Caspari Center Media Review………….April 24, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 23 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism, Jewish-Catholic relations, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, Christian sites, Christians in the Holocaust, and interfaith activities. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Jews
4 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
10 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Christian sites
1 dealt with Christians in the Holocaust
1 dealt with interfaith activities
1 was a book review
The articles in this week’s Review included a fascinating mix of Messianic Judaism (a lengthy article on Netivyah), attitudes towards Christians and Christianity, and numerous responses to John Hagee’s Christian Zionism activities.
Yediot Ahronot, April 8, pp. 10, 26, 2008
Information that Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry has received building approval for its premises on Narkis St. in Jerusalem has not only reached the religious press (see previous Reviews) but was recently also the subject of a lengthy article in the national paper, Yediot Ahronot (April 8, p. 10). Under the headline, “Not waiting for the Messiah,” Danny Adino-Ababa devoted four pages to the issue. “In recent months,” he opened, “a routine request for permission to renovate and expand a building – a request just like hundreds of others which are submitted to the building committees in the city – [is threatening] to disturb the peace and quiet of this luxury neighborhood.” Ironically, the local residents’ interest in what happens in their neighborhood stems primarily from apprehensions that it will be taken over by Orthodox elements – and particularly that no yeshiva be allowed a presence: “Precisely for that reason, a group of residents examined very carefully the request of a body calling itself ‘Netivyah’ to renovate an old residential building and turn it into a ‘new public center’ … The unexpected results did not calm the residents’ fears. On the contrary. It’s doubtful whether anyone in Rechavia ever believed that the day would arrive when they would join forces with religious bodies and cooperate with them in a joint struggle – but that’s exactly what’s happening today.” Messianic Jews are far worse than anyone else in some of these residents’ eyes – Christians or Muslims. According to one person quoted: “‘It doesn’t bother us if they build a mosque or church here, but missionary Messianic Jews there will never be.’” In declaring that an appeal to the National Planning and Building Committee against the local decision would be made, Meir Gabbai stated: “‘We think that the establishment of the center will endanger the delicate balance between the religious and secular.’” If this step fails, the residents are willing to take the matter to the highest authorities: “‘Messianic Jews are a subject that arouses a lot of antagonism,’ said another resident. ‘We’ve spoken with them at length and thought we’d finished the matter in mutual agreement, but if this doesn’t work we’ll take it to the Supreme Court. And if the Supreme Court doesn’t help us, we’ll take to the streets. We’ll demonstrate until they leave. I’m telling you, the center won’t be established here.’”
Under a subtitle, “An infant who was drawn into Christianity,” Joseph Shulam, Netivyah’s Director was quoted as saying: “‘I’ve paid a heavy price because of my faith,’ he says. About ten years ago, two Molotov cocktails were thrown into his house. It was only by a miracle that the members of his family were unhurt. ‘If you ask me if I’m afraid now? Whoever isn’t afraid is an ass,’ says Shulam.” Stating that Netivyah has been in the same building for many years and is engaged in research, helping the needy, and charity work – not missionary activity – he declared: “‘The people of Rechavia are being incited by Orthodox organizations. Many of those who are objecting don’t even live in the neighborhood. All we’ve done is submit a request to enlarge the premises – nothing more. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. We’re not less good Jews than those who think they are real Jews. There’s only one thing different about us – we believe that Yeshua (Yeshu – D.A.) is an infant who was drawn into Christianity and we want to restore him to our bosom.’” According to the report, Joseph Shulam’s claims “have been substantiated lately by the District Planning and Building Committee, which decided to approve the erection of the center despite the unambiguous opposition of the local Planning and Building Committee”; the latter had accepted the objections of the neighborhood’s residents that “the establishment of the center in the heart of Rechavia was likely to violate the peace of the neighborhood and even lead to physical violence between secular, Orthodox, and Messianic Jews.” The District Planning and Building Committee overturned the local committee’s decision on the basis of the claim that the neighborhood was not a religious but a mixed neighborhood: “‘This is a secular neighborhood and it can be determined that it is not a homogenous population. It should also be noted that already today it contains a number of religious institutions (both various synagogues and a Protestant church [the Baptist church, on the same street]), as well as cultural public institutions … From the facts which were delivered to us, it appears that we are dealing with a religious institution which serves the community called “Messianic Jews.” The submitters of the request denied the claims that conduct missionary activity on the premises and argued that it is purely an institution engaged in research of the Scriptures which provides religious services to members of the religious community to which the organization belongs. Likewise, the plan’s submitters request permission for a soup kitchen on the premises. In addition, they noted that all their activities are conducted within the building itself and do not spread into the street or any public space. We have also taken into account the fact that the institution has operated on the premises for many years (without arousing any disturbances or conflict).’”
