Caspari Center Media Review – October 13, 2008
During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, and the Bible. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Judaism
3 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
This week’s Review included two items related to Messianic Jews: the promised article in HaZofeh on “Strangers in our midst” and a related item in connection with Jewish extremism.
HaZofeh, October 3; Yated Ne’aman, Septermber 29, 2008
In the wake of the “scandal” of Messianic believers sending their children to religious kindergarten, HaZofeh (October 3) carried an article on the subject as promised in the paper last week. Using false names for the parents interviewed, the latter uniformly expressed their surprise at discovering that people whom they had assumed to be “normal” – and Jewish –were in fact “Christians.” When “Orit,” for example, had Seth ben Haim’s daughter over to visit with her daughter, the two going in the same kindergarten, she was astonished to find that when they sat down to eat, the visitor “asked all those sitting at the table to hold hands and to thank and to pray to Yeshu for the food he had given them. Orit didn’t know what had hit her. She explained to the guest that they didn’t behave that way in her house but gave thanks to God. The visitor wasn’t fazed, however, She replied that if that was so, she wouldn’t be able to eat with them. ‘Afterwards,’ says Orit, ‘she changed her mind and asked to pray on her own.’ In front of Orit and her daughter’s amazed eyes, she thanked Yeshu for the food and only then began to eat. ‘Until that moment, it hadn’t crossed my mind that the family was Christian,’ says Orit. Our daughters go the same kindergarten in the neighborhood and from our perspective, the parents, all the children come from the same background, more or less. This family also appeared to be religious Jews in every way. They’re a nice family who up until then had made a positive impression. I even remember that I met them once at the mall and the son was wearing a yarmulke and fringes. There wasn’t any way to tell that they were a missionary family.’” According to the piece, the parents should have known from the kindergarten that there was a problem, since Seth’s daughter would consistently correct her teachers when they said that the children should give thanks to God: no, we should give thanks to Yeshu. Surprisingly, although the teachers knew, they apparently failed to inform the parents.
The parents’ objections stemmed primarily from their overwhelming – and intractable – conviction that Messianic families who send their children to religious kindergartens and schools have only one reason for doing so: to “win souls.” From their perspective, using young children to achieve this aim is despicable behavior. From a legal point of view, they were able to turn to the Ministry of Education in order to have the children removed due to a law on the statute books which prohibits non-Jews attending religious schools. (In the case of the ben Haims and Arbovs, since neither mothers are Jewish, the children are also not Jewish according to halakhah.) They are also disturbed by the fact that young children do not have the intellectual tools to deal with religious issues. Thus, for example, Einat’s son came home from kindergarten and asked why they didn’t believe in Yeshu: “‘He told me that N. had said that Yeshu lives in everyone’s heart and we must give thanks to him. A four-year-old, when you come to him with such things, can’t accept religious answers with intellectual tools. He didn’t stop with his questions, and eventually we explained it to him in terms he managed to understand – that when N. came back with her messages again in kindergarten, my son told her that Yeshu was an ordinary Jew who went mad and in any case he died many years ago. His answer to N. was in line with the answer he got at home. For a child who comes from a completely different religion it was difficult to deal with what our son told her and she burst out in tears … I don’t need my four-year-old son asking me why we aren’t Christians or coming and telling me that his friend in kindergarten tells him that Yeshu was a righteous man and that he also wants to be like Yeshu.’” Einat was also concerned for Seth’s own daughter: “‘… to put your child into a kindergarten whose purpose is entirely different from your faith at home, is a sort of emotional abuse.’”
It was difficult to understand precisely what “exposed” the Messianic families as “Christian” in the eyes of those who felt that they had been deceived: “‘They integrate themselves into the community in which they live and they hunt people … But we see and hear them. On one Friday evening recently we heard the sound of Christian singing from one of their homes. We could clearly see that there were dozens of people there. They held hands and sang.’” As long as it was known that Seth ben Haim was a pastor at King of Kings Assembly – and thus openly a “Christian” – people didn’t mind. When he established his own ministry, however, it “‘gradually became a clandestine group.’” Some of the motives attributed to Messianic Jews are also very reminiscent of Christian Zionist axioms: “‘You have to remember that the motivation which lies behind this missionary activity is ideology. The missionaries see the conversion of as many people as possible as their purpose in life. Their faith decrees that the more Jews who convert to Christianity the quicker the time of Yeshu of Nazareth’s revelation as the messiah will come.’”
