Caspari Center Media Review………….March 4, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Jerusalem, Christians in Israel, the Pope and the Vatican, anti-Semitism, the arts, and archaeology. Of these:
2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Jerusalem
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christianity
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
2 dealt with the arts
1 dealt with archaeology
The focus of this week’s Review ranged over anti-missionary activity, anti-Semitism, Christians in Israel, Christianity, and the arts.
Yom L’Yom, February 21; Haaretz, February 25, 2008
Yom L’Yom (February 21) ran the story of Jews for Jesus’ upcoming campaign, reported in last week’s Review.
Haaretz (February 22) reported that Yad L’Achim, “whose resume includes aggressive campaigns against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and romantic relations between Jews and Arabs,” is now “asking the public to turn to them with any information concerning Christian missionaries.” The piece related to Yad L’Achim’s recently-opened publicity campaign, complete with adverts in the secular papers asking people to respond if they know anything about the whereabouts of “lost Jews.” While Haaretz indicated that the adverts followed the organization’s “regular terminology,” it also stated that “a surprise awaited at the bottom of the page where, in unprecedented length, it was noted in large letters that the ad was published under the sponsorship of ‘Yehuda Export and Import, Ltd.’” According to Haaretz, this is a long-standing firm whose website states that it has been marketing building materials for private and public projects across the country from the leading companies in the world for over thirty years. In looking for funding for the ad, Yad L’Achim turned to the firm’s owner, one of the organization’s supporters. While he was happy to assist its efforts, his own company was not so pleased with the ad. One member refused to respond to appeals, while a shareholder in the company responsible for Yehudah’s advertising “did not agree to answer questions regarding the company’s support of the organization and its aims. ‘Why is this of any interest to you?’ she said. ‘I didn’t ask you to write anything and I have no business with you.’”
Yediot Ahronot, February 25, pp. 4, 5, 2008
To “establish facts on the ground even before the negotiations concerning Jerusalem begin,” a struggle has begun between Jewish, Muslim, and Christian groups over the purchase of real estate in the Old City. According to these two reports in Yediot Ahronot (February 25), Vatican officials and West Bank Palestinians funded by Saudi oil revenues are facing off against right-wing Jewish groups in order to acquire property in the Old City and East Jerusalem and its surroundings. The Muslim parties, which include a millionaire from Shechem, Arab banks, Muslim foundations, “and even companies linked to Hamas,” are offering double, even triple, the Jewish offers and granting “mortgages at good rates to any Muslim who purchases an apartment in Jerusalem.” Similarly, the Housing Committee located in Orient House, is offering loans and assistance to those buying and renovating apartments in the Old City. The Turks are also said to be involved, refusing Jewish groups access to the Ottoman land registers and thereby preventing them from proving Jewish ownership. On the Christian side, sources linked to the Vatican allegedly topped the Saudi offer of $9000 per square meter for a piece of property in the Old City by a further $1000 – five times the market value!
Christians in Israel
Calcalist, February 28; Makor Rishon, February 24, 2008
Although neither of these pieces are strictly speaking about “Christians in Israel,” we decided to include them together as “misfits.” The Calcalist (February 28) – a new paper focusing on economics – ran a short article on sight-seeing in Nazareth, “the largest Arab city in Israel and one of the most sacred Christian sites … According to Christian tradition, it was in Nazareth that Miriam, Yeshu’s mother, received the news of his birth, and there he grew up.” The piece suggests a trip “In the footsteps of Yeshu,” indicating that “religious history buffs will especially enjoy the cradle of the birth of Christianity.”
According to a report in Makor Rishon (February 24), “Persecution of the Christian population in the West Bank is continuing and even increasing.” The latest incident involved the incursion of a group of armed Palestinians into the Baptist school in Gaza, where they “sowed destruction after having beaten the guards, humiliated them, and even wounded one in the firing.” The same day, a violent dispute broke out between Hamas members and the “Islamic Army” over the former’s arrest of some of the members of the latter on suspicion of having bombed the YMCA library in the city a week earlier. Over the past two years, Al-Qaeda representatives have also taken responsibility for attacks against Christian individuals and organizations whose declared aim is to remove Christians to safety from Gaza.
