Caspari Center Media Review………….July 31, 2007
During the week covered by this Review, we received 24 articles on the subjects of missionary and anti-missionary activity, attitudes towards Christianity, Christians in Israel, Christian Zionism, the Christian media, Jewish-Christian relations, and the Pope and the Vatican. Out of the total:
- 4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
- 1 dealt with Israeli attitudes towards Christianity
- 3 dealt with Christians in Israel
- 2 dealt with Christian Zionism
- 5 dealt with the Christian media
- 3 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
- 2 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
- 1 was a book review
The remaining 3 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
The primary focus of this week’s Review lies on the Christian media, within which we have included television, cinema, and books. The Church’s decision to drop the prayer for Jewish conversion was also well covered, together with two articles on Jewish-Christian relations. The most amusing piece was the disappearance of a group of Kenyan tourists, allegedly on a pilgrimage tour of the country but evidently with other purposes in mind.
Missionary and Anti-Missionary Activity
HaZofeh, July 27; Ma Nishma, July 20, pp. 3, 28; HaModia, July 20 , 2007
The local Kiryat Gat paper Ma Nishma, which last week printed a lengthy interview with two Messianic youths from the city’s congregation, this week published two pieces on Yad L’Achim (July 20). The second (p. 28) focused on the organization’s fight against mixed Jewish-Arab marriages and mentioned its anti-missionary activities only in passing. The first (p. 3) was in fact a letter to the paper from Yad L’Achim, which is worth quoting at length: “Dear Editor, we were astonished to read the interview with two youths, graduates of a high school in Kiryat Gat, who have fallen into the clutches of the mission. During the course of the interview it became clear that the youths had undergone intensive brainwashing, to the point of having converted to Christianity. This forum is too brief for us to lay out all the distortions, falsifications, and lies fed them by the missionaries, when youngsters lack the tools necessary to deal with the missionaries-preachers. When all is said and done, the knowledge of the Bible and Jewish sources possessed by this age group is, unfortunately, very limited. It should be noted that the Supreme Court has already ruled that Messianic Jews cannot define themselves as Jews. Below is a quote from Supreme Court Judge Mr. Tzi Berensohn (Supreme Court Protocol 467/75, Hutchins vs. the Interior Minister): ‘We haven’t yet heard about yeshuim who are considered and accepted as Jews. [Editor’s note: This term was used by the judge in his attempt to define the people to whom he was referring. Although it is the Hebrew word for “Jesuits,” the judge appears to have employed it in the sense of forming the name of a group from the name of its founder – as “Christians” from “Christ.” Yeshua is, of course, the name of Jesus in Hebrew.] This is simply unacceptable. According to any criteria whatsoever – halakhic-religious or secular legal – no such thing exists, ask any Jew on the street if such a thing can exist, and his unambiguous reply will be: No. It is known that a sect exists of people who were born Jewish and became believers in Yeshu the Messiah, who are called ‘Hebrew Christians [Ivrim Meshichiim].’ They, as it were, want to retain their Jewish origin but Judaism spit them out and they will not be allowed to enter Israeli society.” Particularly disturbing is the fact that your reporter did not bother to bring any response whatsoever to the youths’ words from Yad L’Achim activists, who could have exposed to the public at large the system of lies, disguise, deception, and negative motives which motivate the missionaries when they come to hunt innocent Jewish souls. We would be very grateful if you would be kind enough to give space to our response in the next issue, and be very glad if you would publish a parallel article presenting the true face of the missionaries to your readers … As we have mentioned, we have in our hands fascinating information, which without doubt your readers would find very interesting.”
HaZofeh (July 26) and HaModia (July 27) both carried a report on a group calling itself “Tzahal” – a Hebrew acronym for “Today Obey the Lord” which also sounds like the acronym for the “IDF.” The group’s aim is to encourage believers entering the army to witness during their service, and it recently visited an army base in the south, where it began witnessing with music and preaching: “We believe in him, we call him Yeshu, we believe that he was a Jew, not a Christian. We’re here to thank you and ask forgiveness and pray that God will keep you in all your paths.” Yad L’Achim was not surprised to hear a report from a soldier on the base about the event – which passed off peacefully, with the group leaving without any violence. “Members of the organization recalled this week that already a year ago it had exposed a document about the sect … [which read under the headline]: ‘Tips for soldiers in regular service: The army is one of the best places for outreach. When you’re ‘stuck’ for ten hours in an armored vehicle on the streets of Ramallah, conversations about God, death, and other spiritual matters are bound to crop up. I want to encourage all you soldiers: Take advantage of the opportunities the army gives you, whether it be on guard duty, long journeys, etc.” According to the report in HaModia, the group belonged to those “calling themselves ‘Messianic Jews.’” A video taken at the time allowed Yad L’Achim to “identify one of the missionaries as Ya’akov Damkani.”
