Caspari Center Media Review………….September 12, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of Christians in Israel, missionary and anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, anti-Semitism, the Pope and the Vatican, and archaeology. Of these:
2 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
1 dealt with archaeology
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
2 were book reviews
This week’s Review featured a lengthy article by David Smith on the Victoria Augusta church on the Mount of Olives and another on the “Jesus tomb” archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici.
BeSheva, August 30; HaModia, September 2, 2007
Following the distribution of comic-style tracts in Modi’in (see previous Reviews), the campaign has moved to Jerusalem’s post boxes. HaModia (September 2) reported that Yad L’Achim is claiming to have received similar angry complaints from parents worried about the danger to which their children are being exposed. The organization has allegedly requested that its lawyer, Moshe Morgenstern, file a complaint of “gross violation” of the law which “determines that ‘whoever enacts a conversion ceremony for a minor or engages in any other activity leading to a minor’s conversion shall be liable to six months imprisonment’ and ‘the person who persuades a minor to convert by a direct appeal to him is liable to six months imprisonment.’” The claim is being filed by the lawyer on behalf of a group of parents and includes a demand to investigate the “missionary organization and its head” (Meno Kalisher) on charges of attempting to convert a minor [minors] and of “intimidating minors.” It is unclear whether “Kehillat Yerushalayim Beit Geula” is in fact the source of the tracts, identified here as entitled “Where is Rabbi Wachsman,” Meno Kalisher having denied that the tracts distributed in Modi’in came from his congregation (see previous Reviews). The article also makes much of the fact that the tract’s cover is composed of a picture of a bearded Orthodox Jew with curly pe’ot [side-curls], wearing a prayer shawl and a shtreimel [fur hat].” The obvious insinuation is that this is an anti-Semitic caricature.
An article in BeSheva (August 31) addressed the fact that the paper has recently served as the forum for an “advertisement war” between two groups – something which, although usually good for the paper’s revenues, also bears investigation. “BeSheva’s editorial board decided that an esteemed paper cannot continue to remain aloof under such circumstances, when on the one hand it might allow publication of an advert on behalf of criminals and on the other lend a hand to evildoers.” The article’s author took it upon himself to undertake this mission and give the paper’s readers the “full facts.” These relate to the hotel at Ramat Rachel, which accommodates many Christian groups. Yad L’Achim have contacted the hotel with the claim that some of these latter are engaged in missionary activity and have asked the hotel to cancel contracts with any such groups holding large conferences, even at the cost of paying a heavy fine. The hotel management has responded that it is unable to accede to such a request – although it appears that similar approaches in the past have concluded with the hotel’s cooperation with Yad L’Achim. It has also indicated that it asks for a declaration from groups wishing to stay at the hotel that all their members are in fact from abroad, the assumption being that tourists are less likely to be engaged in “missionary” activity. If in retrospect it becomes clear that a tourist group has been guilty of such activity, the hotel will inform the travel agency which arranged the tour that it will not agree to let the group stay in the hotel again. At the same time, the hotel has refused to agree to Yad L’Achim’s wish that prior confirmation be gained from all groups that they will not engage in any missionary activity. “The hotel’s management had said that it is making genuine efforts to prevent all missionary activity on its premises, even at the cost of financial revenue, but not at the expense of legal complications which might damage its hundreds of workers.”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, August 31; Ma’ariv, September 6, 2007
David Smith’s series of articles in the “Christian” Jerusalem Post edition was picked up this week by the local paper’s “In Jerusalem” section. Smith devoted this feature to the Augusta Victoria church on the Mount of Olives and to other Lutheran establishments in the country. The Lutheran presence in Israel was inaugurated with the joint Anglo-Prussian bishopric, whose “cathedral” seat was what is now known as Christ Church in the old city. According to Smith, “The cooperative diocese was satisfactory until political and theological differences led to an independent Lutheran church in Israel. Politically, a stronger Prussia led to ecclesiastical autonomy, while theologically the Lutheran church favored social ministry and the Anglicans stressed conversion, according to Lutheran historians.” The two major Lutheran churches in Jerusalem, the Augusta Victoria and the Church of the Redeemer in the old city, are complemented by Caspari Center, founded by the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel in 1982. Caspari Center is an “educational ministry largely supported by a consortium of European Lutheran sponsors.” Outside the city, the Lutherans are represented by Yad HaShomonah, a moshav established by Finnish Lutherans in an attempt to “atone” for the crime the Finnish government committed in handing over eight Jews to the Nazis. The school/orphanage, Talitha Kumi, originally located in the old city, is now to be found in Lod, where it has 900-od co-ed students, a guest house, and a vocational school. The Lutheran Immanuel church in Yaffo was founded in 1904 by German believers and now has a Danish pastor with a Hebrew service on Shabbat and a Sunday English service. It also houses “Holy Land Ministries,” a Christian charity which collects food, clothing, and money for the needy. In Haifa, the Lutherans are responsible for the Ebenezer home for “retirees,” set up in 1976 by NCMI because “the need arose not only for the aged Holocaust survivors of Beit Eliyahu [a local congregation] to find a home suitable for their needs, but also for Arab believers and other non-Jewish believing residents in the land.”
