August 18 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – August 18, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 3 articles on the subject of Messianic Jews and attitudes towards Jesus.

2 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with theater
This week’s Review focuses on a lengthy article featuring Rachel Sivoni.
Messianic Jews
HaShavua BiYerushalayim, August 13; Ma’ariv, August 14, 2009

In a fascinating article printed in Ma’ariv (August 14), whose starting point is a house under which its owner discovered some Muslim tombs and is consequently being denied access to her own home by Islamic radicals claiming that it is forbidden to walk through a “cemetery,” Rachel Sivoni – the owner told the story of how she became a believer: “The greatest change in her life occurred at the beginning of 1994. Sivoni was then working in a carpet shop in the Jerusalem mall. ‘All of a sudden, a man comes in – Sephardi, like me – wanting to buy a carpet for “the House of God.” I said to him, “What House of God can you have when you’re not even wearing a yarmulke?” He told me that God had freed him from wearing a yarmulke, and began talking to me about Yeshu. I said to him, “Oi voi voi. May his name and memory be blotted out.” Don’t forget that on my mother’s side I’m the grand-daughter of R. Ya’akov Haim Alkovitz, whom some people say wrote the Prayer Book. I couldn’t listen to such words of heresy. He said to me, “I’m sorry, but these are biblical prophecies.”’ ‘After a while, we met again,’ Svioni continues enthusiastically. ‘He invited me to kabbalat shabbat [the Friday evening meal] at his house in Motza. I was in shock. He was wearing a yarmulke, had set the table, lit the candles, put out wine. He blessed the challah. It was just as moving as it had been in my parents’ religious home in Talpiot. I went home and started reading the biblical stories. I still didn’t want to hear a word about Yeshu the Messiah. I didn’t find him in the Tanakh, only in the various prophecies. I decided to go and see what was actually happening.’ For the first time in her life, Sivoni felt a warm embrace. ‘I went to the Messianic Jewish congregation on Ben-Yehuda St. I started crying. I received unconditional love there, given without any strings. I loved the people. On Purim in 1994, I had a birthday. People came from the TV [for whom she’d formerly tailored clothes], as well as from the police [where she’d also worked] and organized a party for me. At the same time, my new friends called and invited me to a Messianic Purim party at Beit Yedidya in Haifa. I left all the people in Jerusalem, who celebrated my birthday without me.’ ‘Everything that I’d ever missed in my life I got there,’ Sivoni acknowledges, rolling her eyes upwards. ‘I didn’t find hatred or jealousy there. They don’t leave people on their own there. I decided to leave everything and to go and study … I’d looked for spiritual life before then and found nothing, I was in AM workshops, searching for values. Yeshu bestowed upon me love and grace … Yes, I was baptized – to me it was a mikve [ritual immersion]: we’re Jews … I don’t go to churches or monasteries. I belong to the original Judaism of Yeshu …Yeshu was a Rabbi, He read the Torah portion of the week. He was circumcised. I see the monks going round Ein Karem [where she lives] wearing their brown robes and huge crosses. They have nothing in common with Yeshu’ … In contrast to many other Messianic Jews who are in the closet or hide their activities, Sivoni doesn’t conceal her outreach activities.”

Sivoni believes that she is being pressured and threatened (including death threats) for interfering with Muslim sensibilities, because her neighbors “informed” on her – simply because she is a believer. Thus, her neighbor – through whose balcony she is presently being forced to access her own home – will not allow her entry through the house: “The neighbors look on with a strange air of tranquility. Even with a certain joy. Sivoni is convinced that they are the people who summoned the Muslims in order to make her life difficult and get her to leave the neighborhood … Sivoni can find nowhere to lay her head. ‘After they [the Muslims] closed up the door of the house [to prevent her violating the graves by entering her dwelling], I had to climb over my neighbor’s fence to get in,’ she says. ‘I asked my neighbor for permission to go through her house. She said, “Tfu, tfu, you should die, get away from here. You’re trash, you’re a missionary,” and then spit on the floor and took after me with a board … [My neighbors] are all religious people, and from their perspective I’m an apostate. Every morning, afternoon, and evening they pray the Amidah, which includes the words “May there be no hope for the heretics and informers, and may all the strangers quickly perish.” I think I’ve opened my eyes and discovered a different world – and they haven’t.’”
Under the headline, “Missionaries incite against Yad L’Achim,” HaShavua BiYerushalayim (August 13) reported that, “They’re afraid – and when they’re afraid, they incite. The missionary site ‘The Union of Messianic Jews in America’ has worriedly published the information that Shalom Dov Liphshitz (whom they call ‘the director and founder of the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim’) has delivered to the Chief Rabbinate a list of names of over 60 people who recently converted to Judaism but continue to serve as missionaries.” While noting that the Chief Rabbi had been “amazed” by the news, the “missionaries” were allegedly even more amazed by the fact that, “‘Yad L’Achim was again admitting publicly its involvement in unethical and definitely illegal follow up and oversight.’” “‘Yad L’Achim,’ said the accusatory article, ‘follows people such as these through groups working as a undercover police unit and through undercover intelligence. These activities are frighteningly reminiscent of the methods of the KGB. Woe to the tourist who mentions the name of some Messianic Jew when he enters or leaves the country. He is very likely to be expelled from the country on the first available flight,’ the missionaries complain.” According to the report, the “missionaries” are also up in arms about the mandatory questions relating to “missionizing” which Yad L’Achim are compaigning to see introduced as part of the conversion process: “‘At this moment,’ the article states with a self-innocence typical of the missionaries, ‘the State is seeking to control the minds of its citizens and limits the freedom of thought, and this represents a clear violation of the elementary rights of the individual in a democratic State.’” Lipshitz himself was stated to have “responded to these words in irony: ‘The missionaries arrogantly tell base lies to the courts and Interior Ministry when they declare themselves to be Jews and are not ashamed to accuse those who expose their lies and tear off the veil they use to hide their wild incitement.’”
Jerusalem Report, August 17, 2009

This brief note reported on the canceling of Amos Kenan’s play, “Friends Talk about Jesus,” due to “pressure from Christian Arabs who claim it portrays Jesus in a negative light … The play was banned in 1972, but was allowed to be produced for the first time this year, in February of this year, in Tel Aviv” (see previous reviews).