Caspari Center Media Review – October 20, 2009
During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subject of Messianic Jews and Christian Zionism. Of these:
6 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
This week’s Review contained a follow up and various responses to the recent Haaretz article on Messianic Jews, together with reports concerning alleged Messianic influence on the Knesset.
Jerusalem Post, October 13, 14; Haaretz, October 16 (x 3); Kokhav Yizra’el, October 9, 2009
In a follow-up article to that printed in Haaretz on October 2, Yuval Azulai noted (Haaretz, October 16) that one of the people whose case he had cited – Pnina Conforty – this week received anonymous telephone death threats: “‘I received three phone calls, one after the other,’ she said. ‘In the first, he was silent. I put the phone down and immediately afterwards he phoned again, and asked if he was speaking to Pnina Conforty. I said yes and he then laughed an evil laugh while saying, “Woe to you. You don’t know what’s waiting for you,” and put down the phone.” According to Conforty, she would have ignored these two calls, since she’s already experienced other similar ones in the past because she belongs to the Messianic Jewish community. But right after this one came another, this time with specific threats: ‘It was the same voice,’ she said. ‘I asked him who he was and he said, “I am the envoy.” I wondered who had sent him, and he said: “I am the agent of Satan. The agent of evil. Do you know him? I’ve come to settle an account with you for what you’re doing, for all your heresy. Tell me, how does it feel when you’re about to die?” I was shocked.’ The threats did not stop there. ‘I’ll pursue you,’ Conforty recounted the conversation. ‘I know all about you. I know where your bakery is, I know that you work late in the evenings, and I know that you’re there alone. I’ll peel off your skin and write my name in your blood on the walls of your bakery. Then you’ll know who I am.’” When Pnina complained to the police, they took the case seriously and asked her to keep them informed about any further phone calls she receives. She told Haaretz that she is convinced that the threat came on the heels of its exposé – but is also sure that God will protect her.
The article further noted that, following the original piece, Michael Decker has appealed to the State Comptroller with the request that an investigation be opened into the relationship between Yad L’Achim and the Ministry of Interior. “‘As a government office established on the ashes of those persecuted for their belief and their religious affiliation, the Ministry of Interior cannot be allowed to depend upon a factual basis whose source derives from a dubious third party whose express purpose is to engage in religious persecution,’ writes Decker. ‘The Ministry cannot be allowed to adopt the narrow and primitive worldview of members of an organization which bears a striking resemblance to the secret police.’ Haaretz will continue to follow the events.”
In like vein, Prof. Shlomo Moran wrote to Haaretz (October 16) saying that prior to reading the original article, he had visited the Stasi Museum in Berlin which documents the activities of the East German secret police. “Despite the difference in the scope of activity, a close resemblance exists between the methods of the Stasi and Yad L’Achim. The former’s goal was to ensure the continuation of the rule of the Communist Party; the latter’s aim is to ensure the continuation of Orthodox Jewish hegemony over the right to determine who belongs to the Jewish people and who does not. Similar to the Stasi in its day, all methods are kosher in the eyes of Yad L’Achim – including following up on people, informing on them, harrassment, incitement, and the denial of the ability to earn an income from citizens whose beliefs the organization does not like. Today, we are ‘only’ talking of Messianic Jews. But the past teaches us that other streams of Judaism are also not immune. It appears as though we are approaching the time when every decent Jew – especially Israeli citizens – will need to carry a sign on his body signifying, ‘I too am a Messianic Jew.’”
In a further response, Segal Rozen of the Center for Assistance to Foreign Workers in Israel wrote a very sympathetic letter to the paper, published on the same day: “I wish to thank Yuval Azulai for his balanced, important, and enlightening report – the first following a number of tendentious pieces inciting against Messianic congregations in Israel. Although I am not acquainted with the heroes of the story, for the past several years I have had a close working relationship with a number of Messianic Jews. The first person I had the honor of meeting is a teacher by profession, who has volunteered for many years at a refuge for battered women. We met when the ‘Center for Assistance to Foreign Workers’ in Israel was seeking accommodation for immigrant workers who were the victims of violence or white slavery: the only place willing to take these women was the Messianic Jewish refuge. Several years later, when the State of Israel decided to arrest Sudan refugees but to release their wives and children onto the streets, this person agreed to accept more and more Sudanese women and children (Christans and Muslims), to the point where they completely filled the refuge. The costs of supporting these refugees was borne by the Messianic Jewish community. In 2006, the ‘Center for Assistance to Foreign Workers’ awarded this woman the ‘Mark of Human Rights’ for her exceptional contribution to the welfare of women in crisis. At the beginning of 2007, when dozens of refugee Sudanese families began arriving in Israel, small Messianic Jewish congregations across the whole country raised funds on their behalf, hosted them in their homes for extended periods of time, and funded their first steps towards independence in Israel. I am still in contact with Messianic Jews who continue their unrelenting work on behalf of refugee Sudanese families and their absorption into the country. I have spent long periods of time with some of these people, during which we have had conversations on various subjects. Not once has one of them ever vocally expressed any concern regarding the level of my belief in Judaism or suggested that I take an interest in their faith. At the same time, the contentment their faith gives them makes it completely obvious to me why some of them wish to share this happiness with those whom they understand to be seeking such a quality. These Messianic Jews live in various parts of the country, have different characters, and earn their income in diverse ways. What unites them is their goodness of heart, their generosity, and their endless willingness to give without asking anything in return. It is my deep hope that this important article will help ‘Yad L’Achim’ – as well as the clerks at the Ministry of the Interior who scheme against Messianic Jews – to assimilate the fact that Israel’s democratic laws apply to them as well.”
