June 17 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review………….June 17, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, and Christian sites. Of these:

4 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
3 dealt with Christian sites
1 was a film review

Fall out from the book burning in Or Yehuda and the police refusal to condemn outreach as missionizing continue to occupy the Israeli press, together with the news that participants in a “secular yeshiva” organized a demonstration against the book burning.
Messianic Jews
Gal-Gefen, May 22; Makor Rishon, June 11; Yediot Ahronot, June 13; Yediot Bika’at Ono, June 6, 2008
Still from May (22), Gal-Gefen reported on the events of the book burning in Or Yehuda. The only new item it added was a response from the yeshiva: “‘We refrain from giving any comment. An investigation has revealed that the burning of the books was carried out after study [school] hours.’”
In contrast, according to a report in Yediot Bika’at Ono (June 6), participants in a “secular” yeshiva in the city demonstrated outside the city’s municipality building in protest “against the burning of the books of the Messianic Jews which took place about three weeks ago.” The piece noted that the demonstration, which included a “philosophical-religious study [of the Torah]” attended by many people, constituted an “additional stage in the protest which has been aroused in the wake of the burning of Christian holy books” – following the Attorney General’s order to investigate deputy mayor Uzi Aharon’s participation in the affair, together with the pressing of charges against him by a private lawyer. The yeshiva – “Bina” [Wisdom]  – is run by the United Kibbutz Movement and is the first of its kind in the country, whose aim is to “turn Torah study into part of the way of life of secular young people in order to expose them to Jewish study, which constitutes a fundamental building block of the people of Israel.” The poster advertising the demonstration included the statement: “‘After Holocaust Remembrance Day, in honor of Hebrew Book Week, and before Shavuot, when the Torah was given, we shall hold an event designed in toto as a reaction to the burning of books in Or Yehuda … As Jews and as people of the Book, we are forbidden to stay silent in the face of such acts … Join us in rescuing the books from the flames through study and joint reading.’”
Zeli Yaffe began his report published in the religious paper Makor Rishon (June 11) with an attempt to associate the mission with Osama bin Laden: both parties have the same aim – to turn the world Christian or Muslim – but employ different methods. Having justified the concerns of those fighting the mission, however, Yaffa went on to assert that Uzi Aharon’s actions – as a public official – “border on cultural barbarism.” Giving a brief history of the burning of Jewish books, Yaffa concluded that it “constitutes intellectual violence of the lowest and most degraded form. There is no difference between the burning of Jewish books in the center of the city, the burning of Torah scrolls in the Cave of the Patriarchs [in Hebron], or the burning of the ancient synagogue ‘Shalom on Israel’ in Jericho with the holy books it contained … What message did a public representative in Israel seek to convey by burning books – and in the courtyard of a synagogue, surrounded by school students no less? Do we not possess the intellectual capacity to cope with the threat of the mission but need to act as the worst of our enemies have behaved towards us? This event constitutes a terrible failure of Israeli society. As a public official, Lawyer Uzi Aharon placed a stain on the city which he serves. The act which he performed borders on the profanation of God’s name.”
In his opinion piece on the same subject in Yediot Ahronot (June 13), Yair Lapid repeated many of the same arguments – that apparently the residents of Or Yehuda have never heard of Heinrich Heine or Goebbels, the lessons of Jewish history, or the recent synagogue-burning in Miami, Florida which the city’s (Christian) mayor denounced – while “with us it was the mayor who organized the burning.” Lapid also announced that ever since the event he has been waiting – fruitlessly – for the Interior Minister to fire Aharon or the Minister of Internal Defense to charge him with incitement: does the fact that that neither have done so mean that they, too, are ignorant of Jewish history?
Anti-missionary Activities
Yom L’Yom, June 12, 2008
This piece reported the story of Yad L’Achim’s appeal to the Minister of Internal Affairs to arrest those responsible for the distribution of a missionary tract and the latter’s response that a soup kitchen he visited was none other than what it purports to be (see previous Reviews).
Christian Zionism
Ma’ariv, June 13, 2008
In a lengthy article looking at John Hagee, founder of “Christians United for Israel,” Sarah Leibowitz-Dar pointed out that while John McCain recently distanced himself from the right-wing evangelical’s statement that the God allowed the Holocaust in order to bring the Jewish people back to Israel, “In Israel, in contrast, no one hastened to disassociate themselves from Hagee. Already for a long time parties in the center and on the right have enjoyed the evangelicals’ support while ignoring the less sympathetic appealing aspects of their ideology.”
