November 10- 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – November 10, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations, and conversos. Of these:
2 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
7 dealt with anti-missionary activity
3 dealt with Christian Zionism
2 deal with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with conversos
1 was a book review
The principal story of this week’s Review relates to Eddie Beckford’s conviction for assault and attempting to run over an anti-missionary activist.
Attitudes towards Christianity
Jerusalem Post, November 3; Chadashot Shelanu, October 29, 2010
According to a report in Chadashot Shelanu (October 29), “‘No one can force you to enter a church or monastery, there’s no order relating to this and you can insist on not taking part in such activity’ – that was the official response given to IDF soldiers who turned to the hot-line operated by the army rabbinate with a question regarding educational seminars being conducted recently by the army educational corp in the framework of visits to monasteries in Jerusalem and Abu Gosh, amongst other to Mt. Herzl and Jerusalem churches. The reason for this is that churches, monasteries, temples (Bahai, Buddhist, etc.), and mosques are considered to be idolatrous places of worship due to the images they contain.” According to the education officer, such visits are important “as part of the soldiers’ familiarity with different religions in Israel.” The army rabbinate, on the other hand, insists that “‘… to compel soldiers to visit Catholic churches, against explicit halakhot and merely for “education”? It will never happen’ … It is not clear why the army chief rabbinate does not instruct IDF officers to bring the express prohibition against entering idolatrous places according to halakhah to the soldiers’ attention.”
In an opinion piece entitled “Ibrahim and Ibn-Rabah” (Jerusalem Post, November 5), Sarah Honig made a case for the argument that “When Christians voted to call the Cave of the Patriarchs the Ibrahimi Mosque and Rachel’s Tomb the Bilal Ibn-Rabah Mosque, they betrayed Christianity”: “Quite incredibly, representatives of Western democracies on UNESCO’s executive delivered a self-destructive blow to their own heritage when demanding that Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron be removed from the inventory of Jewish heritage sites. UNESCO’s resolution redefined them as mosques – as if Muslim from time immemorial. It sought to detach seminal biblical place names from any Jewish connections. It’s one thing to willfully subscribe to mind-blowing colossal deception; it’s quite another to shake the foundations beneath one’s own civilization. Politically incorrect as it may be in our postmodern, multicultural existence, Europe’s and America’s democracies are constructed on Christian foundations. By accepting Muslim deconstructionist diktats, the West not only injures the Jews, it injures its own legacy. To be fair, the world’s current most inveterate revisers of the past, the Muslims, are relative newcomers to the fanciful world of fabricated historiography. Long before Islam existed, Christians were obsessed with their own retrospective rewriting and they were preceded by pagans … Consequently Christianity could expend so much effort on cleansing the historic Jesus of his Jewishness. But telltale vestiges remain in the New Testament attesting to the truth which volumes of convoluted rationalizations and distortions couldn’t quite erase. Just turn to Mark 12:28-30, where Jesus is asked which is the most important commandment of all. He replies without equivocation: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your might.’ [This] is what Jesus valued most. He surely would unreservedly identify Hebron and Bethlehem as incontestably Jewish and the tombs therein as unquestionably sacred to Jews like him. Thus when Christians voted as they did to call the Cave of the Patriarchs the Ibrahimi Mosque and Rachel’s Tomb the Bilal ibn-Rabah Mosque, they thereby also belied and betrayed Christianity. Their narrative cannot stand apart from Jewish history.”
Anti-missionary Activity
Yom L’Yom, November 4 (x 2); HaShavua BeHolon, October 27; HaMachane HeCharedi, November 4; Sha’ah Tova, November 4; BeKehila, November 4; Yediot HaNegev, November 5, 2010
Yom L’Yom (November 4) and HaShavua BeCholon (October 27) carried the previous story of the Yad L’Achim activist allegedly assaulted by JW missionaries.
