Caspari Center Media Review………….April 28, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activities, Jewish-Catholic relations, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, and Christians in the Holocaust. Of these:
1 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
2 dealt with anti-missionary activities
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with Christians in the Holocaust
The mixed bag of articles in this week’s Review included a further lengthy piece on Amiel Ortiz.
Ma’ariv, April 18, 2008
In the wake of the attack against the Ortiz family in Ariel (see previous Reviews), Ma’ariv (April 18) devoted a further lengthy article to the subject. Interviewing both the family and several members of the Messianic movement in the country, Boaz Gaon described first how David Ortiz came to faith. Brought up in Hispanic Brooklyn on the border with Crown Heights and Flatbush, David became interested in Judaism. This led him to a visit to a bookshop, which in turn led to a visit to a shop managed by a Jew named Arnold Ross, formerly Rosenberg. “Rosenberg explained to Ortiz that he was Jewish, but that that wasn’t all. He believed in Yeshu. He called him ‘Yeshua.’ He was a ‘Messianic Jew’ and counted himself among a theological stream that grew into a movement sometime in the sixties, primarily in the States. It was a sort of attempt to ‘cement’ the Jewish and Christian faiths together – all within the framework of a general reaction against time-honored frameworks, institutions, and establishments.” Gaon then went on to contextualize “Messianic Judaism”: “In order to understand this movement – and these things are written on the basis of conversations with tens of believers and participation in their ceremonies – it must be understood not only in the Israeli context but also in the American Anglo-Saxon one. At its inception, it attracted – and still attracts – Jews and Christians who rebelled against their parents’ traditional faith after the latter had filled them with feelings of rejection and offense. The Jews, who were accustomed to thinking of God as a sort of bearded Accountant who counted up their failures every day, adopted the Christian Messiah into their bosom. He accepted them – in contrast to everything they had experienced, they felt – unconditionally and unreservedly.” Following Ortiz’s path to Israel, Gaon noted that the family settled first in Beersheva, moved to Jerusalem, and finally to Ariel. “He did reserve army duty, paid his taxes, and began to disseminate his Judeo-Christian message [torato ha-yedhudo-notzrit].” As Amiel also emphasized, the family was, to all intents and purposes Jewish: “‘They [people] think we’re different. It’s not true. I feel Jewish. I feel Israeli. Excuse me, I don’t feel. I know!’” Gaon also noted the family’s suspicions regarding the perpetrators of the attack: “The Ortiz family are skeptical about whether the booby-trapped mishloach manot was sent to Ariel from Jerusalem St. At the same time, all the talk of ‘[you’re] worse than a murderer,’ ‘[you’re] worse than Hitler,’ and ‘English-speaking Nazis’ may have fed the imagination of a disturbed yeshiva boy – or perhaps the fanaticism of a new radical right-wing group which began to operate of its own accord in the region of Ariel. This is indeed one of the directions which the police are investigating, to the best of the Ortiz family’s knowledge.”
The most disturbing part of the report lay in the responses quoted by the members of Yad L’Achim and other Ultra-Orthodox parties to Messianic Jews/Judaism in general and the attack against the Ortizes in general. In contrast to his other public statements, in which he denounced the violence, Shalom Dov Lipshitz, Yad L’Achim’s director, was explicit in his call for action: “‘It’s not natural that there won’t be violence. Look, according to what they’ve done to us we should kill a Christian every day. No? (He laughs.) So here, sixty years have gone by [since the State was established?] and one such incident has occurred. It’s not a representative occurrence. It’s an isolated incident … According to what I’ve heard, the basket which exploded only contained a few explosive caps after all.’” In the eyes of Yad L’Achim, the “Bnei Brak commando-like organization,” “Ortiz and his friends are the murderers of souls. Jewish apostates. The offspring of the initiators of the crusades, who ran Jerusalem’s streets with rivers of blood. They are smiling monsters with pockets full of funds which flow from the States, whose whole purpose is to convert the Jewish people and not to leave one pure Jewish soul alive.” Following an interview with one of the believers in Beersheva, where the Messianic congregation is in conflict with the Gur Hasidim, Gaon approached the congregational building. It appears that Howard Bass, the pastor, came out to greet him, in the presence of several yeshiva students who were hanging around. Gaon asked them why they were throwing eggs at the houses of the believers. In his words, “One of the students identified himself as a Yad L’Achim member and began answering me, but suddenly the head of the Yeshiva, named “K.”, butted in. He took out a sharp key and held it up close to Howard Bass’s eye. For half an hour, he stood in his face, roaring at him in fluent Brooklynese English. This is what the Rabbi said: ‘You made a big, big mistake, Howard … I will f*** you now, f*** you good … if I see you one more time here, or your wife the b***. I will f*** you, ohhhh Howard, you made a big, big, big mistake today … you m***f*** … I will f*** you, you will be sorry … you and your wife the w*** … if you come here one more time.’ Thus it continued, until I was identified as a reporter. Then the Rabbi, after a brief and somewhat surprised silence, explained to me in Hebrew, with a wink, that ‘That’s the only way to talk to them. They’re considered important people in their community,’ the honored Rabbi explained to me, ‘and so we have to trample on their dignity, humiliate them.’ Then he became irate again: ‘They’re murderers, these people, don’t you understand? Imagine that he has a huge cross on his chest! And he’s riding a horse! That’s what they’re doing here. They’re murdering innocent souls! They’re like Hammas! But worse!’ I asked the Rabbi if he wasn’t concerned that seven young yeshiva students were standing there listening to his curses – especially after what had happened in Ariel. He said no. Moreover, he added, the attack in Ariel was orchestrated by the Ortiz family themselves, who sent the bomb to themselves in order to arouse Jewish sympathy. Just before I left the city, Bass implored me not to reveal the Rabbi’s name, fearing retaliation.”
