November 5 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review – November 5, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 18 articles on the subjects of Messianic Judaism, attitudes towards Christianity, Christians in Israel, Christian sites, the Pope and the Vatican, archaeology, and the arts. Of these:

1 dealt with Messianic Judaism
2 dealt with attitudes to Christianity
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian sites
8 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
2 dealt with archaeology
2 dealt with the arts
The article in this week’s Review continued to focus on the debate over Pope Pius XII, with some additional interesting attitudes towards Christianity in general.
Messianic Judaism
Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2008

In light of Governor Sarah Palin’s criticism of Barack Obama’s religious (in)sensibilities, Stephen Spector, chairman of the English department at Stony Brook University and author of the forthcoming Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism (Oxford), asked five questions of John McCain’s VP in relation to her own religious views (Jerusalem Post, October 28). In reviewing her position regarding whether “Jews should convert to Christianity,” Spector noted that, “Two months ago, Palin sat in the Wasilla Bible Church and heard her pastor introduce a spokesman for Jews for Jesus named David Brickner. That was reported soon afterward. What wasn’t noted is how closely tied her pastor and her church are to that messianic Jewish organization. Brickner had spoken there in 2004 and had really connected with the congregation, said her pastor, Larry Kroon. In fact, Kroon added that Jews for Jesus is so important to him that it’s one of the reasons that he’s a pastor. Messianic Jews believe that Jews can accept Yeshua (Jesus), but still retain their Jewish identity and religious traditions. Many Jewish leaders condemn them. Elie Wiesel, for example, calls them hypocrites who do not have the courage to declare that they have rejected their people. In church that day, Palin heard Brickner report on the ‘good news’ that Jews for Jesus missionaries in Tel Aviv had handed out 132,000 tracts on messianic Judaism. This, he said, was the first step in a six-year evangelistic campaign in Israel. He added that terrorism is God’s judgment on the Jews for refusing to accept Jesus.”
Attitudes towards Christianity
Israel HaYom, October 28; Ma’ariv, October 30, 2008
In search of “ethnic” food in the Old City of Jerusalem, Hila Alpert stumbled – in quite literal fashion – upon a bakery on the Via Dolorasa famous for its pastry (it only makes one kind; the whole shop is devoted to this delicacy) (Israel HaYom, October 28). Noting that the Via Dolorosa is not made for high heels, Alpert commented that “the thought of Yeshu falling on his knees on these streets only made my steps falter further.”
Looking at Dag Söderberg’s recent Swedish hit, Bible Illuminated: The Book, Tzach Yoked introduced the subject of a “popular” Bible by saying that, “In the Christian community, the book [i.e., the Bible] is divided into the ‘Old Testament,’ which is primarily based on stories from the Bible known to us [Jews], and the ‘New Testament,’ which tells the story of Yeshu and his disciples” (Ma’ariv, October 30). According to Yoked, even the Chief Rabbi of Sweden has given his blessing to the book (presumably only the first part, not the second).
Christians in Israel
Hadashot Haifa ve-ha-Tzafon, October 20; Yediot Ahronot, October 16, 2008

Hadashot Haifa ve-ha-Tzafon (October 20) ran the story of the united Jewish-Christian list running in the municipal elections (see previous Review).
Although not strictly falling under this category, we include here a report published in Yediot Afula ve-ha-Amakim (October 31) indicating that for the past month Alexis Weinshein, a member of Maccabi Kfar Kana, has been living in a church in Nazareth. Without sufficient funds to rent an apartment, the 28-year-old football player decided that his best option was a local church. The latter was happy to extend him temporary accommodation, but when this started to look as though it was turning into a more permanent solution, asked his team to make other arrangements for him. Weinshein himself didn’t make “a big deal of his being Jewish and living in a church: ‘They welcomed me warmly, treated me well, and when I wanted to pray I prayed to the God of everyone. They didn’t care if I was Jewish or Arab but related to me as a human being … To live in a church isn’t the healthiest thing, because there’s no privacy there … Overall, I have only good words to say about the church officials.’”
Christian Sites
Haaretz, October 31, 2008

In a lengthy article in Haaretz (October 31) entitled “Pleasure hunting: The gospel of Nazareth,” Ronit Vered examined “some of the Galilean city’s select delights”: “There is a reason why we repeatedly return to the streets of Nazareth. The lovely inner courtyards, and the heavy domes and arches of the magnificent Ottoman architecture are part of the reason. So are the friends we have acquired in the course of hours and days of wandering the alleys of the Old City, as well as the dramatic icons of the Crucifixion. But why deny it? The main attraction is the food … Fauzi Azar Inn, Yinon’s charming, cosmopolitan guesthouse, has helped to revitalize Nazareth. It was followed by the Jesus Trail, a 65-kilometer route of walks in the footsteps of Jesus.”