Eddie Beckford was indicted this week of assault and attempting to run over an anti-missionary activist: “The wheels of justice grind slowly, but last week, at the conclusion of a three-year-long trial, the Beersheva Magistrates’ Court convicted a missionary leader who assaulted a Yad L’Achim activist in Arad and tried to run him over with a car. Arad, a town of 23,000 residents, was targeted by missionaries hoping that its remote location in southern Israel, near the Dead Sea, would give them freedom to operate unhindered by the chareidi community. But, to their dismay, Yad L’Achim activists and local religious residents have for the past six years appeared daily to protest outside the missionaries’ center near the city market. Frustrated by this completely legal activity, which succeeded in alerting Jews as to the real intentions of the friendly, smiling missionaries who welcomed them into the center with a variety of enticements, the missionaries grew violent … without doubt, the most egregious assault occurred in February 2007, when Eddie Beckford, who is in charge of missionary activities in the city, tried to run over a group of Yad L’Achim activists. When he failed, he charged out of his car and violently attacked one of the activists. The victim filed a police complaint and Beckford was barred from the city for 45 days, during which time an indictment was prepared against him. In a trial that saw many ups and downs, the main evidence against Beckford was a film of the events, clearly showing the attempt to run over the activists and the assault, and an eye witness who was flown in from London … He told how he had arrived at the site in February 2007 together with other activists and how Beckford tried to run them over with his car, and then physically pursued and attacked one of them. He skillfully answered all the questions that were put to him, by the prosecution and the defense, transmitting an air of impeccable credibility. Throughout the trial, Beckford denied the charges, confidently claiming that no attack took place. His confidence cracked, however, when the prosecution produced the film of the event, setting off bedlam in the courtroom … Beckford’s attorney, in a desperate attempt to preserve what was left of his client’s credibility, jumped up and screamed that the film had been edited. The judge, Esther Chaviv, rejected the claim out of hand, on the grounds that the film had been corroborated by the eye-witness testimony. The defense then acknowledged that Beckford was behind the wheel of the car, but offered the lame excuse that he had not intended to run anyone over. When that fell on deaf ears, they tried to claim that the action was taken in self defense. As their case dissolved in the face of solid evidence, the defense team asked for a break and then returned to the court offering a guilty plea. The judge accepted the plea and set a court date in the near future to announce a pre-sentencing hearing … In response to the verdict, Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz, chairman of Yad L’Achim, said: ‘Once again it was proven that the missionaries don’t desist from violence in their attempt to attain their goals. We will continue to stand guard and disrupt their activities in every way possible in order to save innocent Jewish souls from falling into their grasp’” (HaMachaneh HeCharedi, November 4; Yom L’Yom, November 4; Sha’ah Tova, November 4). [Editor’s note: This translation was taken from Yad L’Achim’s web site.] In a lengthy article examining R. Yehuda Deri’s political ambitions (BeKehila, November 4), he was asked about the issue of “fictitious observance of the commandments.” As an example of a person who merely pretends to be observant, Deri related the case of a woman from the national religious camp, whose husband was treasurer of the synagogue, who converted in a rabbinic court. It later transpired that “‘she was one of the leaders of the sect of the Messianic Jewish cult in the south of the country. After she appeared before the court, she said to one of her friends that, had the court asked her at the time of her conversion whether she believed in ‘that man’ [Jesus], she would not have denied it. This is a classic case: she never intended to convert fully, she meant to continue in idolatry and to make souls for that religion, and is still part of it today.’”
A second similar piece, printed in Yediot HaNegev (November 5), focused on Deri’s anti-missionary activities. “R. Yehuda Deri’s fight to eliminate missionary activity in the city of Beer Sheva and its surrounding is gaining momentum. Recently, Deri has organized a mobile unit manned by volunteers whose task is to reach the places in which missionary activity is taking place and persuade the participants to desist from their activity. Members of the unit say that they use peaceful means and propaganda to prevent the activity, while convincing the participants not to cooperate with the missionaries, who in the majority of cases refer to themselves as ‘Messianic Jews’ … The volunteers arrive at the place and engage in protest activity, such as counter-demonstrations, public prayer services, and so forth. Deri notes that their job is to ‘expose to the public the dangers attendant on cooperation with such activities’ … He is at pains to stress that the means used by the anti-missionaries are legitimate and peaceful. ‘This is the fight which commenced immediately upon my entrance into office, about 12 years ago … We thwarted, thank God, the baptism of minors by means of a prayer protest we organized in the past near the monastery in the Old City, in which thousands took part’ … Sources close to Deri stated that because this activity is continuing and even increasing, he decided to take action.” He also declared that the unit is working in tandem with Yad L’Achim, who provide them with information. The volunteers themselves are yeshiva students, most of whom study in a yeshiva led by Deri. “‘One telephone call – and we’re all ready,’ one of them said. Deri also receives support from a local council member: “‘Whatever he says, we immediately do’ … The yeshiva students stress that they act on Deri’s orders, ‘without any violence or provocation on our part. Everything is done lawfully and none of us breaks the law.’” A marked difference in tone is noticeable between the body of the article and the accompanying sidebar, which explains what Messianic Jews believe. Using the full name “Yeshua,” this notes that “The Orthodox claim that Messianic Jews do not observe the basic commandments of the halakhah and therefore are not to be regarded as Jews” and quotes a member of Tiferet Yeshua in Beersheva as saying, “‘We operate using explanatory methods. We use the name Yeshua and not Yeshu because that is Yeshu’s true name, which also appears in the New Testament. We operate using persuasion rather than coercion.’”
