January 28 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review………….January 28, 2008


During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christian tourism, interfaith activities, and archaeology. Of these:


2 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

3 dealt with anti-missionary activity

2 dealt with Christian tourism

1 dealt with Christian Zionism

2 dealt with archaeology

1 was a book review




This week’s – scant – Review was a mixed bag of various items.



Attitudes towards Christianity

Makor Rishon, January 24; Globes, January 18, 2008

Following Magen David Adom’s joining the International Red Cross, some of its workers were recently appalled to discover a cross on the last page of the booklet containing guidelines regulating emergency procedures which each member is required by law to carry with him/her (Makor Rishon, January 24). “‘We don’t have anything against the International Red Cross,’” said one member. “‘We even respect it. But it’s not right that we should carry a document bearing this symbol – with all its significances – in our pockets.’”


Erez Komrovski, a reporter for Globes, was recently invited to a pilgrim baptism in the Sea of Galilee (Globes, January 18). In a piece entitled, “The miracle of the bread and fish,” he compared the group’s excitement to that of “schoolboys waiting for chocolates to be distributed” and described the priest – “gorgeously dressed” with a “black beard and huge cross” – as “pushing” the pilgrims, “dressed in white cotton robe-dresses, into the water, one after the other, mumbling baptismal prayers and humming prayers. The pilgrims arose from the water with an expression of happiness washing over their faces. Their eyes sparkled. There was great excitement. I was envious of their ability to get so excited over baptism in the Sea of Galilee. For us, the Sea of Galilee is beaches, Leah the poetess, sweet water in which to swim and to have a barbeque on the beach. It’s not a sacred site for us … I, too, wanted to be baptized in these waters, which shed such a glow on the faces of pilgrims who have come here from across the globe. I, too, wanted to participate in this almost pagan ritual, and to feel cleansed from the weight of the world: cleansed from my sins, to scour my conscience in water which afterwards flows out of our taps with such uninspired mundane-ness. And even though I’m not a Christian, and this business isn’t something with which I was brought up, and perhaps because of my mood, I decided that I would get in as well. Without a white robe, without prayer, and without faith. Alone.” Having undergone this spiritual experience – with fish nipping at his feet – Erez then sought “to return to reality, to secure ground. I wanted an earthly, simple experience. Fried.” Finding this in the same fish which had tickled his feet, he – or the paper – thought it appropriate to accompany the article with the picture of a cross, to which was nailed not Jesus but – a fish.



Anti-missionary Activity

HaModia, January 34; Zman Netanya, January 18; Yom L’Yom, January 17, 2008 

Yom L’Yom (January 17) ran the story of the Jew saved by Orthodox propaganda from the clutches of the missionaries (see previous Reviews). Zman Netanya (January 18) carried the report on Binyamin Kluger under the title “Christian, Muslim, and Jew” (see previous Review).


According to a report in HaModia (January 24), the Ministry of Tourism is distributing promotional literature in Norway (in Norwegian) which is appearing jointly “under the auspices of missionary organizations associated with the well-known organization, the Bible Society in Israel, as well as the ICCU (an organization which has many missionary organizations as members).” [Editor’s note: this is apparently a mistake for the UCCI – the United Christian Council in Israel.] Yad L’Achim has brought the matter to the attention of the Ministry of Tourism, asking it to put a stop to the joint cooperation, as well as to the Foreign Minister. Unusually, “in parallel, as a counter measure, Yad L’Achim is about to publish in the coming days direct notices in the Christian press in Norway, calling on readers who call themselves ‘friends of Israel’ to leave the Jewish people in peace.”



Christian Tourism

Jerusalem Post, January 22; Haaretz, January 22, 2008

These two pieces reported on statements made by Ya’acov Sheinin, CEO of Economics Models at the Herzliya Conference this week. According to Sheinin, Israel’s rate of tourist growth is well below the rest of the world – 2.9% in contrast to 4%. While Jewish tourism is at a good level, “‘with respect to evangelical or religious and historical tourism, a group that has the biggest potential, we haven’t taken advantage of that potential, although Israel is holy to about 2 billion people around the world. Our aim should be to make Christians come to the holy land at least once in their lives on the journey of Jesus’ life. Out of the 2 billion, there are about 500 million Christians from rich nations, that if we were to convince them to come, that would be another potential 10 million tourists per year.’”


