September 25 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review – September 25, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, interfaith activities, music, and archaeology. Of these:

6 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
3 dealt with the Pope
1 dealt with archaeology
1 dealt with music
1 was a book review
This week’s Review focused on a range of anti-missionary activities, together with a lengthy article devoted to Dave Pickwitt’s “Door of Hope” ministry.
Anti-missionary Activity
Mishpaha, September 11, 18; Yediot Yerushalayim, September 19; HaMahaneh HeHaredi, September 18; BeKehila, September 18; Yom L’Yom, August 28, 2008

Mishpaha (September 11) ran last week’s story of the “missionary” whose conversion attempts Yad L’Achim is endeavoring to foil (see last week’s Review).
According to a report published in BeKehila (September 18), Yediot Yerushalayim, September 19), Mishpaha (September 18), and HaMahane HeHaredi (September 18), two “missionary” families, in Bat Yam and Jerusalem have sent their children to religious kindergartens this year. Neria Arbov is a “well known missionary figure who stars in Yad L’Achim’s publicity” whose decision to send his son to a religious kindergarten is being seen as an “embarrassing provocation” by other parents, while Seth ben Haim and John Theodor are a “couple of gentile missionaries who serve as the heads of missionary congregations in Jerusalem; one of them is married to a Christian woman and the other to a Jewish apostate … Seth ben Haim wears misleading religious garb, including a yarmulke and fringes, and was even recently thrown out of the synagogue in which he was ostensibly a member. According to BeKehila, “the parents object, justly, that the missionary children influence their children and that they themselves are forced to deal with the questions the latter ask about ‘that man’ and so forth.” Despite their protests to the Jerusalem municipality, however, the latter “isn’t hastening to respond to their request.” Shalom Dov Lipshitz, Yad L’Achim’s director, said in regard to the incident: “‘Here is further proof that the missionaries do not balk at using any means, including the exploitation of small children in order to integrate themselves into the religious public and thus gain legitimacy as religious Jews, thereby continuing to deceive innocent Jews and persuade them to convert.’” According to Yediot Yerushalayim, a local, non-religious paper, “the Messianic Jewish stream accepts Yeshu as ‘the son of God’ and considers the New Testament and the Bible as Scripture. According to the parents in the kindergarten, they have nothing against the members of this stream but they refuse to expose their children to a Christian program. ‘These are very nice people, and I’ve got no problem with them,’ said the parent of a girl in the kindergarten.’” This report also quoted a response from the Ministry of Education, whose guidelines state that non-Jewish children cannot be registered at state-religious schools, to the effect that, in all other respects, “‘The registration of pupils at educational facilities in Jerusalem complies with the guidelines of the Ministry of Education, and the Messianic students fulfil all the conditions.’”
Yom L’Yom (August 28) related to the claim made by Mina Fenton that Christian and Messianic participation in the Jerusalem March over Sukkot should be prohibited (see previous Reviews).

Christians in Israel
Ma’ariv, September 19, 2008

Although Dave Pickwitt’s “Door of Hope” ministry to drug-addicted prostitutes in Tel Aviv has been in the news recently due to the “Messianic Code,” (Yediot Ahronot article of August 8) this lengthy article in Ma’ariv (September 19) is apparently unconnected to the latter piece. Gabi Goldman stated that her interest was piqued “by accident” when a friend informed her that someone was giving free meals to Tel Aviv prostitutes on Friday nights (Erev Shabbat). Having paid a visit, she was “hooked” and spent some two months volunteering and assisting Dave part-time. In talking to Dave, he told her that, having started drinking with his father at the age of twelve, and taking drugs with his mother at the age of thirteen, he finally “‘made a deal with God. I saw that I was going to die, and I said to Him: I’m wasting my life. Take it and do something effective with it. And He listened.’” While Gabi’s story focused on the prostitutes rather than on Dave himself, it was clear that she was aware that the work he is doing, “funded entirely by contributions, which are only sufficient to pay the bills and buy basic food stuffs which he uses to feed the prostitutes – rice, eggs, salad, bread with chocolate spread, coffee with milk,” is the responsibility of the State – which is failing miserably to fulfill it. This was confirmed by the “clients” themselves: “‘What you’re doing for us, no one else is doing. You give us all this and you don’t want anything in return. Even if we offer you sex, you don’t want it. Really, I’m saying this out of love: no one takes care of us like you do.’” The volunteers who man the shelter and keep it going, are “Christians who believe in helping others.” This does not prevent anti-missionary forces from seeking Dave out and “attempting to catch Christians in the act.” Goldman did express astonishment, however, at the fact that Naomi, one of the prostitutes with whom she spoke, had survived twelve overdoses: “God apparently loves her a lot, otherwise it’s hard to explain how she survived.” In Gabi’s eyes, Dave’s strongest argument is the miracle: “Once they [the prostitutes] too were a neighbor’s child; now, they’re two girls whom I’m leaving behind, thin figures who gradually fade from the eye and disappear from the heart, continuing their [nightly] routine, abandoned. The music which erupts from the radio makes it difficult to silence Dave’s voice which echoes in my head. What separates me from them is only a miracle.”

