June 16 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – June 16, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we covered 4 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews and attitudes towards Christianity.

3 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
Due to technical difficulties, this week’s Review is composed of items found in the Israeli press over the past month.
Messianic Jews
Haaretz, May 5; Yediot Rechovot, May 22, 2009

According to a report by Cnaan Liphshiz in Haaretz (May 15), “Three Messianic Jews on Wednesday petitioned the High Court of Justice to force the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency to allow them to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, and halt what they call ‘the humiliating and discriminatory treatment’ by the government. The petitioners, John Christopher from California and Nina and Kevin Ayres, a husband and wife from the U.K., identify themselves as Christians … Christopher and the Ayres couple maintain that since their grandparents were Jewish and seeing as they themselves had never been part of the Jewish religion in the first place, they cannot be seen as having changed their religion and are therefore eligible to make aliyah … The petitioners belong to a sect widely known as Messianic Judaism – a religious movement that differs from mainstream Christianity and Judaism by combining elements of each into a single faith … The Interior Ministry and the Jewish Agency never turned down the petitioners, but … it has become obvious the authorities have decided not to process the requests … An official with knowledge of the case, who asked not to be identified, said: ‘What happened is that the Jewish Agency referred the petitioners’ cases to the Interior Ministry because the cases were not clear-cut.’ The source said the problem is that ‘the applicants might have an ulterior motive, which is to proselyte.’ For years Messianic Jews immigrated successfully by ‘lying about their denomination,’ the source said. ‘Now they are looking to make noise with this case because they are tired of cheating.’”
An article published in the local Yediot Rechovot (May 22), entitled “With the help of Yeshua (and some security guards),” Matan Melekh reviewed recent confrontation in the town between ultra-Orthodox circles and a Jews for Jesus campaign: “At the intersection of Herzl and Ibn Ezra, a group of Hasidim saw some Messianic Jewish activists and began to confront them. Some secular passersby also joined the fray and a violent confrontation erupted between the two groups. About 15 people from both sides participated in the incident, and passersby testified that during it shouts and curses were heard from both parties. Throughout the course of the proceedings, two security guards, who accompanied the group during the day, protected the Messianic Jews. None of the passersby intervened to prevent the violence and stop the attack of the Messianic Jews and the harm done to them. After the incident, they continued down the main street … A short while after the incident ended, we arrived at the scene and endeavored to understand from the Messianic Jews why they had been attacked and why they’re operating precisely in Rechovot, whose residents are mostly religious and traditional. They refused to answer and attempted to prevent us from photographing them. The harsh reactions didn’t deter them, and this week they continued to operate in the area.” While noting the presence of Yad L’Achim workers, the article indicated that, in contrast to the Hasidim, the latter did not engage in any violent action against the Messianic Jewish group.
The article included an interview with Dan Sered, who explained how he came to faith, as well as a “former member of the sect,” drawn by love not by ideology: “‘The church deliberately sends young women to recruit Jewish boys to the sect … You’re forbidden to be sane there – that is, you can’t have any contact with the outside world, you have to cut off all your ties with the external world. Students studying at the university have to abandon their studies, you disconnect yourself from your family and friends … A person who wants to keep Jewish elements, a normal life, work, university, leisure activities is considered to be possessed. I participated in exorcisms. I was present at several such ceremonies. 12 candles for the 12 apostles in a circle, the person believed to be possessed standing in the middle. They pronounce verses from the New Testament in Latin and on certain occasions violence is involved. The worst incident I was witness to was that of the drawing of blood from the elbow.’”
It also quoted Danit Keren from the Israeli Center for Cult Victims, who asserted that “‘Messianic Jews work with a lack of transparency, without proper disclosure, and with the pretense of being true Judaism. We regard this very seriously. They spread their faith in an intensive and aggressive manner, often while exploiting the weaknesses and hardships of naïve people. Among other things, more than one complaint has been served to police about attempts to convert minors.’”
A second sidebar explained “Who are the Messianics?”: “Gabi Zohar is a social worker and a family therapist who serves as a counselor in the Israeli Center for Cult Victims … Zohar says that Messianic Jews are defined as a cult, since they are an organization with an ideology, ritualistic rules, and a separation from normative religion, despite the fact that they include elements of both Judaism and Christianity … ‘Some of them don’t celebrate Jewish holidays and don’t participate in national celebrations. They see themselves as above the national identity, outside of it’ … Zohar says that Messianic Jews work on three principle elements. The first is the creation of a new faith, which is presented as the most correct alternative religion. According to him, the secular are most drawn in this direction. The second component is an identification with the ideas and membership within the group. The third element is spreading love. Zohar says, ‘Messianic Jews spread a lot of love around, they wrap people in love and affection. Messianic Judaism helps to lighten the daily pressures—psychological, social, emotional and familial. Messianic Jews are no different than other cults which exist today. They are people who live a regular life, but on the other side there’s a very strong ideological, psychological and group affinity between them and the organization to which they belong.’”
Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, June 5, 2009

Michael Handelzalts put us on the “straight and narrow” regarding the proper understanding of a New Testament text in speaking of “Dire Straights”: By the way, it turns out that the phrase ‘straight and narrow’ (google it and see how many Christian sites come up) is a misreading from the Gospel according to Matthew, who quotes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at length. A mere six verses after admonishing his followers not to cast pearls before swine, Jesus says: ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’ The gate to life, according to Jesus, is ‘strait,’ narrow and confining – as opposed to the wide gate that leads to destruction. The way is narrow, and probably rather winding and arduous, not straight. That is why so many people storm the Gates of Hell, and so few make it to heaven.”