The Pope and the Vatican
Makor Rishon, October 28; Jerusalem Post, October 31, November 3; Haaretz, October 30 (Hebrew and English editions), 31 (Hebrew and English editions); Yediot Ahronot, October 31, 2008

According to a report in Haaretz (October 30), “Vatican officials are furious over Minister Isaac Herzog’s statement … that the planned beatification of Pope Pius XII … is ‘unacceptable.’” It indicated that “Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican is expected to be called today for a meeting during which the officials of the Catholic Church will convey a similar message” expressing their “disappointment” over Herzog’s remarks. Herzog himself has reiterated that his comments “represented his own personal opinion, and not that of the government,” while “Officials at the Foreign Ministry yesterday said the quarrel was ‘unnecessary.’” The furore is taking place at the same time as a planned interfaith meeting, part of the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community. According to the same article, as also covered in the Jerusalem Post (October 31) and Yediot Ahronot (October 31), the Jewish delegation asked Benedict XVI to postpone the Vatican’s decision regarding Pius XII’s beatification until all the relevant archival materials have been examined. Benedict is said to have agreed to take the request into account: “‘One member of our delegation told the pope ‘please do not move ahead with beatification of Pius XII before the Vatican archives can be made accessible for objective historical analysis’ and the pope said, ‘I am looking into it, I am considering it seriously,’ [David] Rosen [a member of the delegation] told reporters” (Haaretz, October 31). If Benedict does acceded to the request, the beatification process is likely to be delayed at least five years, the time required to catalogue the material relating to Pius XII’s office (ibid). According to the same paper a day earlier, the delegation was also expected to “discuss the reinstitution of the Latin Mass, which calls for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, and ask Benedict not to support missionary work among Jews.”

According to Yediot Ahronot (October 31), the Vatican is also engaged in a dialogue to formulate a caption for Yad Vashem which will satisfy both parties. The same piece reported that, despite the current tension, Benedict is still hoping to visit Israel during his papacy. The report quoted David Rosen as saying that the primary obstacle to a papal visit lies in the fact that the pontiff would be required to meet both Israeli and Palestinian leaders: “‘If the pope decides – and there’s great doubt over whether he is in fact interested in doing so – to meet with the leaders of Hamas, he’s likely to kindle a conflagration. To the same extent, if he doesn’t meet with them, he’s likely to endanger the lives of Christian believers living under its control.’”
Rosen also commented on the motive behind the push to canonize Pius XII (Jerusalem Post, November 3): “‘There are those in the Church who, for the sake of simplifying things, can be called liberals. And these clergymen are interested in distancing themselves from the ‘old Church’ before Vatican II. By doing so they can confront the past in a less apologetic way by stating that before the reforms of Vatican II the Church was in a sense inadequate. In contrast, there are those in the Church who, generally speaking, can be termed conservatives. Benedict XVI is one of them. He would like to show the continuity between the ‘old Church’ and the ‘new Church.’” According to a priest resident in Jerusalem, “‘To this day the beatification of Pius, who symbolizes the Church before the reforms of Vatican II, is seen by conservative Catholics as a necessary step in reconciling the old Church with the new Church.”” Whatever may be the internal ecclesiastical reasons, most Jewish leaders point out the need for Catholic sensitivity to Jewish sensibilities with regard to Pius XII’s role in the Holocaust. According to the Post, “In 1999 the Vatican and the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations appointed a joint commission of three Catholic and three Jewish scholars to address the claims against Pius. Its findings were inconclusive, in part because the commission was not given access to Vatican documents written during Pius’s pontificate.”
The religious paper Makor Rishon (October 28) weighed in with the opinion that, “Can anyone really believe that a man with such a dubious past can form a link between God and man?”
Jerusalem Post, November 3; Haaretz, October 31, 2008

