January 5 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – January 5, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, the Pope, and archaeology. Of these:
5 dealt with Messianic Jews
5 dealt with attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
2 dealt with Christians in Israel
This week’s Review focuses on revelations given by Ya’akov Teitel relating to his attack on the Ortiz family, together with various attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity, both satirical and serious.

Messianic Jews
Besheva, December 25, 2009; HaShavua BeAshdod, December 25, 2009; Yediot Ahronot, December 31; Ma’ariv, January 1; Haaretz, January 1, 2010

Besheva (December 25) and HaShavua BeAshdod (December 25) both carried last week’s story of Pnina Konforti’s struggle to receive her kashrut license back.

The national papers (Yediot Ahronot, December 25; Ma’ariv, January 1; Haaretz, January 1) all reported further details concerning Ya’akov Teitel, arrested – among others things – for the attack against Amiel Ortiz. According to Ma’ariv, this was the first attack to which Teitel confessed, claiming that he acted alone. He also admitted to placing a bomb in a monastery near Beit Shemesh, since he had heard that the monks/nuns were engaging in “‘missionary work – they were trying to recruit Jewish children by giving them sweets.’” He “picked his targets in order to prevent the Gay Pride march. ‘I understood that what I was doing wasn’t solving the problem, so I decided to act against missionaries in Ariel trying to capture weak Jews … I didn’t mean to hurt any of the Ortiz children – only the father, who’s a top missionary, or the mother. I was sorry when I heard the boy got was hurt, but I had to take that risk into consideration.’” According to Yediot Ahronot, Teitel knew that David Ortiz was a top-ranking missionary and therefore “‘learned details about him well, where he lived … it was hard, it was about two and a half months before the attack. And then, before Purim I realized I had an opportunity – the purim gift was the perfect opportunity. So I built a bomb that looked like a gift – it took me a day. The hard part was to find way to make it look like a present. In principle, it looked like a kit kat bar. I bought the sweets at a local shop, as well as the baskets. I also put metal nails in. The purpose was to stop the missionary activity by injuring or killing the top missionary guy. I would have preferred that they not die, but if that’s the only way, so be it. I didn’t know about the kids … The next day I heard that the boy had been critically injured. I felt no remorse.’” Haaretz reported that David Ortiz had recalled “that there was a man by the name of Ya’akov Teitel who made very vicious statements and knew a former member of the Messianic Jewish community. He gave this information to the Security Agency.”
Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
Haaretz, January 1; Ma’ariv, January 1 (x 2), 4; Yediot Ahronot, December 24, 2009