The remainder of the article was devoted to Yehuda Deri’s response to the “missionary phenomenon,” in which he detailed the various activities he is engaged in fighting against in Beersheva.
In the wake of the attempt on Prof. Zev Sternhell’s life in a fashion similar to that of Amiel Ortiz – a bomb planted outside his door – the public has urged a proper investigation. Since Sternhell’s comments were anti-right-wing, it has been mooted that those responsible were settlers. In an article investigating the matter (Yated Ne’eman, September 29), the author suggested that the explosive device which detonated at a police post in Ali in 2006, a similar one near the monastery in Beit Jamal in 2007, the explosion of a small device in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem a month later, and that which severely injured Ami, were all the work of the same group responsible for the attack against Sternhell.
Yediot Eilat, September 2; Yediot Ahronot, September 29; Haaretz, October 3, 2008
Following reports that Yechiel Eckstein makes $824,000 a year, Haaretz (October 3) published a brief piece noting this fact – and the fact that the IFCJ which he directs, and which is considered to be the pioneer in raising funds from evangelical Christians, raised $75 million last year. $42 million was given as charity, while $30 million went on salaries and support for various projects.
According to a report in Yediot Ahronot (September 29), on a backpacking trip to Papua New Guinea – “considered an especially fascinating place to visit because there are still cannibal tribes living there” – Omer Polk and Omer Ribak, both 24, met some Christian friends of Israel, “a group of several hundred devout Christians who admire the State of Israel, pray for its safety, and celebrate its feasts.” The two also met the President, who was celebrating his birthday on the top of Mount Williams. “When he heard that they were from Israel, he embraced and kissed them. ‘We only had to say “Israel” and he immediately invited us to join his entourage,’ said Polk. During the journey, the President informed them that he has written forty-four books, three of them on Israel. He also told them that he has visited Israel twice and that he dreams of coming again. ‘I climbed Masada and I remember how beautiful Jerusalem is,’ he told them … ‘Israel is a special country in which people feel its spirituality and sanctity. If I come again, I’ll visit you,’ he promised them.” The meeting even made front-line news in Papua New Guinea’s only newspaper, as well the television news (also the one and only channel).
In a brief review of tourist statistics in the run-up to the Jewish holidays, a report in Yediot Eilat (September 26) intimated that “Jerusalem hotels are full of Christian evangelicals who have come to celebrate their festival, the ‘Feast of Tabernacle’ [sic; the name was simply transliterated into Hebrew and then explained as being Atzeret Chag Sukkot].”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, September 26, 2008
An unfortunate Christian resident in Kfar Kana in the Galilee is unable to visit her father’s grave because, since he was buried in a Christian cemetery in Kfar Ma’alul near Nazareth, the remains of the cemetery have become a military base. The army is refusing Saloa Salaam-Kobti permission to visit in case such permission sets a precedent. Saloa never knew her father, who worked as a train driving during the British Mandate period and was killed in 1948 while her mother was pregnant with her. She was born two weeks after her family and the residents of Kfar Ma’alul were expelled by the IDF. They never returned because the village was bombed, with only two churches and a Muslim cemetery surviving. The remains of the Christian cemetery are now part of a closed military base used by the Air Force.
Makor Rishon, October 3, 2008
In an interview with Prof. Avraham Grossman, author of a book on Rashi, the latter’s relations to Christianity were briefly covered. “His third task, which became more central over the years, was the polemic with Christianity. At the end of the eleventh century, the Church was growing in strength (following the ‘Walk to Canossa’). Popular monks, a growing phenomenon, passed through the villages and the Christianity of the surroundings became more significant and more missionary. In his commentaries on Proverbs and Daniel, for example (in the manuscripts rather than the censored printed editions), a fierce polemic exists with Christianity. Rashi was one of the great disputers against Christianity. He saw many apostates in his life, many persecutions, and a lot of destructive anti-Jewish propaganda.”