Christian Zionism
Ma’ariv, November 4; Yad Vashem Jerusalem, October 28; Jerusalem Post, October 29, 2010
In this lengthy article, Ruth Eglash took a look at Yekiel Eckstein, the man behind the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews: “Eckstein and his public relations staff are busily preparing to hold a press conference to raise interest in a NIS 13.5 million welfare project recently launched in conjunction with the Jerusalem Municipality. It’s an intimate affair, Eckstein tells me, for a select group of journalists. While such press gatherings are not unusual for the IFCJ, what stands out is that this event has managed to draw the attention of the international press – The New York Times, the Associated Press and CNN – which usually have little time or inclination to hear about such social welfare projects aimed at helping the country’s poor, preferring to focus almost exclusively on the regional conflict. In an instant it dawns on me that for such journalists to take a break from the conflict, even for a few hours, to hear about soup kitchens, growing poverty and the plight of struggling new immigrants returning to the Jewish homeland is quite an achievement and is more likely to do with Eckstein the man, than with the hundreds of worthwhile humanitarian projects he supports. ‘It’s a blessing for me to be able to give away millions of dollars to help Israel and Jews in need,’ says Eckstein, highlighting that most of the $100 million raised by his organization each year comes from US-based Evangelical Christians. ‘What keeps me going strong is the desire to raise more money to help more Jews in need and to know that I can help out at a time when the Jewish philanthropic world is in an economic crisis. But really there are two components,’ emphasizes Eckstein, 59, who grew up in Canada. “Of course there is the part about bringing in money to help Jews in need, especially in Israel, but it is also about the importance of Christian-Jewish relations. I believe that Evangelical Christians can be strategic partners for the Jewish people and in securing the State of Israel. There are millions of Christians out there and if we reach out to them, they will stand with us and fight against anti-Semitism.’ Eckstein sounds convincing and with several multimillion dollar projects run jointly with the Israeli government currently in various stages of development, as well as numerous awards and international recognition for his work, it certainly seems as though he has succeeded … As well as the obvious financial achievements, Eckstein has also managed to cultivate a viable Jewish- Christian relationship now embraced by most in the organized Jewish community, is involved in bringing thousands of Christian tourists to the country each year, offers outreach and educational programs about the Jewish homeland, funding for Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union and hundreds of welfare programs in Israel … With the majority of American Jewish institutions and the Israeli government convinced, Eckstein says the last major obstacle to his success is convincing a handful of haredi rabbis here that his work is legitimate and to urge them to allow their followers to accept his organization’s charity … ‘We have underestimated the power of these individuals who have devoted their lives to applying pressure on others not to work with us and not to accept our charity, even though they certainly need it.’ Eckstein claims he has attempted to meet with these leaders to explain to them that his intentions are honorable, but so far his calls have fallen on deaf ears. Now, however, with his support strong in the mainstream Jewish community and his recognition by Israeli officials at an all-time high, he is hopeful that he will be able overcome this latest in a long line of challenges to building a bridge between Jews and Christians … ‘I have always had one red line: that I would never work with any group involved in missionary activity targeting the Jewish community,’ insists Eckstein. ‘However, if there are groups that believed in the end of days or that all the Jewish will eventually turn to Jesus, but in the meantime they see it as their obligation to share with us a love for Israel, then that is acceptable to me. I still have my red lines today and I will never work with groups like Jews for Jesus or Messianic community.’”
According to Ma’ariv (November 4), a group of 14 Latin American students who won places in a quiz organized by the Foreign Ministry in which they were required to demonstrate their knowledge of the Land is due to visit the country: “This is the third year the Foreign Ministry is holding a quiz in Latin American countries to disseminate the view that ‘Israel is beautiful’ within the local populace. This year, 14 students won the competition, proving their knowledge of the history of Israel, and are coming for a visit as a reward … The questions were composed of a hundred questions, open and closed, to honor the one hundredth anniversary of the kibbutz movement, but also included such subjects as Zionism and other subjects related to Israel … The judges were comprised of Israeli ambassadors and other experts, as well as evangelical preachers. One winner from each country who has no ties with Israel and who is not Jewish was given a trip to Israel.”
