March 18 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – March 18, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 10 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, and Christian Zionism. Of these:
6 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with attitudes Christianity
1 dealt with Christian Zionism
2 were book reviews
This week’s Review reports on the ruling given in the case of “Pnina Pie.”

Messianic Jews
Jerusalem Post, March 10, 13; Zman HaDarom, March 12; Yediot Ashodod, March 12; Sha’ah Tova BeChadashot, March 11; Makor Rishon, March 10

“The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered the Ashdod Rabbinical Council to provide documents proving that the kashrut terms demanded of a Jews for Jesus baker were identical to those demanded of the Jewish bakers in the city. The decision came at the end of a hearing on a contempt-of-court petition filed on behalf of Pnina Conforty, a Jews for Jesus follower whose kosher certification had been revoked in 2006 because of her religious affiliation” (Jerusalem Post, March 10). Since, nine months later, Conforty has still not received the certificate, Justice Ayala Procaccia told the state’s representative, Hani Ofek, that “Court rulings must be obeyed”: “‘There is a problem here,’ replied Procaccia. ‘The High Court handed down a ruling. I have never heard of a case in which the court handed down a clear ruling and the rabbinate is looking for a ‘practical solution.’ We specified the solution.’ Ofek said there was not a single rabbi who would sign a kashrut certificate for a member of Jews for Jesus. She added that the court ruling had ‘fomented a storm in the rabbinical world.’ ‘I am asking for some time, some oxygen, to conduct this “institutional dialogue,”’ she said. The judges were not satisfied. ‘These things happen too often,’ said Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin. ‘The government must understand that when there is a ruling, it must be carried out. The State Attorney’s Office is not conveying this message.’” The Ashdod Rabbinate’s lawyer introduced a new claim at this hearing, when he charged that all eight bakeries in the city which bake their goods on the premises are subject to the same conditions as required from Conforty: “During the three years in which the petition was heard, Nun had never made this claim. On the contrary, the Ashdod Rabbinate had explained that precisely because Conforty was not Jewish and therefore not fully trustworthy when it came to observing the kashrut laws, she required a trustee to oversee the bakery.” Conforty’s lawyer refused to fulfill these conditions, asserting that “‘These are the same conditions they demanded of us in 2006. It was exactly these conditions that the court rejected in its final ruling.’” In response, however, “Procaccia said, ‘We asked for a list of the conditions in all the bakeries in Ashdod that bake their own goods. If what the attorney for the Ashdod Rabbinate says is true, we cannot allow your client to do less.’ Shraga accused the rabbinate of lying. He said it had prepared the new requirements for the other bakeries only in the wake of June’s ruling. He also demanded to know what the kashrut conditions were for bakeries throughout the country, and said he personally knew of some that did not have a kashrut supervisor for all baking and a full-time trustee. Procaccia rejected this argument as well, saying that kashrut observance was the responsibility of each local authority. The court demanded that Nun provide a list of all the bakeries in Ashdod and the conditions that each one was obliged to fulfill to receive kosher certification. It also demanded to know whether the Ashdod Rabbinate would grant Conforty a certificate if she promised to fulfill all of its conditions, assuming that they were the same as those imposed on the other bakeries. Nun said it would. Procaccia made it clear that if the rabbinate provided such a list and if, indeed, the conditions were as Nun had claimed, it would accept the document at face value, on the assumption that a public body would not lie to the court. This is standard practice for the Supreme Court, which cannot call witnesses to testify. However, the justices also asked Nun to tell them when the current conditions for certification had first been imposed on the bakeries.”

According to Makor Rishon (March 10), the “stormy debate” concluded with the court’s decision that the Ashdod Rabbinate must grant Conforty a certificate “in accordance with the laws and rulings of the Ashdod Rabbinate, if the Rabbinate can prove similar precedents in which it requires close and special supervision over bakeries.” This article also claimed that Nun presented a list of bakeries on which even stricter requirements had been imposed. Sha’ah Tova BeChadashot (March 11) reported that the Court ruled in favor of rejecting all the arguments provided by Conforty’s lawyer, “and even chided him for the manner in which he spoke.” The hearing was in fact held over Conforty’s suit against Chief Ashdod Rabbi, Ya’akov Sheinin, for contempt of court.
Ya’akov Teitel, “accused of a murderous lone-wolf campaign of violence targeting Palestinians, left-wing Israelis, police and Christians,” was also in the news this week, the Jerusalem Post (March 15) reporting that he has “recently begun a series of psychiatric tests at the Sha’ar Menashe Mental Health Center” ordered “last month by the Jerusalem District Court, where Teitel’s trial is underway” as part of “an effort to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.” The trial is scheduled to reconvene on May 17.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, March 12, 2010

In a lengthy interview with Natan Zach (born Harry Zeitelbach), the poet identified himself as “the candyman melting in the rain. I’m Harry Zeitelbach who remembers the Christmas tree in his parents’ home in Berlin, but also the crown of thorns of his crucified father in Israel, in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.”
Christian Zionism
Haaretz, March 12, 2010
As part of John Hagee’s current visit, “Waving American and Israeli flags, hundreds of American’s leading Christian pro-Israel advocacy group Tuesday marched through the streets of Jerusalem. Marchers from Christians United for Israel were ‘greeted warmly by residents and passersby,’ some of whom ‘even threw rose petals at the feet of the marchers,’ the organization said in [a] statement. At Safra Square, the crowd was addressed by the group’s founder Pastor John Hagee and New York-born Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, of Efrat. On Monday, the organization celebrated its second ‘Night to Honor Israel,’ during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the delegates for standing with Israel ‘through thick and thin.’ The Christian leaders also met with President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. ‘The unwavering support of Christian Zionists is vital during this pivotal and perilous time,’ Ayalon said.”

