Caspari Center Media Review………….August 28, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 30 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, missionary and anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, the Christian media, and archaeology. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Judaism
9 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
4 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian tourism
2 dealt with the Christian media
3 dealt with archaeology
The remaining 9 articles dealt with various matters of Jewish and Christian interest.
The main feature of this week’s Review “missionary” and anti-missionary activity, the former including articles on local Messianic figures. The controversy over the removal of Day Star from the HOT cable channel is heating up, as is the discussion of the plight of the Darfur refugees, while the remains of a Byzantine church have been discovered in Tiberias.
Jerusalem Post, August 17; Arei Modi’in, August 17, 2007
An article in the Jerusalem Post (August 17) reported that long-time residents of the local Messianic community, Ron and Carol Cantrell, have recently been denied permanent residency and asked to leave the country within two weeks. Ron Cantrell worked for Bridges for Peace for eighteen years, through whom he received a clergy visa. When he left Bridges and the couple set up their own ministry, “Shalom Shalom Jerusalem,” however, they were reduced to a tourist visa, valid for three months and renewable only by going out of the country and reentering. Two of their children have married Israelis. The article concluded with the statement that, “The issue underscored the delicate balancing act evangelical supporters of Israel face, between proselytizing, which is banned in Israel, and their fundamental belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the messiah.”
Under the subheading: “Dugi Israeli aggravates the farmers’ rebellion, Moshe Spector and Yoram Carmon welcome the businesses; the vet of the local council gives back good criticism from the pets’ corner at Nairobi Plants; and the Messianic Jews don’t understand what the residents of Buchman want from them,” Arei Modi’in (August 17) ran a sequel to its earlier report on the flooding of the Orthodox neighborhood with “Christian” tracts. “The rabbi of the Messianic congregation Kalisher Menahem [Meno] said this week in response to the publication last week in Arei Modi’in of complaints by the residents of the Buchman quarter against comic strip leaflets about Yeshua the Messiah that were placed in their mail boxes, that ‘the pamphlet “Behold, He is coming” is not printed or distributed by our congregation. Its owner put the number of our congregation on it apparently so that readers could turn to us with any questions about its content. Distributing literature in mail boxes is not illegal, and many people in Israel believe that Yeshua is indeed the Jewish Messiah, as the biblical prophecies indicate.’”
Another believer was also involved in anti-missionary activity last week, according to an article published in several papers (HaModia, August 17; HaMahane HeHaredi, August 16; BeKehila, August 16; Mishpaha, August 16). The report alleged that a person purportedly from “Congregation Mevaseret Malkhut” [Herald of the Kingdom], led by Shimon Nahum, who gave his name as “Hananel K.,” phoned Yad L’Achim’s offices last week and asked to speak with Binyamin Kluger. Kluger – as the articles detail – was once a believer who, since his conversion, has spearheaded Yad L’Achim’s anti-missionary activities in Jerusalem. The story asserts that the caller asked Kluger to stop interfering in the lives of the members of his congregation. When Kluger inquired as to the nature of the supposed interference, the “missionary” “began to become nasty and said angrily that ‘there are members of the congregation who want to convert under the Rabbinate and you are interfering and stopping them from doing so.’” The reports allege that there are many such gentiles in Israel who join the struggle to turn Jews to Christianity. Kluger informed the caller that such activity was not only a deception of the Rabbinate but also a violation of their messianic faith. “After the missionary unloaded his anger, Rabbi Kluger explained to him the gravity of this deception … At this point, the missionary began to threaten and assert the reason for his phone call. ‘You’d better be careful … We will take care of you step by step.’ When the fact that such threats and others wouldn’t work and that violent action wouldn’t stop Yad L’Achim from fighting the attempts at spiritual destruction, the missionary continued with serious threats and added that ‘After we take care of you, we’ll take care of your children and they will die one by one’” (HaMahane HeHaredi, August 16). Yad L’Achim’s director advised Kluger to file a complaint of murder threats with the police.
