December 9 – 2008

Caspari Center Media Review – December 9, 2008

During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christian tourism, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:

2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
3 dealt with Christian tourism
1 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican

This week’s sparse Review focused primarily on various aspects of Christian tourism to Israel.
Anti-missionary Activities
Mishpacha, November 27; HaShavua bePetach Tikva, November 21, 2008

Mishpacha (November 27) carried the story of the woman seeking to convert whose request was recently refused (see last week’s Review). If this is indeed the same case, this report named the woman as “L.” and indicated that the Ministry of the Interior has also refused to grant her citizenship.
The story of the “missionary” publicity campaign in the North appeared again in HaShavua BePetach Tikva (November 21) (see previous Reviews).
Christian Zionism
Haaretz, December 5, 2008

According to Haaretz (December 5), “A new right-wing Evangelical organization last week pledged to help fund the military academy at Daliyat al-Carmel, following a first official visit by a Christian Zionist delegation to Israel’s only Druze city last month. The project, if completed, would be the first such contribution by Evangelicals to the Druze community.” The new organization is named the “Worldwide Biblical Zionist” movement and is “a local nonprofit [organization] associated with [the] Likud [political party in Israel],” founded by immigrant Joel Bell and his wife. “Drawing parallels between the Druze and Zionist Evangelicals, Bell said: ‘If we help the Druze, who have become a standard of how to become a friend of the Jewish people, then the Jewish people will see them as one of their greater assets.’” According to the Druze representative responsible for the appeal to Bell, “‘I explained the Druze were an underprivileged society and asked them if they would like to help. They chose to fund the military academy. I think it was wise. It could become our flagship.’” Druze opponents to the scheme drew attention to the fact that, in their opinion, the money would have been better devoted to social programs and infrastructure.
Christian Tourism
Calcalist, December 3; Yediot Ahronot, December 2; Israel HaYom, December 4, 2008

According to a report in the Calcalist (December 3), despite the drop in the world economy 2008 has proven to be a record year for tourism to Israel. Part of the reason for the good numbers was the arrival of 120,000 Russian pilgrims in recent months, an increase due itself to the canceling of their need for entry visas. The overall figures reached three million for this year – an increase of 30% over 2007 and 13% more than the record-breaking year of 2000. According to the statistics, the largest source of tourism remains the United States, accounting for 20% of the tourist trade this year. 25% of the tourists in 2008 were Jewish, 66% Christian, “the remainder belonging to other religions or with no religious affiliation.” For 58% of the tourists, this was their first visit to Israel. 8% of those visiting said that it was for holiday purposes, 38% came as pilgrims, and 18% as sightseers.
A column in the Calcalist (December 3) surveyed the “Most popular sites in Israel visited by Christians.” In first place, rather surprisingly, came the Western (Wailing) Wall: “Despite the fact that Christians have no religious connection to the Wall, its proximity to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa has made it one of the four sites everyone has to visit in Jerusalem.” The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was second: “Although not all Christian denominations concur that Yeshu was buried here, this church in the heart of the Christian Quarter is of great importance …” Third was the Via Dolorosa, “along which Yeshu passed on his way to his crucifixion, stopping at nine places …” The fourth site was the Mount of Olives –“mentioned in the New Testament as the place whence Yeshu ascended to heaven and to which he will also return in the end times.” In fifth place was Capernaum, where “after he left Nazareth, Yeshu transferred his activities … and also chose his apostles.” The information was credited to the Ministry of Tourism, the statistics to the first half of 2008.
Tourists visiting Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee will now be able to experience a “reconstruction” of one of Jesus’ miracles, according to a report in Israel HaYom (December 4). Having caught an enormous St. Peter’s fish (musht), the kibbutz’s veteran fisherman has decided to “preserve” it, put a gold coin in its mouth, and present it to tourists as a visual aid to Jesus’ catch of a “huge” fish, the proceeds from the sale of which he used to pay the border tax owed by his disciples.
The Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, December 5, 2008

The esteemed British historian Martin Gilbert contributed a piece to Haaretz (December 3) this week entitled “The archive holds the answers.” In it, Gilbert noted that when invited to meet Pope John Paul II to discuss whether Pius XII should be canonized, “I decided I could not go. As a Jew, I did not feel able to comment on whether or not a pope should become a saint.” In relation to the fact that the Vatican has cited Gilbert “as a supporter of Pius XII’s candidacy,” the historian felt obligated to explain his view: “If the Vatican feels today, as Pope John Paul II felt, that the Pope’s behavior during the Holocaust merits particular recognition, it should send – as I have several times urged – to the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem the notarized material – the evidence in the Vatican archives – on which to base an application for him to be made a Righteous Gentile.” In respect to the question of whether Pius XII deserves such recognition, Gilbert noted – again – that such a determination can only be made on the basis of access to the Vatican archives: “Once we can see Pius XII’s personal involvement, those who wish to see him honored will be able to make a case, if indeed there is a case to be made. At the moment, the evidence for the many historical episodes in which he must have been involved, consulted or given advice to his cardinals and senior clergy – each episode of crucial importance in the Jewish story – is still locked away. As a historian whose instinct is to credit people like Pius with a desire to help, even I cannot predict what the archives will hold. The Vatican should have confidence in the outcome, allow the world to see the evidence, and let the truth prevail. Surely the time to do so is now.”