Caspari Center Media Review………….October 9, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 17 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christian sites, Christians in Israel, interfaith activity, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
6 dealt with missionary and anti-missionary activity
5 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Christian sites
2 dealt with interfaith activity
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
Covering the period of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – this week’s Review focuses largely on the celebrations, demonstrating both negative and positive attitudes towards the phenomenon.
Makor Rishon, September 23; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, September 20; Al HaMakom, September 23 pp. 10, 12; HaZofeh, September 26; Jerusalem Post, September 24, 2007
Al HaMakom (September 23, p. 10) and HaZofeh (September 26) both carried the story of the anonymous Messianic Jew who allegedly renounced his faith (see previous Reviews).
A review article by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner entitled “The Christian enemy – the eternal enemy” – was published in Makor Rishon (September 23) which surveyed the history of Christian missionizing. Starting from Augustine and John Chrysostom, Aviner moved on to Vatican II which, he argued, may have exempted the Jews from the collective guilt of Jesus’ death but then “transferred it to the Jewish leaders, i.e., the Sanhedrin, i.e., the pharisians [sic], which as we all know represents the insult par excellence for Christians.” Aviner continued to list the “sins” of the Catholic Church: “Behind this gesture [of the Nostre Aetate] lies the pro-Arab Catholic policy hidden under the guise of neutrality, its support of terror organizations under the guise of justice [tzedek] and humanitarianism, and the rest of its duplicitous ways of undermining the stability of the State of Israel.” The Protestants fare no better. While they may not openly shed Jewish blood, their affection – as expressed in the form of Christian Zionism – is like a bear hug which “swallows its prey.” The Protestant goal is the annihilation of the Jewish people through a “general anaesthetic, i.e., apostasy.” According to Aviner, there are eight thousand full-time missionaries in Israel, with another “several tens of thousands” part-time workers. The Rabbi focuses much of his attention on the International Christian Embassy, an “umbrella organization” which includes “many other organizations, especially the Messianic Jews who, according to reliable figures, number around 15,000 in the country, some of them apostates (information about all of these may be found on Yad L’Achim’s web site).” He concludes: “We thought that we had got rid of them [the missionaries]. We thought that they were our friends [the Christian Zionists]. We were wrong. The Jews are our friends, not the Messianic Jews – but true and innocent Jews.”
Two further articles, in Al HaMakom (September 23, p. 12) and HaShavua BiYerushalayim (September 20), covered the Chief Rabbinate’s ban on all Jewish participation in the Christian Sukkot celebrations (see previous Review). The first reported that “the estimate for the extent of the [Messianic Jewish] movement today stands at 15,000 Jews who have converted and are members of ‘Messianic Jewish’ congregations [kehilot] (according to the book Facts & Myths [original in English]). The essence of their activity is the distortion of the Jewish significance and basis of the Torah, the Bible, and the festivals, and their being made over in a Christian image.” HaShavua BiYerushalayim raised the familiar issue of why the International Convention Center should be allowed to stubbornly insist on hosting the “missionary” events, which were due to include “well-known missionaries, Messianic Jews, Maoz, Tikkun, Dugit, Ebenezer, and Mishkan – all of which organizations “deliberately make use of Jewish names which cause many to fall into their trap.” (Al HaMakom includes in this list “Jehovah’s Witnesses”!) According to this report, despite the rabbinic ban on Jewish participation, the well-known singer and cantor Dudu Fisher accepted an invitation to attend, asserting that “he was participating in the event with the approval of his Rabbi and even gave the Rabbi’s name to those who asked him for it.” The paper claimed that when it turned to the Rabbi itself, he denied having given permission to anyone to participate and became very angry when he learned that his name was being mentioned in such a context.” [Editor’s note: It would appear that these articles gained access to a list of Messianic ministries in Israel which includes a printing house, a coffee shop, and a care home for the elderly. Mishkan is a theological journal published by the Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies in cooperation with Caspari Center, and we can unequivocally state that neither Mishkan nor Caspari Center had any part whatsoever in the Sukkot celebrations organized by the International Christian Embassy. Facts and Myths About the Messianic Congregations in Israel was published by the UCCI in conjunction with Caspari Center in 1999. It gives a figure of around 5,000 for the total number in the Messianic congregation in Israel at that publication date. There is no agreement on the number of Messianic believers today. 15,000 is most likely an unrealistically high number for the size of the movement today].
The Jerusalem Post of September 24 printed two letters in relation to Christian Zionism. The first, from Haim Lerner in Ganei Tikva, related to the Zion Oil & Gas company’s drilling, claiming that “the relatively paltry sum of $650,000 does not counter the countless generations of suffering and death of our ancestors in the name of Christianity.” The second, from Josef Gilboa, reflects a positive Jewish attitude towards Christian Zionism, tempered by an anti-Orthodox stance: “After encouraging a potentially disastrous shmita boycott of Jewish agriculture, the Rabbinate is now attacking the last large constituency in the world that unconditionally supports the Zionist idea, the Evangelicals. It’s time to ask the haredi leaders and their allies just what side they are on … The rabbis fear that ignorant Jews may be tempted by these missionaries; but they should first consider how their policies have made Judaism so unpalatable to so many Jews, who then seek spiritual comfort in foreign cultures.”
