July 6 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – July 6, 2010


During the week covered by this review, we received 3 articles on the subjects of Christian sites and Christian-Jewish relations. Of these:

2 dealt with Christian sites

1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations


This week’s Review featured a lengthy article reporting on the growing interest shown in Poland in studying Judaism and Jewish history.


Jewish-Christian Relations

Ma’ariv, July 2, 2010

According to this lengthy feature, a growing trend exists in Poland towards studying Judaism and history, particularly amongst Catholic students: “Against expectations, Jewish students can hardly be found in Jewish Studies programs. The overwhelming majority of students are in fact Christian Catholics, or atheists. For some of them, this is a childhood dream, for others, Jewish Studies has turned their lives upside down. Precisely in Poland, where the Germans chose to locate their concentration camps in which millions of Jews were murdered during the Second World War, the decision to study Judaism and Hebrew is not a simple one. But if the majority of students of Judaism have something in common, it is their immense love for Israel, for the Jewish religion, and the Hebrew language – or the version more comfortable in European ears, Yiddish … So what draws young Poles without any Jewish roots or any real contact with Judaism, to choose precisely Jewish Studies, Hebrew, or Yiddish? … ‘For many of them, it’s a question of having missed out. They live in places where it’s still possible to see Jewish remains, and they understand that a different culture once flourished in the place they grew up in. They understand that this is in fact their history and that it is impossible to understand Polish culture without studying the influence of the Jews who lived here’ … Efforts to discover what leads students specifically to study Jewish Studies or Hebrew encounter a thunderous silence in most cases. One of the students, who asked that her name not be mentioned, agreed only to say that ‘All my life I grew up as a Catholic in all respects. I went to church on Sundays and it was clear to me that I was a Catholic. Only a few years ago, after my grandmother got sick and her condition deteriorated, did she tell me on her death bed that in fact we are Jewish. She didn’t want to tell me before; apparently, she was still feared the response of people around. But before her death it was important to her that I should know that I am in fact Jewish’ … The father of the family, Witold, relates that his decision to register for a Jewish Studies course at the University at the age of 50 was the result of an inner voice that told him that this is what he should do. ‘I grew up as an atheist, but gradually I started taking an interest in religion,’ he said. ‘Naturally, as a Catholic I began go going to church. Over time, I also began learning about Judaism, because the New Testament and the Torah are very similar, and I fell in love with Judaism’ … They see their Jewish Studies as a true vocation and feel that they are continuing the Jewish heritage in Poland.”


Christians Sites

Haaretz, July 2 (x 2), 2010

Both these pieces relate to obstacles in the path of Christian tourists to Christian sites in Israel. The first notes that “The well in Ein Karem on the outskirts of Jerusalem is considered to be one of the four most important pilgrim sites in Israel for Christians. According to faith, Miriam, the mother of Yeshu, drank from it while she was pregnant, on her way to Bethlehem. Millions of Christian pilgrims visit the well annually, turning it into one of the most sacred and visited sites in Israel. What has been happening on the ground opposite the well in recent years, however, appears to represent the complete opposite of sanctity or tourist attraction … After endless delays, work finally began around two years ago [to renovate the site]. According to the plans and a large poster board erected on the site, a large stone-paved square was due to be erected, together with public toilets. During the digging … two water systems from the Byzantine and Mameluke periods were discovered. The residents, like top officials in the municipality, were very excited by the finds and advocated that the water systems should be restored to use so that the waters from the well could start flowing once again … According to the plan, after taking care of the pollution problems, the water would be redirected through the ancient pools and eventually gathered in the community garden established by the residents. The original idea was even approved by the Planning and Construction Committee … But the residents of Ein Karem, who succeeded in peeking through the walls of waste surrounding the building site, discovered that plans are one thing and actual work another. Not only were the archaeological findings buried, but in front of their eyes a grossly huge structure rose up which had never been mentioned in the plans, or featured on the poster board. No one has been quite able to figure out the purpose of this structure. In an official response, the municipality claims that it is a municipal storage building. Neighborhood residents raise questions about the logic in deciding to erect a storage building at such an important tourist site.”


Under the title “There’s a way but no Gospel,” Tali Cheruti-Sober reported on the difficulties experienced by Maoz Yinon in opening up the “Jesus Trail.” Despite enlisting the support of the Government Tourist Office, erecting basic sign posts, publishing a map, and creating a web site, they have been virtually left to run the trail by themselves – with the help of international volunteers. “‘We’re talking about a national site in the possession of the State which has no public sponsor to develop and market it,’ says Yinon, ‘and that’s a great pity.’” Typically, however, this is not the end of the story. Rather than investing in the already-existing trail, the Jewish National Fund have begun plans to implement a rival “Gospel Trail” – “a plan initiated in 2000, buried in the Intifada, and abruptly resurrected. The trail – like its name – is almost identical to the Jesus Trail … It will be signposted by black basalt stone markers very expensive to prepare. New trails will be blazed – and the cost: three million shekels, with an option of development. The fact that two virtually identical trails will be marketed separately to the same tourist market does not put off the project’s organizer, Amir Moran: ‘We are dealing with principles according to which heritage paths are being built and for which comprehensive and organized work is necessary … We have no opposition to a private project, but that isn’t the way of the State.’”