianity around the Sea of Galilee” appear Kfar Nahum (Capernaum), amongst whose ruins can be found “the place thought to be the house of Peter, Yeshu’s faithful apostle”; the Mount of Beatitudes, where “according to the New Testament Yeshu delivered the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the essence of his teaching”; Chorazin – which possesses a large rock claimed to be associated with “the miracle of the swine which Yeshu performed in Chorazin”; Tabgha, “considered to be the place where the miracle of the loaves and fish took place. In the incident mentioned in the New Testament Yeshu succeeded in feeding about five thousand people by way of five loaves and two fish. This was one of the ways in which his commission from God [being His representative] was proved”; and the Yardenit – which is not a New Testament site but serves today as the central baptismal location for Christian pilgrims.
Two articles appeared in this week’s Israeli press relating to the fate of the Christian refugees from Darfur who are flooding to the country. Larry Derfner, in the Jerusalem Post (July 19), addressing the issue under the title “How to lose hearts and minds,” warns that their imminent deportation will negatively affect Israel’s international image: “The real damage to Israel’s image will not be done in the eyes of its enemies, but in the eyes of its best friends, its most important allies: American Jews and evangelical Christians … If Israel drags 1,000 of these people back across the Egyptian border … the Christian evangelists [sic] … will continue to love Israel as the Holy Land, but they will have a difficult time forgiving what the people of Israel did to the neediest of world Christianity. Some 700 of the 1,000 soon-to-be-deportees are Christians from southern Sudan, where two million people were murdered by Arab Muslims. Yet Israel is going to send these Christians back to Egypt, an Arab Muslim country that, while not slaughtering them en masse, made their lives an honest-to-God nightmare. Imagine evangelical Christian families watching that on television.”
That this analysis may not be far from the truth is reflected in the fact that the first Darfur refugee baby was recently born in Israel, the refugees receiving free medical treatment through the intervention of the International Christian Embassy with the government (Yediot Yerushalayim, July 13).
Globes, July 16, 2007
Following the decision taken by the Israeli cable channel “Hot” to remove the Christian station “Day Star” from its broadcasts (see previous Review), the station has given notice of its intention to sue the cable company – unless the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Committee approve the continuation of their broadcasts. Asserting that it constitutes the second largest station of its kind in the world, Day Star pointed out that it contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars to Israeli institutions in 2006. According to the report, the station plans to broadcast Israel Channel 10’s news, translated in English, to the States, “in order to bring the expression of Israel [Israeli perspective] on American television.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Ma’ariv, July 15, 18; Jerusalem Post, July 15, 16; Haaretz, July 16, 19 (English and Hebrew editions x 3); Makor Rishon, July 13; Yediot Ahronot, July 18; HaModia, July 13; Globes, July 17; Israeli, July 15, 17, 2007
The Vatican’s willingness to reevaluate Benedict XVI’s decision to restore the Latin mass was noted in Haaretz (July 19; Hebrew and English editions): “The most senior official in the Vatican after the Pope suggested yesterday that a highly controversial prayer for the conversion of the Jews could be dropped from the re-introduced Latin-language rite … Bertone said the prayer that many Jews have found offensive could be substituted with one introduced into church rituals in the 1970s and which makes no reference to conversion of Jews.”
David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and now the International Director of Interreligious Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, contributed an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post (July 15) on the same subject. Having noted the steps the Jewish community have taken in asking for clarification of the decree and its implications, Rosen went on to note: “There are those who ask what right Jews have to tell the Catholics what kind of prayers they should or [should] not recite. Of course the church’s liturgy is the church’s business. However, if the church declares, as it does, that it wishes to live in a respectful relationship with the Jewish people, then it is right and proper for it to be pointed out that a prayer for us to accept the Christian faith – which we see as a betrayal of our own – is hardly an expression of mutual respect.” Despite this, Rosen concludes that it would be hasty to dismiss all possible continuation of dealings with the Catholic Church: “… we have a lot at stake and much to gain from this relationship. We would accordingly do well to exercise a substantial amount of realism, and even humility, in how we publicly address this relationship and how we express our expectations and even our disappointments.”
Another opinion piece regarding the Pope was published in Yediot Ahronot, by Aviad Kleinberg (July 18). Kleinberg lauded Benedict for the fact that, despite the problems which his conservative stance has raised in various quarters, “he believes in the truth. He believes in telling the truth – to Muslims, Protestants, agnostics. This truth is not absolute. It is his truth. But at least we know where he stands.”
Edward Atler published a far more personal response to the Pope’s decision on the subject in Makor Rishon (July 13). Atler was a resident of the Warsaw ghetto who managed to escape to the Aryan side in 1943 – where his first “job” was assisting a Catholic priest in the celebration of mass as a “ministrant.” The mass was recited in Latin, of course, and Atler learnt portions of it by heart in order to know exactly where to give his responses to the priest. “On the street opposite the church, the Germans were randomly stopping passers-by and loading them onto trucks with shouts and blows. From the protected distance of the church we stood by the side of the priest clothed in a white robe laced with gold, detached from the horror outside. The priest: ‘Sursum corda’ (lift up your hearts). Me: ‘Hebemus ad dominum’ (we shall lift them to God).”
On the other hand, Bendict XVI’s decision to reintroduce the Latin mass and his issuance of a document noting “‘defects’ in other Christian faiths” (Jerusalem Post, July 16) were both grasped by MK Meir Porush as potential causes for the increase of missionizing in Israel (HaModia, July 13). Calling them “new anti-Jewish decisions,” Porush claimed that they were “likely to radicalize and enlarge missionary activity in the State” – presumably because, on the one hand, Christians would be encouraged to pray and work towards the conversion of the Jews and, on the other, be more confident that Christianity was the only true religion. The same article also noted Porush’s charge against the “indifference” of the Israeli education system towards the alleged missionary activity in schools across the country, reporting that in response the Education Minister has promised to set up a special committee to “deal with the strange sects and the radical missionary organizations which are working energetically and intensively in the State educational school system.” The creation of a second committee has also been proposed for the purpose of “formulating strict guidelines regarding what is allowed and what is prohibited in their [missionary] activities amongst youth.”
In the wake of the controversy over the closed Vatican archives which have prevented scholars and researchers from investigating Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust, another aggravating factor has just been added: the Vatican has closed its library for three years for renovations (Haaretz, July 19).
Five articles in the Hebrew press reported the Catholic Church’s payment of $600 million to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of its clergy (Ma’ariv, July 15; Haaretz, July 16; Globes, July 17; Israeli, July 15, 17).
TimeOut, July 12, 2007
Hebrew University Professor Yair Zakovitch has published a new book entitled “Yeshua Reads the Gospels” (Am Oved, no date). In it, he “reexamines the New Testament story and fashions a kind of new biography of Yeshua in a collection of songs.”