Under the headline “Friends worldwide,” a brief note in Yad Vashem Jerusalem (October 28) reported that “During Succoth, participants of the Christian Feast of Tabernacles organized by the ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem) visited Yad Vashem as part of their Israel tour. All the guests enjoyed special tailor-made programs, including visiting the tree of the Righteous Among the Nations they adopted … Participants also attended a special screening of Yad Vashem’s new film for Christian audiences.”
Jewish-Christian Relations
Makor Rishon, November 5; Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2010
Warren Goldstien, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, recently wrote an “open letter” to Desmond Tutu which was published in the Jerusalem Post (October 3): “Dear Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I write to you with a heavy heart. You are a revered leader in South Africa, but recently have added your iconic voice to the campaign for sanctions against Israel. Archbishop, I believe you are making a terrible mistake. Without truth there can be no justice, and without justice there can be no peace … The truth, archbishop, is that Israel is simply not an apartheid state. In the State of Israel all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law. Israel has no Population Registration Act, no Group Areas Act, no Mixed Marriages and Immorality Act, no Separate Representation of Voters Act, no Separate Amenities Act, no pass laws or any of the myriad apartheid laws. Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy with a free press and independent judiciary, and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its people, including its more than 1 million Arab citizens, many of whom hold positions of authority including that of cabinet minister, member of parliament and judge at every level, including that of the Supreme Court. All citizens vote on the same roll in regular, multiparty elections; there are Arab parties and Arab members of other parties in Israel’s parliament. Arabs and Jews share all public facilities, including hospitals and malls, buses, cinemas and parks. And, archbishop, that includes universities and opera houses … Archbishop, you and I as religious leaders always turn to the Bible as a source of truth. What does it mean that Israel is the ‘promised land’? It means, as we both know, that it was promised by God to the Jews – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … Archbishop, the Arab/Israeli conflict is not a struggle against apartheid or occupation. It is a century-long war against the very existence of Jews and a Jewish state in the Middle East … Archbishop, do not bestow respectability on an immoral sanctions campaign that is an affront to truth and justice, which prevents peace and prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict. Archbishop, let us pray for an end to all this agony, and for the fulfillment of the verse in Isaiah: ‘And the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.’”
Chaim Navon contributed a true “Rabbi and priest” joke to Makor Rishon (November 5): “A Rabbi and a priest were in hospital together. I was the Rabbi, and the priest was a Catholic who teaches at Bethlehem University. We found a common language and found enjoyment in talking to one another, more than with any of the other patients on the ward. We each prayed for the other’s recovery, in our own tongue. This brief idyll could occur because we insisted on not talking about politics. When you are in pajamas in a hospital, this anyway isn’t the topic of conversation you engage in first of all. Outside the hospital, however, such friendships find it difficult to survive. It’s not coincidental that Catholic countries are usually pro-Palestinian. There’s something deep within Christianity that cannot tolerate the existence of the State of Israel. The Synod of Middle East bishops recently announced its opposition to the settlements. Archbishop Boutros declared: ‘We Christians cannot speak of the “promised land” as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.’ The Vatican’s involvement in the Middle East is not based on economic or political interests but first and foremost on pure theology. In 1956, R. Joseph Dov Soloveitchik delivered a sermon on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. In this well-known text, published as ‘The voice of my beloved knocks,’ Soloveitchik recalled, among other things, Christian frustration in the face of the existence of the State of Israel. Christianity rests on the belief that the Jewish people are no longer the chosen people – and have thus been banished from their land. According to their faith, Christians are ‘the true Israel,’ the ‘Israel of the spirit.’ The return of the people of Israel to their land and their control over it are ridiculous in the eyes of the Church, because they challenge its theological basis. They prove that God has not abandoned His people. A large part of the hostility to be found in Europe towards the State of Israel can be attributed to this Christian tenet. Anyone who thinks that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a simple struggle between opposing interests, whoever denies its theological underpinnings, is either simple or inflamed.”
Ma’ariv, November 5, 2010
This article looked at the growing trend amongst the descendants of Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Christianity to return to their Jewish roots.
Book Review
Haaretz, November 3, 2010
Students of the Hebrew Bible may be interested in this recent volume: Hayim ben Yosef Tawil’s An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Bible Hebrew, which contains etymological, semantic, and idiomatic equivalents and a supplement on Biblical Aramaic (Ktav, 2009). It is well known that the “Akkadian inscriptions shed light on the western cultural cradle and are important for the study of the Bible and biblical Hebrew, and principally for understanding obscure expressions and unique words [hapax legomena] in the Book of Books.”