Caspari Center Media Review………….August 21, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 30 articles on the subjects of missionary and anti-missionary activity, Jewish-Catholic relations, anti-Semitism, Christian Zionism, Christian media, and interfaith dialog. Of these:
6 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Israeli attitudes towards Christianity
5 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
5 dealt with anti-Semitism
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
2 dealt with the Christian media
1 dealt with interfaith dialog
1 dealt with Christianity
The remaining 6 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
The primary foci of this week’s Review were Cardinal Lustiger’s funeral and the reverberations from the Pope’s recent meeting with Tadeusz Rydzyk.
Arei Modi’in, August 10; Jerusalem Post, August 14; Al HaMakom, August 9; BeKehila, August 9; Haaretz, August 12; HaModia, August 16, 2007
Several of the articles repeated stories covered in previous Reviews. Al HaMakom (August 9) reprinted the piece concerning Eddie Beckford, while BeKehila (August 9) and HaModia (August 16) covered the Tel Aviv-based soup kitchen, and HaModia (August 16) ran the story of Meir Porush’s question to the Minister of Defence concerning missionary entrance to military bases.
A piece in Arei Modi’in (August 10) reported that one of the city’s neighborhood’s had been flooded with “missionary” material in the mail boxes of the apartment buildings. The residents were up in arms not only over the “invasion of their privacy” but also because the literature – a description of the ‘end days’ in comic strip form – was being eagerly swallowed up by their children. According to the article, the pamphlets depict a couple in a car who suddenly disappear. They then (somehow) return to tell the driver that God has revealed to them what will happen at the end of the world. “Page after page the comic illustrations accompany the anticipated events of the world, supported by verses from the Bible and the New Testament. The beginnings of the troubles are announced by four horsemen, after which wars and disasters are expected – such as the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and the rebuilding of the Temple. At the end of the plot, the Messiah saves Israel and the readers are assured that whoever believes in him will receive salvation.” The source of the literature is linked to a congregational web site which identifies itself as “Jews and Gentiles together, united in faith in God in light of what is written in the Bible and the New Testament and in the fact that the promised Messiah is Yeshua the Messiah.”
Two further pieces are connected to the anti-missionary activity more indirectly. An article in the Jerusalem Post (August 14) stated that Moshe Feiglin, one of Bibi Netanyahu’s rivals for the Likud leadership, is accusing the former Prime Minister of association with “missionaries.” It appears that Bibi’s campaign headquarters are located in a building where the Messianic art shop Dugit has an “Information Center.” According to the report, “The workers at the center said Netanyahu had popped his head into the center once and asked what it was and when they told him, he said ‘good,’ but did not accept their invitation to come in for coffee.” Feiglin’s “resort” to “linking Netanyahu with missionaries” was based on the claim that “Netanyahu’s sharing a building with Jew-for-Jesus was symbolic of how disconnected he [Bibi] was from Judaism. He said that he [Feiglin] had turned down a blank check from Jews-for-Jesus and he accused Netanyahu of accepting the campaign office rent free. ‘They offered me all the money I want, even $50 million,’ Feiglin said.”
A short piece in Haaretz (August 12) reported that the Interior Ministry is checking into allegations that an Ethiopian falashmura who made aliyah a year ago is a “Christian priest” who immigrated under false pretences under the Law of Return.
Israeli Attitudes to Christianity
Makor Rishon, August 10; Yediot Ahronot, August 14, 2007
Reporting on the “The Holy Land Experience” in Orlando, Florida (see last week’s Review), Yediot Ahronot (August 14) expressed some interesting opinions regarding Christianity in general: “Yeshu ascended to heaven taking with him the sins of all his fellow Christians – the New Testament is full of descriptions of how hard his ‘via dolorosa’ was, what afflictions and beatings he suffered, how he was bound to the cross with enormous nails and how he expired on the cross before he arose from the dead and ascended into heaven to join God and the Holy Spirit.”
In a piece on the “Nazareth cross,” Orli Goldklang noted that one of the protagonists in the plot had been conspicuously absent: If Christians were worried about the adverse effect the cross’s erection would have on the local Muslim community – what about its effect on the Jews? “No one has raised the possible that perhaps Jewish sensitivities would be hurt by the fact that a prominent Christian object would project itself from horizon to horizon in the middle of a Jewish State – which symbolized in its past crusades of expulsion and murder, conversion, and profanation of the sacred.”
Haaretz, August 10, 12; Ma’ariv, August 10, pp. 6, 14; Jerusalem Post, August 12, 2007
Cardinal Lustiger’s funeral was covered by all the major Israeli papers, under such headlines as: “Jews, Catholics bid farewell to Jewish-born French cardinal” (Jerusalem Post); “Kaddish in Notre Dame” (Haaretz, August 12); “Kaddish, Psalms at Notre Dame funeral of Jewish-born cardinal” (Haaretz, August 10); “First Kaddish at Notre Dame: The Jewish prayer will be said as part of the funeral of Cardinal Lustiger” (Ma’ariv). In the words of Haaretz (August 10), “Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who sought to bring Jews and Catholics together in life, is continuing the mission in death. In a funeral infused with symbolism, Jews will stand in front of the sculpted saints of Notre Dame cathedral today and recite kaddish, moments before an archbishop reads Psalms for the Jew who converted to Catholicism …” According to the Jerusalem Post (August 12), “Before his death, Lustiger asked that a commemorative plaque be placed inside Notre Dame reading: ‘I was born Jewish. I received my paternal grandfather’s name, Aron, I became Christian by faith, and I remained Jewish like the Apostles did.’” He also requested that his funeral “include both faiths.” This wish was fulfilled through the participation of various members of his extended family: His cousin, Arno, head of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, read the kaddish; a grandnephew, Gila, read a psalm and a message to the cardinal from his family; and another relative, Jonas-Moses Lustiger, brought “earth from Christian sites in and around Jerusalem to be sprinkled on the coffin” (Haaretz, August 10).
