February 9 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – February 9, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the subjects of Christians in Israel and Jewish-Christian relations. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with film
2 were book reviews
This week’s Review suggests that increasing numbers of Israeli women are being attracted – if only temporarily – to Messianic Judaism.

Messianic Jews
L’Isha, February 1; Melabes, February 6, 2010

Hila Apiryon, who has now embarked on a modeling career, flirted with Messianic Judaism following a period in which she studied at an Orthodox midrasha (college for Jewish studies) in Jerusalem. “After she left the midrasha, Hila began first to dabble in Messianic Judaism. ‘We’re talking about a very brief period in my life in which I started to examine another direction. I looked into all sorts of things. Among others places, I went to Reform synagogues, and that was something which was very emotional and rational. I was a bit drawn to that. I also checked out the New Testament and read it, and then I said to myself that it’s something I’d really like to study. I went to King George St. in Tel Aviv, where there’s a place of Messianics – and what happens there is really crazy. It’s a big congregation and they do everything in a big, missionary, emotional way. You see people crying while they’re praying, something you don’t see in Judaism, because Judaism’s very formal … What I saw there amazed me, but I also have some criticism of it, because when I read the New Testament I saw that there are lots of beliefs that contradict one another, so then I understood that it wasn’t for me, because I need logic in my life more than emotion. I’m looking for what’s true and I don’t want to go to things that will expose me emotionally but to things that will lead me to truth.’ After she left Jerusalem and flirted with Messianic Judaism, Apiryon went back to Petach Tikva and began studying at a business college.”
Danit Keren, who currently heads an “anti-cult” organization, underwent a similar experience. “At age seventeen, when she examined the issue of different religions, the matter of congregations in Israel arose. ‘I wanted to meet the people behind the congregations, to find out their view of God. As someone initiated in the mysteries of the Tanakh and the New Testament, I went to the Messianic congregations and found good people with true belief in their hearts. When I went home, I used to sit and write down what I’d seen and make analogies between what I was familiar with in Judaism and their Christian faith. They tried to persuade me to be baptized, but I didn’t take part in any of the ceremonies. I’m not into ceremonies. I was curious to know what people are drawn to. Once, a pastor told me, “One day you’ll stand here on the platform instead of me.” It’s not surprising, because I knew what they were talking about, I asked questions, and whenever I see people in key positions I say to myself that I can do what they’re doing better than them. I went to those meetings for a year, until I stopped.’ ‘Why did you stop going?’ My red line is the place where I can’t express criticism and aren’t allowed to be exposed to books on subjects such as psychology and philosophy – because they’re regarded as heretical. In general, in a place where limits are put on knowledge and someone curbs my thinking and constricts my view of the world, and when other people control the things I’m allowed to be exposed to – I can’t live in places like that.’ ‘And today you’re fighting against them?’ ‘I’m fighting deception. They identify themselves as Jews and manage to deceive people, but they’re really Christians. But this doesn’t conflict with the fact that I still have friends there, and not long ago I was even invited to a bar mitzvah one of the members conducted for his son.’”
Yediot Ahronot, January 29; Haaretz, February 2, 2010

Both these pieces related to Mel Gibson. Yediot Ahronot (January 29) devoted a full-length article to the actor and his film, “The Passion of Jesus,” while Haaretz (February 2) noted that a local law firm is negotiating with the distribution team responsible for “The Resurrection of Yeshu,” which is due to be filmed, in part, in Israel, who were also in charge of “The Passion of Jesus.”

Book Reviews
Jerusalem Post, January 29; Haaretz, February 2010

Abigail Klein in the Jerusalem Post (January 29) reviewed Pnina Talyor’s autobiography, Coming Full Circle (Hatikva Books, 2009). A Jewish woman whose “ignorance of Jewish beliefs and practice left her feeling like an outsider. That, combined with her emotional turmoil and rudderless upbringing, made her particularly vulnerable to teenage Christian missionaries” led her to become “a sought-after speaker at messianic conventions and services,” Taylor gradually made her way back to Judaism: “… the Taylors began adopting biblical Jewish practices in the belief that they were required of Penina and preferable for [her non-Jewish husband] Paul. Surely it was an odd sight when the Taylor family entered church, with Paul and the boys wearing tzitzit (but not kippot, as head coverings for men are not biblically mandated) and with Penina modestly adorned in a head scarf that she took to wearing full time – a practice she initially took on after studying a relevant passage from the Christian Scriptures … ‘I had to completely reframe my understanding of the universe and God and faith,’ she writes of her religious transformation after 17 years as a practicing Christian. ‘Okay, if Christianity isn’t true, does that automatically mean that Judaism is? … As a Jew, what responsibilities did I have to the commandments and the rest of the world?’ … [Taylor] founded Shomrei Emet, an international educational and training organization whose ‘mission was the same as Jews for Judaism’s – to keep Jews Jewish, plain and simple.’ She continues this work here, and for a couple of years, she also directed Jews for Judaism-Jerusalem. Taylor makes many public appearances as the founder and CEO of Torah Life Strategies, offering motivational lectures on religious issues as well as topics including attention deficit disorder. Her personal history of domestic violence and drug experimentation, and especially her spiritual voyages, undoubtedly strike a chord with listeners from many different backgrounds. So, too, will her book.”
Steven Silber reviewed Shalom Goldman’s Zeal for Zion: Christians, Jews, and the Idea of the Promised Land (University of North Carolina Press, 2010). Goldman is Professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern Studies at Emory University and, according to Silber, “could almost be called a New Historian” except for that that “he forgoes the iconoclasm of writers like Tom Segev and Benny Morris. His main focus is on Christian Zionism – the belief among Christians that the Jews have a religious claim to the Holy Land. In short, Goldman … says that ‘Jewish Zionism would not have succeeded without the help of Christian Zionism.’ Zionism, he writes, was the ‘Jewish implementation of an idea that had been developing in Christian circles for more than 300 years’ … he illustrates his thesis with what he calls ‘six narratives’ – relationships between representatives of Christian and Jewish Zionism” – including the less well researched “Christian Zionism” of C.P. Scott, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Robert Graves. “Goldman makes further valuable contributions in the chapters that describe the Jews’ improving relations with the Catholic Church and their closer ties with the American evangelical movement. The main unsung Catholic hero is French philosopher Jacques Maritain … Most interestingly, Goldman makes clear that flirting with evangelical Christians to help the Jews was not a practice limited to our time, when American evangelicals can be counted on to help fund aliyah, visit Israel during hard times and support U.S. policies they consider pro-Israel … if Israeli cooperation with the religious right increases, political scientists might look back on the likes of Oliphant and Hechler the way Sovietologists looked back at the 19th-century populist and socialist parties that, in hindsight, came to be seen as precursors to the Bolsheviks … Again, readers will have to go elsewhere if they want a detailed analysis on the wisdom of keeping such company, although Goldman lays the groundwork when he says that Gush Emunim’s version of religious Zionism marks the ‘rejection of Jewish humanism and universalism and thus expresses a bitter antagonism to the universalist strain in earlier forms of Zionist discourse.’”