Under the headline, “Lives of the rich and famous,” a report in Haaretz (January 1) noted that Christian leaders are increasingly arguing that Jesus was not poor but rich – an allegation ‘supported’ by the ‘facts’ that he rode on a donkey (ostensibly equivalent in those days to a Cadillac), was given gold at his birth, was well dressed (people fought for his clothes while he was on the cross), and that Judas looked after his funds. The conclusion: “Those preaching the new line are insistent: He was rich, and gave to the poor from his fortune. It is thus appropriate for today’s rich people to do the same.”
Popular Efrat rabbi Shlomo Riskin has apologized for remarks he made in praise of Jesus in light of Orthodox criticism (Haaretz, January 1): “Defending himself from scathing criticism for a video in which he refers to Jesus as ‘a model rabbi,’ a well-respected Anglo rabbi said this week that while his terminology was ‘inappropriate,’ the poorly edited video mauled his message. The current incident is the second time this year that Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the New York-born Orthodox rabbi of Efrat, had to clarify a controversial statement regarding Jewish-Christian relations. In the video, Riskin says he has been ‘truly fascinated by the personality of Jesus, whom certainly to myself I have always referred to as “Rabbi Jesus” ever since taking a university course about the gospels. Because I think he is indeed a model rabbi in many counts and he lived the life of a Jewish rabbi in Israel in a very critical time in our history. And I have constantly come back to the study of his personality and his teachings, which are very strongly rooted in Talmudic teachings.’ Several Orthodox Jewish Web sites reported about the 5-minute video. Calling it ‘shocking,’ the U.S.-based Yeshiva World News wrote that, while ‘according to a growing number of followers Rabbi Riskin has adopted a controversial position on Christianity – this latest video will prove to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” according to many, and time will dictate the ramifications of this highly irregular documented statement of this highly respected rabbi’s views on “J[esus].” Some readers commented online that Riskin’s statements do not contradict Jewish theology and are in line with a revisionist view of Jesus. Others accused him of ‘heresy’ and “demanded he be ‘be stripped of his clergy status at once, and banned from his community’ … His ‘Rabbi Jesus’ comment referred to the historical Jesus – who was not a ‘Christian’ but a committed Jew, Riskin added, apparently alluding to the theory that Jesus’ legacy was later falsified by the Apostle Paul. He referred to the historical personage as a ‘Rabbi Jesus’ to illustrate that point, he said. ‘While I refer to Jesus poetically as “Rabbi” Jesus, he was not a rabbi in the classical sense of the term. It was used only to explain to a Christian audience the Jewish Jesus, and in hindsight, the term was an inappropriate one to use.’”
An even more controversial interview appeared in Ma’ariv (January 1), under the title “Interview of the decade.” Yehonatan Gefen presented an Israeli version of George Carlin’s skit by the same name, turning the interviewer into Dana Weiss from the well-known Israeli TV program, “Meet the Press.”  A prefatory note explained that the interview was not broadcast due to Orthodox sensitivities: “Dana: Listen, Yeshu, you really don’t look 2010 years old. Yeshu: You too. I don’t have to tell you that today there are only dead people and those who look good for their age – and I’m both … Dana: Can you tell us a bit about the first time you were here? Yeshu: … if I’d been born a few days earlier, perhaps I would have had two normal parents and two birthday presents. But you know I’ve never been interested in the material world. If you don’t believe me, ask Madonna, my mother. I’ve heard that she’s come back as well … Dana: What about Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead? Yeshu: First of all, he wasn’t dead. He was hung over. I went into great detail about that on ‘Pnai Plus’ [an Israeli magazine covering entertainment and TV], with my picture before they crucified me. I was also chosen there as the most well-dressed person of the year … Dana: … What about your walking on the water? You don’t deny that? Yeshu: It wasn’t water, it was the Sea of Galilee – the water level was five centimeters; a mouse could have walked on that puddle. Dana: Now we come to a particularly painful subject, Judas Iscariot. What about him? Yeshu: I really don’t want to talk about him, girl. A really crappy guy. I never took to apostles from the Krayot [a play on Judas’ name, derived from the town he came from, near Jerusalem – now the name of an area north of Haifa]. Dana: But he turned you over to the Romans. Yeshu: Him too, but most of it was text messages from the audience in the house on that stupid program called ‘Dancing with Jews’ [a play on ‘Dancing with the Stars’]. Dana: Well, it would be interesting now if you told us about your first visit to our country. What can you tell us, for example, about the Last Supper? Yeshu: Well, first of all – if I’d known that they were going to stick me on the cross, I would have eaten more and not just had the business lunch, schnitzel and a pathetic lettuce salad. And the waitress with the bikini panties showing out of her jeans, who asked me all the time if ‘everything’s alright,’ didn’t really give me much of an appetite either … Dana: What’s your view about contemporary Christianity? Yeshu: All this religion embarrasses me. I’d be glad if they took my name out of it. If I had to start all this, I would prefer to be Buddha. Buddha was certainly wise, and that meant he was fat and smiley. Dana: But your followers loved you … Who could replace you in popularity? Yeshu: Maybe Eyal Golan [a popular Israeli singer]. Dana: Unfortunately our time’s up, honorable Mr. Yeshu. I have one final question: Do you have any advice that could benefit humankind? Yeshu: Practical advice, you mean? … Dana: No, Sir, I meant in a more spiritual sense. Yeshu: Well, Dana, I don’t know how spiritual it is, but don’t give money to the church. The church should give you money. Dana: Well, thanks, Mr. Christian, thank you for coming to our studio today, and have a nice divinity, and good night.”
Tzach Yoked recently traveled to New York to spend “shabbat’ with a group of Seventh Day Adventists and wrote about the experience in Ma’ariv (January 4).
Christian Zionism
Ma’ariv, December 31, 2009

