December 16 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – December 16, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, anti-missionary activity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
2 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
6 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with anti-Semitism
This week’s Review contained a report that two members of a Messianic congregation grew fed up with theological disputes and returned to Judaism via Yad L’Achim.

Messianic Jews
HaMachane HeCharedi, December 9; HaMevaser, December 10, 2010

This story, carried by both papers, noted that two members of a Messianic Jewish congregation plagued by disputes between its leaders approached Yad L’Achim seeking help. One was a thirty-year member of the congregation “which falsely calls itself Messianic Jewish,” the other a five-year member. “The mutual accusations and slander which began to be thrown around in the wake of the arguments, and the language, which had up until then been foreign to the sect, led these two erring Jews – completely hellenized in their lifestyle – to reassess the bitter and hasty step they had taken years before. Both of them, without speaking to the other, decided to make contact with the organization heading the fight against the mission and to seek answers to the questions which promptly arose in their minds. The confession each gave was disturbing: ‘Suddenly,’ one said, ‘I began to understand that there was a very strange set of people here making money from trading in people and beliefs.’ ‘These people,’ added the other, ‘trade in the distress of people looking for direction in life.’ Following the discovery of these surface details, the two realized the distortion of the truth which had been occurring but up until then had been concealed in their brainwashed brains. ‘I suddenly noticed that I was calling myself a Messianic Jew but in fact I was a Christian to all intents and purposes. There wasn’t any difference between me and the Christians who appear before us,’ said the other, while the first was able to point to ‘unclear contradictions between the Tanakh and the New Testament.’” The two men met with Benjamin Kugler, himself a former Christian pastor and now head of the anti-missionary department of Yad L’Achim. According to the report, Kugler stated that the “most difficult aspect of their experience had been the realization that the missionary leaders had led a life of luxury and hedonism while concealing it from their followers. Kugler showed the astonished men a photocopy of the salaries of the mission leaders in the country. Nor were they less astounded to discover an official document attesting to the fact that ‘the leader of the congregation’ who posed as a Messianic Jew was none other than a missionary representative from a Christian church in the north of the country. The two men have cut off all contact with the mission and at this time are taking their first steps to return to God, His people, and His Torah.”
Anti-missionary Activity
Kol HaIr – Bnei Brak, December 1; HaShavua Be-Elad, November 25, 2010

These two items carried last week’s story of Yad L’Achim’s attempt to counter “missionary” propaganda via the media.
Christian Zionism
Zman Haifa, December 10; Jerusalem Post, December 6; Yediot Yerushalayim, December 10; Chadashot Haifa ve-haTzafon December, 8; Haaretz, December 7, 10, 2010

