Caspari Center Media Review………….December 18, 2007
During the week covered by this review, we received 18 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activities, attitudes towards Christianity, Christians in Israel, Christian Zionism, Christian tourism, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with attitudes to Christianity
7 dealt with anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with interfaith activities
2 dealt with anti-Semitism
The focus of week’s Review lay primarily on Messianic Judaism and anti-missionary activity, together with Christmas-related events.
Yediot Ahronot, December 7; TimeOut, December 6, 2007
Yediot Ahronot (December 7) published a lengthy article on a young Israeli boy born with a severe heart defect. Ro’i Emmanuel Duntz, who is now three years old, recently became the first Israeli to receive an artificial heart – and to have survived so long after the operation. Having been hooked up to the artificial heart for some time in Israel, Emmanuel then underwent a heart transplant at the German Heart Center in Berlin. Although Emmanuel was born in Israel, his mother, Leiko, immigrated from Gruzni in Chechnia with her family fourteen years ago. According to the report, Leiko “found Yeshua at the age of thirteen and since then he has become her Lord. Today she defines herself as a Messianic Jew. ‘Yeshu is the one who gave me the great power and faith which I needed to fight for Emmanuel’s life,’ she said. ‘Now he has answered my many prayers and restored my son to me from the dead. It’s a miracle. But even in the worst moments, when his own heart stopped working and his lungs weren’t functioning, I never had any doubt that Emmanuel would live.’”
While the German doctors know her son as Emmanuel, the Israelis know him as Ro’i [My shepherd]. Leiko gave him the two names when he was born, but shortly before they arrived in Germany began calling him Emmanuel exclusively. “The family gave up a long time ago on the very Israeli addition and went back to using his original – biblical – name. After his birth, when his mother Leiko realized that … his life hovered in the balance, she preferred to drop the name Ro’i. ‘I felt that this name had brought all the problems upon us and wanted to remain only with Emmanuel,’ she said … Leiko opens the book of Isaiah to chapter 7 and points to the verse in which the coming messiah is called Emmanuel. Christians use this verse to strengthen their claim of Yeshu’s messiahship, because it speaks of a man who will deliver the world and not of a divine figure.”
The article described the difficulties which Emmanuel has experienced in his short life – eight operations, serious injury to his lungs, months under sedation – as “a chapter of endless tortures. A Via Dolorosa whose happy ending is now beginning to appear on the horizon.” While Emmanuel was undergoing his surgery, other people were also praying for its success. Not only his mother and father – but an Iranian father whose son was receiving treatment at the Center, as well as a Lebanese family in the room next door. The cost is also being shared. While Emmanuel will need a chip implanted in his chest, the Israeli health service is not willing to pay the 20,000 Euros needed. “‘We’ll put the chip in anyway,’ said Dr. Peters, ‘even if we ourselves have to bear the cost. We’re still hoping to convince the Israeli health service of the chip’s necessity.’” Since Emmanuel has been in Berlin, the Israeli ambassador has brought him a television set, children’s bed, and kettle. The Chabad movement has supplied a mobile phone and came to cheer him up at Purim, and the Ron Lauder fund made a donation of 500 Euros to the family.
In a rather strange piece in TimeOut (December 6) calling attention to Yafo’s presumed inferiority to Tel Aviv, Amir Rotem brought to his readers’ attention the presence in the “city” of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Congregation – “an alternative spiritual scene which isn’t actually New Age.” Citing the congregation’s web page, which asserts that the congregation seeks “to disseminate faith in the Tanakh and the New Testament,” Rotem likened its content to that of another “alternative” Beit Midrash (“house of study”) in the city. He then went on to list the methods which the congregation claims it does not adopt – namely, talking to minors, the giving of financial favors, and the use of force against its antagonists. Concluding with the congregation’s advice –“‘if you have seen a ‘missionary,’ don’t panic! After all, he’s just a man like you,’ the missionaries recommend, apparently on the basis of street responses – he appears to link it to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: “Ah, and there’s this business in Yafo with the locals. You can ponder that while looking at the photography exhibition of Palestinian-Israeli children initiated by the bereaved families’ forum.”