Despite Joseph Shulam’s claims that Netivyah cooperates with some people in the neighborhood – as well as the quotes of other residents above – others argued that they have been unable to discover Netivyah’s true intentions: “‘No one knows what they really want to do there. All our attempts to clarify with them have been in vain. They don’t talk to us and aren’t willing to give us any answers. Those of us who are very opposed to the Orthodoxization of the neighborhood can’t but be concerned about Messianic Jews. It’s true that they’ve been here for years, but now we’re afraid that they’ll turn this place into a missionary center.’” The article concluded with a response from Joseph Shulam: “The residents’ claims apparently don’t make a great impression on Shulam. ‘We’ll pass all the Committees and the center will be established here,’ he says. ‘Most of the neighbors support us. Those who object are being incited by religious bodies. But the fact is that up until now we’ve received all the permits.’”
At the end of the article an “explanation” of Messianic Judaism was inserted: “Messianic Jews define themselves as Jews who believe that Yeshu is the Messiah, Son of God. They have reservations concerning a large number of Christian ceremonies, do not go to church and don’t wear crosses or other Christian symbols. They consider both the Tanakh and the New Testament as Scripture and do not accept the Oral Law and the halakhot deriving from it. The Orthodox perceive Messianic Jews as missionaries and their members are regarded by the Jewish Establishment as Christians in every respect. Recently, they have been in the news following the delivery of an explosive device disguised as a Purim gift to a home of one of their families … ‘Lately there’s a sense of persecution against us,’ says Joseph Shulam … ‘I can’t quite figure out what’s happened all of a sudden, or why. They’re inciting against us in a very gross and serious fashion’ … There are about a hundred Messianic congregations in Israel, the most prominent of which is that in Yafo … Most of the congregations are in the Jerusalem area. The most prominent is centered at Yad HaShemona, in the Jerusalem corridor. The congregation on the settlement is composed of Christians who became Messianic Jews and came to Israel. Another part of the residents is composed of Messianic Jews who were born in Israel as Jews in every respect. The families support themselves primarily from tourism. Some of the members serve in the IDF and some of them wear kippas and prayer shawls. Other Messianic Jewish congregations exist in Tel Aviv and Carmiel. The number of Messianic Jews in the country is estimated at around 15,000. In recent years, principally due to the waves of aliyah from the former Soviet Union, their number has substantially increased. Many split families, in which one of the parents is Jewish and the other Christian, have turned to Messianic Judaism because of the pressure which the Orthodox establishment exerts on them.”