According to this report, a conflict is brewing between Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman and Shas Interior Minister Eli Ishai over the former’s precedent-setting move to formally recognize the evangelical church – known in certain circles as the “Zionist church” – and thereby make it easier for its clergy and their families to receive entry and work visas. Ishai is, of course, worried about possible missionary activity. The move follows an initiative by Shmuel ben Shmuel, head of the Diaspora Division of the Foreign Ministry, and the head of the Religious Affairs Division, to improve the status given to “those who come to ‘serve’ in Israel, as well as to give them something back in return for their contribution to the State. For the evangelical church, such recognition is significant act – apart from its breakthrough into the Israeli ecclesiastical scene, it would also mean the authority to set up law courts to deal with personal status issues such as marriage, divorce, burial, etc., as well as State funding for its institutions, such as schools and welfare organizations. One of the latter is the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem.” At a meeting between Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister and Ishai, the two reportedly agreed to the setting up of a “special team to examine the possibility of giving benefits to ‘Christian supporters of Israel.’” Ishai’s office went on record as stating that the Interior Ministry has not agreed to recognizing the evangelical church, “in order not to set a precedent for other sects who might also request recognition. ‘At the same time, in order to examine why there are delays in giving visas, it was decided to set up a checking process to investigate this,’ it was stated.”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, January 1, 4, 2010

This notice (in the Hebrew and English editions of the paper) reported on the harassment of Christians in Jerusalem: “A rare meeting between clerics from various churches, representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality, and a rabbi belonging to the Edah Haredit anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox stream gathered last week in Jerusalem in an effort to stave off a diplomatic crisis between Israel and a number of foreign states. The meeting was spurred by the growing number of complaints from churches in the vicinity of Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim quarter about violence and harassment toward them on the part of ultra-Orthodox Jews. These churches are located outside the Old City walls and in proximity to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, and include Polish, Ethiopian, Romanian and Russian places of worship. They have recently encountered serious harassment and violence in the form of spitting and curses aimed at nuns and monks, a dead cat thrown into one church’s courtyard, anti-Christian slogans spray-painted on walls, and stone throwing. In recent months, when demonstrations by members of the ultra-Orthodox community were seen against the operation of a parking lot on the Sabbath and the arrest of a woman accused of starving her child, attacks on Christians intensified as well. News of the harassment of the clergy was published abroad and met with shock. Complaints were lodged with the Israeli embassies and began piling up at the Foreign Ministry … Edah Haredit representatives denied that members of their community were involved, but said it was possible that ‘fringe youth’ who had participated in the demonstrations were causing the problems … Agmon-Snir and Kroizer said it was not by chance the appeal had been made to the Edah Haredit, even if they were not responsible for the attacks, because rabbis from that community could lead other ultra-Orthodox to follow in their footsteps. Later last week, Rabbi Shlomo Papenheim, a member of the Edah Haredit leadership, met at the Jerusalem municipality with Kroizer and the mayor’s adviser on religious communities, Jacky Avrahami. Mayor Nir Barkat also attended. Papenheim brought a letter from rabbis of the community’s religious tribunal denouncing the violent attacks … ‘In addition to the desecration of the Lord’s name that is involved,’ the letter states, ‘our rabbis, may the memory of these righteous men be a blessing, have already forbidden harassment of gentiles.’”