September 9 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review………….September 9, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, interfaith activities, and archaeology. Of these:

3 dealt with anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
5 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with interfaith activities
1 dealt with archaeology
1 was a book review

The article in this week’s Review focused primarily on various aspects related to Christian life in Israel.
Anti-missionary Activity
Yom L’Yom, September 4; BeKehila, September 4; HaModia, August 29, 2008
HaModia (August 29) reported that the Israeli Foreign Ministry and other “official bodies” were due to participate in an event celebrating the sixty-year anniversary of the State of Israel organized by NCMI and other organizations, including the Jewish community in Norway. A Norwegian Jewish organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism protested to Yad L’Achim over the fact, adding that MK Michael Melchior had also agreed to serve as the event’s main speaker. Melchior responded that this is the “‘central event held by Christian Friends of Israel organizations, in which Jewish bodies also participate. I therefore complied with the request to appear as the main speaker on this evening of salute to Israel.’”
A piece in Yom L’Yom (September 4) related to the recent investigative article by Techya Barak in Yediot Ahronot (see previous Reviews) noting surprise – and approval – that while her report could have appeared in a piece by Yad L’Achim, it was actually printed in a national paper. Naturally, however, Yad L’Achim took the opportunity following its publication to protest to the Attorney General, claiming that it contained proof that the “missionaries” had violated the law prohibiting the offering of benefits to induce someone to convert, including an appeal to minors, together with that of illegally entering prohibited military areas.
In response to a question put to the Minister of Internal Security regarding a similar “missionary” violation of the law, Avi Dichter replied in the following words: “‘On May 1, 2008 the Information Organizer visited the soup kitchen at 4 HaKovshim St., Tel Aviv. There were 60 people there, the majority of them homeless persons, drug addicts, and the impoverished. Likewise, there were 12 workers from the organization, the majority of them young and/or recovered addicts who volunteer there. One of the workers sang a song of welcome in the name (of that man, Yeshu), after which a free meal was distributed. It was discerned that the place serves as a house of abomination (prayer, in the original) on Shabbat, both for the workers and for some of the population which uses it, primarily the homeless. At the same time, no activity was discerned which indicated any violation of the law – merely charitable work conducted by a faithful organization to aid and assist the needy. Moreover, from a questionnaire distributed by the Organizer it is clear that the workers do not promise any financial or material benefits to any of those who come in order to induce them to convert. No criminal activity is therefore involved.’” [Editor’s note: the additions in brackets appear in the original source.] Christian Zionism
Israel Post, August 26; Yediot Ahronot, August 31; Haaretz, September 5, 2008
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has announced a new series of projects in the run-up to the Jewish holidays (Israel Post, August 26). According it its director, Yechiel Eckstein, the organization is to provide 12,500 children with school equipment for the new year and a further 2,500 with furniture. Likewise, it is contributing over 2 million shekels’ worth of food packages to 14,000 people and 10 million shekels to help heat the homes of 42,000 elderly. Immediately following the holidays, the IFCJ is due to initiate a project designed to donate 1,500 shekels each to 10,750 Holocaust survivors in Israel and the diaspora.
A moving article in Yediot Ahronot (August 31) described the effect of the IFCJ’s programs on children in Israel, depicting how the mere existence of a table on which to do homework is absent in many homes of families who live below the poverty line. “‘Now I can’t wait until the end of the vacation. I want to go back to school already and do my homework in my new room,’” said one of the recipients, an eight-year-old girl from the south of the country. One of the primary aims of the project was to afford children greater privacy. In some cases, the bill for the furniture was written on the child’s own name, to avoid the possibility that it would be forfeited (confiscated), minors not being liable to such action.
Christians in Israel
Yediot Ramat-Gan, September 5; Kol HaIr, September 5; Haaretz, September 4; Ma’ariv, September 2; Yediot Ahronot, September 1, 2008
In a column entitled “The City by number,” Kol HaIr (September 5) reported on the demographic statistics of “Christians in Jerusalem.” According to these, the Christian community in the city numbers around 15,000 persons and constitutes 2% of the city’s population. This has fallen from 31,000 (19%) in 1946 due to the series of wars and the effects of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Christian population’s birth rate is lower than that of both the Jewish and Muslim communities, standing at 2.14 in contrast to 2.75 amongst the Jewish population and four children per Muslim family on average. The Christian community in Israel in general is split between Arab and non-Arab Christians, the latter composed of nuns, priests, foreign administrative workers and foreign workers in general, and Christian immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In Jerusalem, the Arab-Christian community is the more sizable one, numbering around 12,500 (83% of the city’s Christian populace), the non-Arab community numbering only 2,600. 44% of the Christian population of Jerusalem lives within the walls of the Old City, the next largest concentration being in Beit Hanina (2,300 persons). Around 26% of the community is scattered throughout the remainder of the city’s neighborhoods. The Arab-Christian population of the city is characterized by its age – older on average than the rest of the populace.
According to a second report, in Yediot Ramat-Gan (September 5), the Christian populace is also well-represented among the growing number of homeless in Israel. However, the percentage of the Christian populace among the poor in the State of Israel was reported in Yediot Ahronot (September 1) as 32% in 2007, the third lowest of all the communities in the country after secular Israelis and post-1990-immigrants, the highest being the Beduin resident in unrecognized locations. The reason for the poverty levels was attributed to the lack of infrastructure – education, roads, electricity, and water, etc.