According to a report in the same paper on the same day (p. 26), a concert intended as part of the celebrations for Israel’s sixtieth anniversary in Germany was cancelled when it was discovered that the pianist is a Messianic Jew. “The concert’s organizers – a synagogue of the Messianic Jewish congregation in Berlin and an American Christian organization which works to convert Jews in Europe to Christianity – did not give any details concerning the missionary nature of the concert to the Israeli Embassy.” When it was discovered that Sam Rotman, an internationally-acclaimed pianist, is a Messianic Jew, the concert, due to be held in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, was cancelled.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Globes, April 11; Kol HaIr, April 11; Yediot Yerushalayim, April 11; Ma’ariv, April 9, 2008
In search of a natural cure for a stomach ache one Shabbat, Erez Komrovski was told to go and look for some marva (sage) (Globes, April 11). Not quite believing all the stories about the scope of its healing qualities, he nevertheless reported on some of the qualities which are attributed to the plant: “Marva is called ‘Mirmaya mabrukha’ in Arabic – i.e., Miriam the blessed – in memory of the Holy Miriam. [The archaeologist] told me a Christian legend about the escape of Miriam, Joseph, and the infant Yeshu from King Herod’s soldiers. Tired, hungry, and thirsty, they sought shade from the sun. On the way they found some three-leafed marva, wafting a strong aroma. Miriam laid down the infant under the bush, picked some of its leaves, and wiped Yeshu’s brow with them. At once the sweet and intoxicating smell of the marva revived her son’s soul. Miriam blessed the marva – which is why up until today it’s called after her – Mirmaya mabrukha.”
Under the column “What you wanted to know,” Kol HaIr (April 11) addressed the issue of Easter: “Easter is a Christian holiday on which the believers mark Yeshu’s resurrection three days after he was crucified and buried. According to Christian tradition, the ‘Last Supper,’ which was held on the night after his trial before the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate, was essentially the Seder night [of Passover]. According to tradition, the crucifixion took place the next day, on Friday, and on the following Sunday Yeshu arose from his grave. Easter is thus celebrated on the Sunday in the week at the beginning of spring. Not all Christian denominations celebrate the feast on the same date, but they are all diligent to celebrate it on Sunday and at the beginning of spring. The festival has several customs attached to it, some of which are very strange. For example, some people say that on this day women can beat their husbands (and vice versa). The feast is also known for the famous Easter eggs, generally made from chocolate. Happy Easter to the Christians amongst us, if so.
In an article looking at Philippine caretakers in Israel, Ya’akov Maor examined their Christian beliefs (Yediot Yerushalayim, April 11). Calling them “Sunday pilgrims,” he noted that once they have arrived in Israel to work they diligently visit “the site of the crucifixion, tomb, and resurrection of their Lord, before whom they pour out the bitterness of their hearts when they are in distress or enduring intolerable homesickness.” In describing their experiences in visiting Jerusalem for the first time, he stated: “Thus it happens that a Jew who was born not far from here two thousand years ago, and grew up to be one of the greatest revolutionaries in human history, brings to Jerusalem a Philippine woman whose ancestors, up to several hundred years ago, worshiped the elements.” In a sidebar, the piece noted that Christianity reached the Philippines with the Spanish conquest in 1521 and that, “Many in the Protestant denomination of Christianity believe that that Yeshu’s grave is located at the ‘Garden Tomb’ outside the Old City walls of today and not in the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian quarter. In the Sea of Galilee there grows a Christian fish by the name of Saint Peter’s fish, after Shimon bar Yona the fisherman, who afterwards became Peter (the first pope). We just call the fish ‘amnon’ (or ‘musht’).”