HaTzvi, August 9, 16; Zman Haifa, August 17; Al HaMakom, August 16; Yom L’Yom, August 16; HaMahane HeHaredi, August 16; BeKehila, August 16; Mishpaha, August 16; HaModia, August 17, 2007
HaTzvi printed five letters protesting Yakim Figueras’ response to the article on Eddie Beckford (see previous Reviews). The first set (August 9) included one from neighbors, who complained about the use of a private residence for congregational purposes, citing the noise of the singing and the lack of parking space, as well as Christian history, as the reason for objecting to the presence of the Messianic community. The second letter from this date noted that because the police weren’t taking due action, the Jewish religious authorities were doing so by exposing the disguises under which the missionaries are undertaking their activities. The third letter claimed that Yakim’s argument that they were the only people suffering in Arad was true – because “the main element in ‘Messianic’ faith is the commandment to baptize Jews to Christianity.” Those people who “get up early on Shabbat morning, march on foot in the heat in summer and in the wind in winter, to the other end of the city in order to protest in legal ways (which is why the police do not take action against them) to save Jews from spiritual destruction” are only to be praised. The final letter takes Yakim himself to task for personal involvement in the violence he claims to abhor. It cites charges filed against Yakim for “an attempt at running someone over” (271/05), against Yakim’s wife, Debbie, “for assault” (229456/07), against “Eddie Beckford and his wife Lura, against Simeon Plinner [?], Ehud Amana, Rebecca Frey, Belinda Graham, and others.” The writer adds that further information concerning all these charges were attached to the letter. The letter concludes: “Yakim, in the face of such systematic violence, words and denunciations aren’t enough, you must take some action!!! Take responsibility over yourself and over the members of your missionary cult and stop the violence, immediately! Lest it’s too late!!!”
The first letter of the second set (August 16) was written by a family who had vacationed in Arad and been greatly disturbed by the fact that they had been given a tract at the entrance to a public concert, which they took before they realized it was missionary literature. How can this be the ideal city of which Ben Gurion dreamed? The second stated that despite the fact that Figueras’ article had been “full of lies,” the authors wished to relate to only one “serious charge” – that “we had, as it were, been distributing seditious literature against their parents’ faith to their children. The pages we distributed contained only quotations from the New Testament which Mr. Figueras is concealing from the eyes of the Jews who have fallen into his clutches. Seditious literature is defined as: ‘The dissemination of material from sources which oppose the teaching of the addressee.’ In contrast, we made sure that we only cited from the New Testament, a book they espouse.” The verses cited included, according to the report, John 8:44 (“You are sons of the devil”), 1 Thess. 2:15 (“they [the Jews in Judaea] are not pleasing to God and are hostile to all men”), and Jesus’ words in Lk. 19:27: “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and slay them in my presence”) – all quoted without the context in which they were made, especially damning in the last case, which is, of course, a parable.
Yom L’Yom (August 17) carried the story of Eddie Beckford first printed in HaTzvi, while Al HaMakom (August 16) reprinted the report of the Tel Aviv soup kitchen.
An anti-missionary piece of a different sort – but indicative of some of the same attitudes – appeared in Zman Haifa (August 17). People in the city are up in arms against missionary activity – but this time conducted by an Orthodox Rabbi who has been holding lectures in the municipal theater to bring Jews back into the religious fold. Numerous theater subscribers are apparently considering canceling their subscriptions, being unwilling to support a public place which allows itself to act as a forum for such activities. According to a city council member, Prof. Moshe Bakar, “We cannot prevent missionary activity that turns people back to religion and encourages them not to serve in the army. But the Haifa municipality, and all its public institutions, including the theater, must not give a hand to this missionary activity. If a missionary had come to convert people to Christianity, there would undoubtedly have been an outcry that the municipality was supporting this. To the same extent there is no place for the municipality to take part in this activity and allow his [the Rabbi’s] appearance in the theater.” The theater itself is nonplussed by all the fuss; after all, it’s purely a financial matter: “The theater hires out its halls to any one who pays on time and in cash.”
Yediot Ahronot, August 19; Ma’ariv, August 23, 2007
The removal of Day Star from HOT’s broadcasting channel is, according to Yediot Ahronot (August 19), “developing into an international scandal.” The Christian station, upset at what it regards as religious discrimination – no other country has banned it from broadcasting simply because it is a religious station – is planning to screen a protest program on its broadcasts worldwide, which will put Israel in a very light. “The harm: damage to Israel’s image in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Christians.” Day Star is also proposing to appeal to the Knesset Economic Committee for a discussion of the issue. The station knows that the Knesset itself has “a very broad lobby of MKs who appreciate the work of Christian organizations. I assume that they will be able to express their dissatisfaction with what is happening. We must find a way to leave the station open,” said one of its Israeli representatives. Despite the threatened action, however, the cable authorities are still claiming that it has no warrant to intervene. HOT is also refusing to make any comment.
A response of a rather different kind came in the form of a letter printed in Ma’ariv (August 23). The writer suggested that had it been a Jewish station that was being removed from European television, the ensuing scandal would have provoked a third world war. “But with us, here in Israel, anything goes. We’ve already been talking about the removal of Day Star for a month, and no one cares. How can a Jewish State allow such a thing to happen? Where are all the human rights organizations? Where are all the enlightened MKs? Where are the Christians? Is there not one righteous person in Sodom? Who will protect the rights of Christians in the State of the Jews?”
