January 14 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – January 14, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, anti-missionary activity, Christians in Israel, and Christian-Jewish relations. Of these:

6 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with anti-missionary activities
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
This week’s Review continued to reflect the fighting in Gaza, this time primarily in a spate of religious articles against Yad HaShemonah’s “missionary” activity in extending hospitality to those from the south seeking respite from the rocket attacks.
Messianic Jews
Jerusalem Post, January 12;  HaMachane HeCharedi, January 8; Makor Rishon, January 8; Mishpacha, January 8; BeKehila, January 8; HaModia, January 8, 2009

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post (January 12), Ron Cantrell, “who used to run a small Jerusalem-based ministry, Shalom Shalom Jerusalem” and was “ordered to leave after their request for permanent residency was turned down by the Interior Ministry” on the grounds of missionary activity, recently revisited the country to attend a three-week Holocaust seminar at Yad Vashem. “The seminar, which is being attended by 30 Jewish and Christian participants from 11 countries, aims to educate them about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.” Cantrell “is one of three Christian educators brought to the International Winter seminar by the Jerusalem-based Christian supporters of Yad Vashem, in partnership with the International Christian Embassy … Established in 2006, the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem aims to promote the Holocaust Memorial’s work and further Holocaust education around the world by bringing Christian youth leaders, pastors and educators to the Jerusalem seminars … Following the seminar, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem intends to send the three participants they sponsored to speak at churches across the US … In a press release, Yad Vashem said that [the] three seminar participants … were ‘exceptionally qualified and already well-known as speakers on Israel-related issues.’” The Cantrells chose to leave the country when their request was denied, preferring that option to receiving a tourist visa, which would obligate them to leave the country every three months.
Five of the religious papers carried the story of Yad HaShemonah’s hosting of Jewish residents from the south seeking respite from the rockets attacks (HaMachane HeCharedi, January 8; Makor Rishon, January 8; Mishpacha, January 8; BeKehila, January 8). According to the story, “The Yad HaShemonah guest house, which nestles in the Judaean hills, announced last weekend that it was opening its doors to the residents of the south as part of the plethora of offers for rest and broad relief from the line of conflict in the south. Yad L’Achim long ago exposed the fact that the place constitutes a prominent nest for missionary activity, being run by residents of the moshav who belong to the sect of Messianic Jews. This is not the first time Yad HaShemonah has opened its doors, at substantial discounts and partly free services, to refugees from the war as part of their determined goal to exploit the plight of the refugees in order to preach their poisonous teaching. Two years ago, during the Second Lebanon War, the missionaries at Yad HaShemonah exploited the flight of residents from the north by offering mass hospitality by engaging in protracted missionary preaching.” According to literature which Yad L’Achim alleged to have laid their hands on, the moshav claimed to have “‘presented three performances to strengthen sympathy towards ‘that man’ [Jesus], we had numerous conversations, and before they left we gave most of them reading material.’” The anti-missionary organization also claims to be waging a “delegitimazation” campaign against the moshav, which “still retains a measure of legitimacy on the periphery of public consciousness” – adding that, “‘We shall not allow them to harvest another victory and to draw more Jews close to apostasay.’” In this context, the guest house’s kashrut license was recently withdrawn by the Chief Rabbinate.
The report in Makor Rishon (January 8) opened with the question, “Are Christian organizations attempting to exploit the difficult situation in the south in order to win souls for the sake of Christian messianic movements?” and concluded with a note that “recently, other missioniary sects have been conducting broad activities in the center of the country, including Rishon L’Zion, where members of a well-known missionary organization recently arrived.”

Anti-missionary Activity
HaModia, January 9; Yated Ne’eman, January 9, 2009

HaModia (January 9) carried the recently-publicised story of Yad L’Achim’s fight against Mormon proselytizing (see previous Reviews).
In an interview in Yated Ne’eman (January 9) with Rav Daniel Asor, a former secular Israeli who “converted” to Christianity and then became Orthodox, the Rabbi elaborated on some his views regarding missionaries and missionary methods: “Missionaries are ‘allowed’ to be hypocritical – thus begins Rabbi Asor – and in this framework they are also permitted to disguise themselves. Yes! Some missionaries disguise themselves as Orthodox Jews in order to hunt people and youth. Like that missionary worker who was uncovered in Beersheva while he was working in the midst of the Orthodox community! You have to understand that in principle missionaries find it much more difficult to work amongst people without faith. They have nothing in common with the heretic [non-religious person]. But when a person already believes in the Torah, the missionary attempts to draw him in the direction of Christianity.” With respect to a recent Jews for Jesus campaign in the north, Asor noted that even secular Jews know that such activity cannot be tolerated – “just as everyone knows that we wouldn’t allow the ‘Hitler youth’ to hold a campaign for the destruction of the State of Israel here … Many more Jews were killed over the generations in the name of ‘that man’ [Jesus] than in the name of Hitler! … There are 90 congregations of ‘Jews for that man’ in the country. We’re talking about 5,000 people. We’re talking here about a fifth column, whose goal is to reach Jews. We have to know that about two months ago, a central conference was held in Berlin in which all the missionary organizations participated. They decided that the time had come to stop their business and to convert all the nations.’” [Editor’s note: the latter statement is apparently a reference to the “The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish evangelism in Europe today,” issued in August 2008 by the World Evangelical Alliance.] Christians in Israel
Makor Rishon, January 9, 2009