“The Polish church wants the body of Pope John Paul II – but will make do with his heart” was one of the headlines in Ma’ariv (April 9). According to an Italian newspaper, Polish church officials are “convinced that the present pope, Benedict XVI, will be compelled to give the Poles ‘if not his heart, at least an important part of his body.’” The piece noted that the Poles regard John Paul as their greatest compatriot and wish him to be buried in his homeland rather than in the Vatican – as well as rumors to the effect that he himself composed a secret letter expressing this to be his wish. According to the report, “the Poles have a type of tradition of burying parts of a person’s body in different places. The heart of the famous composer Frederick Chopin is entombed in the Holy Cross church in Warsaw while his body is buried in Paris …”
Makor Rishon, April 8, 11; BeKehila, April 11; Ma’ariv, April 10; Israel HaYom, April 13; Haaretz, April 8, 11 (Hebrew and English editions); Yediot Ahronot, April 11, 2008
Noting the visit to Israel of Rob Walton, the son of Wallmart founder Sam Walton, a Yediot Ahronot (April 11) reporter asked the present Director about the purpose of his trip: “‘This is a private, personal visit. I’ve traveled through your wonderful State across its length and breadth. From Ramat HaGolan to Sederot. In Sederot I met with a woman whose house had been hit by a rocket and I understood from close up your grave security problems. As a Protestant Christian, I was very moved to be in the holy places. Suddenly, the things I read in the Bible and the New Testament seemed very real to me. I’ve also been to the central Jewish historical places. I was very touched in the Old City, at the Western Wall. You have a wonderful country. I’m sorry that I haven’t visited sooner.’”
Under a photo of waving Israeli flags, Makor Rishon (April 8) noted that, “Hundreds of Christian supporters of Israel marched in the streets of Jerusalem yesterday in support of the State. Among them was the evangelist [evangelical] John Hagee, a Christian friend of Israel who is currently making efforts to persuade the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, to march at the head of thousands of pilgrims in support of the State of Israel.”
Together with his joust with Eric Yoffie, John Hagee’s present visit to Israel is arousing a storm of controversy. Eight articles under this section relate to Jewish attitudes towards Christian “evangelists.” In responding to Eric Yoffie’s accusations against Christian Zionism this week (see previous Reviews), John Hagee defended himself by offering his own criticism of Yoffie (Haaretz, April 8): “The San Antonio church leader said Yoffie demonstrated ‘a lack of respect for me [and] a troubling lack of respect for the truth.’ What Hagee essentially says about himself, his organization [Christians United for Israel] and the peace process is, yes, I am a skeptic as to the wisdom behind withdrawals. But I never acted against them, nor shall I. Yoffie ‘ignores [our] actual record’ because, had be borne it in mind, his accusations would prove themselves as groundless.’ Our opinions aside, Hagee said, Israel is a free country. ‘CUFI’s fundamental philosophy from day one has been that Israelis and Israelis alone have the right to make existential decisions about land and peace.’ The only lobbying he did on that issue was to try and persuade the U.S. government not to pressure Israel into adopting policies it was reluctant to carry out.”
In a very unusual move, the religious paper BeKehila (April 11) corrected an error which had occurred in an earlier article, mistakenly linking Hagee with Ariel. In a two-page piece under the surprising headline, “A righteous among the nations,” the article apologized for the error, noting that the consequences inevitably could not so easily be revoked. The article was so fulsome in its praise of John Hagee that one could be forgiven if it was assumed that, despite everything, they had got the wrong person: “Amongst the mountains of words, the innocent were also captured – one among the greatest ‘righteous among the nations,’ who has no connection whatsoever with the mission and its branches. By mistake, the name of such a person, God forbid, was inserted in error, someone who has not the slightest association with the abominable phenomena which are taking place in Ariel. Therefore it is our duty not only to apologize but much more – to make every effort to amend and purify his name.” Part of the rectification came in the form of a statement by an Orthodox businessman, who was quoted as stating that Hagee contributes heavily to Torah and charity institutions, as well as to developing Ariel in general. “‘Moreover, Hagee is known as a supporter of Israel, a Christian who is leading the theological revolution in the Christian world. For centuries, Christianity has preached that it, as it were, has replaced Judaism. Hagee preaches and repeatedly states that Judaism will never be replaced and that the Jewish people are the chosen people and that Eretz Israel will remain eternally in Jewish hands. He says this publicly and without any fear. Hagee, who lives in Texas, is attacked by the Catholic church, as are the ‘Messianic Jews’ in the States, who are very unhappy with his words,’” said Meir Cohen, a personal acquaintance of Hagee’s.
