October 13 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – October 13, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations, and archaeology. Of these:
1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
2 dealt with anti-missionary activities
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with the Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with archaeology
Messianic Jews were mentioned in this week’s Review as members of a Christian Zionist group called “Hayovel.”
Attitudes towards Christianity
Ma’ariv, October 7, 2010
In a brief column on travel in Israel, Dubi Zakkai entitled his notes regarding the Holy Sepulcher “Whoever believes”: “Most streams within Christianity believe that Yeshua’s body (or Yeshu, as he’s known in our people’s circles) is buried in the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City in Jerusalem. Some Protestant denominations think otherwise, and in their opinion Yeshu is buried in the garden belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. This beautiful garden, located in East Jerusalem, lies in close proximity to Golgotha, where, according to Christian tradition, Yeshu was crucified … Whether you believe or not, the place is beautiful and well worth a visit.”
Anti-missionary Activities
Merkaz HaInyanim Tzafon, September 20; HaModia, October 6, 2010
Two reports listed an “escalation” in missionary activity in the country. According to HaModia (October 6), “‘The answer to anti-Semitism,’ ‘the terrorist who now loves the Jewish people,’ ‘former Muslim terrorist speaks on behalf of the Jewish people’ – all these and more were colorful headlines that cried out to the residents of Kiryat Shemoneh from their mail boxes. When they drew these tracts out from the midst of the others filling their boxes, they didn’t imagine that they were bringing into their houses preaching material on behalf of Christianity, God have mercy on us. When the Kiryat Shemoneh residents read further, they were disturbed to discover that there wasn’t even the slightest connection between the exclamatory headlines and the words of incitement and provocation inside them. It was the missionary Andreo Louis who had filled their mail boxes with this literature. It transpires that from time to time, especially around the festivals, the streets of Kiryat Shemoneh are filled with Christian missionary material. Herzl ben Asher, editor of ‘Hadashot HaGalil,’ told HaModia that a month ago, Kiryat Shemoneh residents found tracts of a ‘Jewish-religious’ nature which contained a picture of a former Hizbollah member who had converted [to Christianity] and other stories of ‘signs and wonders’ giving the impression of completely Orthodox literature … The Chief Rabbi of the city, R. Zephania Drori, wrote a letter to the Post Office complaining about the postal workers were being forced to distribute Christian missionary literature which contravenes their conscience and religion. The letter was disseminated throughout the synagogues in the city. It turns out that the matter is not at all simple. According to the law of the State, the Post Office cannot prevent the dissemination of material marketed as publicity even when it contains missionary content and calls on Jews to change their religion. The city’s rabbis voiced their protest against a situation in which the missionaries receive the backing and support of the laws of Israel. The Post Office’s director stated that, ‘The Post Office operates on the basis of the postal law of 1986, which decrees imprisonment on any postal worker who delays or suspends distribution of anything sent through the mail. The lawmaker has given the Post Office the authority to prevent the distribution of post in the event that sufficient suspicion exists that a crime has been committed with respect to the piece of mail or by its means … The tracts carried a printed address and no conditions were found to indicate that this law was being violated.’”
A second article, in Merkaz HaInyanim Tzafon (September 20), noted that “With the assistance of yarmulke-wearers and office-holders in religious and charitable organizations, the mission is enlarging its activity in Haifa in exchange for financial gain.” The focus of the report is the receipt of money by Jewish organizations from such “missionary” bodies as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and the International Christian Embassy – further claiming that the latter – “crowned with money” – is an umbrella organization representing all the mission organizations in the country. “While the International Embassy does not officially engage in missionary activity and attempts at conversion, it secretly and indirectly supports of all the dangerous missions and gives them logistical and financial support in all the fields in which they operate.”
Christian Zionism
Jerusalem Post, October 7; Haaretz, October 8, 2010
A lengthy article in Haaretz (October 8) entitled “God and grapes” featured a group of “believers, as they call themselves, from North America who promote realization of the vision of the ancient seers” and “work as volunteers on Jewish agricultural lands in the territories – mostly in Nir Lavie’s vineyards at Har Bracha, Erez Ben Saadon’s vineyards at Shilo, Yaakov Berg’s vineyards at Psagot and Shlomi Cohen’s adjacent to Dolev.” Under the name of “Hayovel” (the Jubilee), they “do not define themselves as evangelical Christians, and avoid identification with any specific church. Some of them are Messianic Jews, some wear tzitzit (ritual fringes) and some of the women cover their heads. All of them are united in a literal belief in the Hebrew Bible. As they see it, the Jews are God’s chosen people, and the establishment of the State of Israel proves the truth of the prophecies concerning the revival of the Jewish people in its land. The utterance ‘Praise the Lord’ is common among them and they react with true joy (and hugs and photos) every time they encounter one of the Chosen People … The settlers who own the vineyards and the plantations are pleased with the deal. ‘Lots of people in the world are coming to the conclusion that not all Jews are monsters. They see us as an enlightened and moral people,’ says Ben Saadon of the Shilo winery. ‘They, specifically, are very moral and there is a natural connection between us and them, apart from the fact that in the books of the prophets it’s written that many nations will want to join up with the Jewish people in the future. They are the first harbingers and they see us, the settlers, as the fulfillers of the prophecy. Though they are working as volunteers, we help them in many areas.’ Gershon Masika, head of the Samaria regional council, has established a foreign relations department at the council, responsible for liaison with the groups of Christians who come to the region. ‘Every month a group of Christians who love Israel comes to me,’ he says. ‘They are excited to see the flourishing of Samaria.’”