Under the heading “Cardinalship is not a Jewish profession,” Shahar Ilan documented some of the controversies which Lustiger had aroused by his insistence on his Jewish identity. “We are generally quite proud of former Israelis who have gone far – received the Nobel Prize, for example. Former Jews are another story altogether, however.” When Lustiger was invited to speak at a Tel Aviv University conference on “The Silence of God,” many people objected, amongst them the usually moderate former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Meir Lau: “‘The path of spiritual destruction (apostasy) which Lustiger represents leads, by its very physical destruction, to a final solution to the Jewish problem.’” When the cardinal was invited to attend a Holocaust Remembrance Day event at Yad Vashem – not to speak but merely to be present – Yosef Burg, Yad Vashem’s National Council president, declared that “Whoever converts to Christianity has passed the boundary and does not belong to the Jewish people.” In response to his cousin Arno’s repeated question “How can you be a Christian after the Holocaust?” Lustiger would answer: “How can you, after the Holocaust, still live in Germany?”
Jerusalem Post, August 10; Yated Ne’eman, August 12; HaModia, August 16; Haaretz, August 10; Makor Rishon, August 12, 2007
The pope’s meeting with Tadeusz Rydzyk continues to make waves in the Jewish press, despite the Vatican’s declaration that “the encounter did not imply any change in the Church’s desire for good relations with Jews” (Haaretz, August 10). Under the headline “Jewish leaders fume at pope’s meeting with anti-Semitic priest,” Haviv Rettig in the Jerusalem Post (August 10) reported David Rosen’s response: “‘The most obvious thing that any charitable Jew would assume is that [the pope] met with [Rydzyk] to tell him off.’” Yated Ne’eman (August 12) was far less “charitable”: “‘The pope thanked the thousands of listeners to his radio station and blessed them,’ an announcement from the Vatican cited in the radio station’s paper stated. The very presence of the anti-Semitic priest at the closed summer residence indicates the special closeness between them.” The paper identified the pope as “the German pope Ratzinger, who calls himself Benedict XVI.”
Yediot Afula ve-ha-Amakim, August 10; Yediot HaZafon, August 10, 2007
Yediot HaZafon (August 10) carried a report of the Fellowship of Christian and Jews’ contribution to the renovation of private bomb shelters in the north (see previous Reviews). Yediot Afula (August 10) noted that a delegation of “Christian Bible-lovers visited Hodayot and left a check for scholarships.” Hodayot is an educational youth camp, which the group has “adopted.” It is run on unique educational lines which include the separation of boys and girls.
Globes, August 14, 16, 2007
Globes reported in rapid succession the news that when HOT removed the Christian broadcasting station Day Star from its cable package last week, it was ordered to reinstate it within 12 hours by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Authority. HOT has now received a request by the Authority for Trade Restriction to hand over all relevant information concerning the decision following an appeal by Day Star’s Israeli representatives, who are claiming the act is religiously motivated. (For the history of the story, see previous Reviews.)
Yediot Ahronot, August 13, 2007
An Israeli youth choir composed of Jews, Christians, and Muslims recently “made history at the Vatican” according to a report in Yediot Ahronot (August 13). The choir, consisting of 17 youngsters between the ages of 13 and 18, presented a repertoire of Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin songs. “The pope listened with great emotion to the singing of the Israeli choir and afterwards said to its musical director, Uri Ben-David: ‘I hope that cultural events like these will make the atmosphere in the region conducive to the advancement of peace.” The choir brought a gift to the pope of a stone from Nazareth inscribed with the verse from Isaiah: “You will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”
Jerusalem Post, August 16, 2007
A report in the Jerusalem Post (August 16) stated that the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) in America “took a step toward a partial boycott of Israeli goods at its 2007 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago last week.” The move came in response to a resolution calling for promotion of a “two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and investment in the PA – although the Assembly refrained from adopting a policy of full divestment. According to Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, “‘This marks the first time a mainline American church has moved toward a possible boycott of Israel. While we noted that the ELCA delegates have now joined the Presbyterian Church (USA) in explicitly rejecting divesting from companies doing business with Israel, they have decided to embrace one of the anti-Israel tactics adopted by United Kingdom trade unions and others in Europe. ECLA delegates would have made a stronger contribution to the quest for peace and justice in the Holy Land had they also raised the ransacking of Christian holy places of worship and [the] recent forced conversion of a Christian professor in Gaza, as well as the unrelenting targeting of Israeli civilian communities by Palestinian Kassam rockets.’”