In an adjoining piece, Rabbi Ya’akov Avgi from Ariel corroborated the correction. At the demonstration held in the city against the mission, he was quoted as saying that, “‘By the side of the poster saying “Ron Nachman, go home,” we put up another which read “Welcome, John Hagee” – in order to demonstrate that this man isn’t included in the list of people who operate in negative contexts.’” Yad L’Achim likewise added its confirmation: “Binyamin Kluger, of the branch for the struggle against the mission in the organization Yad L’Achim, says that, ‘From all the sources of information we have received, from inside the country and from the States, John Hagee has no connection whatsoever with missionary activity in any form.’ As if this wasn’t sufficient, Rabbi Kluger added that on numerous occasions the missionaries have criticized Hagee for his explicit and unambiguous disassociation from missionizing amongst Jews. BeKehila was informed in the light of this information that Yad L’Achim did not participate in the demonstration which was held in Ariel in anticipation of Hagee’s arrival in the city.”
The Orthodox response to Hagee may have come on the heels of Eric Yoffie’s denunciation of Jewish cooperation with such Christian Zionists (see previous Reviews and below). A similar article defending just such collaboration appeared in Makor Rishon (April 11). “One of the socio-political enigmas is why many members of the center stream in Israel hold strong reservations regarding the fervent support of the evangelicals. Over this period, an evangelical conference is being held in Jerusalem, and it is difficult to think of a clearer and more explicit demonstration of support in an ethical sense than that which these same American believers are giving Israel. Recently, Reform leaders have been in the news for their opposition to the evangelicals and their renunciation of their support for Israel. But as we have noted, they are not alone. Many from the Left and center in Israel – certainly the media elite – denounce the evangelicals’ support. They see them as radicals, whose support Israel is better off without.” These camps “endeavor to claim that in essence they [the Christian Zionists] do not want Israel’s good but are pushing her into an uncompromising policy in order to arrive at the war of Gog and Magog. This is slander. The evangelicals support Israel as one of the fundamentals of Christian belief and they do not want Israelis to convert and become Christians – or for Israel to find herself at the center of a global conflict.” Common to Jewish anti-Christian Zionist attitudes both in the States and the Israeli Left is the “rejection of the religious worldview and the life of faith.”
The exceptional nature of this religious response is reflected in an article in Ma’ariv (April 10) which examined why, when “evangelical Christians in America are behaving towards us with the greatest of love, there are Jewish and Israeli bodies which are behaving towards them with the greatest of hostility.” According to this piece, “Two elements in [Israeli] society are endeavoring to damage the relationship: the Orthodox and religious element in part, which is apprehensive of their missionary influence, and the Left, which is worried by their right-wing influence, because they oppose giving back territory and the establishment of a Palestinian State … Jewish paranoia has no bounds. These Christians don’t make their support conditional on any religious or political acceptance. They love us unconditionally and support us unconditionally. All we’re expected to do is to accept this love without sabotaging it.” The conclusion was clear: “What is far more frightening is the possibility that our great Christian friends will become aware of the Orthodox and racist scheming against Christians which exists in Israel and all the crazy hate-plotting against the Messianic Jews, attacks against churches, and the profaning of Christian sacred places and burial plots. No phenomenon is more dangerous than this to our relations with the Christian world. We only need this, that our Christian friends discover that we give back crazed hatred for wonderful love.”
Like Menahem Ben in Ma’ariv, Uriel Lin in Israel HaYom (April 13) also questioned Yoffie’s right to meddle in Israel politics – the very thing he accused Hagee of doing and thus proposed cutting off relations with him. While Hagee makes it very clear that he thinks that giving back territory is a policy harmful to Israel, “the stream at whose head he stands would not dream of interfering in Israel’s internal affairs, and would never attempt to influence in order to prevent a peace agreement or outline which Israel chooses to follow.”