According to a report in Kokhav Yizra’el (October 9), “Messianic Jews ‘took over’ Emek [Yizra’el]” last week by means of huge posters in Yokne’am and the distribution of flyers at a Big store. The flyer read, in part: “If you are fed up with all your searchings and with all the imitations, the time has come for you to meet him. He is called Yeshua, and is the only person who can mend your heart.” The piece identifies Messianic Jews as “a religious stream based on Christian elements, at the center of which stands aceptance of Yeshu as the Messiah of Israel and the Tanakh and New Testament as Scripture. It should be noted that to all intents and purposes it is a mission – an activity which Judaism does not view favorably, to say the least. It should also be noted that members of the independent congregations belonging to Messianic Judaism define themselves as Jews, although this stream is not recognized as such by any of the other streams within Judaism. Members of this strem view themselves as the heirs of the first followers of Yeshu, who were Jewish, and some of them keep some Jewish customs (such as kashrut).” Big commented that, as a privately-owned store, any action not coordinated or undertaken with their permission was forbidden.
Two articles in the Jerusalem Post (October 13, 14) reported that MK Shlomo Mollo (Kadima) – the sole Ethiopian MK – has been misusing public funds for private purposes. The first stated that, “One day after Yediot Ahronot revealed how a $17,000 donation from an American Messianic Jewish (Christian) organization called Jewish Voice ended up in Molla’s private bank account, the lawmaker remained silent, refusing to comment on the allegations against him to the Post. Yediot Ahronot’s investigation demonstrated that while $7,000 of the $17,000 donation from Jewish Voice was for his campaign deficit, an additional $10,000 of the contribution transferred to him last May was meant to have gone to programs for the needy in the Ethiopian immigrant community. ‘He [Molla] kept saying that it was not important, that the money only came from Jews for Jesus and not from “real” Jews,’ said the source. ‘He tried to make them sound ugly so that no one would care about what happened to the money, but I do not think their beliefs are important, they had good intentions and wanted to help Israel’ … E-mails sent to Jewish Voice, a Phoenix, Arizona-based organization, were not answered on Monday.” In the second report, Molla “addressed information published earlier this week by the Hebrew media that revealed how a large donation from an American messianic Jewish (Christian) organization had ended up in his private bank account. ‘In May 2009, I received $10,000 from the organization named Jewish Voice,’ explained Molla … ‘My agreement with the organization was that the money would be distributed according to certain criteria at the end of 2009 … I had good intentions when I took that money. I really wanted to use it for the purpose they suggested, but was waiting and waiting for them to get back to me to specify [the] criteria for its use. I really am sorry that I took that chance, but the money has now been returned and the issue is over,’ he said.”
Jerusalem Post, October 9, 2009
Faydra Shapira, PhD, who recently immigrated to Israel, specializes in “contemporary evangelical-Jewish relations and she has published and researched the area of Christian Zionism. Her dream, she explains, is ‘to open an academic center for the study of Jewish-Christian relations at an Israeli university,’ a lack she finds ‘really surprising.’ Meanwhile, she is working on another passion, the Selah Workshop (www.selahworkshop.com), a forum for teaching Christian visitors about the land, people, and culture of Israel. ‘The Israel fed to many Christians by the tourism industry is superficial and at best appropriate for a first-time visit only. But the question of how to connect visitors deeply with the land and the Jewish people, and the question of what to offer them for the second, third and fourth visits was not being answered. Through the seminars, hikes, meeting people, volunteering, nature experiences that we offer, we connect these visitors with the heart of Israel.’”