Caspari Center Media Review – May 18, 2009
During the week covered by this review, we received 108 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activities, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, and the Pope and the Vatican. Of these:
3 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
3 dealt with anti-missionary activities
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
3 dealt with Christians in Israel
96 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
2 were book reviews
This week’s media focused almost exclusively on reports related to the pope’s visit. Due to the overwhelming amount of material, however, we have merely given a brief overview of these articles, the majority of the Review being in fact taken up with other issues.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Ma’ariv, May 8; Yated Ne’eman, May 6; Makor Rishon, May 7, 2009
“On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel, is Christianity idolatry?” asked Makor Rishon (May 7), reprinting the results of the recent survey examining Israeli attitudes towards Christianity and local Christians (see previous Reviews).
Rubik Rosenthal included the Hebrew word for “pope” (apiphior) in his “Linguistic arena” column this week, evidently in honor of Benedict XVI’s visit. According to Rosenthal, the word is derived from the talmudic-Aramaic piphiora, denoting “the person responsible for/over the palace” and was only applied to the pope during the Middle Ages, “perhaps due to its resemblance to ‘epiphany’ – divine revelation.”
On the anniversary of Herzl’s death, Yated Ne’eman (May 6) devoted an article to the Zionist leader, recalling that Herzl ultimately considered the solution to the “Jewish problem” to be mass conversion to Christianity.
HaShavua BiYerushalayim, May 7; Yated Ne’eman, May 5, 7, 2009
In response to Fr. David Neuhaus and Rabbi David Rosen’s statements regarding Yad L’Achim’s appeal to the pope to order his bishops to allow disclosure of the Jewish identity of children hidden by Catholics during the Holocaust, Shalom Dov Lipshitz replied as follows: “‘With all due respect to the innocent questions raised by the patriarchal priest [Neuhaus], the most evident question is why people are concealing this basic, elementary, human information from the children themselves? Why should people living in our midst not know the truth and not be told that they belong to the Jewish people?! … How can the bishops help if they are constrained by a previous prohibition issued by Pope Pius XII? Those who really want the bishops to help in disclosing information must first all ensure that this disturbing edict applying to all the bishops be annulled by the pope’” (HaShavua BiYerushalayim, May 7).
Yated Ne’eman (May 5) published two report concerning “missionary” activity, the first relating to efforts in Orthodox neighborhoods of Haifa, where women “disguised” as Orthodox were thereby able to enter homes in order “to speak about ‘faith’ – when their true purpose was to bring destruction and ruin.”
The second article (May 7) is worth presenting at length, as representative of the attitude characteristic of the religious press: “Missionary elements and various messianic sects have recently begun to operate throughout the country in a very aggressive manner, even in neighborhoods characterized by a distinctively Orthodox community and sometimes without concealing their activities and abominable goals of apostasy and ruin … It appears that in different places across the country, the missionaries are even working openly. Last week, Orthodox residents of Petach Tikvah were shocked to discover that distinctively missionary literature was being distributed in their neighborhoods which explicitly stated, without any attempt at concealment, the abominable and humiliating goals of a certain sect … this case, as it occurred in Petach Tikvah, was one of the most severe, and such cases of missionary activity amongst the Orthodox public require special preparedness with respect to explaining it and the way it operates. Those dealing with the issue say that they have never dealt with this form of renewed agenda and have up-to-date information that some of these messianic sects have set up groups called ‘Orthodox’ in a specific attempt to hunt the religious public, God have mercy on us. In other places, it turns out that the mission is still operating in its various ways to conceal their destructive purposes. Several months ago, missionaries began working in a religious neighborhood of Netanya, attempting to rent a hall in the local community center, stressing that it was for ‘Bible studies.’ It should be noted that the community center hires out rooms to help maintain its activities. The director asked for approval from the chairman of the neighborhood committee, who is religious, who was very happy that such studies were being conducted and encouraged the center to hire out the hall, not imagining at all who stood behind the innocent request or what destruction and ruin it was their intention to cause in a religious neighborhood. When the deception was discovered, neighborhood residents complained to the community center and appealed to the person responsible for informal education in the city … who, together with the education director began a persistent legal struggle to totally exclude the missionaries from the community center. In parallel, following this serious incident, instructions were given to the community center director not to rent out any more rooms, so that the center might not fall prey to other deceptions at the hands of the missionaries and allow them to achieve their destructive goals. The missionaries did not give up so easily, however, and subsequently drew up a contract for the use of classrooms with a local school … In this case also, the missionaries made sure that their true intentions were concealed, this time by calling themselves ‘Waiters/expecters of Israel’ [metzapehi Israel], at the same time as hiding the fact that they belong to a well-known and dangerous Christian missionary sect. Before the rental contract was signed, the school clarified the renters’ identity with Rabbi Moshe Lachover, and when their identity and deception was discovered, the latter informed the school concerning the difficult reality in which they were about to fall victim to lying missionaries using trickery and deceit to conceal their true identity, the scheme only being discovered through God’s help. When the school was given the information, its administration refused to sign the contract. In their great gall, however, the missionaries immediately turned to the court and asked that the school be obligated to rent them the classrooms on the basis of the fundamental law of human dignity and freedom, as well other appeals to the freedom of business, etc. At the present time, the court has ordered the sides to go to arbitration … [the anti-missionary organization] ‘Lev L’Achim’ are stressing in particular that the missionaries use all methods and do not balk at any means to make Jews apostates, and do not necessarily operate in poor and needy neighborhoods.”
Haaretz, May 10, 2009
This article was an exclusive interview with members of a 500-member Christian Zionist community called Beth El living near Zikhron Ya’akov, who call themselves “‘Christians with a Zionist heart’ and closely resemble the Amish in the US.” The community was founded in 1963, and half of its members live permanently in Israel while the other half come from all over the world for a period of time. “They are Christians without a church or symbol, believe in the Bible and the NT without any commentary, and have adopted shabbat [sabbath] as their day of rest. They do not missionize and consider the most important thing to be a clean heart. They live as a community, their purpose in life being ‘to help the chosen people’ … their income comes solely from places of work they have created for themselves – agriculture and two factories, one for food and the other for equipping home bomb shelters … Their children attend schools they have built for themselves and most of their shopping is done in a small shop of their own. They sew their own clothes and produce a large proportion of the food they consume. Recently, five members of the community entered the IDF.”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, May 8, 10; Chadashot Caesarea, May 1, 2009
According to a reporty in the Jerusalem Post (May 10), the UJC is pressuring Prime Minister Netanyahu “not to follow through on a section of the 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill that could ultimately end the immigration of Ethiopia’s Falash Mura community into Israel … Advocates for the Falash Mura remain hopeful that the decision to check the first 3000 might pave the way for the government to continue assessment of additional community members, most of whom keep Jewish practices as they wait” to immigrate (see previous Reviews).
Fr. David Neuhaus was in the news further this week, being included in a group of “Three priests” who “struggle to reconcile their Jewish roots and their adopted faith” (Jerusalem Post, May 8): “All three priests are proud of their Jewish origins and say that being Jewish anchors their Christianity. They manage to bridge the gap between the two religions by embracing Jesus and his followers as Jews … The spiritual journeys of the three are very different. [Fr. Gregorcz] Pawlowski’s is the most painful … The 78-year-old Holocaust survivor says Mass and tends to the other spiritual needs of the small Polish-speaking community in Jaffa. He also fasts on Yom Kippur and plans to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in his native Poland. He has asked the chief Rabbi of Poland to say Kaddish at his funeral. His gravestone is already in the cemetery in Izbica where his mother and sisters were murdered … Father Romuald-Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel, born during the Holocaust, embraces his dual