May 4 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – May 4, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 19 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activities, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, the Pope and the Vatican, and-Semitism, and conversion. Of these:

1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
2 dealt with anti-missionary activities
9 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Christian tourism
2 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
2 dealt with anti-Semitism
1 dealt with conversion
This week’s Review continued to focus on events surrounding Easter and the pope’s scheduled May visit to Israel.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Makor Rishon, April 17, 2009

In a rather strange article about birds in Israel, Ze’ev Erlich wrote about a “Jew, a Christian, and a Druze” (Makor Rishon, April 17). The Christian – “one of our friends from among the nations, a Christian who serves his flock according to his understanding” – was approached in order to procure the eye of a hoopoe for a lovesick wife. It is said in certain Jewish circles that putting a hoopoe’s left eye on one’s neck guarantees a husband’s undying and exclusive love. This particular Christian was unfazed by the request: “‘It’s not you, you’re not the one who needs the eye, right? It’s ‘them,’ it’s ‘them from Jerusalem, yes?’ We were in shock. ‘Right, of course. It’s a favor for a friend …’ ‘Yes, once every couple of months someone makes such a request for this reason, believe me – I don’t understand …’ ‘We don’t understand either. They asked, we tried. Yes – yes; no – no.’ ‘Listen,’ he gestured with his hand, ‘with all due respect, I’ve got a drawing of a hoopoe. That’s much more effective. I’ve got a colored painting, a huge picture of a hoopoe in a frame. Put that on the woman’s neck and Allah will help. What, are you crazy?’ And after a moment, he added, ‘The truth is that even with us the hoopoe is associated with couples – but the left eye?! On the neck?!’ We continued with a few more words of conversation, to stay within the bounds of rationality, and then left. I wonder what he thought of us. I wonder what he thinks of ‘them,’ about ‘them from Jerusalem’ …”
Anti-missionary Activities
Yom L’Yom, April 7 (pp. 6, 14), 2009

Yom L’Yom (April 7, p. 6) carried the story of the mission “survivors” celebrating Passover.
On page 14, the same paper published a lengthy article devoted to the “life and ministry” of Yad L’Achim director, Shalom Dov Lipshitz. Although most of the article is devoted to the organization’s history – it began with an effort to “save” Jewish children in secular Zionist settlements by providing them with a religious education – towards its conclusion it gives some interesting statistics regarding the “mission”: “The annual report for the anti-missionary department for 2008 shows that eighteen preaching missionary centers were closed following a protracted struggle conducted by Yad L’Achim. Members of the propaganda department made 267 home visits in neighborhoods and areas exposed to missionary activity. On each visit, an extensive explanation was provided regarding the mission and its specious objectives and the householders were given Jewish propaganda literature. The anti-missionary activities engaged upon by Yad L’Achim members ended with the saving of 174 souls from the clutches of the mission … The emergency line operated by Yad L’Achim’s anti-missionary department received 1250 calls throughout the year. The report contains another interesting piece of information: 12 top-ranking missionaries who came to Israel under false identities in 2008 were expelled following Yad L’Achim’s exposure of their missionary activity. Likewise, dozens were prevented from entering the country.”
Christians in Israel
Dakot 24, April 16; Haaretz, April 16, 17, 19; Globes, April 20; Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2009

