Caspari Center Media Review………….October 23, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the subjects of Christian tourism, Christians in Israel, the Pope and the Vatican, and film. Of these:
6 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christian sites
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 was a film review
Various aspects of Christian Zionism and pilgrimage constituted the primary focus of this week’s Review.
Makor Rishon, October 12; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, October 11; Hadashot Netanya, October 12; Haaretz, October 12, 15; Jerusalem Post, October 18, 2007
Haaretz (October 12) carried an article about the Christian Zionist Sukkot festivities in Jerusalem (see previous Reviews). Relating to Uri Lupolianski’s decision not to participate, the ICEJ’s Director, Michael Hedding noted: “‘We deeply regret that the mayor couldn’t come down to see us here at Jerusalem’s biggest annual tourist event. Of course, we all know why he didn’t come,’ he added, hinting at the Chief Rabbinate’s ban” on all Jewish participation. “‘The people who banned the event are motivated by ignorance and are working out of isolation. But the state is behind us, and religious figures too. We had prominent rabbis come here. Dudu Fisher even came to sing.’ Other guests included the families of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two Israeli soldiers Hezbollah kidnapped last year.” According to the report, “Palestinian Christians stayed away because to many of them, the pro-Zionist Evangelicals are ignoring their own brothers and sisters in Christ … At the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center Sabeel in East Jerusalem, such shows of support for Israel by fellow Christians are seen as a form of estrangement from the Palestinian community. ‘This is the result of a right-wing highjacking of the evangelistic movement,’ Sabeel spokesman Jonathan Kuttab told Haaretz this week.”
In a separate report on the same page, the observance of the fifth annual Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem was noted – a ceremony conducted in Jerusalem and broadcast live in 192 countries. “‘From small tribal villages in Africa, to the mega-churches of America, Christians around the world were united in prayer on Sunday to demonstrate their allegiance with the Biblical command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ Robert Stearns, founder of the initiative, said.”
Following the march, Jewish tempers were running hot. Mina Fenton, responsible for foreign relations in the Jerusalem municipal council and a fervent anti-missionary activist, wrote a letter to Makor Rishon (October 12) denouncing the paper’s printing of a photo of “a large group of Christian pilgrims carrying a huge banner inscribed with the Tetragrammaton in large Hebrew letters.” Her protest centered around the fact that this constitutes an expression of contempt for Judaism and its faith and that Christians believe that the Tetragrammaton is a “designation for ‘that man’ who is ‘God-man and Messiah.’” She also objected to another banner, this one “expressing ‘that man’s reign over Jerusalem.” Fenton’s opinion was that the photo clearly indicated the marchers’ true purpose: “The strengthening of their faith and the hastening of their vision, the exaltation of ‘that man’ precisely in the streets of Jerusalem, his reign over the city and the whole world, the preaching of the gospel from Jerusalem during the march, when thousands of Israeli Jews are cheering them.” Fenton claimed that many missionary organizations participated in the march, including the “Messianic Jewish movements which believe in ‘that man.’”
Fenton’s efforts were further directed towards the dismissal of the Director of the municipal authority’s Sports division, the person responsible for the organization of the Sukkot march (HaShavua BiYerushalayim, October 11). Her claim is that the participation of a much larger number than actually registered constituted a violation of the law. Her true objection lies elsewhere, of course: In her eyes, “the march has turned in recent years into a tool of Christian pilgrims for their Christian-religious purposes which scorn and trample upon the sacred objects of the Jewish people and its faith.” The fact that such missionary activity has been allowed to flourish is despicable – and someone must pay.
Attitudes were very different in Netanya, where the city’s hotels were filled with Christian pilgrims over Sukkot (Hadashot Netanya, October 12). Special events were organized for the predominantly Swedish and German tourists, who enjoyed a folklore evening in one of the hotels and another in Beit Yochanan with the participation of a Swedish choir.
The Jerusalem Post (October 18) reported on the 6000-strong twenty-sixth evangelical “Night to Honor Israel” in San Antonio, Texas, organized by John Hagee this week. While some Jewish circles have grave reservations regarding Christian Zionists, this evening was apparently marked by complete unanimity: “If there was one thing missing from the evening, it was nuance. Everyone spoke in superlatives, from Hagee to Jewish talk-show host and keynote speaker Dennis Prager to the Israeli government representatives,” while a “common thread” also ran throughout the night: “‘Jews look around the world today,’ the pastor [Hagee] said, ‘searching for allies. You look at the United Nations, that new Tower of Babel. You look to Europe, where the specter of Hitler walks anew. You look to the universities, with their professors backed by Arab money. A new Holocaust seems around the corner. You feel alone. But on behalf of 50 million Evangelicals,’ he finished, to shouts of ‘Amen’ and wild applause, ‘I tell you: Israel is not alone!’”