identity as a Jew and Catholic … Waszkinel was ordained when he was 23 and he still wondered who he really was. Twelve years after his ordination, when his mother was hospitalized, he asked her about his origin. She told him that his birth parents had been Jews and that they had died in the Holocaust. They were wonderful people, she said, and they loved him. He was stunned and decided to seek the advice of … Karol Wojtyla [who] had been Weksler-Waszkinel’s professor in Lublin. By then he was pope John Paul II. The pontiff responded: ‘My beloved brother, I pray so that you can rediscover your roots’ … Now, Waszkinel now wants to go to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return … ‘My parents were Zionists. Their dreams went upon flames in the Sobibor concentration camp. I want to go there and immerse myself in Jewish life. I really don’t know what that means. That’s what I want to find out’ … Neuhaus’s story did not originate in the Holocaust. The 46-year-old Jesuit priest was raised a Jew in South Africa and first became interested in Christianity while studying in Jerusalem. Neuhaus’s parents sent him to a yeshiva in Jerusalem when he was 15. In Jerusalem, he met a Russian Orthodox nun who was related to the family of the last czar of Russia, Nicholas II. ‘I was 15 and she was 89,’ Neuhaus said. ‘She had an incredible influence over me from a spiritual standpoint. She radiated the presence of God. Her influence raised many spiritual questions about my faith.’ He promised his parents he would regularly discuss his religious experiences with them and would make a final decision in 10 years. He was baptized as a Catholic when he was 26 and was ordained at 38, after many years of study. The primary objective of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community is to sharpen the Church’s awareness of its Jewish origins and the Jewish identity of Jesus and his apostles. ‘We see ourselves rooted in Israeli society with a real respect for Jews as they see themselves, and we observe many of their holidays, like Succot and Hanukka,’ explained Neuhaus. He also gives lectures about Judaism and the Bible to Palestinian and Jordanian Arabs training for the priesthood in Beit Jala and also at Bethlehem University. Neuhaus points out that Israel is the only society where Jews constitute a majority. He says that the Jewish religion, history and culture establish the rhythm of life for the Catholic community. During a Mass that I attended at the community’s church in Jerusalem, the Church of St. Simeon and Anna, the traditional Hebrew blessings for bread and wine were recited. The room where the service was conducted was striking in its simplicity. There was just one small cross in brown wood. All the prayers were in Hebrew with words that are familiar in Jewish services, but here the use of these words was very different. Unlike the blessings over the bread and the wine that are served at a festive Jewish meal, here they were Catholic blessings recited during the communion service that transforms the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ.”
Another Christian living in Israel was interviewed at length this week in Chadashot Caesarea (May 1). Ulla – the wife of an Israeli Olympic small-boat medalist – was born the daughter of a pastor in Stockholm and studied the Holocaust in depth at school. “‘Although at that time it was only history to me, it moved me greatly.’” She came to Israel in the wake of a friendship with a Jewish boy, married, and has raised a generation of children. “Despite the difficulties, Ulla never converted. ‘I’ve been asked lots of times why I haven’t converted. Even religious people say to me, convert – the most important thing is to have “Jewish” written. But I’ve never been willing to lie and to deny who I am. I’m me. I wasn’t willing to lie in my soul and to become Jewish if I had no intention of living as a Jew.’”
The Pope and the Vatican
Makor Rishon, May 5, 6, 8, (pp. 4, 18), 11(pp. 1, 2, 3 [x 2], 8, 9[ x2]); HaModia, May 5 (pp. 2, 23), 6 (x 2) , 8, (pp. 6, 58), 10; BeKehila, May 7(pp. 4, 132); Mishpacha, May 6, 7(pp. 31, 48), 11; HaMevaser, May 11; Yated Ne’eman, May 10, 11; Israel HaYom, May 7, 10 (pp. 9, 30), 11; Jerusalem Post, May 5 (pp. 7 [x 2]), 6, 7, 10, 11 (pp. 1 [x 2], 5 [x 2], 13, 24); Calcalist, May 10, 11; Dakot 24, May 5; Israel Post, May 10; HaShavua BiYerushalayim, May 11; Kol HaIr, May 6, 8 (pp. 10, 34); Yediot HaKibbutz, May 8; Zman Yerushalayim, May 8; Yediot Yerushalyim, May 8; Yediot Ahronot, May 5, 6, 8, 10 (pp. 2 [x 2], 10, 11), 11; Ma’ariv, May 5 (pp. 9, 10 [x 2]), 6, 7 (pp. 11, 15), 10 (pp. 3, 5, 8), 11 (pp. 12, 24); Haaretz, May 5, 6 (pp. 2, 7), 8 (pp. 4 [x 2], 10), 5, 7, 10 (pp. 1 [x 2], 2, 7, 8 [x 3], 10 [x 2]), 11 (pp. 1 [x 2], 4), 2009
Due to the overwhelming number of articles relating to the current papal visit, we cannot deal with all them in detail. We shall therefore merely attempt to give an indication of which papers covered what angles and from which perspectives.
