February 16 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – February 16, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism, Christian tourism, Jewish-Christian relations, and archaeology. Of these:

1 dealt with Messianic Jews

1 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

2 dealt with Christian Zionism

1 dealt with Christian tourism

1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations

1 dealt with archaeology


This week’s Review contained a lengthy article about the Beit Immanuel congregation.

Messianic Jews

HaIr –Akbar HaIr [Tel Aviv], February 10, 2011

Under the headline “The Messiah hasn’t come/isn’t coming,” Omer Sharvit devoted a lengthy article in the magazine section of HaIr (Tel Aviv) to “Messianic Jews” – specifically the Beit

Immanuel congregation: “Beit Immanuel serves the Messianic Jews in the [American] Colony – a group of around 200 people (estimates state that the total number across the country is around 15,000). Like the location of their hostel – on the border between Jaffa and Tel Aviv – the faith of the Messianic Jews wavers on the borderline between Judaism and Christianity: adoption of the cross alongside a Magen David, acceptance of the religion of Moses together with that of Yeshu … David Lazarus acts as the congregation’s pastor – something between a Rabbi and a priest.” As an example of the “oscillation” between Judaism and Christianity, Sharvit noted that at a marriage ceremony conducted at a Friday night service, many of those attending were Russians who explained that, even in their country of origin, they “moved between Jewish identity and faith in Yeshua and the Church, and the Messianic Jewish congregation in Israel assisted them in their absorption … The atmosphere is festal – as is the apparel. A small number of those present wear yarmulkes, but tallitot are nowhere to be seen. The assembly remains seated most of the time, not holding prayer books and are connected to the Gospel-rhythm singing via a huge screen showing the words … To the outside observer, the ceremony looks like a fusion of a synagogue kabbalat Shabbat and an afternoon ‘Sunday service’ … The never-ending praise to the favored son – Yeshu-Yeshua – runs strongly through all the songs and the assembly is given simultaneous translation into Russian and English: ‘We bless your name for having put a sacrifice upon our lips (a piece of bread passes amongst the assembly). ‘Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them” … thank you, Lord Yeshua … We are not ashamed of the Gospel of the Messiah which gives power to all who believe [Rom. 1:16].’ Messages in the same spirit can be found in the penitential material set out in the garden, which are free for the taking. Nietzsche once said that Christianity is the religion which promised the most and delivered the least. He apparently hasn’t convinced the Messianic Jews, who readily recount the miracles and wonders that faith in the Messiah imparts upon them … Despite their religious fervor and the pride which undoubtedly accompanies it, most Messianic Jews are reluctant to be interviewed. They remind us that the Interior Ministry is presently under Shas control and claim that it lurks for them around every possible bureaucratic corner. The scheming against Messianic Jews in Israel was visibly exemplified in an article by Yuval Azulai in Haaretz in October or 2009, which described, among other things, how people from the Interior Ministry summon people from the community for intrusive interrogations about their faith and place obstacles in the way of their receiving visas – despite their declarations of willingness to convert. The article similarly charges that the Orthodox organization Yad L’Achim cooperates closely with the Ministry of the Interior, encouraging it to harass the Messianic Jews because of their ostensible missionary work. Lazarus expresses regret over the fact that ‘In our State, the Interior Ministry rejects so many groups, casting doubt on our Judaism and withholding rights.’” The hostel principally serves “Messianic Jews from various other ‘branches’ in the country or abroad, the remainder being tourists from the Christian scene, but it is open, of course, to anyone interested. Anyone who comes to absorb an experience of Yeshua via lectures and conferences and is ready to get his hands dirty – in the kitchen or chamber-maiding – receives free board in the hostel (not a bad deal considering the atmosphere and the strategic location).” Lazarus’ daughter Muriel notes that “in the past Israeli volunteers came to open a window on the Messianic option, but now the residents are all from abroad.” The future is also very uncertain: “The hostel has existed in its present format from the end of the 70s and is operated on the basis of an agreement between the Messianic Jews and the Anglican Church which owns the property … In about another year, the property is due to undergo improvement, renovation, and enlargement and to turn into a three-star hotel. In the wake of this commercial enterprise, the Messianic Jewish congregation will cease to operate the site and will need to look for an alternative spiritual center in the city.”