Israeli Attitudes towards Christianity
BaKehila, July 19, 2007
In response to a previous article printed in BaKehila regarding Jews who served in the German army, HaRav Moseh Hillel wrote to the paper saying that anti-Semitic Jews were not a new phenomenon: “Indeed, up to the rise of Hitler, Christianity was Judaism’s greatest enemy and Christianity was responsible for the murder and death of thousands of Jews. And as we know, Christianity was founded by Jews. All the first Christians were Jews. Likewise, the suffering caused to the people of Israel by apostates was nothing compared to what the goyim themselves did.”
Christians in Israel
Globes, July 26; Mishpaha, July 19; Yediot HaGalil, July 20, 2007
Mishpaha (July 19) carried last week’s story of the “conversion” of the Sea of Galilee into a “Christian settlement,” while Yediot HaGalil (July 20) ran the story of the cross to be constructed in Nazareth. (For both pieces, see last week’s Review.)
Although not strictly speaking a piece on Christians in Israel – again – the story of a group of Kenyan “pilgrims” was sufficiently amusing to include here. An Israeli tour guide picked the group up from the airport and took them straight to Caesarea. From there, they made their way north to Nazareth, the guide reporting his suspicions from the first when the leader, dressed as a priest, did not correct one of his “charges” when the latter exclaimed that Yeshu was born in Nazareth. Their first stop in Nazareth was at the Church of the Annunciation. “When we went inside – eight of the group suddenly disappeared,” said the guide. “I asked where they were and their colleagues said that they’d gone to buy scarves to cover their heads out off respect for the church. I retraced my steps, but I didn’t see them.” While the guide was off looking for the eight ‘lost sheep,’ the others were also disappearing. “At first I was left with eight, then with five, then with three, and finally all the group had disappeared.” Having appealed to the police, he opened the suitcases left behind in a search for their passports – to discover that the “heaviest” contained only two items of clothing. “‘It was clear to me that this was something organized,’ said the abandoned guide. ‘They’re most likely no longer in Nazareth – someone probably came and picked them up and took them to the center of the country.’”
Jerusalem Post, July 26; HaModia, July 22, 2007
Both features related to Christian Zionism this week concerned evangelical calls for opposition to Iran. Etgar Lefkovits in the Jerusalem Post (July 26) reported that Jack Hayford, who is “heading a four-day conference of more than 3,000 church leaders and laymen from around the world in Jerusalem, in what is his 34th trip to Israel,” recently stated that “The horrible terror of the almost wide-eyed behavior of [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is enough to cause any thinking person to ask: Is there another way than some military intervention?”
HaModia (July 22) similarly noted that “thousands of Christian supporters of Israel demonstrated opposite the American Congress and called on the government to attack Iran immediately.” At the same time, they warned its members that “if they did not support Israel, they would not help them get reelected.” In a speech at the rally in support of Israel outside Congress, John Hagee stated: “During the Second World War the Christian world kept silent and allowed the murder of the Jewish people. This time we will not keep silent. The Christians will not be silent. I call upon the great body of 50 million evangelicals: Wake up! We are here forever together with you. We shall not be quiet any longer. Ahmadinejad is Hitler – make no mistake.”
Ma’ariv, July 27; Jerusalem Post, July 20, 24; Makor Rishon, July 20; HaIr – Tel Aviv, July 19, 2007
The Jerusalem Post (July 20) ran the story of HOT’s dispute with the Christian broadcasting station Day Star (see last week’s Review).
The latest film from the Czech-born half-Jewish director Milos Forman – whose adoptive parents were both Protestants who perished in Nazi concentration camps – is about the Spanish Inquisition: “‘I believe that the most important conflict in the history of mankind is between the individual and institutions,’ Forman said. ‘Man creates institutions, which then assume total power and believe that they own man. That’s the theme of Goya’s Ghosts’” (Jerusalem Post, July 24).
