Caspari Center Media Review………….August 12, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations, anti-Semitism, and early Christianity. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Judaism
4 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with early Christianity
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
A substantial article appeared in this week’s press detailing the activities of the “baptizing sect” – Messianic Jews.
HaModia, August 5; Yediot Ahronot, August 8, 2008
The writer of a letter to HaModia (August 5) complained that the distribution of a missionary tract in his letterbox was followed up by a telephone call to make sure the material had been received, in which the caller acknowledged himself to be a “representative of the Messianic Jews.” Rather futilely, the writer called upon HaModia’s readers to return such literature and “not to answer phone calls of this sort.”
An extraordinarily lengthy article appeared in Yediot Ahronot on August 8 detailing the “evangelistic activity” of one of its journalists, Techya Barak (28), who went undercover in the Messianic movement for two and a half months to discover “how the Messianic Jewish sect in Israel is attempting to convert children, IDF soldiers, and Holocaust survivors and to bring them close to Yeshu.” Techya’s interest in the subject was sparked when she found a flier – “one of thousands distributed in the streets of Israel as a part of a ‘Jews for Jesus’ campaign.” Techya stated openly that her “mission” was to “infiltrate” the community “under the guise of being a new believer.” Having rung the number on the flier, she was put in touch which an Israeli-turned Australian, Rachel. Rachel then put her into touch with “Tiferet Yeshua Congregation” in Tel Aviv, which she began to attend regularly in order to establish her identity: “Over several weeks, I was thrown into a parallel universe. I became a fervent member of an ancient sect which combines a confusion of beliefs, symbols, and traditions from different religions. Abraham with Yeshu, the Tanakh with the New Testament, a prayer shawl with baptism, the Jewish festivals with the sacred host, as well as an intimidating Satan in ambush at every corner who also appears in human form, a medusa, or the evil impulse. I spend my Saturdays in long ecstatic prayers while weekdays I devote to aggressive evangelism campaigns and congregational social events. I buy their trust and – slowly – they begin to accept me into their world … I master the mysteries of prayer, am present at social events, and am in contact with most of the believers. ‘To be saved,’ ‘to evangelize,’ ‘God gave me a message in my heart’ became part of my vocabulary. I proved my sincerity, I bought the trust of the believers.”
Once acknowledged as a believer, Techya took the next step towards her ultimate goal – to get accepted to the “most secret missionary activity, reserved for the faithful”: evangelism. To do this, she made contact with Ya’akov Damakani. Damkani questioned her at length about how she became a believer (“I was a tour guide in Jerusalem in the army and you can’t guide there and in the Galilee without speaking about Yeshu. I began to study about him. From there, the step to Messianic Jews was very short”), how long she had been in the faith, who she lived with, have you prayed about evangelizing (“Until the chosen people accept Yeshua as Messiah the redemption won’t come. Jews live in the flesh, not in the Spirit”)? Convinced, Ya’akov “smiled broadly”: “‘I have laughter in my heart, like John’s mother. I’ve received the gift of knowledge concerning the spiritual level of the person sitting opposite me. I look in your eyes and I know that you are a spiritual and worthy person and that God has answered my prayers.’”
From then on, Techya became part of evangelism teams that went to army bases and firing ranges, distributed food to Holocaust survivors, spoke to Orthodox Jews who have become secular, visited an outreach to prostitutes, witnessed on the streets of Tel Aviv, participated in the Shavuot gathering at Yad HaShemona, and was present at a “secret baptismal ceremony of a youth during which ‘Satan’ appeared [in the form of a medusa which swam near].” Damkani also enlisted her as his “right hand man” in editing his written material. When she “naturally” participated in praying for her “friend” Yasmin when the latter felt unwell, she began to ask herself, “Have I become one of them? The crowded meetings, the phone which never stops ringing [with calls to invite her to meetings, etc.], the sincere concern for my welfare, the expression of warmth, the physical hugs – they all have an accumulative effect. I notice that as time goes by I speak of ‘we’ and not ‘them.’” Towards the end of her clandestine mission, Techya experienced growing pressure from all sides to be baptized: “There’s one ceremony which is above all others: baptism, the only way to be born again. They now attempt to encourage me to be baptized. The more the weeks go by, the stronger the pressure becomes. Person after person asks me if I’ve been baptized and wonders when I’m going to take the step.” Techya found all sorts of excuses – “I’m not ready yet” – until she could escape no longer and agreed to attend the preparation meetings. Fortunately, her mission finished before she had to take the plunge.