Attitudes to Christianity
Yediot Ahronot, December 11; Haaretz, December 7, 2007
One of the largest dailies in Israel, Yediot Ahronot (December 11), saw fit this week to send a reporter to “prepare a special guide to the Christmas celebrations and to answer, once and for all, the question of what to buy to celebrate Christmas in Israel properly.” Gaya Koren started off with the Christmas tree, giving details of where it is possible to purchase the tree – originally from Argentina and now grown locally because the Israeli climate isn’t cold enough to sustain the Christmas tree (Eshkoach). While finding a live tree isn’t going to prove a problem, those who prefer plastic ones will also have no difficulty obtaining one of those either. The Grand Canyon in Haifa – whose manager claims that the “greatest concentration of Arabs and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union” live in the North – hosts an annual “Silvester Fair” at which most of your Christmas items may be purchased at bargain prices. Nor will you be at a loss for decorations – without which “Christmas would be like a birthday without a cake.” These can be found in all the “All for a dollar” shops around the country and most small gift shops, as well as at the Fair. The traditional socks may either be bought and then stuffed with Elite chocolate Santa Clauses – or, for the more miserly, Koren suggested the conscription of your husband’s army-issue socks. Christmas cards are available at a chain store “to send to your friends abroad [in the diaspora] (in the city).” Christmas also isn’t Christmas without music. Koren proposes such albums as “Various Artists – Christmas Around the World,” “Christmas Peace,” jazz “Christmas Songs,” and “Christmas College” from Kings College, Cambridge. These may be accompanied by DVD’s – such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Deck the Halls,” “Home Alone,” “Christmas Vacation,” “Love Actually,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Eight Crazy Nights,” and “The Santa Clause.” Those looking for Christmas concerts won’t be disappointed either. “Tens of churches are holding Christmas masses and prayers. Click ‘Christian Information Center’ in Google … and you’ll receive information about the various ceremonies in Jerusalem according to the type of church and religion.” While the central events remain the services in Bethlehem and the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, “one of the churches to which many go to experience Christmas mass is Notre Dame in Jerusalem.” Abu Ghosh is also holding its annual concert series. From now until the end of the month, you can also enjoy Santa Claus exhibitions in Wadi Nisnas in Haifa, when Santa is distributing toys to children between 11:00 and 14:00.
Although not in Israel, two Israeli in Nashville have also turned their attention to Jesus (Haaretz, December 7). The two have invested 200 million dollars in creating a Biblical Park in Tennessee – which includes a tour of Paradise, a reenactment of the crossing of the Red Sea, and God’s meeting with Abraham among many other features. As the subtitle indicates, “Even Yeshu has confirmed his attendance.” Elaborating on this rather facetious remark, the article stated that, “New Testament themes will also be presented. Among other things, it will be possible to watch a hologram of Yeshu walking on the water and a reconstruction of the last week of his life – although spectators won’t get to see the actual crucifixion: “‘We don’t want to show violence.’” (The organizers also gave assurances that they have portrayed the biblical stories in such a way as to allow children to watch without being exposed to undue violence.) The Park will also include musical and theatrical events. According to its creators, “‘You have to know that almost every church has a choir and we’re talking about a very serious business here. While the music market went down by 4% last year, Christian music increased by 18%. We want to turn the Park into a center for this [kind of] music.’” When asked whether the Park would obviate the need for Christian pilgrims to visit Israel itself, the creators answered: “‘No, no, no. On the contrary … We believe that ultimately the Park will encourage pilgrims to visit Israel. After they’ve been impressed by the biblical and New Testament stories, they’ll want to see the real thing. We’re planning to erect a booth in the Park at which people can register for tours to Israel. We’ll encourage ministers and priests to take their congregants to Israel.’”
HaModia, December 7, 10, 13; Yom L’Yom, December 6; HaMahane HeHaredi, December 6; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, December 6; Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak, December 5, 2007
According to a report in HaModia (December 13), MK Meir Porush’s recent appeal to the Minister of Tourism asking for assurance that the Ministry would only support the construction of a tourist attraction – and not a “missionary center” – on the shores of the Sea of Galilee has been answered in the affirmative by the current Minister, Itzhak Aharonivitch (see previous Reviews). At the same time, Aharonovitch indicated that “‘Up until now, the Ministry of Tourism has received no detailed plan from which we can learn the organizers’ intention with any certainty. Only when such a plan has been submitted will the Ministry of Tourism adopt a clear professional stance on the issue.’”