Attitudes towards Christianity

Ma’ariv, February, 2011

In taking aim at the “Inquisition” directed by Shas towards Barbra Streisand (or Dale, to be precise – see last week’s Review), Menahem Ben noted that, “First of all, this is an illegal act: a Jew who has not been officially baptized into Christianity or formally converted to Islam is a Jew in every respect of the law, and any harassment on this basis constitutes a criminal act. And by the way: the New Testament – even if we don’t buy part of its Gospels – is a book with huge enchantments (both Pinchas Sadeh and Yona Wallach loved it greatly). Were we truly an enlightened country, we would need to read the New Testament and the Qumran alike (and demonstrate, among other things, that these two foundational texts accept on principle that the Tanakh is the absolute book of God, whose every word is true – including all the divine promises to the people of Israel).”

Christian Zionism

Haaretz, February 11; Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2011

David Breakstone – vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish Agency Executive – entitled his regular column “Keep dreaming,” in the Jerusalem Post (February 11) this week “Love never fails,” devoting it to the memory of Rev. William Hechler: “Once upon a time, 115 years ago to be exact, a Rev. William Hechler happened upon a copy of The Jewish State only weeks after it was published in 1896. He read it avidly, captivated by its affirmation of his own biblical numerological calculations, which revealed 1897 as a year of momentous events that would result in the restoration of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. He hurriedly arranged for an audience with the tractate’s author. ‘A likable, sensitive man with the long gray beard of a prophet,’ wrote Theodor Herzl about Hechler after their first encounter. ‘He is enthusiastic about my solution to the Jewish question. He also considers my movement a “prophetic turning-point” that he foretold two years ago, though my approach is completely rational’ … Their encounter was of great significance … By his own testimony, Hechler believed it was divine will that brought him to Vienna, placing him ‘in a position which enabled me to bring to the attention of certain people of importance the messianic vision of the Jewish leader’ … It turns out that after Herzl’s death, Hechler drifted into obscurity. He returned to England in 1910 and was eventually awarded a modest pension by the World Zionist Organization, but was to die alone in 1931 at 86, impoverished, buried in an unmarked grave and essentially forgotten. Enter Jerry Klinger, president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation. He came across Hechler’s story a few years ago and doggedly tracked him down to an overgrown and unidentified plot in London’s New Southgate Cemetery. It was there that I gathered together with an impressive number of Christian and Jewish dignitaries who came together, through Klinger’s orchestration, to honor him with the dedication of a tombstone designating him as a ‘tireless adversary of Anti-Semitism, friend and counsellor of Theodor Herzl.’ The ceremony was conducted with dignity and profound sensitivity for all present by Bishop John Taylor. It was emceed by Rufus Barnes, chairman of Love Never Fails, an association of 20 Christian bodies whose ‘aim is to help Israel and the Jewish people with practical and spiritual support’ … Pastor Werner Oder[’]s words were exceptionally memorable. ‘As an Austrian son of a Nazi war criminal, it is my privilege to witness this event today. William Hechler’s love for Israel and the Jews changed history. In doing so he made the world a better place… Today we must learn from the past in order to make better decisions … It is my privilege to stand up for the Jewish people in a world of increasing anti-Semitism and be a friend of Israel, come what may.’ Klinger’s response was equally poignant. ‘We are children of the Holocaust. You rejected anti-Semitism and almost lost your life because of it at the hands of your own father. I am the child of Holocaust survivors and volunteered in the Israeli army to protest Jewish defenselessness … We were brought together in friendship because of our common discovery, of Christianity for you and good Christians of humanity for me.’ This friendship was evident in the event being sponsored jointly by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the World Zionist Organization, the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland and the Jewish American Society for Historical Preservation. It was reflected as well in the presence of representatives of the many groups affiliated with Love Never Fails, of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and of Ambassador to Great Britain Ron Prosor. This manifestation of friendship also gave expression to an ideal precious to Herzl. In his utopian novel Altneuland, one of the Jewish society’s leaders assures a Christian visitor ‘that my associates and I make no distinctions between one man and another. We do not ask to what race or religion a man belongs. If he is a man, that is enough for us.’”

