February 18 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review………….February 18, 2008


During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:


4 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

2 dealt with anti-missionary activity

2 dealt with Christian Zionism

6 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican




This week’s Review was largely taken up with the Pope’s alteration of the “anti-Jewish” Good Friday prayer and with various expressions of attitudes towards Christianity.



Attitudes towards Christianity

Jerusalem Post, February 5; Kol-Bo, February 1; Yediot Petah-Tikva, January 25, February 1, 2008

A high school in Ramle recently took its 9th graders on an educational field trip through the city which included visits to a mosque and a church (Yediot Petah-Tikva, January 25). Ramle is a mixed city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and the field trip was organized as part of a program to get the students acquainted with different cultures – part of the national curriculum, according to the school authorities. Some of the pupils refused to enter the buildings, claiming that to do so was in violation of Jewish law (halakhah). This argument was substantiated by the acting mayor of Petah-Tikva, a member of Shas, who was outraged by the school’s program: “‘Entrance to such places of prayer is forbidden by Jewish law and I see coercion in this conduct.’” The Ministry of Education responded that any student not wishing to enter was permitted to wait outside. Parents of those who did so were quoted as stating that, while they had no objection to their children learning about other cultures, they wished that the students should first of all be exposed to Judaism: “‘I don’t think it’s right that they should take our children to mosques and churches while some of them aren’t really knowledgeable about Judaism and have scarcely visited a synagogue. My son’s decision should be respected. I have no problem with Muslims, but I think that the students should be taken first to the tombs of the righteous, to the Cave of the Patriarchs [in Hevron, where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are buried], and to other places sacred to Judaism, and only then learn about other cultures.’” In response to this article, a Petah-Tikva resident wrote to the paper (February 1), arguing that “Jewish students have always learned about Christianity and Islam and visited churches and mosques.” Moreover, he asserted, “The clear impression we get from such nonsense [as spouted by the mayor] is that the Orthodox are afraid that their children will convert following such visits, and the Muslims and Christians are firmer and more justified in the religious values they represent.”



In similar vein, Shmuely Boteach in the Jerusalem Post (February 5) took the Israeli writer Israel Shahak to task for his “anti-Christianism.” In refuting Shahak’s claim – later exposed as a complete fabrication – that “he had witnessed an Orthodox man refusing to allow his telephone to be used to call an ambulance for a non-Jew because it would violate Shabbat,” Boteach cited Eli Beer of Hatzolah Jerusalem, the volunteer organization which takes upon itself the job of collecting all the human parts following terror or other incidents. Approximately sixty percent of the organization’s volunteers are Orthodox, and Beer told Boteach that, “‘If someone would say we won’t save a non-Jewish life on Shabbat, he is a liar. Regardless if the person in need is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim we save everyone’s life on any day of the year, including Shabbat and Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement], and I have done so myself. Indeed, as an Orthodox Jew it is my greatest honor to save the life of a non-Jew, and I would violate any of the Jewish holy days to do so.’”


Under the regular column, “What you wanted to know,” Kol-Bo (Haifa) of 1 February examined the question: “What is the origin of the name of ‘Maronite Street’ in the lower city?” In answer, it provided the following information: “The street is named after the Maronite community – a Christian community whose center is in Lebanon and, despite not being Catholic, still possesses a strong connection with the pontifical see. There has been a small Maronite community for 200 years – not as large as the Greek Catholic or Greek Orthodox, but apparently larger than the Catholic population. Their spiritual center – the Maronite church – is on the street so named. The total number of Maronites in the country – apart from East Jerusalem and the territories – is around 10,000.”


Anti-missionary Activity

HaModia, February 2; Yom L’Yom, January 31, 2008 

According to a report in HaModia (February 2), on the basis of information that missionaries were openly operating on a Givati military base in the south, Meir Porush recently put a question to the Minister of Defence regarding the missionary use of IDF bases and camps. Yad L’Achim, who supplied the information, claimed that a group disguised as right-wingers had entered the base, where they had given a musical performance followed by “missionary preaching.” Porush attached the phone-video taken by one of the soldiers present to the delivery of the question, together with a letter from Yad L’Achim’s director in which the latter queried whether the incident was not in fact part of an ongoing program rather than a one-off event. Porush received an answer from the deputy Minister of Defence, who stated that an investigation had verified the information as accurate – although the “words of communication” had been spoken from outside the gates, following the group’s removal. [Editor’s note: it is not clear whether this incident occurred recently, or is a “resurrection” of one which took place last year – see previous Reviews.]



More “missionary” activity was reported by Yom L’Yom (January 31), this time with respect to “Messianic Jews [Yehudim meshichistim] who adopt the teaching [torato] of that man, may his name be blotted out, with shirts bearing their slogans, who distributed propaganda literature about the New Testament.” Residents of Or-Yehuda called for reinforcements and the police, and when the latter arrived the crowd was dispersed. The article concluded with a call to the readers to resist all “offers and temptations, including Bible studies spiced with the New Testament.”



Christian Zionism

Kol Zikron, February 1; Ma’ariv, February 4, 2008

Under the heading “Heart-warming,” Kol Zokron (February 1) carried the report of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ donation to the elderly in the Carmel of 250 shekels to assists in the heating of their apartments through the winter.



Ma’ariv (February 4) carried the story of the planned Christian center on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, due to open later this year. According to the report, amongst the activities the center will offer are “walking on the water with Yeshu, sailing by means of a virtual boat, and diving to the depths of the Sea – all without getting wet.” The “Enchantment on the Sea of Galilee” project is a joint initiative sponsored by the Sea of Galilee drainage and river authority, the Sea of Galilee authority, and the regional Emek haYarden council. In addition to the specifically Christian elements, visitors will also enjoy a sound and light show on the Sea’s history, including a “simulated earthquake experienced on floating chairs.”



The Pope and the Vatican

Jerusalem Post, February 3; Haaretz, February 6, 7; Ma’ariv, February 6; Makor Rishon, February 6; Israel haYom, February 6, 2008

In preparation for Easter this year, Benedict XVI has reformulated the traditional Good Friday prayer whose reintroduction he permitted last year. Mention of the Jews’ “blindness” and “darkness,” which had angered the Jewish community worldwide, has now been dropped. According to the Jerusalem Post (February 3), “The pope has prepared a draft version of the new prayer, which will be released in time for Holy Week celebrations in March.” Citing David Rosen, the report indicated that, “‘the new text does not call for the Jew to accept the Christian faith but is in keeping with the 1970 prayer commonly used by the Church in the vernacular that prays for the physical and spiritual well being of the Jews.’” According to a later report (Haaretz, February 6), “The Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano published the new version of the prayer in Latin and said it should be used by the traditionalist minority starting this Good Friday, March 21.” Despite the reformulation, much of the Israeli press chose to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects of the incident, as the various headlines indicate: “Harsh criticism of the Vatican: A call in the new prayer for the conversion of Jews” (Haaretz, February 7); “If you pray, you aren’t offending the Jews” (Ma’ariv, February 6); “The pope instructs reformulation of prayer which criticizes the Jews” (Makor Rishon, February 6); “‘The pope seeks to delete the Jews” (Israel haYom, February 6).