Christian Zionism

Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2008

This piece is included here for the simple reason that its author – Shelley Neese – is the managing editor of the DC-based pro-Israel Christian magazine, The Jerusalem Connection. Neese looked at the motif of the “Wandering Jew,” tracing its origins back to a Jew who offended Jesus on his way to the cross by urging him to go quicker. Jesus’ response was that the Jew would himself never rest. “The Wandering Jew caught the imagination of Christians for centuries as the ultimate symbol of God’s rejection of the Jewish people. Condemned to homelessness and humiliation, he personified the Jewish nation, thought responsible for the Crucifixion. As the Wandering Jew lost hope of rest in death, early Christian theologians similarly taught that descendants of Abraham lost all rights to the covenants and blessings for having denied Jesus … The culture of hate and the gross misunderstanding of Scripture, represented by the tale of Jewish rejection, almost destroyed the Christian Church. The horrors of the Holocaust allowed Christians to see the fruit of a theology that deemed Jews irrelevant at best. Now[,] the survival of the Jewish people after nearly 2,000 years of exile could be appreciated as a true miracle – not something offensive to Christianity but rather a miracle that reaffirms our faith in God … For all who believe in the God of Abraham, the miracle of Israel should be a source of inspiration. And the home-coming of the proverbial ‘Wandering Jew’ is cause for celebration.”



Interfaith Activities

Kol HaMa’alot Tarshicha beGalil, December 1, 2007

The village of Tarshicha in the Galilee celebrated the season by raising a glass to Christmas, Id el Achda (a Muslim holiday), and the civil New Year. The religious figures noted that, “it was a good opportunity to favorably indicate the common life in the city as a sign of co-existence.”



Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2008

The decision resulting from recent four-day academic conference convened to discuss the “Jesus tomb” (see previous Review) which “wound up inconclusively, but with wide-ranging agreement that the matter required further investigation” itself appears likely to be unfruitful if the Orthodox community have any say in the matter. According to one of the archaeologists, Shimon Gibson, “such opposition … has long shut down excavation by academics at Jewish burial sites here.” Further difficulties arose with the charge by “an expert who insisted on anonymity” who “charged to the Post Thursday that Israel had deliberately ‘covered up’ the significance of the find for fear of the anti-Semitic back-lash to which Mrs. Gat referred. ‘The Jews have suffered for 2,000 years, being blamed for the death of Jesus,’ the expert said. ‘The last thing Israel needed was to find proof of Jesus’s earthly remains. Our relations with the Vatican would never have recovered … Mrs. Gat told the truth because she’s not a politician.’”


Book Review

Ma’ariv, January 18, 2008

Pe’er Friedman reviewed Matt Beynon Rees’ recently-published and translated book, The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Keter). [The English publisher is Soho Press (February 2007).] Beynon served as a Time Magazine reporter in Israel between 2000 and 2006. As the title suggests, his first novel – a thriller – is set in Bethlehem and stars the “first [literary] Palestinian detective.” Despite the rave reviews the book has received both in Britain and the States, Friedman set out to investigate “why the Brits have fallen captive to the book, which is no great literature, no real thriller, and the detective plot is weak and sometimes so illogical as to cause astonishment.” The plot revolves around a Muslim Palestinian teacher from the Deheisha refugee camp who teaches at a UN girls’ school, who comes to the aid of a Christian friend and former student. Sabach has been accused by the Al-Aksa brigade, “the true rulers in Bethlehem,” of collaboration with the Israelis and the murder of a Palestinian fighter. Omar Yosef is determined to prove Sabach’s innocence and find the true murderer. Despite Friedman’s initial reservations, he acknowledges that the book is “obviously written from [personal] knowledge of the world it describes. It focuses primarily on the inner-Palestinian struggle, a conflict about which we Israelis also appear to have no real idea, and thus is an eye-opener and interesting.” The remainder of Freidman’s criticism focuses on more literary criteria. He concludes: “And the Brits? Why are they so enthusiastic about the book? It isn’t clear. Perhaps because of an a priori sympathy for the writer – perhaps just because of an automatic sympathy for anything linked to the Palestinians.”