September 30 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – September 30, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the subject of anti-missionary activity and anti-Semitism.

2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
2 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
Many of this week’s articles related to the Day of Atonement, observed this past Monday.
Attitudes Towards Christianity
Haaretz, September 27; Yediot Ahronot, September 27, 2009

On the occasion of his second son’s graduation (with a PhD in Education), Michael Handelzalts traced the roots of the title “doctor,” noting that “Merriam-Webster traces the etymology back to the Latin docere, to teach – originally a title reserved for ‘an eminent theologian declared a sound expounder of doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church.’ When Jesus was 12 years old, his parents lost him in Jerusalem, and ‘it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46)” (Haaretz, September 27).
In a feature article in Yediot Ahronot (September 27) entitled “My creed,” Kobi Richter – an avowed atheist – expressed his opinion of Jesus when asked “Which faith do you not accept”: “I have a problem with Jesus. After the old covenant between God and Abraham failed, because the man refused to sacrifice his son as an offering to God, someone came up with a new covenant in which God sacrificed His son for the sake of man. As a result, God has been molded in the image of man and been reduced to our image. This is ludicrous in my opinion, and I think that Christianity is a childish religion – in contrast to Judaism.”
Anti-missionary Activity
HaTzvi, September 17; HaIton – Yarchon leKehila haDatit, September 22, 2009

An article in HaTzvi (September 17) noted that residents of the Arad neighborhood of Rotem are collaborating with Yad L’Achim in order to prevent the spread of “missionary activity” into their zone, noting in particular its penetration by Rivka Fry Panchard, a “Jewish apostate who was baptized into Christianity by the sect [of Messianic Jews]” who was forced to move when her ‘missionary activity’ was exposed.
HaIton – Yarchon leKehila haDatit (September 22) reported that Jehovah’s Witnesses were active in one of Israel’s cities over the summer holidays, knocking on doors and seeking to engage people in conversation “since ‘the suffering of the world is about to end.’”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, September 25; Haaretz, September 25, 2009

The Jerusalem Post (September 25) apparently asked three members of local Christian communities to contribute some views on atonement in the run-up to Yom Kippur. Following a brief exposition of the laws of biblical atonement, David Neuhaus, SJ, the Latin patriarchal vicar for Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel, wrote that, “Christians believe that the once-a-year ritual of atonement found its perfect fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of a first-century Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, who they believe is the promised messiah (Christ in Greek) of Israel and the savior of the world … Jesus offered up his life for love of God and love of humanity, providing those who believe in him with the locus for the intimate meeting  between God and man. His disciples, those who believe in him and live according to the Torah of God as it comes to perfect expression in his life, teaching and obedience until death, find in him the tikkun (reparation) and the at-one-ment with God that conquers death and brings them into the fullness of life at one with God.” Petra Heldt, head of the Ecumenical Research Fraternity in Israel, wrote that, “Like Judaism, Christianity holds that humankind is slave to sin and offers a remedy for this bondage. But unlike Jewish teaching, Christian instruction about freedom from bondage and death asserts that being with Christ in baptism contains that at-one-ment with God. Those who live by that education, with all its implications, are the people who are ‘a fragrant odor to God,’ in Paul’s words (2 Corinthians 2:15).” Martin Vahrenhorst, the pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, wrote: “Current New Testament exegesis is in constant dialogue with Jewish studies and views the traditions about the atoning effects of Jesus’ death in the light of ancient beliefs in the atoning quality of the death of the righteous … For the followers of Jesus, the death of their teacher created a similar problem [of explaining why the innocent are killed], and they discovered that God did not allow his death to be a sign of his defeat, but transformed it into an event which provided access to God even to those who had no share in the covenant of Israel. Jesus’ death did not solve the problem of God’s wrath, rather God solved the problem of Jesus’ death.”
On a different note, Tristan Sturm contributed a piece entitled “Bible politics and Palestinian Zionists” to Haaretz (September 25), in which he examined the various theological stances held by local Christians. He noted that, “For the approximately 10,000 Protestant Palestinians split between Israel and the West Bank, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is integral to their religious worldview. Most of them, particularly the Lutherans and Anglicans, view the conflict through the liberation theology borrowed from Latin American Marxist movements … As a grassroots resistance movement steeped in the New Testament narrative, liberation theology made sense in the face of Israeli settlements, limited Palestinian opportunity and Arab nationalism.”  For “as many as 1,000 other Protestant Palestinians who are the protégés of American Baptist missionaries,” on the other hand, “the conflict is refracted through the lens of American millennialism. The result is a rapidly growing number of Palestinian Christian Zionists … These Christians have found a new meaning in their role in the land, by forming proselytizing missions to convert the Jews. Most espouse an End Time theo-politics borrowed from Christian millennialism that shares much with the religious Zionism formulated by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. They not only believe that the return of the messiah hinges on Israeli territorial maximalism but also – like most American Evangelicals – believe that Jews have a special biblical role as the chosen people … In the face of Palestinians’ unanswered prayers for peace, the Christian Zionist story about the centrality of the Jews as the Chosen People appears undeniably true: The only escape for the Palestinians is the Rapture (that event when ‘Yeshua’ [Jesus] summons them to heaven just prior to Armageddon) … Both camps of Protestant Palestinians read the Bible through politics and politics through the Bible. While [Naim] Ateek’s nationalist project champions active resistance, the unproductive effort toward a Palestinian state has led some, like [Naim and Steven] Khoury and [Shmuel] Aweida, to fatalistic messianism. What makes the Palestinian Zionists unique in the annals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the way in which American millennialism, seemingly against all odds, has convinced a small group of Palestinians to identify with the other side.”