HaModia (December 10) carried a lengthy article reflecting on the mission in Israel in general. In it, the author asserted that only last Shabbat ten Jews were baptized into Christianity in the Exhibition Halls in Tel Aviv and, if that were not enough, a nine-storey building has recently been completed in the same city which will “serve the members of the Messianic sect as they come to seduce more souls within the Jewish people and to bring them into the bosom of Christianity. The above-mentioned building is located in Tel Aviv, a city that has a beach, so that they won’t even have to ‘move their feet’ because everything is within hand’s reach – one instant and the person is baptized.” He also indirectly implied that the missionary threat is much greater than any external political threat to Israel’s existence: “Today, these seventy wolves [who seek to devour the little lamb] don’t need to stand afar in order to bring destruction upon the people of Israel. They don’t need to dwell in Iran or in Syria or in Annapolis and from there make their plots to destroy the Jewish people and how to return to the Palestine of before – i.e., the ‘right of return.’ Today the matter is done internally, within the Jewish fold … those same wicked ones who dwell amongst us … bring spiritual destruction upon us with their own hands.”
The nine-storey building is identified in another piece run by the same paper (December 7) as belonging to the group led by Ya’akov Damkani. This article – which is also carried by HaShavua BiYerushalim (December 6), Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak (December 5), and Yom L’Yom (December 6) – describes the building as being six storeys high, with three underground levels. The report states that, “Yad L’Achim has been informed that the luxury building in Tel Aviv is destined to serve as a storage place and center for hundreds of missionaries brought to the country by Messianic Jews under Damkani’s [leadership] for daily preaching and conversion activity throughout the country.” Yad L’Achim also noted that the building’s location in Tel Aviv was designed to “turn the baptisms which the Messianic Jews are accustomed to performing on the beach much more accessible” – and suggested that its construction constituted an escalation in the mission’s work and the danger it posed to the Jewish people. While the article also mentioned the baptisms on Shabbat it made no connection between that event and the Messianic building.
The Orthodox paper HaMahane HeHaredi (December 6) reported the holding of a large demonstration by religious and secular alike against the mission in Arad last Monday. Although it claimed this as the date of the demonstration, the body of the article repeated a report of a similar demonstration held on November 27 almost verbatim (see the Review for that week).
Christians in Israel
Yediot Ahronot, December 12; Kol-Bo, December 7, 2007
In the wake of the “Festival of Festivals” event recently celebrated in Haifa (see previous Review), Meir Hefler, a Haifa lawyer, has come out against the use of “Christian symbols” in an event marking the occasion. In a letter to the Bar Association, Hefler complained that “‘Here are lawyers’ children invited to a celebration in which Santa Claus, a Christian saint in whose shadow hundreds of thousands of Jews have been murdered, will appear, and they will also decorate a Christmas tree.” He received a response from the Association which lauded its promotion of the celebration by lawyers from all religions “with the goal of bringing people closer to one another.”
In light of the numerous responses the paper received to an article published the previous day, Yediot Ahronot (December 12) published a further piece with respect to the same issue. The subject was the attack on an Orthodox youth in Yerucham by a group of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who uttered anti-Semitic curses against the boy. The responses largely assumed that the antagonists were “Christians”: “In the aliyah from which this hooliganism sprouted there are many who aren’t Jews or are only half-Jews.” Some suggested an exam to test the level of the new immigrants’ Zionist attitudes; others that those who draw swastikas should be expelled from the country immediately. The article was careful to emphasize many of the culprits are youths – and as such are exposed to many influences. Likewise, while they may be physically living in Israel, culturally they are still attached to Russia. They are also a marginal group at risk. None of these factors have to do with the level of their Zionism or their knowledge of Judaism. It also stressed that they are a minority within the immigrant population.
