March 31 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – March 31, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activities, Christian Zionism, Christian sites, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:

3 dealt with anti-missionary activities
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christian sites
4 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican

This week’s Review was a mixed bag of anti-missionary reports and pieces relating to the pope.
Anti-missionary Activities
HaModia, March 25 (pp. 1, 5), 26, 2009

Under the headline “Arad: Increase in missionary violence against city residents,” HaModia (March 25, p. 5) reported the alleged incident in the following manner: “A shocking incident of assault took place last Thursday, near the meeting place of the mission on Gila’ad St. Two innocent residents stood there, exercising their legitimate right to inform passersby of the deceptive activity designed to convert being conducted in the building by the missionaries, and the need to keep a distance from the place and their crowds. The missionaries, whose anger is greatly aroused by protest activities of this kind, decided to attack the two men. All along, the missionaries have been attempting to present themselves as Jews and thus capture innocent Jews in their snare. The moment they understood that the two were endeavoring to expose their true purpose, they began to use physical violence. As already stated, last Thursday, another grave case of assault took place on the part of the missionaries, who pursued the men and tried to attack them in a very serious and extraordinary manner. By the grace of heaven, the two men managed to escape without harm. Yad L’Achim has reported that a complaint has been lodged with the police in Arad over the incident and that it is hoped that those responsible for the assault will be brought to trial. Orthodox elements in Arad told HaModia that the violence perpetrated by the mission in the city is one of the most well known cases and that the missionaries are a thorn in their side because they try to disguise themselves as ‘compassionate and good people’ in order to attract people and snare them in their net. It was further reported that the person responsible for the mission in the city’s market, a man infamous in the past for having hit and injured residents and damaged their property, has been under house arrest recently, until his trial, scheduled for the coming months, is held,. The man has been revealed as a danger to the public because of his serial violence and grave attempts to harm residents. People who see him wandering around outside their houses are requested to report the incident to the police on the grounds that he is violating the terms of his house arrest. Among the incidents of missionary violence was the wounding of a disabled IDF soldier whom they beat severely. Arad residents are waiting to see how the law enforcement authorities will act to restore peace and security to the city.”
According to the same paper (March 25, p. 1), “dozens of Sha’arei Chesed residents [a Jerusalem neighborhood] will participate in the discussion to be held today in the district court regarding a petition to build a Christian prayer house in the neighborhood … The petition, made by the Messianic congregation ‘Netivyah,’ was recently presented to the district court following the success of the residents’ struggle in their appeal against the construction of the five-storey building … According to the plans, the building will contain a large prayer hall and a conference hall, lecture- and class-rooms, and a kitchen and dining hall apparently intended to serve hundreds of outside visitors.” One of the neighborhood residents was quoted as saying that the protesters include “‘religious, traditional, and secular residents alike, with no distinction. This is an attempt to construct a huge public structure which will serve as a meeting place in the heart of a religious neighborhood. It’s a serious disturbance and threat from all angles.’” The piece further reported that R. Shmuel Auerbach had given his support to the protest, stating that to do so was “‘a biblical commandment [mitzvah d’oraita] to uproot idolatry from the land,’” it also being a mitzvah to participate in the court hearing.
HaModia (March 26) reported that that the “missionary” bulletin “Prayer for Israel” stated recently that “‘[Binyamin] Netanyahu has promised us that he won’t support any attempt on the part of the religious parties to pass a law stopping the activities of Israeli missionaries which is liable to prevent them from sharing their faith.’” Citing the “typical commentary” given by the bulletin, the article further cited it as saying that “‘A radical right-wing government is a double-edged sword: while it safeguards Israel’s national security, it doesn’t protect the missionary organizations within the country. Our priority is naturally the protection of our fellow believers.’”
Christian Zionism
HaModia, March  27; Makor Rishon, March 26, 2009
According to another brief piece in HaModia (March 27), the Jewish Agency recently brought thirty immigrants from Georgia to Israel with the help of Christian Zionists from Europe whose objective is to assist immigration from the former Soviet Union. The number of Georgian immigrants has risen recently in the wake of the war between the country and Russia.
A brief note in Makor Rishon (March 26) reported that “over 100,000 American Christians signed a petition expressing their support for Israel” organized by John Hagee’s “Christians United for Israel” organization. The petition was timed to coincide with a meeting to decide Obama’s Middle Eastern policy, as a demonstration to the President that “‘Christians across America remain committed to helping Israel in every way possible and to supporting her security and peace.’” Information reaching the paper indicated that Hagee’s organization plans to bring a group of students to Israel in the summer, which will also include visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, and Warsaw.
Christian Sites
Calcalist, March 26, 2009