Under the headline, “Hallelujah! Evangelicals hold gospel gathering in Israel,” the Jerusalem Post (October 7) reported that “A group of 1,400 Evangelical Christians from South Africa gathered in Israel this week for three evenings of worship and devotion in Jerusalem’s Old City and a week of touring the country. The Christian pilgrims, who arrived in 34 groups on a series of flights earlier this week, plan to express their love and support for the State of Israel during their countrywide visit … Lindie Gouws, the leader of the online, multimedia ministry and a popular preacher in South Africa said that the participants represented an increasing number of South African Christians who believe that it is their duty to be ‘Watchmen over Jerusalem.’ She said that there is a growing movement of people in the country and around the world who share the belief that the conflict in Israel is not about politics or money, but a spiritual battle between light and darkness, and that they were in Israel to bless it in words, deeds and prayers … ‘We have come to bring the praise of Israel to our God. We have also come to intercede for our nation. Should our nation not align with Israel, we understand that we have a responsibility to do so. We are not putting the responsibility on to our government. We are saying that we will take up the call and there are three things we will do: we will pray, we will understand and we will speak,’ said Gouws. ‘We will no longer be silent. We will speak with great strength and call on all the people to be united’ … Rafi Ben-Hur, senior deputy director of the Tourism Ministry, said ‘The Tourism Ministry is eager to promote ties with the Christian community and especially the evangelicals. Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov places a big emphasis on maintaining good contacts with them. They are our only friends and provide us with an ear and mouth to the world,’ said Ben-Hur. ‘By welcoming them here warmly, we are both promoting tourism and drafting ambassadors. If they visit us and receive the right treatment, they go back charged like dynamite’ … Ben-Hur said that Christians make up roughly half of the incoming tourists and that they are a growth engine for the Israeli economy … In related news, Sunday was the Annual Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, marked by millions of Evangelical Christians worldwide. Both events were aired live on God TV, a Christian broadcast network reaching viewers all across the world.”
Jewish-Christian Relations
Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2010
According to this report, “An unprecedented Vatican Synod of Bishops – a ‘Special Assembly for the Middle East’ – will be held in Vatican City from October 10 to 24. One hundred and seventy-two Catholic bishops from Islamic countries, 14 Roman Curia officials, 14 non-Catholic Christians and 30 academic experts will spend two weeks discussing the future of Catholic communities in the Middle East.” While “usually the Catholic Church points to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the factor behind all unrest in the Middle East, declining to denounce the repression of Christian life in Muslim countries for fear of retaliation,” according to Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Babylon, Iraq, of the Chaldean Catholic Church, “‘The urgent reasons for this meeting are that Christians are fleeing from the Middle East, and extremist Islamism is invading the area. We need to find a dialogue with Muslims, and unity among Christians.’” Mordechay Lewy, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, however, stated that, “the oft-repeated lament that Christians are fleeing the Holy Land is misleading. The term ‘Holy Land’ encompasses Turkey, Egypt and Iraq in addition to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, he said. ‘Therefore, to speak about the persecution or emigration of Christians from the Holy Land is doing an injustice to Israel and Jordan, as those countries never hosted such occurrences. The presence of Christians in Israel and in Jerusalem has not only remained stable since 1967, but is increasing in real terms,’ Lewy said … The working document (instrumentum laboris) for the Synod, ‘The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness,’ was produced from a flood of alarming replies to a questionnaire based on a previous outline (lineamenta). The responses came from the Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Episcopal Conferences, the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and the Union of Superiors-General, as well as from many individual persons and ecclesial groups. The resulting document clearly expresses concern over the rise of ‘political Islam … a threat to all, Christians, Jews and Muslims” and the consequent ‘ghetto mentality’ of Christians who ‘isolate themselves out of fear of others.’ The official objective is to strengthen Christian identity and promote ecumenism in Muslim countries. The working document’s section on Catholics’ ‘Relations with Muslims’ states that they ‘are difficult principally because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics, thereby relegating Christians to precarious positions of being considered noncitizens despite the fact that they were citizens of these countries long before the rise of Islam.’ A key goal is acquiring ‘religious freedom’ – to be understood as freedom of worship and not, it is cautioned, ‘freedom of conscience, defined as freedom to believe or not believe, to practice one’s religion openly, either privately or publicly, or to change one’s religion for another’ … As a tribute to the two main non-Christian religions in the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI and the Synod attendees will hear keynote speeches by three authorities … [Rabbi David] Rosen said he will address four points: ‘1. The sociological, cultural and political context in which Christian communities function in the Holy land and interact with Jewry against the background of profound, recent changes in Jewish-Christian relations; 2. Advances as well as difficulties in this relationship; 3. Significant differences in the situation of the Christian communities within Israel and those considered part of a Palestinian polity in the making; and 4. Significant recent changes in perceptions of Christianity in Israel and the role of Christian leadership in interfaith life and its potential for peacemaking in the region’ … According to the Synod’s working document, anti-Zionism must be banished as ‘foreign to every ecclesial discourse,’ because although not anti-Semitic, it is purely political … Catholic communities are urged to engage in dialogue with Jews in a spirit of reconciliation. This dialogue is ‘essential,’ though ‘at times not without its obstacles.’ One obstacle is that ‘some biblical verses can be interpreted according to a ‘culture of violence.’ On October 19, Monsignor Michel Sabbah, 77, who was the archbishop and Latin patriarch of Jerusalem from 1987 to 2008, will present ‘Kairos Palestine,’ a scathing, mainly Protestant anti-Israel document signed by various Middle East Christian representatives who define ‘the Israeli occupation’ as a ‘sin against God and Humanity’ (lifting this phrase from John Paul II’s definition of anti-Semitism). The document calls for both love and ‘nonviolent resistance through divestment.’”
Jerusalem Post, October 7, 2010
Following the ruling by experts at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who declared a limestone burial box with the Hebrew inscription “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” inscribed on it to be “a modern-day forgery,” its owner, Tel Aviv collector Oded Golan, was arrested and charged, in 2004, with faking the ossuary and dozens of other items, including an inscribed tablet linked to King Joash, “which, if authentic, would be the only physical evidence from the Temple of Solomon … If genuine, the burial box, or ossuary, would be the only archeological artifact found with a possible direct link to Jesus of Nazareth.” Now, the trial is coming to end, the defense ended its summing-up this week “with just two men left in the dock, bringing to an end five years of court proceedings that spanned 116 sessions, 133 witnesses, 200 exhibits and nearly 12,000 pages of witness testimony. The prosecution summation alone ran to 653 pages. Yet despite the flood of strong scientific testimony, the feeling in the tiny courtroom, where fewer than a dozen people (including only one reporter) have followed the proceedings, was that the prosecution had failed to prove the items were forgeries or that Golan and Deutsch had faked them. Judge Aharon Farkash, the wheelchair-bound polymath who has overseen the marathon trial, wondered aloud on several occasions how he could be expected to deliver a legal ruling on what was essentially a scientific question that the experts themselves could not resolve … ‘Have you really proved beyond a reasonable doubt that these artifacts are fakes as charged in the indictment? The experts disagreed among themselves,’ Farkash told the prosecutor … At times, the courtroom has seemed more like a doctoral seminar than a legal proceeding. The world’s leading experts on archeology, biblical history, Semitic languages, ancient stones and inscriptions, geology, isotopes (both stable and carbon-14), biology, chemistry, microscopy and glue have participated in an often fascinating and sometimes embarrassing collision of scholarship and criminal law. The court has heard from grave robbers, dealers in the shady antiquities market, billionaire collectors and tireless investigators who spend freezing nights in the desert waiting to catch tomb raiders. There have been stories of mysterious Egyptian forgers, cash payments of thousands of dollars in parked cars on West Bank back roads, sting operations at airport customs and warehouses crammed full of priceless ancient artifacts. Judge Farkash said Sunday he would try to plow through all that material and deliver a verdict as soon as possible. It could take several months. The criminal, scholarly and scientific implications of his verdict are immense. If genuine, the artifacts are of historic importance and worth millions. An acquittal would be a severe setback for the Israel Antiquities Authority and its special investigators, who accused Golan and his codefendants of making millions of dollars as part of an international chain of forgers planting sophisticated fakes in the world’s museums. It would also be an acute embarrassment for the isotope experts at the Israel Geological Survey and Prof. Yuval Goren of Tel Aviv University, who spent many days on the stand defending scientific tests they said showed the items must be fakes. A guilty verdict, on the other hand, would destroy the reputation of one of the world’s leading collectors of biblical antiquities and drive the entire Israeli market underground. The Israel Antiquities Authority has made no secret of its desire to shut down the trade in Bible-era artifacts, which it believes encourages grave robbers, who spirit the choicest finds out of the country.”