At some point, Ya’akov Damkani gave her a film to watch, warning her that it must not be shown to non-believers: “When I watch it at home, I understand why he asked me to keep some sort of secrecy. Against a background of pictures of Israeli scenes, the Messianic Jews’ clandestine missionary program is revealed before my eyes – how they are going to capture the hearts of the Jews: ‘First of all,’ says Damkani’s voice, ‘apologize for Christianity’s persecution of the Jews, for the Inquisition and the Holocaust. Then thank the Israelis. Tell them ‘thank you’ because through them we have received Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Torah. You are the chosen people, tell them, and without you the redemption can’t come. In the next stage, show them the prophecies about Yeshua in Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Daniel. Ask them to examine Yeshua in a Jewish light.’”
Once Techya stopped attending the congregation, her telephone rang non-stop, with people calling to find out how she was: “Sometimes I get ten phone calls a day, but I don’t know what to say to the worried believers, so I simply don’t answer. I went to the last meeting with my cameraman and then I disappeared again. For the first time, the believers became suspicious. One of them left a message for me on the answering machine: ‘Please get back to me and tell me who you are,’ she said.”
The article also included a sidebar entitled “Messianic deception” in which Danit Keren, the director of the Israeli Center for the Victims of Sects, stated her opinion as to why Messianic Judaism constitutes a “cult.” Her primary argument was its ostensible lack of “transparency” – by which she appeared to mean the fact that Messianic Jews present themselves as Jewish when in fact their beliefs, their practices, and their funding are all Christian. She also identified the “warmth” and the “isolationism” between the members and the “outside world.” as symptoms of cultism.
At its end, the piece cited the responses of various persons referred to in the article. Ari Sorko-Ram emphasized that, “‘We are Jews who believe in biblical Judaism. Every Jew has the right to explain his Judaism. We do this amongst our acquaintances, friends, families, and anyone who wishes to know. We are allowed to do this by law.’” A representative from “Yad L’Ezra Israel” [A Hand to Help Israel] stated that, “‘The information you possess is incorrect. We are only engaged in giving assistance to the needy and social work, and we don’t involve religion.’”
We received confirmation from a source close to Ya’akov Damkani that the report was in fact accurate in its statements concerning him.
HaModia, August 8 (x 2); HaMahane HeHaredi, August 7; BeKehila, August 7, 2008
HaModia (August 8) printed an article relating to the report in Yediot Ahronot, quoting large parts from it.
According to a second piece on the same page, Yad L’Achim’s director, Shalom Dov Lipshitz, has sent a letter to the American ambassador objecting to the State Department’s annual report on human rights and freedom of religion in Israel. The anti-missionary organization claimed that the report includes charges of “various and repeated harassment, serious and explicit threats, deliberate and prolonged plots, and acts of vandalism leading to considerable damage to various missionary institutions and premises” made by the missionaries. Yad L’Achim asserted that none of these charges had any foundation whatsoever and that the legal authorities in Israel had brought no indictments against them. “‘We fear that that information published by you has its source in anti-Semitic bodies within missionary organizations and that you are giving them a platform for the lies without first investigating the facts,’” said Dov Lipshitz. HaMahane HeHaredi (August 7) carried the same story in slightly abbreviated form, and BeKehila (August 7) in an even briefer report.
Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2008
According to a piece in the Jerusalem Post (August 5), “For the fifth consecutive year, New York-based evangelical Christian ministry Eagles’ Wings brought a group of high-achieving Christian students to Israel this week for a three-week-long trip aimed at forging deeper bonds between participants and the State of Israel, and educating them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that they can become ‘voices of Zion’ on their campuses, and beyond. The program is coordinated with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus.” The “high-achievers” are destined to exert a direct influence and impact on American politics during their subsequent careers: “‘The Israel Experience Program already has a proven track record when it comes to producing the leaders of tomorrow. With the rise of anti-Israel propaganda, we are dedicated to supporting programs that make the case for Israel and the Israel Experience Program is doing just that,” Josh Reinstein, the Knesset Allies Caucus Director, was quoted as saying.
