Caspari Center Media Review………….November 11, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 19 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Christian Zionism, and archaeology. Of these:
4 dealt with anti-missionary activities
5 dealt with the Archbishop of Canterbury
8 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with archaeology
The review also includes a correction of a notice in Media Review #4, August 2007.
This week’s Review contains Israeli media response to the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury and numerous articles covering the status and condition of Christians in Israel.
Sha’a Tova, October 18; BeKehilla, October 18; BeSheva, October 25; Mishpaha, October 18, 2007
The article in Sha’a Tova (October 18) dealt with a report of the “massive action” being planned by the “missionaries, who call themselves ‘Messianic Jews’ at the Bereshit Festival which took place over three days during Sukkot.” The story has been run before (see previous Reviews) and these pieces added little information – apart from a picture of the booth with the sign above it – “Yeshua saved me” – clearly visible.
According to a report in Mishpaha (October 18) and BeKekilla (October 18), a missionary in Beersheva recently filed a complaint with the police against Yad L’Achim and the city’s Chief Rabbi, Yehuda Deri. Following the disturbance in Beersheva two years ago which ended with the police evacuation of the congregation in the face of a large Orthodox demonstration (prayers) outside the congregational building, the congregation’s pastor, Howard Bass, has opened a court case against the “alleged” violence used by the protestors, which culminated in Bass’s being thrown into the “baptismal pool.” Bass is claiming one and a half million shekels from Yad L’Achim as the party responsible for bringing the information to Yehuda Deri, on whose initiative the demonstration (prayers) was organized and conducted. Having investigated the material, the judge suggested that the two parties go to arbitration. While the missionaries immediately agreed, Yad L’Achim’s legal representative rejected the offer and requested a court discussion. The organization’s Director stated that “Yad L’Achim denies all charges of violence or any unlawful action with which someone is as it were endeavoring to link us. At the same time, however, it is completely clear that we shall never agree to any compromise or bridging [arbitration] with any one who represents the wicked soul hunters from the wicked alliance who are doing everything they can to convert Jews, may God have mercy on us.”
Hotel Ramat Rachel, the object of Yad L’Achim’s ire over its hosting of alleged “missionary activities,” placed an ad in BeSheva (October 25) this week disclaiming any connection with such phenomena, presumably in response to a request for such a pronouncement from the anti-missionary organization (see previous Reviews). In it declared that it is run according to Jewish tradition, is a kosher establishment, and accommodates visitors from abroad and from the country. In bold letters in the middle of the ad, the Hotel’s manager stated: “I declare and inform by this that Hotel Ramat Rachel does not engage in or participate in any missionary activity.” The ad continued: “The groups which were hosted at the hotel were Christian groups, not Messianic Jews,” and concluded by denying all rumors and slanders: “Our business is the hosting of tourists from all over the world and from all religions. We are very sensitive to any missionary activity of whatever sort and expunge it from our midst.”
Makor Rishon, October 28, 2007
In a recent “Night for Israel” rally attended by thousands of evangelicals and local Jews, John Hagee fiercely attacked both Washington and the UN, calling on them – as well as European and Arab States – not to hand over parts of Jerusalem Israel to the Palestinians. Apart from the real danger of a second Hitler (Ahmadinejad) – whose end will nevertheless be like Pharaoh – the upcoming Annapolis Summit presents a more immediate threat in its call to Israel to hand over Arab sections of Jerusalem to the Palestinians. While American and some Israeli politicians believe that such a move will strengthen Abu Maazen’s position, “history has taught us that such concessions only lead to further concessions and won’t bring peace but the opposite. Christians worldwide kept almost completely quiet during the Holocaust. While we can’t change the past, we must be concerned that the Christian world won’t remain silent this time.”
