November 27 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review – November 27, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism and sites, the Pope and the Vatican, anti-Semitism, and archaeology. Of these:

5 dealt with anti-missionary activity
3 dealt with Christian Zionism
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with Christian sites
2 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
1 dealt with archaeology
Anti-missionary activity resurfaced in this week’s Review in the wake of an “incitement campaign” conducted in the North. The global financial crisis also reached our pages, with a lengthy report on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe associated with the crisis and Israel’s need for continued Christian support as the crisis affects the State.
Anti-missionary Activities
BeKehila, November 20; HaModia, November 24; Yediot HaNegev, November 21; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, November 20; HaShavua BePetach Tikva, November 14, 2008

According to a report in Bekehila (November 20), “Last month missionaries spread through the cities and settlements of the Galilee on a campaign of incitement, with the clear intention of converting as many Jews as possible … The nature of the activity indicated that it was a broad and extensive operation with the clear purpose of taking root and causing great destruction … Tiberias, Nehariya, Ma’alot, Zfat, and Upper Nazareth were covered with huge illustrated posters lauding the name of that man and claiming him to be the one who will bring salvation.” In response to an appeal by the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim, the mayors of Tiberias and Carmiel issued orders to remove the posters. The organization simultaneously turned to the local radio station, Kol Rega, with a request that it stop broadcasting similar advertisements. The radio’s managing director complied, allegedly stating that his advertizing staff had not “understood the depth of the destructive messages and accepted them routinely on the assumption that they formed part of a legitimate national campaign.” The “missionaries” also distributed literature and made phone calls to houses in the area, from their base on Kibbutz Amihud. An “internal summary” which “reached” Yad L’Achim was reported as stating: “‘We distributed 56,000 copies of the Gospel. We held telephone conversations with 2,405 people with the intention of interesting them in learning more about that man.’” According to Yad L’Achim, the campaign cost 30 million shekels (around $9,000). Part of the missionaries’ deceptive practice was to attempt to disguise themselves as Jews by replacing a picture of the tomb of Rabbi Meir Ba’al HaNes (a revered Jewish “wonder-worker” of the first century) with the caption “Rabbi Yeshua ‘Master of the miracle.’” The campaign led Yad L’Achim’s director to a renewed call for an amendment of the law “‘which will lead to the final and complete halting of the mission.’” In light of the upcoming elections, he also issued an appeal to those belonging to Orthodox political parties to refuse to participate in any coalition without “‘a clear commitment that the law will be amended.’” The same story also ran in HaModia (November 24) and HaShavua BiYerushalayim (November 20).
HaShavua BePetach Tikva (November 14) carried the story of Yad L’Achim’s protest against the Morris Cerullo conference in Haifa (see previous Reviews).
According to a report in Yediot HaNegev (Novmeber 21), four men were arrested in Beersheva last week on suspicion of disseminating “missionary literature” in one of the city’s neighborhoods. Following a complaint by a resident of the neighborhood to the local police, members of the force arrived to investigate and found that the “missionaries” had set up a booth for distributing food to the needy, alongside which was a table loaded with free literature. “Since missionary activity is forbidden by law, the police took the men in for questioning at the police station.” The four explained that in their eyes, “‘We are distributing food first and foremost. We don’t force people to take the books. If someone wants to take one, we tell him, feel free.’” The men were released on limiting conditions.
Christian Zionism
Haaretz, November 21 (x 2); Israel HaYom, November 24, 2008