Yediot Ahronot, December 10, 2007
Under the headline, “A great miracle” – a reference to Hanukka – Yediot Ahronot (December 10) reported on a most unusual gift made to the State of Israel – an enormous Israeli flag. Moshe Ronen opened his piece with the statement: “If the gifts which the Philippine millionnairess Grace Galindez-Gupana is dripping on the State of Israel are given according to direct instructions from God as she claims – it’s a sign that someone above still loves us.” The first of the presents was an accurate model of the Ark of the Covenant, bestowed with a blessing for the Deputy-Director of the Ministry of Tourism. The flag – which covers the size of two footballs pitches (200 meters long and 100 wide; 20 dunams) – arrived a year and a half later, having cost around 23 million dollars to make. Weighing 5.2 tons, no pole exists on which it can be flown. The solution as to where to display was solved by laying it out on the top of Masada – next to a similarly-sized flag of the Philippines. It will also be integrated into the 60-year festivities marking the foundation of the State of Israel.
When pushed, Grace acknowledged that she considers herself a prophetess – “I have a direct connection with Him and He speaks to me from time to time. Sometimes I know ahead of time what will happen.” A successful businesswoman, she has also purchased two “prayer sites,” one called Mount Halleluiah which contains both a church and a synagogue. She herself spends four hours each day reading from the Torah (Pentateuch) and now eats, lives, and does business according to its principles. Together with the instructions to sew the flag, Grace says she received seven “messages” for Israel: a) that Israel is the center of God’s purposes; b) that all Israel will receive His blessing; c) that Israel will receive a new heart from God; d) that this is an unconditional and irrevocable promise; e) that this will happen during a period of hardship in this millennium; f) that the basis [for all the above?] is God’s grace and Yeshu’s death, which mediates between God and the people of Israel; g) that the whole world will come to Israel to worship the one true God. Grace is also convinced that the present peace talks will conclude in a peace agreement within seven years – and that the Iranian threat is over and Iran is “finished.”
The sewing of such an enormous flag was not only difficult but also dangerous, according to Grace. Because of the large Muslim population in the Philippines, the project was undertaken surreptitiously. Her family and her husband were also amongst those who protested the project. She funded it by devoting her full salary – $7000 a month – to its accomplishment, together with tithes set aside for her prophetic ministry.
Haaretz, December 7, 2007
According to a report in Haaretz (December 7), tourists and Christian pilgrims visiting Bethlehem have to cross a “monstrous terminal” between Israel and the PA-controlled territory. What is known as the “Rachel Crossing” compels those wishing to cross over to pass through five barred revolving electric doors, long and exposed concrete corridors surrounded by bars, a wire fence, air surveillance, observation posts, and thorough passport checks.” On the recommendation of the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, her Israeli counterpart has announced that the present terminal is to be replaced with a new one, better suited and equipped to deal with the numbers of tourists passing between the two territories.
Israel HaYom, December 13, 2007
Under the heading, “The saving of life in the lens of the three religions,” Magen David Adom – the Israeli Red Cross – held a meeting with religious leaders from Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, and the Melkite Church, at the end of which a set of guidelines was proposed concerning the value of saving lives. The document will be distributed to the various Red Crescent and Red Cross organizations throughout the world (Israel HaYom, December 13).
Haaretz, December 9, pp. 4, 7, 2007
Radio Marjia, the controversial Polish station whose Catholic director was recently reported as making anti-Semitic remarks, is now attempting to distance itself from such conduct. A report in Haaretz (December 9) stated that the station has declared that it is “continuing a tradition of Polish priests who saved Jews during the Holocaust.” (The motive behind the endeavor appears to be the EU’s refusal to make a grant to the station for the purpose of building a school for communications.) These efforts may not succeed, however, if reports that Radio Marjia has “stopped speaking of ‘the Jews’ and is now saying ‘money-mongrels’” is true.
A letter to Haaretz published on December 9 related to a “Serbian saint.” In 1942, the Nazis agreed to “absorb” all Serbia’s Jews for which favor the Serbians paid the sum of 500 Marks for each Jew – whom the Nazis promptly murdered. Bishop Jan Witascz served as the deputy chairman of the Serbian committee which approved the deal. Following the war, the bishop suffered under the communist regime, being tortured and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence. According to the writer, “because of this, but not only this, the church is seeking his beatification.”