Most of the articles in this section related to Easter events and related episodes. Thus the Jerusalem Post (April 19), Globes (April 20), and Haaretz (April 19) all printed photos of the ceremony of the Holy Fire which took place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Saturday – this year apparently without incident, due, according to the report in Haaretz, to dialogue between the churches and the presence of thousands of policemen. Haaretz (April 16) similarly reported on the ceremony of Feet Washing which took place during “Holy Week”: “In these colorful rituals, religious officials wash the feet of those who serve them, just as Yeshu, on the eve of his crucifixion and before the last supper, surprised his disciples who had gathered together for the festal meal on Mount Zion. He got up from the table, took a towel, poured water into a bowl, and began to wash the feet of his amazed disciples. This act – of total humility – is repeated annually by Christian believers. High-ranking church officials turn to their underlings and wash their feet as he [Jesus] said to them, ‘a servant isn’t greater than his master and an agent isn’t greater than one who commissions him.’”
On the other hand, the holiday provided the occasion for robbers to steal 20 “antique paintings depicting figures the New Testament “ from the Orthodox church in Yaffo. “Police officials believe that the theft was the work of someone who was aware of the high value of the paintings” (Haaretz, April 16) (cf. Jerusalem Post, April 16; Ma’ariv, April 16; Dakot 24, April 16).
In light of the pope’s upcoming visit, Akiva Eldar looked at some of the reactions within the Christian community in Israel and Gaza, interviewing Fr. David Neuhaus, recently appointed head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in Israel and one of the fifteen-member church committee set up to prepare for the papal visit. “The 47-year-old South African Jew who became a catholic priest also said a sorrowful farewell to the members of the administrative committee of the human rights’ organization B’Tzelem … At the age of 15 he immigrated alone to Israel, studying in a boarding school in Jerusalem. In 1978, he won first prize in a competition on the history of Jewish settlement in the Land. Already then he had begun the journey which would end, in the early 1990’s, in his joining the church. His parents, of German Jewish origin, respected his decision with sorrow. The term mumar [apostate] riles him. He honors Jewish tradition, and celebrated Passover this year with religious Jewish friends. ‘I have a very high sensitivity to the church’s Jewish roots, her enduring link with the Jewish people, and Yeshua’s Jewish identity,’ said Fr. Neuhaus. He feels part of Jewish, not just Israeli, society. ‘It’s in my bones.’ His church has four centers in Jerusalem, Yaffo, Haifa, and Beersheva. The beginnings of the Hebrew-speaking and -praying Christian community go back to the initial years of the State, when mixed families arrived from Europe. In most cases, these were composed of Catholic women married to Jewish husbands, who baptized their children. There were also priests (Neuhaus: ‘Don’t use the Hebrew word komer – it has negative connotations’) who came after the Holocaust in a show of solidarity with the Jewish people. And there were also converted Jews who, after the Nazis ‘revealed’ to them that they were Jewish, decided to start a new life in Israel. Over the years, the number of Hebrew-speaking Christians has declined from 2,000 to 300. Many of them have assimilated within Jewish society, while others have returned to their places of origin, primarily the former Soviet Union and France. One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of providing Christian education not within the Arab Christian community. At this rate, Fr. Neuhaus may be the last person appointed head of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community in the Holy Land.”
Christian Tourism
HaModia, April 19; Haaretz, April 19, 2009

On another note, a Christian pilgrim – one of the thousands who visited Jerusalem over Easter – was stabbed on the Via Dolorosa by a knife-wielding Arab over the holiday (HaModia, April 19). The pilgrim was lightly hurt and the assailant captured by police after he fled. “The assailant possibly attacked a group of Christians rather than Jews due to the large numbers of tourists in the city.” He is suspected of being mentally unstable.
The business section of Haaretz (April 19) noted the successes of Maoz Yinon, responsible for establishing pilgrim accommodation in Nazareth, a chain of low-cost hostels for tourists, and, most recently, the “Jesus Trail” (see previous Reviews). “‘Israel has a wealth of nature, landscapes, and history. There’s no reason why tourists from all over the world shouldn’t come, among other things, to walk in the path of Yeshu.’”
The Pope and the Vatican
Ma’ariv, April 16, 20, 2009

Under the headline “The Holy Lopping,” an article in Ma’ariv (April 16) noted that, as part of the preparations for the papal mass on Mount Precipice, “hundreds of pine trees have been cut down by the JNF in order to pave access ways to the site.”
Other, more vocal, complaints have come from Muslim circles in Nazareth, which have recently published and disseminated a “vehement pamphlet against the pope’s visit to the city.” The pamphlet, which refers to Benedict’s controversial statements about Islam and Muhammad, has caused a large measure of tension in the area and the police are preparing for Muslim demonstrations during the papal visit: “‘We pronounce from Nazareth that we oppose the visit. The person who cursed the Prophet, headed the efforts to convert Muslims in Darfur, Indonesia, and the Muslim world, prevented Westerners from converting to Islam, blessed America, and made friends with the slaughterer of Gaza – you aren’t welcome here.’” The same circles – who made their views known during Friday prayers in one of the city’s central mosques – also threatened that “only collaborators who pretend to be Muslims” would take part in the papal welcome.
Ma’ariv, April 17; Haaretz, April 14, 2009

Haaretz (April 14) printed the English version of the Hebrew article on anti-Semitism in Syria covered in last week’s Review.
In the wake of the Williamson affair, Nadav Eyal took a look at anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial in Britain (Ma’ariv, April 17). In his opinion, one of the clearest indications of Williamson’s stance is the fact that immediately upon returning to Britain (following his expulsion from Argentina – a lesson which the Vatican should have learnt from the Argentineans), Williamson sought out David Irving of Holocaust-denial fame in order to make contact with “Lady” Michelle Renouf, a personal friend of Irving and the self-appointed defender of all Holocaust-deniers. “They’re all honorary members of a club leading the efforts to deny the Holocaust … From time to time, they meet at conferences devoted to the dissemination of hatred and ‘true history’; more and more frequently, these conventions are associated with Muslim and/or Asian countries.”
Yom L’Yom, April 7, 2009

This lengthy article featured an American woman who converted to Judaism. Asked whether she had been exposed to the Bible before she converted she answered, “‘Of course. My grandmother used to read me passages, but she always stuck to the New Testament which the Christians invented, and I never knew the “Old Testament” – the real, true Bible.’”