October 29 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – October 29, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 5 articles on the subject of Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, interfaith activity, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with interfaith activity
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
This week’s Review was a miscellaneous bag of various subjects.
Christian Zionism
Haaretz, October 22, 26, 2009

Christian Zionism – in the form of monies received from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews – is set to wield a decisive influence on the appointment of the next Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. One of the candidates for the position is Yitzhak David Grossman, currently serving as the Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek. Grossman also runs a charity which, according to the Haaretz (Hebrew, October 22; English, October 26), “for years has been receiving millions of dollars” from the IFCJ. The problem has arisen due to the “surprising step taken by Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who recently added his signature to a letter prohibiting charities from accepting donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews … In effect, the ruling is nothing new. The extremist rabbis of the Eda Haredit formulated and signed the ruling eight years ago, but it’s only now that Elyashiv has given it his imprimatur. ‘We hereby wish to state our opinion, the opinion of the sacred Torah, that it is strictly prohibited to take money or any other benefit in whatever way from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews or similar funds,’ the rabbis state in their ruling, adding that ‘anyone who joins them or helps them or their associates’ violates serious Torah prohibitions. They state that those who receive funds from the group help idol worshipers glorify the name of ‘their idols’ and ‘assist and facilitate missionary activities in the future’ … Grossman will have to make two difficult decisions: whether to continue accepting funds from the International Fellowship and from Christian organizations, and whether to pursue his quest to become chief rabbi of Jerusalem. Grossman was not available for comment, but a source close to him said ‘there are great rabbis who issued halakhic rulings allowing money to be received from Christians.’”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, October 23, 2009

According to this article, “Over the centuries, many non-Jews, mostly Christians, have settled in Jerusalem for many reasons – religious faith and ideology being only one of them. In Jerusalem met two of those who decided to leave everything behind, put their trust in this country and start a new life in Jerusalem, not specifically for religious reasons but for the beauty and the homely feelings they have developed towards the holy city.” The two interviewed were the German-born and British- and French-raised Protestant Ulrich Sahm, a journalist who for many years reviewed German literature for Haaretz, and Etienne Lepicard, a docotor specializing in bioethics and the founder of the Oil Press House in Ein Karem in Jerusalem, an interfaith retreat home. “‘During the British Mandate,’ recalls Dr. Amnon Ramon, a researcher specializing in the Christian communities in Israel at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, ‘there were about 30,000 Christians here, most of whom were not connected to the religious Christian institutions. They were Europeans who came here for different reasons, including work opportunity, though the religious connection to the Holy  Land was a factor … ‘Since 1948, the Israeli policy toward foreigners who wanted to settle in Israel has become harsher,’ says Ramon. ‘Israel is not happy about non-Jews who wish to live here – and it is not by mistake that the ministry in charge in the first years of the state was the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, which was also responsible for visas to foreigners. In fact, the policy for years has been to give a visa to a foreigner, for example a priest or a nun, only when another one was leaving, thus making room for another one. According to Ramon, the peak in foreigners, mainly Christians who wanted to live here, especially in Jerusalem, was in the years following the Six Day War. ‘Many saw in the victory some sign of a divine involvement, and they wanted to be part of what was going on here and what was expected to happen. That included intellectuals and volunteers, besides priests and nuns.’”
Interfaith Activity
Haaretz, October 19, 2009

Some Jewish interfaith groups are currently at odds with the Israeli government, which is apparently encouraging Jewish participation in a series of interfaith meetings sponsored by the Muslim World League, “an organization emerging as an ubiquitous presence on the interfaith conference circuit, [which] boasts close ties to the Saudi monarch and produces a magazine that has published anti-Semitic creeds … The Saudi-based MWL … has been on the radars of watchdog groups for years as an alleged purveyor of extremist ideas and anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. Despite this background, it was the MWL that King Abdullah entrusted with the task of turning an interfaith initiative he launched last year into an ongoing reality by organizing a series of international meetings … While a number of other major Jewish groups attended the earlier gatherings sponsored by Abdullah, the ADL has protested the MLW’s role in them … Now, the MWL dispute is spilling over to a Catholic-Jewish-Muslim meeting planned for December in Seville, Spain, unrelated to King Abdullah’s interfaith initiative. A product, instead, of the world Jewish community’s ongoing dialogue with the Catholic Church, the Vatican chose the MWL to participate in the meetings … Supporters of attending the trilateral meeting cited the Israeli government’s support for going ahead with the talks as a significant factor in the group’s decision. According to two participants in the IJCIC [the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultation, the official Jewish representative in talks with the Catholic Church] discussions, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials conveyed their government’s view that the MWL has changed course and that Israel believes that engaging with it would benefit the Jewish community and Israel.”
Haaretz, October 19, 2009

This piece noted that “An ultraconservative British bishop rejected the idea that he should be subject to punishment in Germany for denying the Holocaust on Swedish television, saying he tried to prevent the interview from being broadcast here [in Germany], according a report yesterday by a German weekly … Prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Regensburg applied last week for an order of punishment against [Bishop Richard] Williamson, accusing him of incitement. A judge is expected to rule on whether to issue a fine next week … An order of punishment is a German legal tool that involves no trial but, if accepted by the defendant, is equivalent to a conviction.” (For the story, see the reports earlier this year in the Media Review.)