Archbishop of Canterbury
Jerusalem Post, October 29, 31, November 1; Haaretz, October 26 (Hebrew and English editions), 2007
Dr. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in Israel for a visit with the Chief Rabbis this week “in the second of what the religious leaders hope will be annual discussions” (Jerusalem Post, October 31). The idea originated a year ago, when the three leaders agreed to meet alternate years in Jerusalem and Lambeth (the Archbishop’s palace in London) and to create an “Anglican-Jewish Commission” composed of religious leaders and academics from both religions, intended to “foster mutual understanding and trust between the religions.” “Symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican community,” the Archbishop is “not expected to meet Israeli politicians, although he frequently speaks out on political issues” and is known for his objections to Israeli policies such as the security fence and the safety of Christians in the country. In an interview on this visit, Williams indicated that “socioeconomic hardships caused by the West Bank security barrier are contributing to the decline in the Christian population in the Holy Land” (Jerusalem Post, November 1). A joint statement issued by the three leaders called for “‘the release of hostages and in particular for the release of [abducted IDF soldiers] Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev, and Gilad Shalit. The three also denounced Ahmadinejad’s continuing threats against Israel’s existence and related to Palestinian teaching materials “that are defamatory against Jews and that present Judaism in a false and misleading way.” According to the Jerusalem Post article on October 29, the Archbishop’s visit constitutes “a bid to improve damage by the Church of England’s 2006 decision to back divestment from Israel.” The same piece also reported that “William’s staff has also denied the veracity of accounts printed by the official Syrian news agency … [which] reported that in talks with Williams, the grand mufti of Syrian ‘pointed out the Israel suppressive practices in the occupied Palestinian territories, which violated all religious laws and international norms.’ William’s office denied this, saying his talks with the grand mufti ‘concerned issues internal to Syria and focused on the secular character of the Syrian constitution.’”
Christians in Israel
Yediot HaGalil, October 19; Israel HaYom, October 30; Haaretz, October 26, 29 (Hebrew and English editions); Yediot Ahronot, October 29; Kol HaZman, October 26, pp. 24, 50; Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2007
Following the arson attempt on the Baptist Church in Jerusalem (see previous Review), the local paper Kol HaZman (October 27) devoted a lengthy article to the event, entitled “The writing on the wall of the church” and a subtitle which ran: “The Christians in the city and the Messianic Jews aren’t surprised. Rabbi Shalom Lifshitz, Director of ‘Yad L’Achim’ and the immediate suspect, says that the arson is a profanation of God’s name. [Mayor] Lupolianski denounces [the attack] and the municipal council is up in arms.” According to the report, the firefighting force has already indicated that the fire was started on purpose, its members having identified the forced entry and “other signs which clearly demonstrate that we’re talking about deliberate arson.” The article recalled a previous piece run by the paper about half a year ago concerning the “persecution” of Messianic Jews, stating that fears had already then been expressed for the safety of their property and lives. When asked for this article, Galen from Congregation Even Israel was reported as saying that they had had no intimation – apart from the “normal” problems – that anything such as arson was likely to occur. While he also suggested that Yad L’Achim was the most likely party responsible for the attack, he did not want to accuse anyone falsely. Yad L’Achim’s response was that they have sufficient enemies and do not need anyone else to deal with: “Reform Jews hide the fact that their goal is absolutely identical with that of the missionaries, who want to destroy the Jewish people and not to leave any remembrance of them. Our hope is that the Reform Jews will come back fully to Judaism or leave us in peace and leave the country. Our hands are full already. We don’t need new enemies of the Jewish people like Messianic Jews, evangelical Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Reform or Conservative Jews.” The Director’s response to the charge of violence was that violent behavior was unhelpful, silly, and liable to hurt Jews abroad. According to the report, people connected with the church were interviewed and filmed by foreign news stations, such as CNN. Local figures also came to visit, including Papa Allalu of Meretz, whose response was quoted: “I’ve already written a letter to the Mayor this morning. We can’t let something as disgusting as this happen without reacting. We can’t remain silent about religious persecution … It can’t be that in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish State, that such dark and sinister things keep happening time and again. As the Jewish people who have suffered from persecution at the hands of other nations, we can’t let such a barbaric act become part of our daily lives.” While Lupolianski also denounced the attack, the reaction of Mina Fenton of the local council was a far different story: “These Christians claim that they love Israel – but it’s not our Israel. This is a crusade of their money. The people of Israel worship the Moloch of money. They [the Christians] have already penetrated into the Knesset and in a little while they’ll be Members of Knesset. They’re in the Jewish Agency and determine who makes aliyah from countries abroad.” The police have intimated that they suspect the incident to be an act of vandalism on the part of disaffected youth.
David Smith’s series on “Christian Jerusalem” continued, this week’s contribution being a piece on the Franciscans (Jerusalem Post, October 26). “The Franciscan presence in the Holy Land dates to the 13th century, but ceased in 1291 when Muslim armies ousted the crusaders from Acre, their last stronghold. The Franciscans retreated to Cyprus and looked for opportunities to return.” Francis of Assisi is himself reported to have visited in the same century – and even to have crossed enemy lines to “evangelize” the Sultan of Egypt. When the order returned in the fourteenth century, one of its members was given charge of the Cenacle (the Upper Room). The order now numbers almost 200 in the country and is involved in “ministries as diverse as education, music, meditative retreats and services to migrant workers.” Following this brief survey of the Franciscans, Smith then looked more generally at the overall Catholic presence in the country. With the increasing emigration of the local Catholic population – from such places as Bethlehem – and despite the fact that the Franciscans are said to be responsible for maintaining the remnants of the Catholic communities in the Palestinian territories – the largest Catholic presence is now that of the Philippine foreign workers. The smallest community is that of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics, who number around 400 in Jerusalem, Yafo, Beersheva, and Haifa. “Hebrew-speaking Catholics have been meeting in Israel since the 1950s, when a group in Jaffa, initiated by a Dominican monk, requested (and received) permission from the Vatican to worship in Hebrew – a noteworthy petition because until the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in the mid-1960s Catholics were required to use the Latin liturgy.”
