October 20 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – October 20, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 2 articles on Jewish-Christian relations

Jewish-Christian Relations
Haaretz, October 14; Jerusalem Post, October 15, 2010
Reporting on the “Special Assembly for the Middle East” currently being convened at the Vatican, Haaretz (October 14) noted that, “Bishops summoned to the Vatican to discuss the flight of Christians from the Middle East have blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring much of the exodus and warned that the consequences could be devastating for the birthplace of Christianity. Some bishops have singled out the emergence of fanatical Islam for the flight. But others have directly or indirectly accused Israel of discriminating against Arab Christians and impeding solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, the working document of the two-week synod accused the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories for creating difficulties in everyday life for Palestinian Christians, including their religious life, as their access to holy sites is dependent on Israeli military permission.”
A feature in the Jerusalem Post (October 15) noted that, “In recent years, an increasing number of priests and priests-in-training have been sent to ulpan by their seminaries … Ulpan programs are known to be a hub of diversity, predominantly filled with new immigrants, Arab Israelis looking to learn Hebrew and Jewish students spending a semester abroad. But ulpan teachers say that in recent years, they have seen a remarkable influx of priests and priests-in-training being sent to ulpan programs officially by their seminaries. ‘As long as I can remember, we’ve had many kinds of people from all over the world – Christians and some Muslims and Jews, obviously. But as for priests, I’ve never seen so many,’ said Tali Debbi-Sasson, who has taught since 1996 at the Hebrew University’s ulpan program at the Rothberg International School and at Mila, a private ulpan in downtown Jerusalem. Debbi-Sasson said she has seen a particular increase of priests enrolling in ulpan programs during the past two to three years and has taught at least 10. One student, Alexandre Comte from France, believes that the influx stems from the gradual improvement in relations between Catholics and Jews ignited by Pope John Paul II … Josue Campomar … initially came for a different purpose – to partake in a year-long work-study program at Domus Galilaeae – also known as Beit Hagalil – a monastery located in front of Lake Kinneret on the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Catholics believe Jesus delivered his most important sermon … Unlike Campomar, who arrived with no prior knowledge of Hebrew, many of his colleagues who elect to study at ulpan have previous experience studying biblical Hebrew. Although this was Comte’s second time attending a summer ulpan at Hebrew University, he and the other French seminarians came expressly to study Hebrew and not to give tours at a place like Domus Galilaeae or stay for an extended period … He cites three reasons for a priest-in-training to learn modern Hebrew. ‘The first obviously is that it’s easier to learn biblical Hebrew when you know modern Hebrew,’ said Comte, who was officially ordained as deacon – the first degree in the sacrament of orders – a few weeks ago and will officially become a priest in June, after seven years of study. The second motive, he explained, involves understanding all the songs and prayers that embody modern Jewish culture. To stay truly up to date with Catholicism, clerics must also stay aware of current trends in Judaism because ‘there is only one history – there is only the history of Moses, and there is only one Lord,’ he said. ‘When we strive to get to know the Jewish culture better, it’s not to make Jewish people know Jesus Christ – it’s for us,’ he said. ‘We have to do this, to improve our knowledge.’ The third reason, he said, is to become more familiar with the modern history of Israel and the construction of the State of Israel because all that happens in Israel is interesting for all the nations. Comte said that all seminarians in Paris can come here to learn modern Hebrew which, like their studies in France, is free to the students and paid for by church tithes. Aside from markedly improved relations between Catholics and Jews, he also credits the French seminarians’ interest in Hebrew and Judaism with the fact that the former archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, was originally Jewish. … While neither Campomar nor Comte intends to make his permanent home here, each expressed an equally deep connection to the land. ‘At last, in Israel, I was able to experience how faith in God is really a gift,’ Comte said. ‘When I am in France or Europe, the common culture is Christian, so it’s normal to believe in God. But we don’t realize that our beliefs are not simply a European belief. Our beliefs are from Israel, from Judaism. In Jerusalem, everybody is Jewish and the streets are filled with Jewish people. It’s here that we really realize that this is a gift. In theological terms, we realize it’s a grace.’