Under the heading, “Sounds of Jerusalem,” the Calcalist (March 26) noted that “Monasteries and churces are not only rare tourist attractions in Israel but also not necessarily open to the public. Two central sites in Jerusalem which have been closed up until now – primarily for religious reasons – are being opened to the public at the end of the week. The first is the Vincent de Paul Monastery above the Mamila project, the second Emmanuel Church, hidden in the Old City. The latter, also known as the Christ Church, has recently been renovated and “is unique for resembling a synagogue. This is due to an original reason – it constitutes the way in which Christian draw Jews to prayer houses in order to convert them there.”
The Pope and the Vatican
Yediot Ahronot, March 25; HaModia, March 27; Haaretz, March; Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2009

Israel expects to spend six million shekels on the pope’s visit to Nazareth alone, according to a report in Haaretz (March 30). Nazareth City Council has elected to “entrust organizing the mass to an external production company due to its complex logistical demands and the tight time frame. Organizers will still need to recruit funds for a satellite communication infrastructure to transmit the mass to a worldwide audience. They must also arrange security measures and organize transportation. The Vatican is expected to send Israel its guidelines and requests for the ceremony over the coming days. As of yet, Israel has received only the plan for the ceremony’s set, part of which will comprise ancient artifacts.”
Yediot Ahronot (March 25) provided details concerning all 25 events scheduled during Benedict XVI’s visit. Participants at these will be pre-invited guests only, whose background will be investigated before being allowed to take part. Much of the preparation is linked to security issues, Israel being ready to field an assassination attempt on the pope’s life or a terrorist attack designed to cloud the visit. The Vatican is also feeling the pressure of a German pope who grew up in Germany during the Holocaust visiting the Western Wall and Yad Vashem. It will thus take pains to ensure that none of his speeches contain controversial statements but attempt to appease everyone concerned – “Israelis, Palestinians, and members of all the religions.” One logisitical problem has already revealed itself: no bulding license has been issued for the construction of an ampitheater at the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth, leading to fears that the Interior Ministry will forbid any such work and frustrate the planned mass.
In light of the pope’s upcoming visit, HaModia (March 27) joined the chorus of people perusing the history of Pius XII, stating that the answer lies hidden in the secret Vatican archives, which resemble a nuclear shelter.
David Rosen, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs and chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, contributed an opinion piece entitled “Pope Benedict XVI and the Jews” to the Jerusalem Post this week (March 30). Rosen suggested that the pope’s efforts to restore relations with the Jewish community should come as no surprise to those familiar with his record: “He was the first pope to invite Jewish leaders both to the funeral of Pope John Paul II and, above all, to the celebration of his own ascension to the throne of St. Peter in 2005. Little more than a month later he received a delegation of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. This roof body, embracing the principle [sic] Jewish advocacy organizations as well as the major streams of contemporary Judaism, is the official partner of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jewry. Notably he received this Jewish delegation almost immediately into his pontificate, before he had even received delegations from other branches of Christianity, let alone other religions.” Citing several of Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings and speeches, Rosen stated: “It is signficant to condemn anti-Semitism as evil and it is remarkable to condemn it as ‘a sin against God and man’ as did Pope John Paul II (words that have been reiterated by Pope Benedict XIV himself). However to describe anti-Semitism as an assault against the very roots of Christianity means that for a Christian to harbor such sentiment is to attack and betray his own faith – a message of enormous pedagogical importance in the struggle against hatred directed towards Jews and Judaism.” Finally, in relation to the State of Israel, Rosen wrote: “Not everyone in the Church has appreciated the central role that Israel plays in contemporary as well as historic Jewish identity. Pope Benedict XVI does, and he fully realizes that the relationship between the Vatican and the State of Israel is inextricably bound up with the relationship between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church.”