January 19 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – January 19, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism and Christians in Israel. Of these:

3 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

4 dealt with Christian Zionism

3 dealt with Christians in Israel

1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations


This week’s Review included a number of reactions to Christian Zionist projects.

Attitudes towards Christianity

Haaretz, January 17 (Hebrew and English editions); Jerusalem Report, January 2011

“The Tel Aviv municipality’s committee for names and commemoration on Sunday approved eight new names for city neighborhoods. The most interesting choice was the one for the area around the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine and the adjacent Russian Orthodox church in the southern part of the city. It is to be called Tabitha, named after a New Testament woman known for her charity whom, according to the story, Peter raised from the dead. The committee members said that since the area was known as a pilgrimage destination for Christians, they thought it should have a Christian name. ‘This is one of the two holiest places in Jaffa for Christians from all over the world,’ committee member and geographer Gideon Biger said, the other holy place being the House of Simon the Tanner in Jaffa’s old city. ‘We thought it proper to give Tel Aviv a Christian-tourism component as well, to try to show that Tel Aviv is cosmopolitan and not just Jewish’” (Haaretz, January 17).

Anne Roiphe, in the Jerusalem Report (January 2011) examined “The Evil That Men Do”: “Paul and his adherents created a religion that had great popular appeal, but failed to create a faith that instilled lasting respect of one man for another. They, the founders of Christianity, failed to civilize the demonic human spirit … The three wise men were not wise enough to save the Jews … On Christmas eve the Cossacks sang to the newborn King and, in March, they rode into the villages and plundered and raped. Yes, it was not Christ who instructed them to pierce little babies with the points of their swords, but I can’t help but think that the lyric of Christmas is no more than a sentimental jingle. The true face of Christian Europe for two thousand years was not made of gingerbread … And this is why I greet the news about the babe in the manger with a sadness that will not go away. I know that all this is not polite or politic and, as an American Jew, I am behaving badly in admitting that ‘Jingle Bells’ is not my song. But there it is. Peace on Earth is far beyond our reach and I fear will forever remain so.”

Christian Zionism

Zman Yerushalayim, January 14; Ma’ariv, January 11; Jerusalem Post, January 14, 17, 2010

In an analysis of the “Deep depression” which he perceives within the Israeli government, Shalom Yerushalmi asked Avigdor Lieberman about the funding given to right-wing organizations within the country by evangelicals of the ilk of “the anti-Semitic John Hagee.” When the Foreign Minister declined to answer, MK Dudu Rotem took it upon himself to respond instead, stating that “Hagee and the evangelicals believe that the Jewish people must rule in the Holy Land and therefore they support us.”

In response to Michael Freund’s article last week on “Time for faith-based diplomacy,” Romy Leibler, administrative director of JewishIsrael.com, wrote to the Jerusalem Post (January 14) saying, among other things, that, “it appears that Michael Freund is using ‘the Book of Books’ as a mere fig leaf to hide  Israel’s growing dependency on fundamentalist Christian support. In addition to the significant influence and presence already enjoyed by evangelicals in Israel, Freund’s formula further calls for establishing ‘a Prime Minister’s Conference for Christian Leadership, developing the equivalent of a Birthright program for young churchgoers and establishing ‘Israel prayer battalions.’ The great majority of Christian organizations and leaders Freund lauds in his article are, in addition to supporting Israel on the political and humanitarian fronts, directly involved in supporting a growing Christian messianic restoration in Israel, and in missionary efforts directed at the Jewish people.”

According to Ma’ariv (January 11), the opening of a new tourist/pilgrim site in Tiberias, which includes an audio-visual presentation of the city’s history, including “Yeshu’s walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee,” has angered the local Orthodox population, members of which have begun a campaign against the Christian funders. Leading rabbinical figures issued a ruling denouncing the “clearly missionary” presentation and calling on tourists to ostracize the site.

The Jerusalem Post (January 17) reported that “The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus will honor two Christian pro-Israel pioneers at its fifth annual ‘Night to Honor Our Christian Allies’ in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress and the Tourism Ministry Tuesday night at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. An award given by the caucus together with the World Jewish Congress will go to Karel Van Oordt, founder of Christians For Israel, an international organization based in Holland. Van Oordt was chosen for the award, because he was one of the first Christian leaders to reach out to Israel before it became a trend. In conjunction with the Tourism Ministry, the caucus will give another award to Marisa Albert, executive director of the East Gate Foundation, who brought 1300 Asian Christians to Israel in 2010 and has been at the forefront of the Asian tourism market for many years. Caucus chairman MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) will address attendees on the importance of the burgeoning relations between the State of Israel and Christians from around the world. Attendees will include MKs from across the political spectrum, WJC leaders, Tourism Ministry officials and global Christian leaders. The caucus is comprised of eighteen Knesset members from various political parties. Established in 2004 by the late MK Yuri Shtern, it aims to forge direct lines of communication between Knesset members and Christian leaders, organizations and politicians around the world. ‘Faith-based diplomacy, a catchphrase we helped start, is succeeding where traditional methods of diplomacy have failed,’ said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein. In its seven years, the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus has built up partnerships with caucuses in 19 countries. The International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation inaugurated a new headquarters called the Shalom Jerusalem building in September.”

Christians in Israel

Masa Acher, January 1; Yediot HaMifratz, January 7; Haaretz, January 14, 2011

The article in Haaretz (January 14) carried last week’s story printed in Ma’ariv concerning Irenaios I.

Under the headline “It’s the same river,” Masa Acher (January 1) reported on the custom of baptizing in the Jordan: “According to Christian faith, almost two thousand years have passed since Yeshu’s baptism by John in the waters of the Jordan east of Jericho … In that period, baptism was considered in Judaism to represent an act designed to purify the body. John made an innovation, however, and determined that baptism washes the soul clean of sin. In the same prophecy, John preached about the one ‘greater than him’ who was to come. The New Testament tells that, following the baptism of the son of Miriam, the Holy Spirit descended on Yeshu in the form of a white dove and elucidated his messianic task to him. Every year, Christians celebrate this baptism at the Feast known as the ‘Epiphania’ – in Greek, ‘revelation.’ The Eastern Churches celebrate the feast on 18-19 January and during the course of these two days the members of the various denominations go down to Katzr al-Yehud (‘the palace of the Jews’) – no man’s land between Israel and Jordan – and hold celebratory ceremonies on the banks of the Jordan … But while all the construction plans have long been completed, this important site – which could be bringing millions into the State coffers and warming the hearts of millions of pilgrims – is closed most days of the year.”

Yediot HaMifratz (January 7) noted that “This week at the Carmiel branch of the No’ar Oved ve-Lomed youth movement they marked Novy Grod with a merry celebration, a feast which is celebrated on 31 December in parallel to Sylvester. The festival signifies for immigrants from the former Soviet Union the beginning of the civil new year, without any religious associations, but with Christian features which are very reminiscent of Christmas.”

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Report, January 2011