According to Nir Hasson in Haaretz (February 11), “The Christian channel ‘GOD TV’ has announced a tree-planting project in collaboration with the JNF-KKL … ‘God gave me instructions: “Prepare the Land for the return of My Son.” I asked: “Father, how shall I do this?” God replied: “Plant a million trees.” I believe this is what I heard, that God’s Spirit and myself are sharing this mission with you.’ Thus, in a cracked voice full of pathos, Rory Alec describes what brought him to establish the large tree-planting project the God-TV channel is promoting across the country.” The project – to be named “GOD TV Forest” – is being implemented in collaboration with the JNF-KKL, as part of a larger scheme of reforesting (“savannah-izing”) the Land. It has run into difficulties, however, due to the fact that part of the land is a Bedouin village, Al-Arakib, which has been razed numerous times recently, both the Minister of Agriculture and the Israel Land Authority have declared that “one of the purposes of the project is to seize land – i.e., a demonstration of ownership to prevent the Bedouin from entering it.” At the same time, however, the KKL and ILA have also stated that the “GOD TV Forest” lies in proximity – not on – Al-Arakib. “People at ‘God-TV’ are aware of the criticism and are fearful of it. In a clarification published on the channel’s website, it noted: ‘We cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings between the Israeli Government and the village of Al-Arakib, as GOD TV is in no way involved in these proceedings. GOD TV has committed to sponsor one million trees, to be planted through the efforts of the Jewish National Fund, KKL, and the Land of Promise Foundation, throughout the nation of Israel in an effort to restore the desert places to the lush green land it once was, preparing the Holy Land for the return of the King of Kings. GOD TV is not responsible for, or involved in, the decision as to the specific places trees are planted across the country.’” A photograph of the placard indicating the channel’s attention is clearly legible: “GOD-TV Forest: a generous donation by GOD-TV made 1,000,000 tree saplings available to be planted in the land of Israel and also provided for the creation of water projects throughout the Negev” – with a quote from Isaiah 41:18 in English and Hebrew.

Christian Tourism

Et – Et, February 8, 2011

This brief note reported on the new “International Mary Center” and trail (see January 24, 2011).

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Report, February 2011

Sergio Minerbi analyzed “The Anti-Israel Synod” recently held in Rome, concluding that, “in my view, the change in tone stems from a growing fear of Islam. In Regensburg in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against Islamic fanaticism. One had the impression that Europe had found a defender against the fundamentalists. But three months later the pope was obliged, probably by the Vatican administration, the Curia, to travel to Islamic Turkey and to visit a mosque in Istanbul. Nowadays, the church is so fearful of Islam that when the bishop of the Turkish city of Iskanderun was killed by a Muslim last June, no voice of protest was raised. The Vatican may well have concluded that while Israel is a safe target, it is dangerous to attack Islamic fundamentalists who might kill high-ranking Catholics in retaliation … Following the collapse of Israeli diplomacy towards the Vatican, it is high time this country radically changes its approach. Israel should allow the fiscal exemptions it has promised the Vatican in the Holy Land, but, at the same time, demand that any new local bishops be appointed by mutual consent and that the Vatican cease its verbal sniping at Israel.”


Kol HaIr – Plus, February 11, 2011

This report carried last week’s story of the discovery of a Byzantine church at Hirbet Madras (Horvat Midras).