The article in Ma’ariv (September 6) was a shortened “version” of the piece run last week in Yediot Yerushalayim featuring the rubbish which infests Jerusalem.
Yediot Yerushalayim, August 24, 2007
The Jerusalem Post invited Michael Hedding, the Executive Director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, to write a piece for its September 4 edition. Hedding responded to recent articles attacking Christian Zionism for its hidden proselytizing agenda. “Christians who support Israel, no matter how genuinely or sacrificially, will always be a fifth column peddling some hidden agenda to subvert the Jewish people.” In reply, Hedding argued that the modern-day Christian Zionism movement has been largely responsible for the elimination of the Christian anti-Semitism/Judaism which took root in Christianity when the latter denied its Jewish roots. He lamented the fact that “Now, however, when Christians have repented of this past and have stood up on behalf of Israel in their millions all over the world, this friendship is rejected, as if were all a fraud designed to bring about a new spiritual fusion that will destroy the people of Israel. It is no such thing …” He concluded by stating that the claim that Christian Zionism is a form of “Esau’s Revenge” is “nothing short of an accusation of anti-Semitism, i.e., stealing Israel’s birthright! Christian replacement theology, which birthed much of the anti-Semitism in Church history, did precisely this. We have not only refuted it theologically, but we have resisted it wherever we have found it. It is extraordinary that Israel’s friends are now being accused of seeking to rob Israel of her birthright. This is a very sad distortion.” (original italics).
Haaretz, September 5, 2007
The controversy continues over Tadeusz Rydzyk’s anti-Semitic remarks. Haaretz (September 5) carried a piece reporting that Pope John Paul II’s former personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, has called on Polish church leaders to dismiss Rydzyk. “We are at the threshold of a dangerous crisis – somebody else is guiding the direction of the ministry in Poland,” he stated, adding that “there is a threat that the church in Poland is being identified solely with the position of Radio Maryja.” The Polish Prime Minister was quoted as saying that “This radio station is the one man. Take away that man and there’s no radio station. That’s entirely obvious.”
Kol HaZman, August 31, 2007
Following the widely-discussed film on the alleged findings of Jesus’ family tomb, the Jewish Canadian film maker Simcha Jacobovici – who has now become well known on Israeli TV as the “naked archaeologist” along the lines of Jamie Oliver’s “naked chef” – was set to conduct a series of open lectures at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. At the last minute, however, the series was “cancelled.” The official reason given was a technical hitch in the Museum’s screening equipment. Kol HaZman’s columnist displayed great skepticism in this regard: could the series not have been conducted without a projector, or could one not have been rented, or even purchased? His conclusion was that while the series may indeed have been cancelled for a legitimate technical reason, surely other grounds were also present. “In other words, there was without doubt and without casting vain suspicions, a technical problem, but perhaps there were other reasons as well, the result of the exertion of pressure, aloofness, and turning of their backs on the part of the diploma-ed, scientific, archaeological community which sought to silence Simcha, who greatly embarrasses and irritates it with all sorts of outlandish discoveries.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, August 31, 2007
Although we have covered the fact that the Vatican has started its own airline, this article in Haaretz (August 31) covers the issue more thoroughly than the previous brief reviews. The airline’s aim is to carry pilgrims on cheap charter flights to outstanding Catholic sites, such as Lourdes, Fatima, and Santiago De Compostela – as well as the Holy Land. “The routes may change with time, but their profound significance remains the same: a striving for a deeper relationship with God,” said a Vatican official.
Yediot Ahronot, August 31; Haaretz, September 5, 2007
Rafi Weichrat reviewed Yair Zakovitch’s latest book “Jesus Reads the Gospels” (Am Oved, no publication date). According to Avigdor Shinan’s introduction, the book’s innovation lies in the fact that “Yeshu relates to his autobiography as it is documented in the Gospels in the New Testament in a critical manner, out of a wish to tell us an alternative story.” Weichrat concluded: “At their best, the poems take the reader on a sense- and consciousness-stimulating journey, which oscillates between thought-provoking and sorrowful and blanching images: ‘I am the lost lamb of God / in the pastures./ Sheep-like clouds are my friends by day / and my soft covering at night.’”
On a very different note, Eddie Schwartz reviewed the Hebrew translation of Steve Berry’s thriller “The Third Secret” which deals with the Virgin Mary alleged manifestation at Fatima in 1917, where she is said to have given three peasant children three secrets. While two of the three were soon disclosed, the third was secreted in the Vatican archives, only to be revealed in 2000. “The book concludes,” writes Schwartz, “as might be expected, with the day of judgment struggle between the good and the bad, just as in the movie ‘Afternoon’ (or alternatively, the Book of Revelation). At the end it turns out that God exists and that, how soothing, His opinion is very appealing to us.”