April 14 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – April 14, 2009

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

2 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
2 dealt with anti-missionary activities
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
4 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican

This week’s Review is mostly a rerun of old news and items related to the pope’s May Israel visit.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Israel HaYom, March 31, 2009

The media had some harsh words to say about Pope Benedict XVI this week. Ronen Dorfen, in Israel HaYom (March 31), was outraged at the pontiff’s remarks concerning AIDS during the recent papal visit to Africa: “When you’re a European religious figure going around the world in a white robe you are apparently permitted to risk the lives of millions. The Church’s opposition to condoms derives from the Bible. While it’s not explicitly written, ‘You shall not save people from disease by distributing condoms,’ it does say ‘Be fruitful and multiple.’”
Prof. Hillel Weiss of Bar-Ilan University had equally strong words to say in an article entitled “The Pope – An Unwelcome Visitor” noted in Israel HaYom (April 6): “‘Everywhere he goes in the world, he leaves verbal victims … The pope is the selected Trojan horse through whom not only the Vatican but all the forces of Gog and Magog are attempting to impose the policy of the ‘Holy Sea [sic].’”
Anti-missionary Activities
Makor Rishon, April 6; Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak, March 30, 2008

Continuing last week’s report of Netanyahu’s alleged promise to “missionaries” not to support the proposed anti-missionary bill (see last week’s Review), Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak (March 30) quoted further from the prayer bulletin, stating that it called on missionaries all over the world “‘to pray that the Creator will grant Netanyahu the wisdom to stand by his pledge, protect civilians’ rights to worship that man (may his name be blotted out), and leave the religious parties outside the circles of power, which they have used in the past to eliminate all missionaries from Israel.’” [Editor’s note: it appears that the prayer bulleting being quoted, “Tfilat Israel,” is not a current issue but was written during Netanyahu’s previous term of office.] According to Makor Rishon (April 6), 300 hundred people “saved” from missionary clutches and mixed Jewish-Arab marriages will participate in Pesach celebrations this week. Although the article doesn’t provide numbers for each separate group, it claims that for the 130 children amongst them, this will be for the first Seder night they have ever attended.
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, April 1, 3, 2009

Haaretz (April 1) carried the story of the Arab college approved to be established in Abilin and due to be dedicated by Benedict XVI on his visit (see previous Reviews).
Perhaps in honor of the celebrations around Tel Aviv’s one-hundredth birthday this week, Haaretz (April 3) printed an article looking at the history of the “Mount of Hope” – the first settlement established outside the old city wall’s of Yafo (Joppa). The settlement was founded by German and American “Christian Zionists” in 1851 – the Grossteinbecks and Clorinda Minor and a group of Millerites, the former having first set down roots at Artas, near Bethlehem, with John Meshullam, a Jewish believer, the latter arriving in 1853. Their purpose was to found settlements which would persuade Jews to return to working on the land and manual labor. When Moses Montefiore visited the country in 1855, he bought the property from its Jewish owners and established what later came to be known as “Pardes Montefiore”; Clorinda Minor died of cancer in the same year at the age of 46 and was buried on the hill. Hermann Melville visited the site in 1857 and painted a bleak picture of its subsistence, while John Steinbeck, a descendant of one of the original families, recalls the settlement’s fate in East of Eden, the story of the rape of the women by intruders constituting part of his family’s history. He himself visited the site in 1966. “On the ruins of such broken dreams Tel Aviv arose.”

The Pope and the Vatican
HaMevaser, March 31; Haaretz, April 6 (Hebrew and English editions); Dakot 24, April 1, 2009

More criticism of the Pope came with regard to his upcoming visit. Yitzhak Steiner in HaMevaser (March 31) noted that while the State is planning to sepnd 6 million shekels on the Nazareth mass, the annual budget for Lag B’Omer – with which the visit coincides – is virtually non-existent, despite the fact that the number celebrating Lag B’Omer annually is around the half-million mark while the Pope’s mass is merely expected to draw 35,000 pilgrims.
This sum does not include the amount neccessary to ensure Benedict’s safety. This week, an “incident game” exercise took place in preparation for such scenarios as a suicide bomber blowing him/herself in the Church of the Annunciation, a car bomb, a fire or glider-attack on Mount Precipice, and an overturned truck carrying dangerous chemical substances. As part of the preparations, a delegation from the Israeli police force has been sent to the Vatican to consult with officials (Dakot 24, April 1).
Nor are the funds in the hands of those entrusted with providing the services necessary. According to Haaretz (April 6, Hebrew and English editions), “Nazareth has yet to receive a single shekel allocated by the government for infrastructure work ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit next month. The government’s failure to hand over the funds … is delaying the publication of tenders for the infrastructure work, which is obstructing preparation for the mass … The Finance Ministry said the government has yet to decide on the sources of funding for the pope’s visit … Some hope the pope’s visit will end the recent tension between the Catholic Church and Jewish public figures over the canonization of Pope Pius XII … [Suhil] Diab [who assists Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy in administrative affairs] said that the infrastucture would serve the city, and the Christian pilgrims who visit it, after the pope’s visit as well. ‘There are lots of cities like Haifa, Acre and Carmiel in the world, but there are no cities like Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the kind of cities every country would want to have,’ he said. ‘The time has come for the government to act in the appropriate manner and not throw us some crumbs or act only ahead of [high-profile] visits.’” On other hand, the “Jesus trail” – a “Galilee path that supposedly traces the route of Jesus” – will be ready in time for the visit. “The 65-kilometer trail was inspired by pilgrimage trails including the Camino de Compostela in Spain. It is designed to let pilgrims and tourists experience biblical stories as Jesus did – by foot … ‘This is the first route in Israel marked specifically for foreign visitors, and the first one focused on historical events,’ says Gili Grimbaum, the SPNI route marking coordinator … The trail attracted several hundred tourists even before the marking was complete. Many were accompanied by a voluntary guide from Nazareth. Hikers included travel writers, tourists, cross-border walkers, long distance runners, priests, pilgrims and pastors, who held prayers along the trail … [David] Landis and [Maoz] Inon [the project’s initiators] say they believe that as many as 5,000 people will walk the trail in 2009, and hope to see 100,000 annually by 2019. A map of the route is available online at www.jesustrail.com.” The sites include Nazareth, Tzippori (Sephoris), Kfar Kana, the Golani junction, Nebi Shueyeb, Wadi Hamam, Capernaum, and the Mount of Beatitudes.