With regard to the two daily national English-language newspapers, while the Jerusalem Post printed numerous articles from both editorial and descriptive perspectives (the papal schedule, the gifts and artifacts he will use/be given, his meeting with the Shalit family, negotations over Vatican property, etc.), the English edition of Haaretz devopted a complete additional section to the papal visit on the day of Benedict’s arrival (May 11) (not all of which are listed here). Reactions of Holocaust survivors were especially prominent, with Benedict’s German background and wartime experience featuring heavily, as well as comparisons with the previous papal visit (strongly in favor of the latter). The daily papers also reviewed aspects of Christian life in Israel, with interviews with various personages, clergy and lay. The Jerusalem Post also published several “messages” to the pope such as that of Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen (May 11).
The religious papers were, as could be expected, more ciritical of the visit, frequently denouncing Benedict and accusing of him of such things as exploitation of Israel and using the visit purely for financial advantage (cf. Yated Ne’eman, May 10; Mishpacha, May 7). In line with the interest it is currently exhibiting towards Christianity and Christians, Makor Rishon printed no less than 10 articles concerning the papal figure and visit, HaModia running a close second with 8. In contrast, the other religious papers ran stories little more than one or two articles.
Jerusalem Post, May 8; Makor Rishon, May 8, 2009
Abraham Rabinovich reviewed Rachel Elior’s new book (in Hebrew) – Memory and Oblivion – the Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Jerusalem Post, May 8; see previous Reviews): “‘That man should be remembered with favor,’ the passage [in Shabbat 31a] says in reference to one of the participants in the meeting, ‘his name being Hanania son of Hezekiah, for if it were not for him the Book of Ezekiel would have been suppressed and withdrawn as its teachings contradict those of the Torah. What did he do? They brought him jugs of oil [for lamps] and he sat in the attic and expounded upon the texts [through the night].’ What Hanania and his colleagues were engaged in was a culling of all the Hebrew religious texts composed until that time. The works they would choose from this library would constitute the Jewish canon which henceforth would be the only texts deemed to have divine authority. In the end, a consensus formed around 24 works, including the five books of the Pentateuch, which together would make up the Bible. But what of the works excluded from the canon? Many were of comparable literary and religious quality to those chosen, says Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy and Jewish mystical thought. ‘To many of the Jews of the first millennium BCE, all the texts had been equally holy,’ she says. ‘The [excluded] Book of Enoch or Book of Jubilees were certainly not considered less sacred than the [canonical] Book of Judges or Esther or Daniel.’ Yet the excluded texts – close to a dozen major works – were not just abandoned but excised as if they were a malignant growth. “Whoever reads them,” declared Rabbi Akiva, one of the foremost sages involved in the process, “will have no place in the world to come. ’Left to die, some of the expelled texts were rescued and adopted by another religion. Newborn Christianity, which regarded itself as the successor of Judaism, incorporated these texts into its own corpus of holy works along with the Old Testament, as the Hebrew Bible came to be called. In time, Jewish scholars would rediscover the repudiated texts of their ancestors in Greek, Ethiopian (Geez), Syriac, Armenian and Slavic church translations. These writings, known as Apocrypha (‘hidden scriptures’ in Latin) would never be reincorporated into the Jewish library but would remain for scholars to puzzle over as they tried to understand by what criteria the texts had been rejected … The short reason for the canon/Apocrypha divide, she suggests, was a dispute over the calendar. The more profound explanation involves a power struggle between the old priestly order that believed its rulings to be divinely inspired and an emerging class of rabbis espousing a different narrative, one which gave human reason and laws a role in shaping the religion. Elior demonstrates how mystic notions like cosmic calendars and heavenly chariots were part of a power struggle whose outcome would affect how Judaism is practiced to the present day … The priests, wrote Elior in an earlier book, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, viewed this calendar as ‘a cyclic reflection of an eternal divine order.’ The priests were the calendar’s guardians, privy to secrets imparted by angels and, like Enoch, would serve as conduits between the heavenly and the terrestrial. It was members of the priestly caste and prophets, many of whom were priests, who wrote the books that would form the Bible, and they wrote the books that would become the Apocrypha as well. Everything the priests wrote was considered sacred because they were, in effect, taking dictation from the angels. They regarded the angels as their heavenly counterparts and saw themselves as working with them to ensure a synchronization of the cosmic order in heaven and on earth … conflict between the Zadokite ‘secessionists,’ as Elior calls them, and the Hasmonean usurpers is the theme of many of the most interesting scrolls found at Qumran. Elior views the Qumran scrolls as a Zadokite library, not an Essene library as has been the consensus view … Many of these Dead Sea Scrolls would have been suppressed, says Elior, for the same reasons that the previously known apocryphal books were suppressed … Amid the chaos and intense religious ferment of the Hasmonean period (152-37 B.C.E.), new voices began to be heard – those of scholars known as Pharisees who disputed the legitimacy of the Hasmonean priests and kings and who argued with the Zadokite priests about the solar calendar and their claims to possess an open line to the divine. These scholars, who would become known as rabbis or sages, were unhappy about the exclusiveness of the priests and the power they had accrued through their claims to esoteric knowledge as confidants of angels. In a game-changing move, the rabbis declared that the age of prophecy had long since ended and that the priesthood had been severed from ongoing access to higher authority. According to one rabbinic tradition, prophecy had ended with the destruction of the First Temple in the sixth century B.C.E. According to another, it ended when Alexander the Great and the Hellenizers arrived two centuries later. The priests vigorously rejected this downsizing. The rabbis favored a lunar calendar, says Elior, because they saw it symbolically freeing the nation from dependence on a closed priestly caste locked into the solar calendar and claiming divine authority. They wanted to symbolize instead man’s share in the determination of time and of his own fate. ‘They declared that human understanding of sacred writings was a legitimate source of authority.’ The month would now not commence according to a solar calendar precalculated for eternity but by mortals scanning the sky for the new moon, perhaps disagreeing about the sighting among themselves, perhaps even erring … In choosing the works that would comprise the biblical canon, says Elior, the principle criteria of the rabbis was to exclude those which invoked the solar calendar and endowed the priests with ongoing divine authority. ‘They were saying by this, “The old age has ended and a new age has begun”‘ … The issue was less the measure of time, notes Elior, than the measure of man’s sovereignty … ‘The rabbis transferred the center of gravity,’ says Elior, ‘from a regular, priestly ritual, anchored in holy time and holy place, to an ever-changing order entrusted to sages from all classes of the population, who took charge of humanly declared time and taught a new perception of holiness’ … Following the destruction of the Temple, the priestly order was shattered and the rabbis were free to reconfigure the playing field. They not only discarded the apocryphal texts but, according to Elior, probably amended some passages in the books they would include in the Bible to minimize references to the solar calendar, to angels and to the story of Enoch. By doing so, the sages prepared the Jewish people for the long haul through the ages. The conduit to the divine was no longer a monumental building in Jerusalem served by a priestly caste. As they went into exile, the Jews took with them the Sabbath and the Bible but were no longer dependent on a specific holy place or on priestly intermediaries. From now on a quorum of 10 ordinary Jews assembling in the humblest of rooms, or in no room at all, could, anywhere in the world talk directly to God.”
Tali Vishneh reviewed the Hebrew translation of Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Mountains Beyond Mountains (Agenda, 2009; English edition, Random House, 2004) in Makor Rishon (May 8): “Mountains Beyond Mountains is a heavy-duty but fascinating book about a unique, almost supernatural figure, who raises complex questions concerning doctor-patient relations, the distribution of resources in the world, and what the individual can do for society. It’s an important read – but the preeminent Christian perspective which lies at its heart must be recognized … Judaism doesn’t have much regard for ‘saints.’ It believes in the concept of the ‘chosen people,’ ‘the poor of your city take precedence,’ in putting the family first and only afterwards the community and then the whole of mankind. A good Christian, in contrast, is a person who puts his family second in favor of society. Priests and nuns devote themselves wholly to acts of charity and compassion, to saving souls in this world and the next, at the cost of forfeiting couplehood and the raising of their own family … This is a Christian celibate notion, which in my opinion distorts the concept of ‘love’ and empties it of its content. Love must be based on priorities, and if you can’t accept that, you lose your ability to truly love.”