Caspari Center Media Review………….February 11, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:
4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 was a book review
Like last week, this week’s – also meager – Review was another mixed bag of various items.
HaModia, January 25; BeKehila, January 25, pp. 20, 23; Mishpaha, January 24, 2008
Mishpaha (January 24) and BeKehila (January 24, p. 23) carried the story reported last week on the Norwegian “missionary” brochure. HaModia (January 25) ran the story of the Magen David emergency guidelines (see previous Review).
According to a report in BeKehila (January 24, p. 20), Haifa continues to be “plagued” by Jehovah’s Witnesses missionaries. This week’s story stated that the “several thousand workers” are spreading through “whole neighborhoods” inviting people to attend their meetings “to gain an impression.” Haifa police commented in response to complaints that as long as the missionaries do not violate the law the police can take no action – despite residents’ claims that the workers are also approaching minors. The Jehovah’s Witnesses countered the argument that they were specifically targeting religious areas with the assertion that “the material is distributed in many neighborhoods, without distinction between religious and secular.”
Sha’ar HaNegev, December 12; Haaretz, January 27, 2008
As they have over the past ten years, Dutch Christian friends of Israel supplied the Negev at the end of last year with thousands of tulip bulbs which will “bloom in February and paint the whole region with a wonderful range of colors” and thus offset, in some small way, the continuing terror threats (Sha’ar HaNegev, December 12).
According to Haaretz (January 27), the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, in cooperation with the American Joint, has announced an initiative to assist thousands of Jewish children in the former Soviet Union whose lives at risk. The two organizations are planning to provide medical aid, nourishment, heating, home appliances, psychological counsel, and rehabilitation for children with special needs. At present, 30,000 such children have been located, of whom 22,000 are already receiving assistance. Altogether, over 50,000 are estimated to be at risk – between 17% and 20% of the total Jewish child population of the region. “Eckstein declared that the cooperation between the American Joint will strengthen the bond between the Jewish People and the Christian community in the States.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Yediot Ahronot, January 31, 2008
According to a piece in Yediot Ahronot (January 31), Israel’s relations with the Vatican are near crisis level. In a story under the headline, “Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” Menahem Gantz, the paper’s Rome reporter, quoted several Vatican sources, including the former Vatican Ambassador to Israel, as asserting that relations between the two States have deteriorated to the point of “the virtual declaration of war.” Part of this circumstance is reflected in the Vatican’s recent announcement that the Pope will not visit Israel in 2008, “an extraordinary and exceptional statement” which has “never been made with respect to any other country.” For its part, Israel has already reduced the Vatican diplomatic staff in the country to one. The cause of the crisis is Israel’s foot-dragging in respect to its signing of the economic-financial section of the fundamental accord between the two States. As is well known, this touches on the very sensitive issue of property belonging to the Catholic Church in Israel which has been in use for many years by the Israeli government (see previous Reviews). Not wishing to offend the Pope, the Israelis have taken the time-proven road of tactical delay, promising at every turn that a signature is just around the corner. The Vatican has presumably now either lost its patience with such procrastination or seen through the Israeli bluff. As things stand at present, “Israel must decide precisely how much it is willing to give the Vatican. And the Vatican? The Vatican must realize that it is not Caesar who governs the Holy Land.”
Ma’ariv, January 30, 2008
Ron Margolin reviewed Itzhak Binyamini’s book Paul and the Birth of the Sons’ Community (Resling) for Ma’ariv (January 30). According to Margolin, the book is “an up-to-date academic research into the beginnings of Christianity, aided by psychoanalytical insights which help explain the personality and ministry of the Jew Saul of Tarsus – i.e., Paul the Apostle, the founder of Christianity.” Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, Binyamini posits that Paul suffered from an “oedipal ambivalence towards God the Father”: “‘He still believes in Him, but at the same time he is threatened by his temptations and seeks to be released from His law. In this way he points to the Father’s Law as tempting him to sin, thus leading to death, while simultaneously also pointing towards a new object of faith – Yeshu the son who puts the Father Himself into the shadow of faith.’” According to Binyamini, this “analysis” of Paul is an important key to understanding the “weak links of Western Christian culture, which has turned the concept of Christian love into the divine command.” In focusing on Yeshu and his love, those who follow him became an “imaginary community which founded its identity on the basis of identity games with the reflection of the (female)image-(male)image-of-Yeshu in the mirror in front of it.” Binyamini claims that in Romans (13), Paul determines that “all the commandments” are included in the ordinance, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” From there, he expands into an extended discussion of the various ways the verse in Leviticus 19:18 has been interpreted in Judaism and Christianity. In addition to Freud and Lacan, he also appeals to Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas. With the help of Luther’s German translation of the Bible, he analyzes Paul’s command in Galatians 6:10 – “let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” – as understanding “neighbor” to refer to someone close, not the “distant-other.” In contrast to Jewish thought, which places the emphasis on the last part of the verse – “I am your God and his God,” so that because God also created the “stranger” the latter is also a “neighbor” – Binyamini asserts that, on the basis of the Septuagintal translation, Paul understood “Adonai” (God) to refer (also) to Jesus. Paul thus maintained that “we must love our neighbor as Yeshu loves you and you love him.” In Freudian terms, such love is a narcissistic self-love mediated through an external object. In the “merging” of Paul (and all other believers) with Jesus, Paul demands from his readers a “chain of identifications with Paul’s sufferings, which equal Yeshu’s suffering on the cross and the sufferings of the early community.” While Binyamini does not specifically identify Paul’s sufferings, Margolin himself suggests that they included “a large one” of sexual nature which Paul “found in himself as is depicted in the figure which arises from the New Testament corpus as a whole.” To back up this claim, he appeals to such well-known verses as 2 Corinthians 12:7 and Romans 7:19-25 – which Margolin interprets as referring not to “natural” but to “abnormal sexuality.” In other words, the “thorn in his flesh” is indicative of Paul’s homosexual proclivity. Binyamini himself claims that the early community ‘inherited’ Paul’s narcissistic problem through its members’ identification and “absorption” of Jesus into themselves – becoming “his body.”