In light of the current financial crisis, Yechiel Eckstein, director of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) contributed a piece to Haaretz (November 21), an abbreviated version of which appeared in Israel HaYom (November 24). In the former, he opined that, “In the course of the last decade, Christian Evangelical organizations have made ever greater contributions to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel and its citizens … In a reality marked by economic depression, we must conduct an in-depth analysis of events in the philanthropic field, and their impact on us. The Jewish communities’ model of financial contributions differs from that of the evangelical communities in terms of size as well as the number of individual contributors. Whereas in the Jewish community, a few contribute a lot, in the evangelical community, which is working toward the welfare of Israel and the Jewish people, we are talking about small contributions made by a great many. This commitment is growing and with it the certainty that these contributions are stable and here to stay. The contributions also differ in a strategic way. The funds raised by Israel’s Christian supporters will hardly be affected by the imminent recession, since they are based on a deep sense of ideological, personal and religious commitment. These kind of contributions are more about the donor himself and about his commitment to Christianity. Many evangelical organizations maintain that they will continue to raise funds for Israel. Today, more than ever, we have to acknowledge this ongoing commitment. We have to cease making cynical statement that hurt the feelings of hundreds of thousands of donors, who contribute to the defense of Israel and its citizens. We must not denigrate the strategic alliance that stands by the State of Israel. Especially in these times of economic hardship, we have to express our thanks for this unconditional friendship with the State of Israel, its citizens and the Jewish people as a whole. This strategic connection crosses continents and is deeply felt by evangelical congregations the world over. Israel’s social situation is in dire straits. The gaps between rich and poor are increasing. The security needs are growing as existential threats mount. But underlying this economic depression and its accompanying fears is a tremendous message of hope – that hundreds of millions of believers from all over the world are giving their unconditional support to the Jewish people … Nowadays, the fate of the Jewish people and of Israel is largely dependent on the strength of the connection with those who identify [with] the Jewish people. Hundreds of millions of evangelicals throughout the world are crucial friends in a sea of hatred, hostility and war. We must, therefore, take this opportunity to acknowledge and be thankful for their work, for their strategic partnership, for their support and for this great privilege, especially in these difficult times.”
The same paper, in its weekend magazine (Haaretz, November 21) printed a lengthy article about the Larsen family. John (72) and Giselle made their home in Israel thirteen years ago, and many of their sixteen children grew up here. Now, they are all facing expulsion, the Ministry of Interior refusing to let them stay in the country any longer on tourist visas, renewed every three months. According to the report, “Arriving in the Arava, John and Giselle were on a mission that had begun almost 24 years earlier, when they left Denmark with their five children and a single trailer on a nomadic journey through Europe. For years, as they moved from town to town all over the continent, Larsen preached love of the Jews and dreamed of reaching Jerusalem. He also sired more children, 11 to be exact, and in the spring of 1995, he arrived in the Promised Land by ship from Odessa … Larsen was born and raised in Copenhagen, and was educated as an Evangelist, the Christian denomination that adheres strictly to piety, morality and family values, and sees the return of the Jewish people to Israel as an important stage on the way to redemption … ‘I think it’s related to the way I was brought up,’ he explains in fluent Hebrew. ‘I was brought up to believe that the Christians and Jews belong to one another. During the Second World War, in the middle of the night, the Danes helped Jews escape to Sweden in small boats. That was the atmosphere. I felt I had a calling. If you have a calling you can’t escape it. I embarked on a long journey through Europe, with the goal of arriving here. I have a strong feeling in my heart for the Jews … During all the years in Europe the direction was always Jerusalem. When we didn’t know which way to turn, where to continue, left, right, the direction was always Jerusalem.’”
One of John’s sons, Benjamin (the only one to have settled “permanently” in Israel), established a non-profit organization together with his South African wife Lee, called “Desert Peace Hikes.” “With the support of the entire Larsen family [some of whom live in Denmark and bring the money they earn there back to Israel to fund the organization], they host Israeli, Arab and European youth at risk and young people from institutions, and take them for survival and bonding hikes in the Arava. The unique project has been widely praised by organizations engaged in rehabilitating youth at risk, such as Elem, Beit Hashanti and Kidum Noar. They are full of admiration for the Danish family which devotes its time and meager funds to neglected children and, thanks to the reputation it has established, also hosts groups of young people from Denmark, Germany and other European countries.” The family are respected by all their neighbors, many of whom go out of their way to extend help, including in the present crisis. In response to the order that they leave the country, Lee stated: “‘The truth is that we often don’t know what will happen tomorrow and what we will live from tomorrow. We have never worked in Israel, in order to keep our visas and not do anything stupid.’” The Ministry of Interior commented in regard to the anticipated expulsion: “‘In accordance with the laws of the State of Israel, or the laws of most of the countries in the world, including the Larsens’ native land, staying in a country must be arranged with a suitable and legal visa, in accordance with the circumstances of the stay. The Larsens have been living in Israel for about 10 years, and according to their definition they have made Israel the center of their lives, but they didn’t bother to arrange their residence permit as required by law and procedures. The family members enter and leave the borders of Israel often, and during all the years they have been here with a tourist visa only, which is limited in time and certainly does not suit the circumstances of their stay in Israel. If members of the family have chosen to make Israel the center of their lives, they must arrange that according to law and with a proper visa.’” John Larsen’s response: “‘Israelis sometimes find it difficult to distinguish their enemies from their friends,’ he sums up sadly.”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, November 20; Yediot Ahronot, November 19, 2008