In line with its recent reportage on Christian affairs in Israel, Makor Rishon (January 9) printed an article on “the minority within a minority.” Avinadav Vitkun reported on a group of Arab soldiers who volunteer in the IDF and are currently serving on active duty in Gaza: “In the shadow of the war and the walls of hatred, only a few people take note of the most isolated soldiers in Israel. They are now fighting in Gaza or on duty elsewhere, as part of the Israeli security machine. They do so voluntarily. The Israeli education system does not encourage them to take this step – not to speak of the society in which they live. But still, a group of young Arabs does not give up, but chooses to serve in the army of the Jewish State at a time when their Arab friends are completing their academic studies, working, and raising families. They do what is not obvious or taken for granted amongst their society and is despised or totally misunderstood by their Jewish neighbors … More and more young Christian Arabs are serving in the various branches of the IDF, despite the recent escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … They belong to various churches, but they are united in their Zionist recognition and their willing to serve despite the hostile atmosphere on the Arab street. ‘Today, there isn’t a Christian family who doesn’t have a son serving in the army or security forces,’ says Elias Rushrush from Nazareth, whose oldest son is serving in the Navy and whose second son is about to enter the paratroopers. ‘Our sons come to Nazareth in their [army] uniform and no one dares say a word. Even during the recent disturbances and rock-throwing, they didn’t attack us within the city.’”
His brother, Ataf, explained the Christians’ dilemma: “‘Everyone sees how the State values those who identify with it and serve in the army. If the attitude towards someone who serves is the same as towards someone who hates the State, how will the Christian [Arabs] come closer to Israel? Another problem is that the Israelis don’t know who we are. When there are disturbances, the Christian youth are attacked as well. No one knows that they love the State.’” As Faadi Khoury further indicated, many Christians are unwilling to be publicly identified as supported of Israel: “‘We’re not like the Druze who say with pride that they serve in the army. With us Christians, the situation is more difficult, and we can’t speak freely. So many Jews don’t know about us. They think that all the Arabs are the same. Many Christians understand this; they know that Hamas wants to destroy them just like the Jews.’” In Khoury’s opinion, the impetus to serve has increased in the face of “‘a sense of threat from our Muslim neighbors.’” According to Obayad Naji, the father of three serving sons and the founder of a Zionist-Christian organization at the encouragement of Arik Sharon in the 1980s, “‘The Christians can’t speak [publicly], but I’m not making accounts. I say explicitly about Hamas: The person who comes to kill you must be killed before he does so, must be destroyed. The members of our community aided Israel from before the beginning of the State … they brought Jews from abroad and have served the State more than any Jew. But people don’t know this.’” Such circumstances would encourage Christian Arabs to vote for Zionist parties – if they were allowed to: “‘If there was real representation in the large parties, the Christian populace would support the Zionist parties. You have to understand that the Christians don’t need Israel. They live well economically, they’re educated, and the doors of the world are open before them as Christians. We all have families living abroad. Actually, we can contribute to the State more than it contributes to us. Imagine a Christian PR man in the world, who will speak on the European channels as a Zionist Christian – or an Arab minister who would represent Israel. That’s a contribution primarily to the State, because we can also live without it.’”
Jewish-Christian Relations
Jerusalem Post, January 12, 2009

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post (January 12), “The Foreign Ministry has expressed shock and dismay over a senior Vatican cardinal’s likening of Gaza under Israel’s military offensive to a concentration camp. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Saturday that the cardinal, whose remarks appeared in an interview Wednesday, adopted the kind of language that Hamas and other Islamic militant groups have used to demonize Israel and equate it with Nazi Germany. ‘It was shocking to hear the same kind of terminology from such a high-ranking member of the church,’ Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor said Saturday … ‘Using this excessive language is not doing justice and is not bringing peace any nearer and he should know better. This kind of speech is deeply distressing.’ Palmor added, however, that the cardinal’s remarks would not harm relations with the Vatican or disrupt plans for a visit sometime this year by Benedict. ‘These declarations by Cardinal Martino have nothing to do with our overall relations with the Holy See. The pope is still very welcome in Israel,’ Palmor said.”