In a far more enigmatic piece, Shmuel Rosner, in Haaretz (April 11; Hebrew and English editions) eventually concluded: “Who knows, maybe there will still be a meeting [between Yoffie and Hagee]. Maybe it will be the beginning of a wonderful friendship. But it won’t provide a solution to the fundamental question: ‘Does the friendship of personalities like Hagee help Israel or harm it?’ Most of those who discuss the problem try to use weighty arguments, but in the end, they can be divided into two predictable camps. Those who have less faith in the peace process are more enthusiastic about Hagee’s outstretched hand. Those who are less excited by Hagee’s dedicated support tend to believe in the vitality of the peace process.”
Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post (April 10), the rate of tourism to Israel over the Passover period this year is expected to rise thirty percent over the same period last year. “… during the Pessah period, new and renovated tourist sites will be open to the public, including the Clock Square in Jaffa, Timna Lake in the Arava, the ring path for cyclists near Hula Lake and the area’s observation point. Meanwhile, another 1,000 pilgrims are anticipated to take part in the fifth annual Pilgrimage Marathon for Peace on April 18,” while the “Vatican’s official travel agency, Romana Opera Pellegrinaggi, the travel agency Ovunque Viaggi and the Israeli Tourism Ministry initiated another half-marathon – the Arad-Massada half marathon.” The latter is due to take place on Wednesday, April 16, starting off from Arad, while 1,000 pilgrims under a senior Cardinal will arrive in the coming days to participate in the full marathon.
Christians in Israel
Yediot Modi’in, April 4; Ma’ariv, April 10, 2008
The Greek Orthodox church in Tiberias was broken into this week and thousands in cash (dollars and euros) – contributions intended for aid to the poor over Easter and for the renovation of the church – stolen. At present, no suspects have been apprehended.
Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2008
In a lengthy piece on Nazareth, Orit Arfa in the Jerusalem Post (April 3) remarked on the city’s vibrancy and attractiveness to all sorts of tourists: “The city intertwines religion, archeology and history with contemporary culture and cuisine to entice people of all faiths, admittedly mostly Christians. ‘Nazareth is marketing Israel, not the other way round,’ says Shihada [director of the Nazareth Cultural and Tourist Association]. Judging from the number of Christian pilgrims flocking to the city before Easter, there’s no denying his point. The streets and shops were bustling; the churches were full. Given the demographics and language, I almost felt like I was in a foreign city – and that’s part of Nazareth’s charm for the Jewish Israeli visitor. This northern city offers an alternative to the more predictable Israeli tourist sites and a great – and safe – landing pad for people interested in gaining insight into Christianity and Israeli Arab culture. Leave it to Christians to become experts in Jewish life. Jesus, after all, was a Jew, and so his life and times can actually provide insight into Jewish living ca. 70 CE. Nazareth Village presents the ‘Nazareth Jesus knew,’ an interactive recreation of a Jewish farming village under Roman occupation based on years of historical and archeological research informed by New Testament scholarship.” Under the subheading “Mount Precipice,” Arfa also described how their guide – a “non-practicing Christian Nazarene” – explained that this is “where Jews tried to execute the heretical Jesus by casting him down the mountain. Miraculously, Jesus escaped unscathed. I’m sure Christians are raised to new heights of belief upon visiting the site, but this writer was more inspired by the breathtaking view …”
Under the heading, “Quiet, people are taking oaths/becoming monks,” a Yediot Modi’in (April 4) reporter decided to “examine the ascetic life close up and went to visit the most touristy monastery in the shephela – the Trappist monastery at Latrun … Life in the monastery is based on simplicity and primitiveness combined with silence (whence the name of the monastery).” The monastery was built in 1926 – and destroyed three years later in an earthquake. “The monks do not subsist from donations but from the sale of the wine from the press which is located on the premises, from which the monks produce approximately 250,000 bottles of wine per year from the vines which also grow on the property.” The article added a paragraph explaining the origin of the name Latrun: “2007 years ago, when Yeshu was crucified on the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, two robbers – one good and one bad – were crucified next to him. Christian tradition relates that the good robber repented when he was on the cross and that just before he died Yeshu promised that he would go with him to Paradise. In the wake of this event, Christian pilgrims to the place called it ‘Domus bone latrun’ – i.e., the house of the good robber.”