Christians in Israel
Tzafon-1, August 1, 2008
In the wake of the scandal created by acknowledgement by members of Sikhnin’s football team of shoplifting at the duty free at Ben Gurion airport, the town’s 5% Christian population has come out in support of the team. Despite their minority status, the Christian community – half Greek Orthodox, half Greek Catholic – has a “disproportionate influence” in the city. They also “‘identify very strongly with the team. There’s no explanation for why this is so … This group of young athletes is a symbol for the Arab sector. We love them to death, and somewhere along the line we’ve failed. They’re our students. We’ve tried to instill in them basic moral values. If they really did what did, this is our failure and that of their parents,’” in the words of the Greek Catholic priest. In responding to the question whether the team would recover from the incident, Araf Amin replied: “‘All of us are human beings, and human beings do wrong. If we perform a bad act in secret, God in heaven sees everything. There are cases which demand punishment. But God also knows how to forgive, and if you’ve got to the place where you can ask His forgiveness, He will forgive you … We believe that if you’ve committed an offense, you must confess. It doesn’t matter whether the police manage to prove it or not. Only you yourself know that you’ve committed it. You don’t fool anyone – only yourself. You and God know the truth and you have to deal with that. You have to confess and accept the punishment. Always tell the truth, otherwise you’ve committed two offenses, both stealing and lying. But if you tell the truth, you’ll come through the trouble. There’s no other way of coping with a crime but to tell the truth. Of course, if you haven’t sinned and you don’t intend to commit an offense, fight to the end for your innocence.’” To the question, “‘Is there atonement?,’” he answered: “‘On the one hand, you take the stain with you to the end of your life, but on the other, God is very merciful, and as such He forgives people. He knows that people are weak, that they find it difficult to withstand temptation, that they’re likely to err. But He is full of mercy and compassion. God created man and so He loves him. People must, of course, express remorse and confess their mistakes and ask forgiveness for their awful inner drive that led them for a minute to do this bad thing. Then they must ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness from society, forgiveness from all those whom they’ve hurt … And then we have to forgive … If we abandon them, what will happen? That’s not a solution. The Messiah told us: “Bring all the sinners to me.” And that’s what we must do. If someone falls, we must help them get up.’”
Yediot Haifa, August 8, 2008
A delegation from the Chief Rabbinate headed by Haifa Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Sha’ar Hashuv Hacohen, participated in the recently-held Lambeth conference in London. According to the report in the Yediot Haifa (August 8), the conference issued a “‘halahkic ruling’” in which it annulled the “famous historical fundamental premise that God had as it were rejected the people of Israel as the chosen people and replaced with the Anglican church (sic).”
Ma’ariv, August 11, 2008
According to research published by Armenian scholar Dr. Abraham Terian, Jesus may have played a game similar to cricket in his childhood in the Galilee. An ancient Armenian manuscript which he has analyzed suggests that Jesus played a game in which a ball is hit with a club. In his recently-published translation of the “Armenian Gospel of the Infancy,” a manuscript he discovered a decade ago at the Saint James Armenian Monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem, Terian has ostensibly identified a reference to Jesus playing with a ball with a group of friends. Instructed to watch his master’s house, the young apprentice skives off, “carrying a bat and ball in his hand,” to play with his friends “on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and thus demonstrated to them his ability to walk on water.”
HaModia, August 6, 2008
The Jewish community in Croatia recently expressed its outrage at the “Christian” funeral given to Dinko Šakić, a Nazi collaborator who served as the commander of Jasenovac concentration camp, known as the “Auschwitz of the Balkans.” Dinko died last week at the age of 86 in a Croatian prison where he was serving a 20-year sentence. Among the eulogies given at the funeral was one which called on “‘all Croatians to be proud of Šakić.’” The Israeli ambassador added his complaints, relating primarily to the fact that the officiating priest did not pronounce “‘what should have been said’” nor denounced the above statement.