Two articles noted the airing of the film “When Yeshu meets Hollywood” on Channel 8 on July 19. Under the title “The art of faith,” Makor Rishon (July 20) commented that the “ancient book of books” has long served as the inspiration for artistic creations, and “as long as cinematic productions continued to give a conservative interpretation to Scripture, they served as a legitimate tool in the eyes of the American church.” Once they began to diverge from this stance, however, the church began threatening the cinema. This confrontation is the theme of “When Yeshu meets Hollywood,” which deals with “different attempts by producers seeking to transfer the scriptural story from the written medium to the photographic one. And despite the large space given precisely to the stories of the New Testament, the film is fascinating all the way through.” Likewise HaIr Tel Aviv’s take on the film: “Since the beginning of the cinema, the story of Yeshu has succeeded in attracting the films with his great stardom.” It also created numerous disputes – between Hollywood, the church – “and how not, also with us Jews.” According to this report, “Yeshu meets Hollywood” “examines the problematic relationship between Hollywood and the Crucified One.”
In a lengthy feature including pictures and illustrations of God as a dinosaur, Ma’ariv (July 27) took a look at the “Goodbye” that Christianity is now being forced to say to its traditional control over the written media. “After decades of Christian management, the States is being flooded with a wave of militantly atheistic books, which are being grabbed up like hot cakes. The bottom line is unambiguous: There is no God … Tell a Christian that frozen yogurt makes people disappear and the chances are that he will ask for proof and will only be convinced to the degree that the proof allows him. But tell him that the book next to his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with everlasting fire – and he won’t need any proof at all.”
The Pope and the Vatican
HaZofeh, July 27; Jerusalem Post, July 22; Haaretz, July 22, 2007
According to the Jerusalem Post (July 22), “Jewish groups welcome Vatican offer to remove controversial prayer.” Likewise, HaZofeh declared: “The Vatican will not encourage prayer for the conversion of Jews.” On the other hand, Amiram Barkat in Haaretz (July 22; Hebrew edition) interpreted the Vatican’s “offer” as an “opposition” to the inclusion of the prayer!
Makor Rishon, July 20; Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2007
Shlomo Riskin, a well-known Rabbi in Anglo-Israeli circles, wrote an piece for the Jerusalem Post (July 25) in which he explained his “sea-change” in moving from radical opposition to strong support of Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue and cooperation. It turns out that the watershed in Riskin’s thinking derives from Christian Zionism – “the enemy (Christianity) of my enemy (radical Islam) is my cousin, if not my brother. After all, Christianity emerged from the matrix of Judaism, and the founder of Christianity was a Jewish teacher who – it would certainly appear from the Gospels – lived a Jewish life-style, replete with the Sabbath, festivals, and kashrut. Hence there is every logical, historical and religious reason for there to be a rapprochement between us.” Riskin’s reasons for believing evangelicals are “based on the fact that the very time-honored theological positions of Christianity that made immediate conversion of the Jews so necessary for the Church have been publicly and officially contravened and nullified by leading Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical spokesmen and institutions … Certainly we must remain vigilant against Christian groups whose raison d’etre is missionizing Jews. However, those many Christian denominations who wish to learn from us and strengthen our common beliefs in a God of love, morality and peace ought to be encouraged in their friendship.”
Although not strictly an article on Jewish-Christian relations, Binyamin Gross in his opinion piece in Makor Rishon (July 20) which looks at the “The Jews and the ‘European Problem’” is not afraid to speak of the “Judeo-Christian culture” – an element which he sees as characterizing European history. The alliance between Athens and Jerusalem, between the Bible and Hellenism, was never a comfortable one, however. “In effect, the church fathers adopted the teaching of Judaism in everything relating to the principles of salvation, revelation, redemption, and the Messiah – but rejected everything in that same heritage that was Hebrew in its essence. In other words, it anchored those principles in the reality of the world: From the moment that Yeshu’s sufferings atone for sin, there is no further need for law in order to obtain rights … Instead of law comes faith in a savior … In the same way the church jettisoned the exclusive and concrete value of a people chosen to receive the Torah and to apply it in practice, in society, in a specific country destined for it.” Ultimately, the tension between the two cities/traditions makes Europe a place without space for the “Other”: “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the State of Israel holds the same position in the eyes of the EU as that reserved for the Jewish community since the fifteenth century and up to the twentieth: the place of a anomalous entity whose ‘problem’ needs solving.”
Makor Rishon, July 20, 2007
Arieh Morgenstern of the Shalem Center has published a new book on The Return to Jerusalem (Shalem, no date). Morgenstern’s field of expertise is the history of modern Jewish Messianic movements, and this book falls into that category due to the fact that a large part of Jerusalem’s revival in the nineteenth century was due to the arrival of the followers of the Gaon of Vilna, who explicitly viewed their settlement in the city as the “beginning of the redemption.” The book covers the interaction between the city’s growing Ashkenazi community and the British missionaries (from the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews – the LJS) – the latter being seen by the former as possessing diplomatic influence that could be wielded in defense of the Jewish community.