The plight of Saint Vincent, a Catholic-run “convent” in Ein Karem dedicated to the care of severely physically disabled children, was highlighted in a lengthy article in Haaretz (October 26). The home is run by nuns, but sustained by twenty-five volunteers: the State’s provision of one carer for every eight children simply does not meet the needs of the children under their care. Yet the Interior Ministry has recently been making the lives of these volunteers – aged between 18 and 75, from Austria, Germany, Italy, and Brazil – anything but easy. Despite the testimony of parents from all sectors of the country, who fight fiercely to keep their children in Saint Vincent’s – “People hear ‘convent’ and think that their children will be converted there. Such views derive from ignorance. It’s not a convent. It’s a place run by nuns. Its sanctity derives from what they do, not from their religion” – the Ministry of the Interior does nothing to go out of its way to allow them to stay. Its opening hours don’t fit the volunteers, they speak little Hebrew, and aren’t answered when they leave messages on the Ministry’s answering machine. People are refused extensions of their visas, and sometimes reentry into the country. But Israelis won’t do the job they do.
The affair of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch continues, with the ministerial committee now having recommended that the government recognize Theophilus (Theofilos) as head of the Church (Haaretz, October 29, Hebrew and English editions; Yediot Ahronot, October 29). “The decision, spurred by American pressure and the personal involvement of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is supposed to put an end to a convoluted affair in the course of which various parties in Israel tried to condition the Patriarch’s appointment on his selling real estate to Jews … Former Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who headed the committee when it was established, admitted that he asked Theofilos to promise not to disrupt the sale of the hotels to Jews as one of the conditions for Israel’s recognition of him” (Haaretz, English edition).
Greek Orthodox property is of interest not only to Israelis but also to Jordanians, according to a report in Yediot HaGalil (October 19). Not ordinary Jordanians, either, but relatives of the king. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jordan – one of the parties responsible for approving the Patriarch’s appointment – has already recognized Theophilus’ appointment. In this case, the Israeli government is concerned that the true purchasers are not in fact Jordanian royalty but private businessmen from the Persian Gulf willing to purchase property at a higher price than that anyone else is willing pay – through foreign companies dispersed across the globe. This claim, too, the Patriarch denies.
Of indirectly related interest, a brief piece in Israel HaYom (October 30) noted that Nobel prize winner Prof. Israel Oman, has suggested that Arabs be recognized as a minority in Israel. “This isn’t racism, but two different ethnic and cultural groups … The State must maintain a Jewish majority, as well as the rights of the Christian and Muslim minorities.”
Zman HaDarom, October 26, 2007
Recent excavations in preparation for the construction of a new neighborhood in Gan Yavneh uncovered the remains of a Byzantine church, built in 506-7 c.e. The site is in the region of Tel-Baraka in south Gan Yavneh, and archaeologists stated that its discovery “has broadened our knowledge concerning the list of the bishops of Ashdod.” Among several mosaics, one was unearthed which contained the name and description of the bishop responsible for the area of Azutos (Ashdod) – Johannes (Gan Yavneh falling under the episcopal jurisdiction of Ashdod). This name was previously unknown as that of one of the bishops of Azutos. The site was originally excavated during the period of the British mandate and the findings then included remains from the Byzantine period.
In the August 28 edition of the Media Review, the opening sentence concerning the articles in HaModia (August 17), HaMahane HeHaredi (August 16), BeKehila (August 16), and Mishpaha (August 16) should have read:
“The report alleged that a caller to Yad L’Achim’s offices who identified himself as Hananel K. from Congregation Mevessaret Malkhut (a congregation led by Shimon Nahum) asked to speak to Binyamin Kluger” and not “The report alleged that Shimon Nahum of “Mevaseret Malkhut” [Herald of the Kingdom] phoned Yad L’Achim’s offices last week and asked to speak with Binyamin Kluger.”
We sincerely apologize for the mistake and any misunderstandings resulting from it.