On the other hand, Haaretz (September 4) noted that while the Christian community receives the least State support, it reaches the greatest accomplishments. The school in Abilene, for example, is about to become the first Arab academic campus in Israel. Currently, the village has 1,300 students studying in its various facilities. According to the report, although the Mar Elias educational system is Catholic, a large part of its staff is in fact Jewish, while 60% of the students are Muslim. Its academic framework is linked to the University of Indianapolis and its curriculum includes computer studies, environmental studies, and communications. In recent years, the Christian school system has risen to the top of the ladder in Israel, recording both the highest levels of excellence in matriculation exams and the highest number of qualifiers to take the latter – together with the lowest number of drop-outs. The success of the school system is attributed to “‘investment in the essence of education – a devoted administration, teachers with a sense of responsibility and commission – rather than in the surrounding politics.’”
According to a report in Ma’ariv (September 2), Dula ben Yehuda, one of the daughters of Eliezer ben Yehuda, “the reviver of the Hebrew language,” died recently at the age of 104. Somewhat surprisingly, having donated her body to scientific research, she was buried in the “International Cemetery of the Apostolic Messianic Alliance” [i.e. the CM&A cemetery] on Emek Rephaim Street in Jerusalem – next to her husband, Max Whitman, who was a Christian. “Despite this, one of her grandsons said Kaddish at the graveside,” noted the historian Dr. Yossi Lang. According to the latter, this was the decision not of Dula herself but of her executor. In an article devoted to the ben Yehuda family, Lang also revealed that Jemima, Eliezer’s oldest daughter, married a Christian – a Scottish officer by the name of Philip Langstaff Orde Guy.
Jewish-Christian Relations
Jerusalem Post, September 8, 2008
The World Evangelical Alliance, a Canadian-based international evangelical organization, recently issued a document known as the “Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism Today” which, according to Jewish protests, “called for the “targeting” of European Jews “for conversion.” “‘It is our prayer that the Berlin Declaration 2008 will prove to be equally useful in supporting the work of taking the Gospel to the Jew first,’” the theological commission’s executive director, Dr. David Parker, stated. In response, ADL national director, Abraham Foxman, declared: “‘Promoting a campaign to convert Jews away from their faith is a serious affront to the Jewish people and disrespectful to Judaism’s own teachings,’” while ADL director of interfaith policy, Rabbi Eric Greenberg added, “‘To issue this declaration from Berlin, where the Nazis directed their Final Solution to exterminate the Jewish people is the height of insensitivity.’” David Rosen was further quoted as saying that, “evangelicals could be divided into three groups: those who believed they had an obligation to actively proselytize among Jews, those who thought that ultimately Jews will have to accept Christian belief, but that God will facilitate that in due course, and those who believe that since there is an original covenant between God and the Jewish people they should not be involved in proselytizing. Some of the groups that were most energetic for Israel tended to be the strongest believers in the need to convert Jews, he said.”
Interfaith Activities
Yedion Afula Va-ha-Emakim, August 29, 2008
A joint delegation of students from Nir HaEmek and Diburiyya returned this week from a week-long trip to Germany under the aegis of a “Jewish Christian” organization whose purpose is to promote knowledge of the other and co-existence between Jews and Arabs. Last year, Nir HaEmek hosted a German delegation. The “Israeli” group also visited Bergen Belsen.
Yediot Haifa, August 29, 2008
As part of its scheduled project to investigate the “world of Jesus,” the Discovery Channel recently sponsored the CT-scanning of a collection of 2000-year old skulls in the effort to reveal as much as possible concerning life in Israel in the first century C.E. It is hoped that the scanning will provide information about the internal structure and bodies of persons living during that period. The series will examine Jesus’ life and life in Israel in general during the Second Temple period. British facial artists will then clothe the results with “skin and bones” in order to obtain a realistic picture of how people looked in that period. These reconstructions will then serve as the basis for the selection of actors to play various parts in the simulation.
Book Review
Haaretz, September 5, 2008
Josh Nathan-Kazis reviewed Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family in Haaretz (September 5), writing that “there is perhaps no more shocking revelation in ‘The Family,’ Jeff Sharlet’s new expose of Christian fundamentalism in America, than the one that implicates Senator Hillary Clinton, the could-have-been Democratic nominee for president, in what she might call a vast right-wing conspiracy.” According to the review, the Family “is so secret that it lacks a formal name. Sometimes known the Fellowship, other times as the Family, the group has roots that run deep among Washington’s power brokers … Its members believe that God effects His will through politicians and business leaders, and so they minister directly to the powerful, organizing prayer cells in government offices and boardrooms in Washington and beyond. The cells work quietly, through the system, to promote a Christian fundamentalist agenda. The long-term goal, says Sharlet, is to project America’s power across the globe as a vehicle for Jesus.” According to Nathan-Kazis, “The organization that would become the Family first came into being in the midst of the labor unrest that plagued the Western seaboard in the 1930s. Abraham Vereide, the Norwegian immigrant preacher who founded the group and led it through its early years, became convinced that Christianity could play a role in the normalization of labor relations … Writes Sharlet, ‘Elite fundamentalists … did not care much about sin; they cared about salvation, a concept they understood in terms of nations, not souls, embodied by the rulers to whom God had given power.’ This is Christianity stripped down to its barest, most brutal core. [Doug] Coe [“the Family’s publicity-shy leader”] calls it ‘Jesus plus nothing.’” As Nathan-Kazis noted, “There’s a   thin line between reverence for the organizational stratagems of Hitler and reverence for his purposes, of course. Sharlet argues that Coe & Co. cross this line with abandon. As he traces the Family’s history from its founding in the 1930s to today, he shows how it has consistently operated toward anti-democratic ends with sympathies and rhetoric bordering on the fascistic.”