The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, September 22; Yated Ne’eman, September 22; Makor Rishon, September 19, 2008

In a response to Elitzur Segel’s article last week, S.Z. Levinger wrote to Makor Rishon (September 19) to correct the impression the former had given of R. Yitzhak Nissim’s attitude towards the Pope. According to Levinger, rather than refusing to visit Paul VI, no meeting was ever scheduled. The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi did make his participation in a welcoming ceremony, offering the Pope bread and salt, conditional on Paul VI’s willingness to make a reciprocal visit to his office in Jerusalem, “in the accepted fashion of state visits.” In Levinger’s opinion, the Pope was unwilling to make this “minimal” gesture even to the President. He also took pains not to mention the words “State of Israel” in order not to be seen as recognizing the existence of the latter. Likewise, although the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Eliahu Pardes, also welcomed Paul VI to the city with bread and salt, the Pope did not exchange any words with him.
Haaretz (September 22) and Yated Ne’eman (September 22) both carried the story of new research which has revealed that “Pius XII ‘didn’t spare any efforts in order to intervene on behalf of Jews’ during the Holocaust. This was emphasized by Benedict XVI at a seminar organized by an American Jewish group called ‘Paving the Way.’ The authors, both Jews and Catholics, have collected over 200 pages of documentation, including diplomatic telegraphs and newspaper clippings, some of which have never been published,” which demonstrate, in their opinion, the fact that “Pius acted secretly on behalf of the Jews during the war, and even received recognition for his work from Jewish leaders,” including Golda Meir. Benedict added that “in 1945, about half a year after the end of the war, a group of 80 concentration- camp representatives went to Rome to thank the Pope for his help.” In response, historians are insisting that Pius XII never mentioned the Jews publicly during the Holocaust and that the “true documents” relating to his period of office are still concealed in the Vatican” (Yated Ne’eman).

Haaretz, September 19, 2008

New excavations in Sepphoris (Zippori) have unearthed a large Roman temple. According to archaeologists, its remains “indicate that Zippori, the capital of the Jewish Galilee until the third century, also had a sizable pagan population, with sufficient financial resources and influence to build a large, impressive structure in the heart of the urban center. The building’s remains indicate that Jews, pagans and later also Christians maintained their cultures side by side in the city’s public space.” The discovery also “corroborates Talmudic sources that mention the relations between Jews and Christians … As in other places, such as Caesarea, the Christians favored building their houses of worship on the ruins of pagan temples, for two main reasons: The new building covered the temple to the pagan god, and the latter also provided high-quality construction materials.”

Haaretz, September 19, 2008
The IBA and Hatav Hashmini (“The Eighth Cord”) record company recently released a five-set CD collection called Shirat Hatanach – “Songs of the Bible.” “About one fifth of the songs are being presented for the first time, and include recordings of live concerts and studio performances … [as well as] some songs that were once banned or restricted from broadcast because their content was deemed subversive or inappropriate.” According to Ofra Helfman, who collected and collated many of the songs, “‘This is music from over 50 years of Israeli songwriting. The range of songs is very broad … I wanted the collection to represent how Israeli song has ‘seen’ the Bible over the last six decades. The songs span a range of periods, so you realize that in the 1950s certain verses from the Song of Songs – such as ‘Nitzanim niru ba’aretz (“The flowers appear on the earth”) – were set to music and became tunes for folk dances. From the 1960s on, people started writing songs about biblical stories, treating the characters with humor.’ By the late 1960s, Helfman says, ‘You can already find protest and criticism in such songs … Attention began to be paid to the heroes’ weaknesses. From this point on, the setting of verses to music also stopped being dance-oriented and moved in a more anthem-like direction.’ Helfman considers the fact that the Bible no longer serves as a source of inspiration to be a symptom of cultural poverty. ‘This is our history book, the geography book of the ancient peoples. It has fascinating melodramas, betrayal, murder, weaknesses. There are good guys and bad guys, crime and punishment,’ she says, adding that today, we are witnessing a certain ‘trendy’ return to other sources … ‘Suddenly there is no room for the Bible, and instead there is use of sources such as the writings of the Jewish sages and Jewish prayers. I consider the collection as a kind of musical stroll down the paths of the Bible. I hope it will arouse the curiosity of teens who are studying the Bible in school, and will help them, through the songs, to love it. To me, that’s what the collection can contribute.’”

Book Review
Kol HaIr, September 19, 2008

Eli Eshed reviewed Kathleen McGowan’s The Expected One (Touchstone, 2006) – and was very unfavorably impressed: “Did you think that the Da Vinci Code criticized the Vatican? Kathleen McGowan is sure that she is the messiah. Eli Eshed is pretty sure she’s not.” Eshed characterized the book as a “type of religious-mystic-feminist thriller” – the latter element constituting only reason, in his opinion, which accounts for its popularity in Israel, where it has become a best seller even without the publicity and PR hype it has received elsewhere. It “tells the story of a woman who discovers that she is the offspring of Yeshu and Miriam Magdalene, and that she is actually herself a feminine form of the messiah who is destined to reveal the gospel which Miriam wrote, and does indeed disclose it.” Not only is the book’s protagonist the messiah, but in subsequent interviews, McGowan has insisted that the novel’s heroine is in fact based on her own life. When asked for proofs, McGowan alluded to genealogical evidence going back 2000 years and visions of Mary Magdalene. Eshed’s comment in response was: “It’s interesting that she didn’t bring her parents as witnesses – and interesting why not.” He objected to more than this as false, claiming that, despite her assertion that she has “researched” the subject, the book is replete with errors and mistakes. “Ultimately, it appears that all McGowan’s information concerning Yeshu’s life, Miriam Magdalene, and their offspring is based on visions and delusions and nothing more … The whole story gives off the overpowering sense of a bad smell and arrogance. The word ‘thriller’ shouts out from every corner. When you read the author’s claims, you’re astonished by the pathetic nature of the heap of lies.”