On a different note, Haaretz (October 15) devoted a lengthy article to the German kosher beer “Simcha” whose market success appears to growing in leaps and bounds (see previous Reviews). Objections to its sale are also being raised, however, due to claims that while the beer itself might technically be kosher, “‘those who are selling it are definitely not. They have contacts with Messianic organizations in Germany and Israel,’ says Haim Guski, who writes of the missionary roots of ‘Simcha’ in his blog Sprachkasse, which documents Jewish life in Germany.” It appears that one of the partners in the company producing the beer is Wilfried Guther, owner of a store selling Christian literature, who “identifies himself as a Christian Zionist and as the leader of the organization ‘Friends of Israel in Saxony’ … a German Christian evangelical pro-Israel organization.” Guther himself argues that the beer has no connection with any missionary activity: “He hopes that the beer will ‘demonstrate to Germany the positive side of Israelis’ and believes that the dialog between the two states will be conducted more successfully over a mug of beer rather than a glass of water. ‘Beer is good for conversation,’ he explains.” Originally from East Germany, after the fall of the Berlin wall Guther visited Israel before he did West Germany. He plans to donate a percentage of the revenues from Simcha’s sales to charities in Israel.
Yediot Ahronot, October 15; Yediot Yerushalayim, October 12, 2007
Even if beer is better than water for conversation, holy water is still one of the central attractions for Christian pilgrims. Unfortunately, the water in Mary’s well in Ein Karem is currently being contaminated with sewage from local houses not yet connected to the city’s system. According to a report in Yediot Yerushalayim (October 12), “Mary’s well is considered to be one of the most important tourist sites. According to Christian tradition, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, met Mary, Yeshu’s mother, right next to the well – and thence its name. Christians regard the water from the well as holy and pilgrims from all over the world who come to the place fill bottles from it.” Despite the sewage problem, pilgrims are apparently still continuing to visit the site.
Similar bottles of holy water are causing unanticipated problems for the Vatican’s new airline: security regulations prohibit the taking of bottles of water on flights (Yediot Ahronot, October 15). Vatican officials are currently consulting with security experts in an attempt to resolve the issue. “Without the holy water from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan, the pilgrims won’t be completely happy,” a Vatican official was quoted as stating.
Christians in Israel
Tzomet HaSharon, October 12; Ma’ariv, October 12, 2007
In a rather ironic turn of events, foreign workers in Israel seeking a place in which to worship have been offered the use of the local synagogue (Tzomet HaSharon, October 12). Following the destruction of the school in the church in Kfar Shmaryahu where they accustomed to worshipping, the workers met to pray in one of its public buildings. Their request to continue to do so was turned down by the local council: “The council does not possess any places of worship. There’s a synagogue which serves all the streams of Judaism and is run by the religious council.”
According to a report in Ma’ariv (October 12), the church of Mivdad Netofa in the Galilee was originally presided over by Father Ya’akov, who bought the site for the Catholic Church in the 1950s. The Dutch priest survived the Nazi invasion of his homeland and “arrived in Israel with the church’s blessing. As a lover of Israel, he chose to purchase the land on the top of the hill as a hermit’s residence. The good-willed Father adopted the members of all the faiths around him.” Upon his death, and in accordance with his wishes that his legacy should be continued, the site has been occupied by three monks and seven nuns from the Silesian Order in Beit Jamal near Beit Shemesh and the church in Bethlehem.
The Pope and the Vatican
Israel HaYom, October 14, 2007
According to this brief report, the Vatican is set to publicize “disturbing testimonies concerning the period of the crusades … which are expected to expose a period of sins, adulteries, lies, and intrigues during the pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the end of the middle ages.”
Ma’ariv, October 14, 2007
Meir Shnitzer reviewed Raphael Nadjari’s film “Psalms” (Israel, 2007) in Ma’ariv (October 14). The film focuses on an Orthodox Jewish family in Jerusalem whose father figure, Eli, suddenly disappears, and his son Menachem’s efforts to trace him. Jerusalem and a lost father serve as two of the central motifs and, as Shnitzer states, one needs to “reacquaint oneself with the biblical sources which constitute its basis” in order to understand the movie. Shnitzer implies that the film intends to juxtapose the “father of Christianity” with the father of an Orthodox Jewish family. He suggests a parallelism between Eli’s family and Yeshu on the grounds of Jesus’ last words on the cross in Hebrew/Aramaic – “my God, my God (Eli, Eli) by associating this utterance with the family’s mourning by reciting such psalms as “I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord” (Ps. 142:1) and Menachem’s feeling of abandonment: “Daddy Eli, why have you forsaken me?” According to the review, the crucifixion represents Jesus’ loneliness – reflected in Eli’s family’s “orphanhood” when he disappears. Shnitzer asserts that the film’s central scene is an outstanding example of the “complexity of the interfaith dialog” the film embodies: “The son, Menachem, stands in the heart of Jerusalem distributing books of the Psalms to passersby and attempting to persuade them to pray by means of a financial enticement which he waves in front of their faces. An action in complete contradistinction to that which Yeshu performed when he came to Jerusalem on the eve of his crucifixion and overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple courts because they were replacing prayer with financial business.” Although the review is somewhat obscure, it is clear that Shnitzer himself is very knowledgeable about Christianity and the New Testament.