Jerusalem Post, February 26, 2008
This article, entitled, “Jews condemn Methodist study guide on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: So-called balanced survey authored by Jewish-born minister refers to Israel’s ‘original sin’,” reported the United Methodist Church’s recent publication designed to help its members in the States find their way around the thorny issues of “Israel-Palestine.” According to the report, “The guide, whose introduction describes it as a ‘balanced survey’ of the conflict, is one of three ‘mission studies’ published annually by the church’s General Board of Global Ministries to ‘motivate, inform and enrich’ the church community, according to the board’s Web site.” The author is identified as Rev. Stephen Goldstein, “a Jewish-born minister.” Jewish and pro-Christian groups have come out fiercely against the guide, focusing most directly on its “reference to Israel’s ‘original sin,’ the suggestion that Israel’s ‘hysteria’ and ‘paranoiac sense of isolation’ have prevented it from making peace, and the assertion that Israel’s ‘denial of the word Palestinian reveals a racism that considers Arabs less than human.’” The paper is causing particular concern in light of the fact that the UMC, “the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the States,” is due to discuss two divestment resolutions at its General Conference next week. This, together with “the multiple references to the Holocaust in the United Methodist Church’s supporting literature and the attempt to cast Israel in excessively dark terms” and “a joint statement from General Board of Global Ministries and the Women’s Division [which] defended the guide as consistent with the church’s position on the conflict,” does not bode well for the UMC’s attitude towards Israel. The church’s official response stated that, “charges of bias are based on a ‘twisted reading’ of Goldstein’s personal reflections that are included throughout the study.”
The Pope and the Vatican
BeKehila, February 21, 2008
This piece was a re-run of the “shock” of the “Vatican call to convert Jews.” It added the information that Yad L’Achim’s director has sent a letter to the pope, translated into Latin, calling on him to reconsider his decision, which may “carry disastrous consequences.” Noting that this year Easter falls on Purim, Shalom Dov Lifshitz appealed to Benedict XVI that, “‘just as in those days God performed a great miracle and overturned Haman’s plan to destroy all the Jews, the same will happen to us.’”
Haaretz, February 24, 2008
Prof. Ariel Tauf has republished his controversial book Passover of Blood, with a new preface in which endeavors to clarify the “misunderstandings” he claims to have arisen from the first edition – which led to the book’s recall from the shelves. “In the new preface to his book, Tauf writes that, ‘I have no doubt that what is called “murder for ritual purposes” or “child murder” belongs to the realm of myth,’ and that the idea is a wicked invention on the part of Christian authorities.” Despite this, the contents of the book remain the same, Tauf further claiming in the new preface that he stands by his theory that “marginal groups within the Ashkenazi Jewish community made use of powder made from dry blood [a popular medieval “medicinal” potion] during the Passover ceremony.” This does not, however, he asserts, have any connection with ritual or child murder.
Kokav Yizra’el, February 15; Ma’ariv, February 24, 2008
The girls’ choir “Shani” performed recently at the Mormon church in Jerusalem to an enthusiastic audience (Kokav Yizra’el, February 15). The choir was invited to give the concert in the wake of its appearance before the pope last July. The program included a piece by John Rutter and concluded with songs of peace and unity in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
According to a review in Ma’ariv (February 24), the documentary film “Naf – Street-kid,” broadcast on Israeli TV Channel 10, relates the story of a young homeless boy in Jerusalem who lies in order to survive. A true-life story, Naf ran away from home and now “lives from money from the mission without any intention of walking after Yeshu.”
HaKibbutz, February 22, 2008
An ancient cave which some archaeologists are claiming was the site of John the Baptist’s immersing activity is located on the grounds of Kibbutz Tzuba. The kibbutz magazine devoted a lengthy article to the subject, despite its author’s misgivings about the cave’s authenticity. “It takes a lot of imagination to identify a few vulgar ‘scratches’ on the wall of an ancient cave as a significant historical event for mankind. Is this really the place in which John the Baptist, a kosher Jew from the neighboring Ein Karem, was accustomed to baptize – alongside his faithful followers – and merited baptizing (in the Jordan) another Jew, from Nazareth, two thousand years ago?” The site is associated with John the Baptist in a forthcoming book by Shimon Gibson, an archaeologist known from the “Jesus tomb” affair. Gibson’s identification is based on the New Testament passage which states that John and his disciples sought a place “far-removed from a large settlement.” The kibbutz is hoping to turn the cave into a tourist attraction and sacred site on the pilgrim itinerary.