Gaon concluded the article with words and attitudes of a quite different sort. Reporting his participation in a prayer meeting in Arad, he described how, “The shutters are closed, the door locked, the air-conditioning hums. They bow their heads and shut their eyes and one of them says: ‘Our Father in heaven, help us to love whoever hates us. Help Ami Ortiz and give him a complete recovery from this trauma. Protect the IDF soldiers and may there be no terrorist attacks this Passover. In Yeshua’s name. Amen.’” [Editor’s note: The original report printed the Rabbi’s words in full, in English. Out of respect for our readers, we have replaced the swear words with asterisks.] Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, April 17; Ma’ariv, April 18, 2008
In the midst of a long article about two Israelis who set off on a voyage of discovery through the country in a “golden calf” – a Mitsubishi tender covered with gold leaf and verses – the two, one secular the other religious, arrived in Bnei Brak, an Ultra-Orthodox stronghold. “Twenty minutes later, the ‘modesty guard’ arrived in a screech of brakes. They took us aside and explained that this was not the place, and that the combination of the gold, the verses on the side of the tender, and our general appearance had led the yeshiva students to think that we were Christian missionaries out to destroy their pure souls.”
In a letter to Haaretz in response to the paper’s report concerning Reform Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s rejection of Christian Zionist support (see previous Review), Ron Nachman, the Mayor of Ariel, wrote a letter which was printed on April 17. In it he stated that he has been John Hagee’s close acquaintance for over twenty years and can “testify that there is no trace whatsoever of missionizing in his activity. He and his friends are motivated by faith in the Tanakh, by love for the Holy Land, and by the understanding that the Jewish people are the Chosen People and must be helped to defend themselves. Why should we reject their helping and supporting outstretched hand?”
BeKehila, April 10; Yom L’Yom, April 10, 2008
An outraged reader on the other side also responded to the Mayor’s support of Christian Zionists (BeKehila, April 10). Rabbi Gross, from Afula, was furious at the fact that a Jewish leader in a Jewish State could openly condone such friendship, and warned that Ariel was not the “source of the danger. The residents of Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Eilat are also influenced by the destructive activity of the members of the Ariel mission. The lack of local legitimization to take care of them there [in Ariel] has led their associates across the country to feel secure. It’s clear that as long as no intensive local action is taken against ‘the mission capital’ in Israel, the law enforcement agencies will find it difficult to fight them. In my opinion, it is the thought that the missionaries are only a handful which has torpedoed the ‘mission law’ which was supposed to have been passed recently, but for some reason has been delayed.”
Yom L’Yom (April 10) carried the report concerning precisely that law, as mentioned in previous Reviews.
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, April 21; Ma’ariv, April 21, 2008
A mass tumult erupted on “the festival sacred to Christians known as Palm Sunday” between Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christians – over the right to remain longer in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Ma’ariv, April 21). According to this report, “Although we’re speaking of religious officials, it’s not clear who started the violent dissension, the two sides accusing each other.” The Armenians claimed that the blows started when the Greek Orthodox insisted on being present during the Armenian ceremony and the Armenians threw them out. The Greek Orthodox, for their part, charged that the Armenians were attempting to alter the status quo. The report in Haaretz (April 21) noted that two Armenians were arrested, leading to a protest outside the police station. When the two were released, the crowd dispersed quietly.
Israel HaYom, April 16, 2008
According to this report, the number of pilgrims visiting the baptismal site at the Yardenit has “increased dramatically” in recent months. Statistics provided by the site’s manager indicate that 80,000 “are visiting the site, holy to Christianity, monthly.” The increase was attributed to the renewed peace following the Second Lebanese War, during which the number of vistors dropped to zero.
Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2008
On his historic visit to the Park East Synagogue in New York (see previous Review), Pope Benedict XVI “brought greetings for the Pessah holiday” and received a gift of matza and a Seder plate. In return, he “offered a gift of his own: a reproduction of a Jewish codex.” In his words to the congregation the pope said, “‘I find it moving to recall that Jesus, as a young boy, heard the words of Scripture and prayed in such a place as this.” He added that the “the New York Jewish community makes ‘a valuable contribution to the life of the city. And I encourage you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighborhood.’” Rabbi Arthur Schneider responded that, “‘This momentous occasion takes places [sic] on American soil, where men and women escaping the clutches of oppression and religious persecution have built a nation of democracy and freedom. This is a nation which has allowed all religious communities to flourish.’”
Christians in the Holocaust
HaModia, April 15, 2008
The religious paper HaModia (April 15) carried the report printed last week in Haaretz concerning the church’s “exploitation” of forced labor during the Holocaust