Last Sunday, Christians from across the country – together with several Jews, a Muslim security company, and numerous foreign diplomats – gathered in Lod to celebrate the anniversary of the burial of “Mar Jerries,” more commonly known in English as Saint George (Haaretz, November 20). The saint – born in the city and killed by Diocletian for his Christian beliefs on April 23, 303 – is buried in the crypt of St. George’s church in Lod, also his mother’s birthplace. Among his other national patronages, he is also regarded as the patron saint of “Palestine.” In describing the scene of the celebration, the article noted that many of the young men took it as an opportunity to “suddenly find the courage to openly wear a pendant with the Crucified Yeshua, in contrast to most days of the year, when they prefer to wear it hidden under their shirts in order not to provoke.” The author’s general opinion was evident: “The picture is clear: as in other places in the country, most of the church’s workers are foreign, and the congregants Arabs.” It also appears that the ceremony is not only a religious one: “Many people come to find a marriage partner.” According to “the teacher and journalist Salim Munayer from Lod, the event has become a social event: ‘The congregation in Ramle is small, a thousand people. When someone wants to get married he has to look for a bride in other places as well, and an event like this brings people here from all over the country.’”
Unlike most other new basketball players who come to play in Israel, Roger Pavel’s first question when he arrived to join the Poal Yerushalayim team didn’t concern Maccabi Tel Aviv. His initial query was rather “Where can I pray? Where’s the nearest church?” According to the report in Yediot Ahronot (November 19), Pavel prays “in the meantime on Mount Zion with some other Americans friends. Who knows, though: perhaps his prayer tonight will relate to Effie Birnboim [the Maccabi coach].”
Christian Tourism
Yediot Ahronot, November 24, 2008

A brief note in Yediot Ahronot (November 24) indicated that the number of tourists who visited Bethlehem this year (January-September) rose to 1,123,000, almost double the level of the previous year. The number visiting Jericho has also risen 42%. According to the Ministry of Tourism’s estimate, around two million Christian tourists are likely to visit Israel next year (“unless, of course, there are security difficulties”).
Christian Sites
Ma’ariv, November 18, 2008

Under the headline, “In the footsteps of him from Nazareth,” Dubi Zakai invited his readers to visit Nazareth with him and discover that “Santa Claus is already celebrating in Israel with a group of pilgrims. Absorb the festal atmosphere in the alleys of Yeshu’s childhood …” According to the article, pilgrims are already making their way to the city in preparation for Christmas, “to follow Yeshu’s route around Nazareth.” Nazareth itself has already begun to decorate itself for the holiday, with Christmas trees and lights; Santa Claus outfits are displayed in shop windows in the Christian quarter; and “Santa dolls wave in the air of the Holy Land.” 2000 years ago, “Nazareth was a small, neglected village where the angel Gabriel revealed to Miriam that she was about to conceive of the Holy Spirit. Here, in the narrow alleys, Yeshu grew up.”