Christians in Israel
Ma’ariv, August 21; Jerusalem Post, August 21; Yediot Bika’at Ono, August 17; HaIr – Tel Aviv, August 17, 2007
The plight of the mainly Christian Sudanese refugees has reached a new height with the recent change in policy on the part of the Israeli government (Jerusalem Post, August 21). Despite protests that the Jewish State, of all places and people, should recognize and help such refugees, the government appears to have become overwhelmed at the thought of the sheer numbers which might arrive. It has therefore decided it will not offer asylum to the Darfur refugees. As many as 50 a day are coming, and they are being aided by the International Christian Embassy. “‘When you sit in a Western country, where there is freedom of religion, it is hard to understand what it means to be afraid of being killed because of your faith,’ said Charmaine Hedding of the International Christian Embassy, who is leading the Sudanese refugee assistance program. In a delicate balancing act, Hedding conceded that Israel must decide what is best for itself as a country, but said Christians around the world could be enlisted to support and take in the Christian refugees, instead of sending them to Egypt, where, she noted, they face religious persecution.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s reaction was to the complete contrary: “‘This is not a question of saving people from genocide, but about economic refugees who come here to improve the quality of their life,’ said the organization’s chief Nazi hunter, Ephraim Zuroff.” According to the report, the Israeli government has agreed to allow 500 – mostly Muslim – refugees to stay in the country for humanitarian reasons.
Under the headline, “Most of the Sudanese refugees in Israel: Christians who are not from Darfur,” Ma’ariv (August 21) reported that the Christian refugees are being aided in crossing the border from Egypt to Israel by the council of churches, although it wasn’t clear whether this was the WCC. In a related piece, it reported that Israel was being denounced in the international press for expelling the refugees and not taking an “ethical responsibility towards the victims of genocide.” The question is being raised, particularly in Italy and Latin American countries, why the “Jewish State,” which was “founded against the background of genocide, executed by the Nazis, isn’t absorbing refugees.” According to this article, the most vehement uproar came from the American press: “There was almost no paper or internet set which failed to report the Israeli decision and every feature opened with the headline ‘Israel expels Darfur refugees.’”
According to another report (HaIr – Tel Aviv, August 17), the refugees in Tel Aviv are also being assisted by Christian churches in the city whose primary aid goes to foreign workers, prominently Philippinos. “‘We all have one God,’ said the pastor [of the Philippino church near the bus station], Germia, of Nigerian origin, after a prayer in which he asked that the refugees be encouraged by saying that ‘when we come close to God we feel refreshed as if we’ve changed clothes. I promise you that if you pray you will see immediate results.’”
Philippinos were also in the news in their own right. In a piece on the disaster which he considers the new central bus station in Tel Aviv, Yakir Elkariv in Yediot Bika’at Ono (August 17) described how he came across a church in a shop near the bus station, filled with Philippinos. They were very wary of him and took a long time convincing that he was not from the immigration police – especially because the shop does belong to them.
Haaretz, August 22, 2007
Despite the recent events in Afghanistan, the Korean Christian tourists courted by the Minister of Tourism are still due to arrive. Although the conference planned for their visit has been cancelled for fear of conducting Christian religious events at this time, the pilgrims will come, and Korean Air has agreed to inaugarate three weekly flights starting from April 2008 from Seoul to Tel Aviv, designed to double the current number of tourists.
Index HaGalil, August 10; Haaretz, August 20; Yediot Tiveria, August 10, 2007
All three papers carried the story of the findings of an archaeological excavation carried out on behalf of the Mekorot water company seeking to run a new sewage pipe through Tiberias. Excavations are required by law in such cases, and the results this time around have been very impressive. A Byzantine church was discovered in the heart of the city, with colorful mosaics which included crosses. The presence of the latter indicates that the church predates 427, when the Church forbad crosses in floor mosaics since it considered the fact that they would be walked over dishonoring to the symbol. The dating also provides evidence that the Jewish city did not prevent Christians from erecting religious edifices during this period, as historians have argued up until now. Three dedicatory inscriptions were found in Greek, one of which read: “Save the soul of your servant, our Lord” (“Our Lord = Yeshu”). Another mosaic contains the alpha and omega – “one of the designations of Yeshu.” Other archaeological findings also prove that Tiberias was inhabited already in the Bronze Age period.
According to Haaretz (August 20), the first church in Tiberias was erected at the instigation of one Joseph, a Jewish believer who “diligently promoted the Christian faith in the middle of the fourth century in the lower Galilee.” This Joseph drew the attention of Constantine, who gave him the title “komes (count)” and authority to build churches. The incident is related by Epiphanius, who states that Joseph eventually only constructed a small church in Tiberias before moving on to greater edifices in Beit Shean, Tzippori (Sefforis), and Capernaum. These findings are therefore probably not of Joseph’s building, but archaeologists do suggest that they witness to the first Christian construction in the city.