Book Reviews
Haaretz, March 5; Jerusalem Post, March 12, 2010
Nathalie Bitoun reviewed Marek Halter’s Mary of Nazareth in the Jerusalem Post (March 12) this week, under the title “The First Yiddishe mama’s biographer”: “Halter, here for the launch of his new book, Mary of Nazareth, is unequivocally a storyteller who loves fascinating and enthralling his listeners. Uncompromisingly, the man is a purveyor of memories, ideas, concepts, one who wants to transmit and make people think. ‘That’s the strength of the Jewish people: to be deep-rooted in the land as much as in the books. The strength of our people is to have understood that the land cannot be brought with you wherever you want, whereas the book can,’ he says. Halter’s recent writing endeavors have symbolized a return to these Jewish roots. After writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (The Madman and the Kings, 1976) and about the Jewish people (Abraham’s Memory, 1983), Halter wanted to tell stories about women. So he undertook to rewrite the Bible – in the feminine, this time. Considering the Bible to be not divine, but human – and humanity not only a male preserve – Halter paid homage to those heroines, demystifying them … In Mary of Nazareth, Halter explores the story of one of the most famous biblical women. Mary is known as the mother of Jesus, a subdued woman with eyes downcast and a modest look. However, Halter speaks of Mary in his own words. ‘It’s a Jewish story – that’s what we forget very often. Monotheisms are like Russian dolls. They all are embroidered in a larger religion: Judaism. And Mary was part of it. She came from Magdala, a very wealthy region of Galilee, and spoke at least three languages: Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek,’ he points out. ‘Three languages for a young woman of those times, coming from the fief of resistance to the Romans!’ … Mary was the first Yiddishe mama,’ says Halter, smiling. ‘She didn’t think her son would be the greatest lawyer or the best doctor ever; she simply saw him as “The Savior.” But at 30, her fatherless child has not yet accomplished anything. Mary forces Jesus to reveal himself during the wedding at Cana, where he performs the miracle of changing the water into wine. It is Mary, the woman who gave birth to him, who makes Jesus become the Christ … I am happy that Mary is coming out in Hebrew. First of all, because Hebrew looks like my mother tongue, Yiddish, and second, because I would like the Israelis to understand that Mary is part of their history as well. I want them to be convinced, and with
happiness and satisfaction, that all the wars eventually end up with peace. Every human being just wants to be spoken to in the language he understands. Everyone wants the others to use his language to describe universal realities – which can, however, vary a lot.’”

David B. Green interviewed Scott Korb, a Roman Catholic New York writer and teacher, about his latest book (Haaretz, March 5): “The cover of Scott Korb’s new book features a cut-out image, superimposed on a background of rolling hills, of a figure evocative of an itinerant preacher of the ancient world. With arms upraised, long hair, and a robe that reaches the ground, the outline summons up an image many of us have of Jesus. The absence of an actual individual’s features is appropriate, for as Korb reminds readers many times in the book, Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine (Riverhead, 256 pages, $25.95), his subject is not the life of Jesus, but rather the way in which his neighbors lived – if Jesus had been ‘the kind of person who had neighbors’ … Korb attempts to learn all he can about what is known concerning the way people lived two millennia ago in Roman-occupied Palestine. In fact, he discovers, the answer is ‘very little,’ but Korb, through extensive reading and interviews with several scholars, as well as a brief visit to Israel and the West Bank, nonetheless tries to create a picture of family and home life, agriculture, religion and death, mainly for the Jews of rural Galilee. It was a time of political and religious ferment, of course, and hanging ominously over the narrative is the devastating war with Rome that culminated in the destruction, in the year 70, of the Temple in Jerusalem … I think that the world that I’m writing about is often, today, an unimagined existence. When we think about the first century, we usually think about Jesus, or we think about Jerusalem, either a single person and his effect on the world, or a single city and its impact on the world. And I wanted to talk about the unimagined people, the people who, as I say in the book, built their houses out of dung. Who were, in some ways, robbed of their land. Those are the people whom I want to take center stage in this book. All the while, Jerusalem and the Temple, and we can’t forget the Romans, those three forces are also big in the book. They weigh heavy on one end of the book. And then, despite every moment that I say “this is not a book about Jesus,” and I say it several times, he is still that ragged figure that Flannery O’Connor describes, running around the back of this book, in the back of my mind, from tree to tree.’”