The Pope and the Vatican
HaModia, November 21; Makor Rishon, November 21, 2008

K. Binyamin, in HaModia (November 21), gave his overview of the action and inaction of Pius XII during the Holocaust and Benedict XVI’s current endeavor to beatify his predecessor.
In an attempt to understand HaRav Herzog’s act following his meeting with Pius XII in 1946, Yoel Fishman argued in Makor Rishon (November 21) that the Chief Rabbi’s need to immerse himself in a mikva (ritual bath) “expressed his opinion concerning Pius XII clearly and definitively” by demonstrating that the conversation, in which he had asked the pontiff to issue a directive calling upon all Catholics to return Jewish children hidden during the war, had left him in a state of moral impurity. Fishman cited additional sources which justified Herzog’s account of what transpired. He concluded by saying that, “Let us hope that more details will emerge concerning this meeting so that we can complete the historical picture of those days and the fateful struggle on behalf of the return of orphans of the war in which the Jews lost. Rav Herzog’s efforts aren’t generally known because he was compelled to act in a discrete manner … [But we must] search for and find the hints which he left and decode them with insight.”
Yediot Ahronot, November 19, 2008

In a disturbing article detailing the rise of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe in the wake of the current financial crisis, Eldad Beck documented the connection between the two events: “… The financial crisis has also reached Europe, and with it Neo-Nazis are raising their head, since as usual everyone knows who’s to blame for a crisis – all crises. The shattering of glass in synagogue windows, the attack of Jews in the street, a call for boycotting Jewish shops – these are all part of the Neo-Nazi attacks which occurred this past week across Europe.” While much of the activity is ascribed to right-wing organizations, especially in Hungary (where they appear to be in league with the Iranians), in Germany left-wing elements are also involved. According to Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem’s scientific advisor, “‘Whenever there’s a financial crisis, the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the exploitative and covetous Jew arise. We’re dealing with a fixed pattern, according to which in times of financial crises anti-Semitic stereotypes begin to lodge themselves in populations.’” The attacks are not only “on the ground” but also on the internet, where a significant rise in anti-Semitism has been recorded. According to Anat Perry in an appended article, “A financial crisis is always a source of danger for Jews. The Christian anti-Semitic image of Judas Iscariot who stole the money from Yeshu and his disciples is still deeply embedded in the Christian consciousness, both in its original form and in its modern incarnation: the ugly Jewish capitalist who oppresses the masses. Immediately following the financial crash in the States and Europe, stories began floating around about the Jews who had caused the bourses to collapse with the intention of stealing the working man’s money. The fact that the stock market crashed precisely on the Day of Atonement led to a wave of accusations against the Jews – who of course were responsible for the crash.”
Haaretz, November 20, 2008

Archaeologist excavating the winter palace of Herod the Great in the Judaean desert have “unearthed lavish Roman-style wall paintings of a kind previously unseen in the Middle East and signs of a regal two-story mausoleum, bolstering their conviction that the Roman-Jewish monarch was buried here.” The elegant 25-meter-high monument discovered appears to have been a royal family vault, a common custom during the period. Ehud Netzer, the head of the Hebrew University team excavating the site, “described the winter palace, built on a largely man-made hill 680 meters high, as a kind of country club, with baths, gardens fed by pools and aqueducts and a 650-seat theater. In Herod’s private box at the auditorium, the diggers discovered delicate frescoes depicting windows opening onto painted landscapes, one of which showed what appeared to be a southern Italian farm … The artists were most likely brought in from Italy … ‘This form of art has never been found in Israel before. King Herod is said to have been buried there and this proves it as much as it can possibly be proved.’”