Christians in the Holocaust
Haaretz, April 10, 2008
While the Roman Catholic Church has already acknowledged its part in Germany’s war-time economic exploitation of workers, a newly-released report, called “Forced Labor and the Catholic Church 1939-1945” is the “most thorough look at the issue to date” according to a piece in Haaretz (April 10). “The 703-page report documents the fate of 1,075 prisoners of war and 4,829 civilians who were forced to work for the Nazis in nearly 800 Catholic institutions – mainly hospitals, homes and monastery gardens – as part of the war effort. The church, which has financed over 200 ‘reconciliation’ projects, said exact figures would never be known … ‘It should not be concealed that the Catholic Church was blind for too long to the fate and suffering of men, women and children from the whole of Europe who were carted off to German as forced laborers,’ Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the country’s leading Roman Catholic prelate … said at the presentation of the report. Catholics and Protestants were subject to oppression under the Nazis, but aside from some notable figures from both churches who voiced opposition, they broadly went along. The SS expropriated more than 300 monasteries and other Catholic institutions from 1940 to 1942, and thousands of Catholics were sent to concentration camps … Lehmann noted the number of forced laborers for the church was a small fraction of the estimated total of 13 million people compelled to work for the Nazis … The Catholic Church stressed that the new book did not draw a line under a grim period. The report, ‘which scientifically works through this forgotten chapter of church history, should not be ‘understood as a final balance sheet,’ Lehmann said.” According to the same article, “The Protestant Church in Germany, approximately equal in size to the Catholic Church, has also acknowledged it used forced labor.”
Ratzui uMatzui, April 11, 2008
An interfaith gathering between Jewish and Arab youth from Yokneam and Nazareth respectively was held recently within the framework of “Project dialogue and identity” according to a report in Ratzui uMatzui (April 11). The project is the initiative of the religious Tali program, which brings Jewish and Arab students in the north of the country together under the slogan, “We won’t be able to conduct a real dialogue with the other until we recognize our own identity.” This particular event was co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations (JCJCR) and included students from the Catholic school network. “The children study together sections from the Tanakh, the New Testament, and the Quran, and recognize the differences and similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” The program is being monitored by a researcher from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem who is investigating the “field of social dialogue in the country. To the extent that this initiative is successful, the intention is to expand it to other schools in the country.”
Haaretz, April 9, 2008
Yochi Shelach reviewed the Hebrew translation of Noah Gordon’s book, The Last Jew (translated by Sigal Adler; Keter), which tells the story of Yona Toledano, the sole survivor of the Spanish expulsion in 1492, whose parents did not convert but were killed. “The combination ‘The last Jew’ is not only a historical description of the youth’s condition but is also supposed to portray his feeling, the sense of isolation and loneliness of someone who has been saved out of a magnificent community and is exposed to the danger of death at every moment if he is discovered.” Centering around Yona’s search for his parents’ murderers and his avoidance of all his Christian acquaintances, who might turn him in, in Shelach’s opinion while The Last Jew could perhaps have been a parallel to Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose, which took place only 160 years earlier, its detective, historical, and character elements fall far short of the former. Yona has no curiosity apart from seeking out his parents’ killers – and even then finds them only by accident; although he is only fifteen at the start of the novel, his character does not mature, nor does he develop any insights regarding himself or his environment; while the historical details cannot be faulted. Yona displays no desire to arrive at any historical understanding, “such as that which looks to delve into the root of things. He doesn’t teach us anything about either Jewish or Christian streams of thought of the period, about the cultural, philosophical, or theological motivations behind the Christian expulsion – or the desperate Jewish experience to be kept within a country which spews them out.”