The fire which recently devastated the Carmel perhaps could have been prevented from escalating by firefighting equipment turned down by the Interior Minister because of its Christian source: “Israeli firefighters could have received a shipment of brand new fire trucks that would have helped quell the fires that raged over the weekend on Mount Carmel, killing 41 people and turning tens of thousands of dunams into an ashen wasteland. Instead, a charity group charged Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to accept donations from pro- Israel Christians and thus denied the underfunded Fire and Rescue Service much-needed equipment. Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raises money for Israel among Christian supporters in North America, said his organization’s ties with the Interior Ministry were severed after it was taken over by the ultra-Orthodox minister two years ago. Eckstein said Yishai’s religious-based rejection of contributions from non-Jewish sources led to the termination after the group had completed delivery of eight fire trucks last year in a donation that had been okayed by Yishai’s predecessor, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima). ‘Since that time, under Yishai we have not received any further requests from the ministry because of the way they perceive us,’ Eckstein said. ‘So we could have had more trucks than those we already delivered.’ While the fellowship gives millions to Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups in Israel each year, some ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse to take its money, which comes mostly from Evangelicals, on religious grounds. According to Eckstein, Yishai would not even acknowledge the fellowship’s contribution of the eight fire trucks. ‘We were told very clearly that the minister of the interior would not come to a ceremony,” he said. ‘Then I said, what about a photo-op, something we can put in to show we worked on this. But they said no, and we dropped it.’ The trucks were donated to Israel as a consequence of the Second Lebanon War, when firefighters struggled to put out brush fires sparked by some of the thousands of missiles fired by Hizbullah. Fire and rescue officials confirmed that they had received the eight trucks from Eckstein’s organization but said they were unaware that additional vehicles had been offered and refused. Yishai’s spokesman could not confirm or deny the story” (Jerusalem Post, December 6).
An opinion piece in Haaretz (December 7), however, suggested that the case is not so straightforward: “The only action of Yishai that is suspect is based on a Jerusalem Post report that shows he severed relations with a major pro-Israel Christian charity that wanted to donate more fire trucks (it had donated eight in 2009). But the accusations are confusing. The organization wanted a photoop with the haredi politician, and for him to attend an event, ‘but they said no, and we dropped it.’ This doesn’t hold water; if the organization cared so deeply, it could have donated the trucks to the Fire and Rescue Service and, to be sure, its officers would have been happy to be in the photos. Why did they need Yishai to be there; it was obvious it would run against his feelings toward a Christian Evangelical group.
When the Orthodox have accepted pro- Israel Christian donations, they have been ridiculed for it. Did Yishai err here? It’s not clear.”
According to the same paper (Haaretz, December 10), “Support for Israel runs deep in the predominantly Christian” island of Malaita, a province of the Solomon Islands. “Many islanders believe that ‘those who bless Israel are themselves blessed,’ in keeping with the Hebrew Bible. Some even believe that Israelites originally settled in the islands, thousands of years ago. People wear Star of David necklaces on the streets of Auki, and local residents assert that they ‘believe in Israel.’ Israeli videos were screened over and over during the conference. When Siegel and Brokovich [an economic consultant who works for Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a marine biologist from the NGO WorldFishwere respectively] taken on an outing, they traveled through jungles and saw villages decked out in blue and white with Israeli flags flying. In the welcoming ceremonies, children sang in Hebrew. ‘They were there to receive us, not to entertain us,’ said Siegel afterward. ‘This was about showing respect, and a sense of connection.’ Indeed, that connection is felt. Malaitan Premier Richard Irosaea says that in his province, ‘there are two foreign elements that are respected. One is the nation of Israel, and the other is the Queen of England.’ (Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy, and a Commonwealth nation, with Elizabeth II as its head of state.) In his office, Irosaea has the red, white and blue flag of Malaita on his coffee table and the Star of David on the screen of his mobile phone.”
A lengthy article in Yediot Yerushalayim (December 10) featured a Brazilian Protestant doctor by the name of Tiago Nishiama who, having grown up in a church with strong Christian Zionist tendencies, learned Hebrew in Brazil, and visited Israel for a month in order to observe gynecological practices in the country, is now working for a year as an obstetrician at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Zman Haifa (December 10) and Chadashot Haifa ve-HaTzafon (December 8) both reported that the Ben Tzion Medical Center in the city recently received a gift of $7000 from Jamie and Neil Lash, “veteran contributors to the hospital” and long-time Christian friends of Israel.
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, December 13, 2010
According to this report, “The Israel Airports Authority will not be building a mosque and a church in the near future despite its pledge to do so … Chapels for the other faiths were supposed to have been built in the new airport, which opened six years ago. Ben-Gurion director Shmuel Kandel wrote [Eitan] Heller [of Artists Without Walls] that the chapels would not be opening due to a lack of ‘available space in the terminal for this purpose.’ In a letter to the Israel Airports Authority director, Kobi Mor, Heller noted that in an October 2003 letter, Talmana Shamir of the Israel Airports Authority pledged that such spaces would be allocated, alongside two synagogues. The Israel Airports Authority declined to comment.”
Jewish-Christian Relations
HaModia, December 12, 2010
According to this report, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder recently met with the Pope and urged him to voice his opposition to the political attack against Israel which Lauder defined as “‘a new type of anti-Semitism’” as well as denouncing the “statements heard recently denying the link between the Jewish people and such holy sites as the Western Wall and Rachel’s tomb. “According to those present at the meeting, the Pope told them that, “‘The Church recognizes the deep connection between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland and the holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem since the days of our father Abraham’ and promised them that he would work to increase the understanding of the link between the Jewish people and the land of Israel … According to [Lauder], the Pope stressed the necessity of continuing to fight against displays of anti-Semitism in the Christian world, which he defined as ‘unacceptable.’”
Haaretz, December 7, 2010
“A prominent Dutch politician sparked a heated debate in the Netherlands this week by saying practicing Jews had ‘no future here, and should emigrate to the U.S. or Israel.’ The statement made by Frits Bolkestein, former European Commissioner and ex-leader of Holland’s ruling rightist VVD party, was published in the recently released book Het Verval (The Decline), written by Manfred Gerstenfeld, a Netherlands-raised Holocaust survivor and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Bolkstein backed up his statement by saying that the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands over the past decade had led him to have limited confidence in the ability of the government to fight anti-Semitism … In his book, Gerstenfeld examines the attitude of the Dutch Protestant Church toward Jews and claims that anti-Semitism is not restricted to people of Muslim background in the Netherlands. He cites as an example Gretta Duisenberg, a friend of the Dutch queen and pro-Palestinian, who recently told a Dutch newspaper that she was ‘almost proud to be called anti-Semitic.’ Mirjam Sterk of the Christian Democrat party – the third partner of the current coalition – took a less reactionary stance, but also decried the remarks, saying: ‘The concerns are great but [emigration] is not the solution.’”