November 12 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review – November 12, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 17 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, the Pope and the Vatican, and the arts. Of these:

3 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
5 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
6 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 dealt with the arts
The articles in this week’s Review continued to focus on the debate over Pope Pius XII, together with the events surrounding the “discovery of the cross” ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Anti-missionary Activity
HaModia, November 7; BeKehila, November 6; Gal-Gefen, October 30, 2008

According to a report in HaModia (November 7), “The notices which were published throughout Haifa announced the coming of a world-famous missionary, who promised to his followers no less than ‘salvation and healing to the blind, deaf, lame, and mute.’” When Yad L’Achim learned of the planned conference, it attempted to persuade the Haifa auditorium in which it was scheduled to take place to cancel the contract, without success. The anti-missionary organization also failed to convince the city’s mayor to take steps to prevent the conference from occurring. It was thus forced to resort to an alleged mass demonstration outside the auditorium protesting the event and the “busloads of missionaries from ‘congregations’ [kehilot] across the country” who arrived. BeKehila (November 6), which carried the same story, identified the “world-famous” preacher as Morris Cerullo, adding that “the two brothers Shlomo and Shimon Nahum, who head the Messianic missionary congegation ‘Mevaseret Malkut’ [Herald of the Kingdom] in Jerusalem” had also joined forces with the guest speaker.

The principal of the Beit Ya’akov high school in Or Yehuda discovered last week that mezuzot and sacred books had been burned in the school – while “valuable” equipment (computers, etc.) had been left undamaged. According to the report in Gal-Gefen (October 30), “At this stage, it is still unclear whether this incident is connected to the burning of the missionary books [which took place several months ago] organized by the acting Mayor of Or Yehuda, Uzi Aaron . . . Was this a retaliatory attack by the missionaries? Uzi Aaron emphatically denies this possibility. He told Gal-Gefen, ‘There is absolutely no link between the two incidents.’”

Christian Zionism
Attractzia, November 1, 2008

At a gathering of the “World Fellowship of Christian Leaders” in Jerusalem last month, the organization awarded Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman its annual certificate of honor. Christian politicians and religious leaders from 25 countries attended the conference, including a Jordanian who “praised Ron Nachman and MK Benny Elon . . . for their work on behalf of the Land of Israel, the preservation of Judaea and Samaria, and the holy places they contain.”

Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, November 10; Haaretz, November 10 (Hebrew and English editions); Israel HaYom, November 10; Ma’ariv, November 10, 2008

Although Jesus did say that he did not come to bring peace but a sword (cf. Matt. 10:34), we might have hoped that this “prophecy” did not relate to inter-church quarrels. As the Jerusalem Post (November 10) reported, the latest incident “began as Armenian clergymen marched in an annual procession commemorating the fourth-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus. It ended with the arrival of dozens of riot policemen who separated the sides, seizing a bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead. Both men were taken away in handcuffs . . . The feud revolves around a demand by the Greek Orthodox to post a monk inside the Edicule – the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus – during the Armenian procession. The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way . . . After the brawl, the church was crowded with police holding assault rifles and equipped with riot gear, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone where tradition holds his body was laid out . . . The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulchre.” (Cf. a very similar account in Haaretz, November 10.) According to Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate, “‘This is an Armenian celebration, which we alone celebrate, without any other communities. When we celebrate alone, the whole Church of the Holy Sepulchre belongs solely to the Armenians’” (Israel HaYom, November 10). In the words of Ami Ben David in Ma’ariv (November 10), the Christian tensions in the holy city reached “an unprecedented low” with this incident.

Jewish-Christian Relations
Yediot Haifa, November 7, 2008

Archbishop Elias Chacour of Haifa has criticized Rabbi She’ar Yashuv Cohen’s statements to the Episcopal synod in Rome (see previous Reviews), and the latter has called upon his “‘learned friend for many years and my colleague on the Vatican Commission for Relations with the Chief Rabbinate, in which I have the honor of representing the Jewish side’” to retract his remarks. Cohen stated that Chacour apparently did not have access to the text of his lecture, on the theme of “The Status of Scripture in Judaism,” and therefore related to a point which Cohen had raised “‘out of a necessity to clarify my position.’” Unfortunately, the article gives no hint of precisely what the Archbishop took offense at in Cohen’s words, although it would appear that it was in relation to Pius XII.

The Pope and the Vatican
Ma’ariv, November 9; Jerusalem Post, November 7; HaZofeh, November 7; Haaretz, November 7, pp. 3, 12, 17, 2008

Ma’ariv (November 9) referred to Benedict XVI’s recent speech as designed to “put an end to the polemics surrounding the figure of Pius XII and the accusations that he did not do enough to save the Jews during the Holocaust,” adding that in response, a group of Holocaust survivors and their heirs this week created an international organization intended to prevent the beatification of Pius XII.

Michael Handelzaltz in Haaretz (November 7, p. 12) adapted the well-known Jewish joke that a Jew shipwrecked on desert island will build two synagogues, the other the one which he refuses to attend, to argue that “The only thing which isn’t disputed about Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust is that his role is disputed. The Christian church has more than 10,000 saints. While some of them were paragons of virtue, some of them didn’t particularly like their Jewish brethren, to put it mildly. But it’s not our church, we don’t pray in it, and they can make as many saints as they please. Tell me who your saints are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Sarah Honig in the Jerusalem Post (November 7) pushed the findings published by John Cornwell in his 1999 book, Hitler’s Pope, acknowledging that, “I’ve got a terrible confession to make – I don’t want to go to heaven. It’s not that I don’t relish rewards in the afterlife. It’s just that if Pope Pius XII is there, especially if exalted to saintly status by courtesy of his current Vatican successor, then in the immortal words of Huck Finn: ‘I can’t see no advantage in going where’ the former Eugenio Pacelli purportedly went. Like Huck, I’d rather be where Tom Sawyer ends up, because with Tom there’s never any pious pretension of infallibility.”

The Vatican State Secretary, on the other hand, this week attacked Cornwell’s book (Haaretz, November 7, pp. 3, 17 [Hebrew and English editions respectively]).

In another interesting twist, Yitzhak Meir in the religious paper HaZofeh (November 7) compared Pius XII not with his future successor, Benedict XVI, but with his predecessor, Pius XI. While Pius XII may or may not be worthy of sainthood because of his attitude toward the Jews, no doubt exists with regard to Pius XI in Meir’s eyes. Despite the concord that pope felt forced to sign with Hitler in 1933, his was a sole, lone voice of public protest in 1937 when he issued the papal encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” (“With burning concern”), written in German rather than Latin and ordered read in every German parish church, in which he unequivocally denounced Nazism and condemned ant-Semitism. [Editor’s note: Meir fails to acknowledge that Pius XI himself credited the encyclical’s creation and writing to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli – the future Pius XII.]

Ha’Ir – Tel Aviv, November 6, 2008

The Center for Digital Art in Holon is hosting an exhibition devoted to the messianic idea in Israeli and Polish art, named “The Chosen Ones.” The exhibition appears to be composed of fourteen pictures, most of which address themes related to the Holocaust, Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism – a fact explained by the proximity between messianism and utopianism and between the modern world and technology. The exhibition is accompanied not only by a catalogue but also by a conference devoted to the same theme. The review – a continuation of which is promised for next week – noted that the conference “focused on the traditional points of crisis [in Jewish history] (if Yeshu isn’t taken into account) of Shabbtai Tzvi (1666) and Jacob Frank (second half of the eighteenth century).”