Haaretz, October 2; Yediot Ahronot, October 1; Makor Rishon, October 1; Israel HaYom, September 30; Jerusalem Post, September 23; Ma’ariv, September 30, 2007
Five of these pieces welcomed the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, whose origins in nineteenth-century Britain Elyakim Haetzni reviewed in his article in Yediot Ahronot (October 1) and which he concluded by blessing the pilgrims: “May you enter our sukka in peace, dear friends. May God grant that people like you may increase greatly.” One (Makor Rishon, October 1) reported on the “rival” celebrations held by the ICZC in Tel Aviv under Jan Wilhem Van der Hoeven’s directorship. The 500 participants were due to march around the government offices in Tel Aviv “as a sign of identification with the IDF and security forces” and then gather for a “convention of support” in Dizengoff Center.
The sixth piece (Haaretz, October 2) reported on the developments concerning the establishment of a Christian “spiritual center” in the Galilee (see previous Reports). Originally initiated by evangelicals, with the support of the former Minister of Tourism, Avraham Hirshson, the project has gradually lost momentum. It is now apparently being revived through the support of new investors who wish to turn the center into a generally Christian – rather than specifically evangelical – site, attuned to “experience” rather than “spirituality.” The new center, due to be built on 12 dunams of land at the north end of the Sea of Galilee, will include “a interactive information center, a center for direct television broadcasting from the Sea of Galilee, a travel-guide center for routes of ‘the Land of Yeshu,’ and more.” The center will be surrounded by a park which will contain “trails, water points, seating areas, and prayer corners for sites from the New Testament.” The article also contained a brief definition of “evangelicals” for its readers: “Evangelists [the Hebrew term for evangelicals] are a designation for a group of Protestant churches, mostly American. These Christian streams emphasize the idea of ‘new birth,’ believe in the struggle against Satan, and hold radical right-wing views. Their strong belief in the Bible leads them to fervent support of the State of Israel on the basis of their belief that they must hasten the battle of Gog and Magog. Evangelical preachers have a great influence on top executives in Bush’s administration.”
Christians in Israel
Yediot Ahronot, September 24, 2007
This piece reported on the unfortunate death of a five-year-old girl in Zichron Ya’akov whose parents belong to a German Christian group apparently called “Beth-el.” The group was begun by Emma Berger in 1963, who came to the country convinced that Armageddon would occur in 2000 and that Israel was the safest place to be at that time. It now numbers around 700, mostly in Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina, and operates a factory named “Noah’s Ark” which manufactures filter systems against chemical, biological, and atomic weapons. The event made the news because the parents do not believe in the use of medical treatment. Most regrettably, while they do allow such treatment to be administered in cases of emergencies, their daughter had already died by the time the ambulance and paramedics arrived.
Yediot Ahronot, September 24, 2007
In a piece on Banias, in the north of the country, Yediot Ahronot (September 24) noted that “Christian pilgrims are very moved here when they laud one of the most significant events in Christianity which occurred at Banias. Here Peter said to Yeshu: ‘You are the Messiah, Son of the living God,” and at that time bestowed upon him the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
Jerusalem Post, September 21; Kol-Bo, September 26, 2007
The Jerusalem Post (September 21) printed an article on the appearance of a unique “‘multi-faith’ Jewish renewal gathering” in Jerusalem. “Nava Tehilla” is a Jewish synagogue open to people of all faiths: “Co-founder Michael Kagan stresses that Nava Tehilla is not an ‘interfaith’ minyan. ‘We’re not taking a bit of Christianity and Muslim prayer, adding a Buddhist meditation and doing some Jewish stuff. We do a completely Jewish Friday night service and invite people from all faiths to share in the prayer.’” According to the piece, “Nava Tehilla draws its eclectic congregation from a funky mix of New Age-inspired Jews – both Anglos and veteran Israelis, secular and religious – who come from as far away as Tel Aviv and Beersheba; several Western-leaning Muslim Sufi sheikhs; and a Catholic order of nuns known as the Beatitudes who live near Latrun in the center of the country and regularly attend Jewish services around Jerusalem.”
According to a report in Kol-Bo (September 26), the prestigious Reali school in Haifa is due to open a new institute in the coming school year – “an international center for education, tolerance, and peace, which will unite under one framework activities which are already taking place around the school.” The Board created to advise and supervise the new center will include Archbishop Dr. Elias Chacour, Prof. Feisel Azeiza from the Jewish-Arab Center at Haifa University, Prof. Baruch Nevo of Haifa University and the Institute for Demography in Jerusalem, and Dahlia Dorner, a retired Supreme Court judge and herself a graduate of the school.
Ma’ariv, September 30, 2007
A disturbing article in Ma’ariv (September 30) reported on the experiences of a Jewish soldier in the American army, who discovered that it is gradually becoming a fundamental Christian stronghold. When he told his fellow soldiers that he was Jewish he became known as that “****ing Jew” and accused of killing Christ. He also found that Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” was obligatory watching, together with the playing of computer games which describe an American soldier in Iraq whose duty is to destroy any non-Christian – Muslim or Jew. Weinstein, who has become the object of hate and death threats on account of his organization “Military Freedom of Religion,” claims that “these games blur the distinction between Muslim fanatics and Christian fanatics.” According to him, “The American army is totally infected by radical Christians who receive support from their leaders and from people in positions of power.”