Christian Sites
HaKibbutz, June 6; Haaretz, June 12; Derekh HaOsher, June 1, 2008
In an “underground” journey through Jerusalem’s Old City organized by Beit Shmuel, participants can visit places of which most people are unaware. According to the report in Haaretz (June 12), most of these belong to churches. The first stop on the itinerary is the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, under which can be found archaeological remains including a large pool. “The lithostratus is the road on which the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate presented Yeshu before the people … ‘We’ll walk on the paving stones of the road as Yeshua walked on them,’ said Brin [the guide]. ‘You can see there the board game which the Roman soldiers inscribed on one of the original stones’ … Not far from there is the site of Yeshua’s imprisonment where, according to tradition, he was imprisoned for several hours before he was brought before Pilate.”
Derekh HaOsher (June 1) – a journal for the “awareness of mind and body” – printed an article on Ramalla this week. Identifying the town with Arimethea, the place where “Joseph of Arimethea, Yeshu’s disciple, was born,” it reviewed the historical sites worthy of a visit. These include several churches, such as that of Philip the Good, which contains “several statutes depicting Yeshu’s removal from the cross and the Via Dolorosa.” The recommendation: “We discovered that Ramalla is a beautiful city with a rich and interesting historical past. Undoubtedly, it’s worth spending a full day sight-seeing here.”
Although it might seem slightly strange, we have included here a lengthy article in HaKibbutz (June 6) about Yuval Lufan, due to his discovery of the “Jesus boat,” which has become a major tourist attraction. The opening paragraph sets out the question under discussion: “How has a son and member of Kibbutz Ginosar become a subject of the good news of Yeshua the Nazarene? Why has he and not someone else been anointed as the modern embodiment of one of the apostles of the Messiah from Nazareth? Why and wherefore do Christian evangelicals faint in the presence of the man who causes them so much ecstatic enthusiasm? None of the answers, it would appear, can explain our heretical opinion which dismisses the mysticism and mythology which nourish themselves on a commissioned image and the strong will to revive the two-thousand-and-something-year-old Crucified One again and again.” The two brothers, Yuval and Moshe, have indeed, it appears, turned into modern-day apostles in the eyes of such tourists. While they themselves do not seek such attention or “veneration,” they do not renounce it; as Yuval asserts, “‘Why should I shatter the word and the dream.’” Despite believing that they found the boat by accident, their find is interpreted differently by pilgrims: “But those who believe in the Messiah insist that the two were chosen by a higher power to be people of the gospel. They find the justification for this in the story of two [other] brothers, Peter and Simon [sic], who were mending their father’s fishing boat. Yeshua the Nazarene, passing by on the beach, asked them what they were doing and then said to them, ‘Why are you mending the boat? Come with me to mend men …’ And so the two left their work and joined him. The boat, the mystics claim, was rediscovered by two [other] brothers.” In answer to the question whether, despite their claims to the contrary, the discovery had made “believers” of them, Yuval was quoted as saying: “‘I believe in an entity of love which is called God. I believe that there was a man called Yeshu, who had amazing supernatural capabilities. It’s hard for me to believe that he will return, that he’s immortal, but with regard to the rest of the things attributed to him – the power of healing, walking on the water, turning fish into bread and other things – I am truly convinced. My brother and I both strongly believe that the boat which we found is a boat of peace. It has its own pulse, its own Jewish heart, and it will bring peace on earth. We don’t control these capacities, but it will happen when the time comes.’”
Film Review
Makor Rishon, June 13, 2008
Makor Rishon (June 13) published an anonymous review of “Prince Caspian,” the second in the Narnia series, under the title “In need of grace.” The reviewer was surprisingly sympathetic for the religious paper. Acknowledging the movie’s explicit Christian themes, it took no particular objection to them, merely remarked that, “The missionary preaching in favor of grave and repentance are scarcely to be found in the film. Perhaps for this reason, in its last ten minutes the viewers receive a condensed and artificial summary of the importance of the attributes of grace and modesty.” The writer remarks, in this context, on the paucity of Lucy’s generosity with her life-giving ointment, maintaining that rather than confining its use to her closest friends she could/should also have proffered it to the “nice minotaur.” Noting that the American consensus is that blood divides youth from adult viewing, the review commented that in consequence the movie is full of violence but no blood. In like fashion, it critiqued the film for being rather too packed with wars at the expense of magic. Despite its artistic defects, the reviewer recommended the movie as “enjoyable and certainly worth seeing … it’s worth going to see the film for almost three hours of escapism and occupation of the children, for the figure of the grumpy and enchanting dwarf, and for the river that comes to life.” The conclusion is unambiguous: “Who should go – friends in the Narnia forum and fantasy lovers. Who should not go – the organization against the mission.”