Caspari Center Media Review………….February 28, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activity, Christian tourism, the Pope and the Vatican, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
3 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
This week’s Review was a mixture of reports of anti-missionary activity and anti-Semitism and positive attitudes towards Christianity.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Yediot Bika’at Ono, February 15; Jerusalem Post, February 17; Israel HaYom, Feburary 21, 2008
In response to last week’s article in Yediot Bika’at Ono concerning the Jews for Jesus campaign in Or Yehuda, A.Z. wrote to the paper on February 15 regarding the fears expressed concerning what he termed “pseudo-Christian missionaries.” His point was that the apprehensions were groundless: “What precisely are you afraid of? That your children will become part of the Inquisition? Or that perhaps they’ll go to live in the Vatican? What truly can happen at this point? Why, in a free state, should anyone be forbidden to use ‘ways of peace’ to justify a certain idea?”
Jonathan Tobin expressed a similar attitude in his opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post (February 17), in which he looked at the recent controversy over the Catholic “Jewish prayer.” Quoting Cardinal Walter Kaspar’s response – “‘I don’t understand why Jews cannot accept that we can make use of our freedom to formulate our prayers’” – Tobin stated that, “While the cardinal’s statement illustrates the slippery slope down which this sort of dispute can soon lead to hurt feelings on all sides, he is, of course, right.” In the spirit of dialogue, Tobin argued that, “in free societies such as our own, we can merely say, ‘vive la difference’ and leave it at that, knowing none of us will be worse for wear as a result of our contrasting views about the nature of eternity or divinity. Genuine interfaith dialogue is not rooted in agreement, but rather, on agreement to disagree. The trick is to do so in a civil manner, and to avoid public attacks on each others [sic] faith that can only lead to discord and prejudice … Rather than seek to turn Benedict’s revival of the Tridentine mass into a major issue, what we need to do is to stop worrying about Catholic prayers, and instead continue the work of bringing the two faiths closer together in defense of Western freedoms.”
In a letter entitled “A bit of history” printed in Israel HaYom (February 21), Dan Even Or asked the question why the Western world “refuses to acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to a State? Why does the Catholic Church want the Jewish people to recognize Yeshu’s divinity?” The answer lies in the fact that, in contrast to both Christianity and Islam, Judaism has no desire to conquer the world. “On the contrary, the Jewish people are supposed to be a light to themselves and to the nations. This is the big difference: The Jewish people seeks to prove the ideas of its teaching by means of intellect and logic – whereas the Christians and Muslims seek to impose their ideas on the other.”
HaMahane HeHaredi, February 14; Mishpaha, February 14; Yom L’Yom, February 14; BeKehila, February, 7; HaModia, February 15, 2008
Yom L’Yom (February 14) ran the story of Yad L’Achim’s proposed publicity campaign, reported last week.
HaMahane HeHaredi (February 14) carried a story clarifying previous reports concerning the Ministry of Tourism’s alleged collaboration with missionary organizations (see previous Reviews). According to the piece, the brochure was distributed in preparation for the new millennium in 2000 and the Ministry of Tourism claim that it has not been reprinted since. It also asserted that it “‘cooperates with various organizations in order to increase tourism to the State of Israel from numerous potential communities, including Christian communities, which constitute approximately 50% of the total tourism to the State of Israel.’”
Information of the upcoming Jews for Jesus publicity campaign has apparently reached Yad L’Achim, which is interpreting it in its usual fashion (Mishpaha, February 14). The organization has gained access to the “tract” in which it claims “Jews for that man” are attempting to “recruit new missionaries to their ranks in exchange for the promise of ‘meals, accommodation, and an appropriate wage so that you can give your all for that man.’” Also in typical fashion, Yad L’Achim approached the firm which printed the “invitation” in an effort to end their cooperation with JFJ. Despite the fact that the owner is religious, he refused to stop the printing, which Yad L’Achim claimed to be aiding “a transgression of a Torah law as well as of the laws of the State, which state that ‘whoever gives or promises money, something equal to money, or a benefit to a person in order to entice him to change his religion or to entice him to cause another person to change their religion is liable to five years’ imprisonment.’” The owner asserted that “‘I have respect for my word, and if I promised to print, I will do so.’” Additional efforts to recompense the owner for any financial losses were also in vain. When summoned before a religious authority, he refused to appear, leading Yad L’Achim to protest to the police about the printing of “forbidden material.” “To the surprise [of Yad L’Achim], the police decided to pass the material on to a police prosecutor for investigation and correct as of this weekend no efforts have been made to stop the printing of the material.”
In its version of the same story, HaModia (February 15) quoted the “opulent tract” as stating that, “‘Nowhere else in the world can such a fascinating field of activity be found as in Israel.” It added that, “the tract calls on the youth, on the basis of the assumption that they are believers in that man, to give a month, a week, or even a couple of hours of their time with the clear statement: ‘We will provide meals and accommodation … everything to enable you to give everything for that man.’” According to the report, the tract also includes promises of other “benefits” – such as “trips abroad, accommodation in hotels, and academic scholarships.” Having checked with relevant JFJ figures, it should be noted that while the participants are indeed put up in hotels, they have to raise their own funds in order to pay for their involvement and certainly do not receive scholarships or trips abroad. The “tract” – information regarding the campaign – was “stolen” from the printing house.
Ma’ariv, February 19, 2008
According to this report, Sun Dor is planning to open a direct weekly (shabbat) flight between Tel Aviv and Lodz, Poland, whereby “thousands of pilgrims from Poland,” as well as tourists and Israeli businessmen, will be enabled to come to Israel. The company is also planning to introduce a charter flight between Tel Aviv and Katowic on behalf of the Roman Catholic travel agency.
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, February 19, 2008
The headline of this report – “Vatican saint-maker: Pius XII canonization process not stalled” – indicated that Benedict’s inactivity regarding the issue should not be taken as preventing the final step. In regard to allegations of Pius’ “silence” during the Holocaust, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins – “the Vatican’s top saint-maker” – said that he preferred the word “prudence”: “‘There was not silence.’”
Yated Ne’aman, February 19, 2008
In light of the escalation of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions and events in Italy, the Jewish community has embarked on efforts to draw closer to Muslim bodies in the country – not entirely with success. The Imam of Rome declined an invitation to visit the great synagogue in Rome due to pressure from Cairo, and while a group of Muslim youth who denounced the cancellation was also invited to discuss Muslim-Jewish relations, this visit too failed to take place. According to the report, the pope has also “changed his mind” and “is adopting anti-Israel policies and his ambassadors in Europe and the US are forcefully denouncing Israel’s policies.” Recently, prominent figures in Napoli’s Jewish community refused to participate in exhibitions commemorating the destruction of Italian Jews in protest against the mayor’s anti-Israel pronouncements, in which he compared Israel to the Nazi occupiers of Italy, while in Rome, the “ghetto” residents are constantly fighting circles offering higher prices for apartments and renovating the old palaces.