A report entitled “Justice Ministry weighs how to proceed in ‘Jesus ossuary’ fraud trial” (Jerusalem Post, November 3) indicated that “the ministry has been forced to reevaluate the case after the Jerusalem District Court judge in the case advised the prosecution to reassess its position in the three-year-old trial because it failed to prove that the key suspect, Tel Aviv antiquities collector Oded Golan, had indeed faked the biblical-era artifacts.”
According to a report in Haaretz (October 31), Israeli archaeologists say that they have “unearthed the oldest Hebrew text ever found, while excavating a fortress city overlooking a valley where the Bible says David slew Goliath.” The five lines of text were written in black ink on a piece of pottery dug up at Elah or Khirbet Qeiyafa, and include the words “judge,” “slave,” and “king.” “Experts said they hoped the text would shed light on how alphabetic scripts developed. In a finding that could have symbolic value for Israel, the archaeologists said other items discovered at the fortress dig indicated there was most likely a strong king and central government in Jerusalem during the period scholars believe that David ruled the holy city and ancient Israel.”
Yediot Ahronot, November 3; Haaretz, October 31, 2008

The Guttman Museum in Tel Aviv is hosting an exhibition of drawings of the Holy Land painted by European and American Christians in the nineteenth century (Yediot Ahronot, November 3). Named “Painter-Pilgrim: Research Journeys and Yearning,” the various pictures are linked together by those of Nahum Guttman himself. The lithographs and engravings depict the “landscape of ancient Israel: from the Temple Mount to Hula and Mount Tabor.”
Yuval Avital, a graduate of the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem and the Guiseppe Verdi Conservatory in Venice, has composed a piece called “Voices” in which he attempts to combine the different musical cultures of Israel – what he calls “‘repressed Israeli musicality’” (Haaretz, October 31). “Entering the small rehearsal room in the Israeli Opera building a few weeks ago felt like a return to the primordial, formless void of the Book of Genesis. There were the sounds of Yemenite songs and hymns being sung by one of the greatest singers in our musical world – Gila Bashari – accompanied by her husband Eli, drumming on a large olive tin (in accordance with tradition) and afterward blowing a shofar. Along with this, an Ashkenazi prayer was being sung by cantor Baruch Berger, who sat beside her. Meanwhile, at the same time, Mohammed Abu Ajaj, a Negev Bedouin, sang and used a mortar-and-pestle coffee grinder as a percussion instrument, while singer-composer-dancer Esti Kenan Ofri sung Ladino Romance (Romansa). Father Gaussan from the Armenian community, Palestinian singer Riam Hiadri, and Rabbi Moshe and Shoshana Dabah, members of the Karaite community, added their hymns, prayers and murmurings to this impossible landscape of sound, while Sofia Kaikov, originally from Bukhara, with her husband Yatzek on a traditional musical instrument, sang typical Bukharan songs of lamentation. This musical whirlwind rose and twisted, changing color, texture and volume until it subsided into a dialogue accompanied by whistles from Ethiopian kessim (religious leaders) … In order to bring in all the participants from the four corners of culture, he [Avital] worked hard, visited the various communities and even explained to some of the participants what a passport is and how to obtain one. It was necessary to convince the heads of the Karaite community to approve the participation of its members, and for them to perform secret works from their musical tradition, such as lamentations that they are forbidden to utter except in the context of real mourning.” As Avital explained, “‘The ability of each of the participates to express his world, but not to isolate himself and not to shut himself in, but rather to combine with the others – that was my greatest challenge. This is a culture that is in danger of extinction. At weddings among the Bedouin the bride appears dressed in black with a jug on her head and a sword in her hand, and the young men stand around her and sing to her, and the music from a Yemenite henna ceremony verges on witchcraft, and here both Abu Ajaj and Bashari are saying that at weddings in their respective communities they now prefer an electric organ to this traditional singing … I want to make contemporary music that my grandmother can understand. And indeed Grandma Ruthie came to rehearsals and had a very good time. This gave me a green light. In ‘Voices,’ there is simultaneous singing and a multitude of voices, and noise, but there is also melody, and a human voice that tells stories, that shouts and weeps and prays, that sings ancient songs. Apparently everyone can understand all of these.’”