January 24 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – January 24, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism and Christians in Israel. Of these:

1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

3 dealt with Christian sites

3 dealt with Christians in Israel

1 dealt with conversion to Christianity


This week’s Review was a miscellanea of various topics.

Attitudes towards Christianity

Haaretz, January 21, 2011

Tom Segev looked at the naming of a Tel Aviv quarter after Tabitha: “In the seventh decade of the 1st century, C.E., there lived in Jaffa a woman named Tabitha, which means ‘doe’ in Aramaic. The authors of the New Testament who mentioned her (Acts 9:36-42) wrote that she was a ‘disciple,’ in other words, apparently, a member of one of the first Christian congregations. She was ‘full of good works and almsdeeds.’ It seems she was a widow and a seamstress. One day she died. The members of her community heard that Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles who went on to become the first pope and a saint, was staying in Lod. ‘And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa,’ as is written in the Book of Acts, two messengers were sent to Peter ‘desiring him that he would not delay’ to come to Jaffa, and he agreed and came with them. He ordered all those huddled around Tabitha’s body to leave the room, and then kneeled down and said: ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, ‘she sat up.’ He helped her to get up, called all the people waiting outside, and presented Tabitha to them alive. ‘And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.’ Next to all the major miracles described in the New Testament, the revival of the charitable Tabitha shrank to fairly trivial dimensions, but now the Tel Aviv municipality has decided that the presumed area where the good seamstress was brought back to life is to bear her name. In view of the wave of racism washing over the country, there is ostensibly cause to be grateful to the city fathers for this gesture, which is a show of respect for Christian tradition.”

Christian Sites

Jerusalem Post, January 14, 18, 19, 2010

According to the Jerusalem Post (January 14), “The Tourism Ministry and the municipality [of Jerusalem], which are both interested in promoting Christian tourism to Jerusalem, this week launched a new pilgrimage itinerary in Ein Karem: ‘In the footsteps of the Virgin Mary’ … The new itinerary includes visits to the places where Mary lived and traveled with Jesus. The route includes her birthplace in Tzipori in Galilee; Nazareth, which is the site of Mary’s well and the Mary International Center; Elijah’s Cave, where according to Christian tradition the Holy Family rested on its way back from Egypt; Ein Karem, which Mary visited during her pregnancy, and Abu Ghosh, where there is a large statue of Mary in the courtyard of the Church of Notre Dame de l’Arche. The Tourism Ministry has published a booklet in English, to be translated into several languages, primarily those of countries with large Catholic populations, with detailed information about the sites …”

The same paper (January 18) reported that “The IDF has postponed the date on which it intends to permanently open to the public the site where John baptized Jesus along the shores of the Jordan River, by turning it over to Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority … Still, the site will open Tuesday, as it does annually, to host Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians who travel to the site to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany marking Jesus’ baptism.”

A day later (January 19), it noted that, “An estimated 15,000 people attended the annual Feast of the Epiphany celebrations Tuesday at Qasr el Yahud, on the banks of the Jordan River. The ceremony, which celebrates Jesus’s baptism by St. John the Baptist, drew Orthodox Christian pilgrims from around Israel and the world and featured a procession from the Monastery of St. John led by Theophilos III, the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and a waterside ceremony … At the height of the ceremony, the patriarch released white doves, symbolizing the presence of God, into the air, while church bells rang in the background and pilgrims on both sides of the river sang out prayers. The doves flew across the river to the Jordanian side and perched above the heads of the crowd who viewed the ceremony from the opposite bank … ‘Once all the renovation works are complete, we will open the site to daily visits and we expect it to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. We have identified tourism as essential to the promotion of regional cooperation and are currently working on forming joint tourism packages together with the Jordanians and the Palestinian Authority,’ said [Regional Cooperation Minister, Silvan] Shalom.”

Christians in Israel

Jerusalem Post, January 21, 2011

Under the headline “The church’s real estate,” David Miller looked at the ways in which “The Latin Patriarchate aims to curtail the flight of Christians from the holy city by helping them buy homes … Although the city is filled with churches, monasteries and other Christian institutions, its Christian population has been in a free fall. They numbered 31,000 in 1948, but today only 15,400, or just 2 percent of the city’s population, identify themselves as Christians, according to statistics published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies at the end of December. ‘The Beit Safafa project is intended for church employees,’ Msgr. William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told The Media Line. ‘We aren’t building a Christian ghetto there; even the Muslims have encouraged this project because they realize that we are a small minority that needs to preserve itself’ … Bishop Shomali said it was initially his idea to help Christians purchase homes in Jerusalem and that the church gradually came to support it. He added that the main problem facing Jerusalem Christians wasn’t unemployment, but rather the high price of land in the city.”

Conversion to Christianity

Ma’ariv, January 21, 2011

Tzachi Yaari, well-known son of two Israeli celebrities (one convicted of murder, the other a prominent political reporter), who had always looked for a way to fill the emptiness in his soul, recently became a Catholic after undergoing a religious experience: “Suddenly, his face was illuminated and his body was filled with the comfort for which he had yearned so long. The tears ran down his face uncontrollably. ‘I can’t explain the moment, but I felt as though something had burst through me,’ says Yaari for the first time of his abandonment of Judaism and his becoming a Catholic. ‘God revealed Himself to me as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From that moment God received first place in my heart. In fact, He was always there, but then he directed me towards the true religion.’ Yaari believes that the convoluted pathways of his life were meant to bring him into the bosom of Catholicism. He describes his recognition of its message in his seeking to become a priest and in the publication of his new thriller ‘Raphael,’ the first of a trilogy about the three angels, which draws its inspiration from the New Testament and criticizes Judaism.” Yaari has retained his “Jewish” name – Yitzchak – but added John, after the “beloved disciple,” to it. Asked whether he misses the Jewish holidays, he replied: “‘No, because the kingdom of heaven has passed from the Jews to the Christians.’” And in answer to the question with whom he celebrates Easter: “‘With my family … Not with my parents – with the family of God.’”