March 1 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – March 1, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activities, Christian Zionism, and Jewish-Christian relations. Of these:

11 dealt with anti-missionary activities

2 dealt with Christian Zionism

1 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations


This week’s Review focused on the protest demonstration against the Messianic Jewish community in Ashdod.

Anti-missionary Activities

Ashdod BeKoterot, February 16, 23; HaShavua BeAshdod, February 25; Yom L’Yom, February 24; Yediot HaDarom, February 25; Chadashot Shelanu, February 25; Yediot Ashdod, February 25; Ka’an HaDarom, February 25; HaMevaser, February 22; BeKehila, February 24; Merkaz HaInyanim, February 21, 2011

The planned demonstration in Ashdod against the local Messianic community took place this week, being widely reported in the press (see last week’s Review). According to a lengthy report in Ashdod BeKoterot (February 16), “We’re talking here about the sect which calls itself ‘Messianic Jews’ which operates with a huge budget from Christian organizations across the world and whose primary goal is to convert as many Jews as possible and bring them into adherence with a sect which is part of Christianity … The activity of the members of the missionary organization exists throughout the city and ‘is on a continual gradient of expansion’ as R. Benjmain Walkin explains … Asked where the center of the sect’s activities is to be found, Walkin says, ‘Where is it not? Recently, not a day goes by without our receiving several reports from Ashdod and it appears that the missionaries have found a wide opportunity for activity. It was only a matter of time before we would discover them after we prevented them from acting and revealed their true face to the public in other cities.’” Walkin went on to claim that “many unsuspecting Jews” participate in Bible studies conducted by the group, while others are deceived by their ostensibly “humanitarian aid” and “‘recently a number of Jewish residents of the city have even been baptized after being convinced of the sect’s authenticity.’” Asked about the number of “missionaries,” he replied: ‘At the beginning of their operations they numbered 20 and now after a period during which they operated quietly and without interference, around 150 people regularly attend the classes and workshops. They work tirelessly – knocking on doors and convincing people with sweet talk to participate in studies from whose end may God save us … Their goal is to eradicate the Jewish people and bring as many Jews as possible into Christianity. They put their scheme into action with the necessary care and caution, start with Torah lessons into which they integrate sayings from their doctrine, and end with baptism into Christianity, God have mercy.’” Asked about violation of the law against “missionizing,” Walkin responded that on numerous occasions Yad L’Achim has brought “proof” against the soup kitchens run by Messianic Jews, leading to their closure. With respect to the distribution of flyers on the street, Walkin noted that “‘A person who doesn’t keep the Torah and commandments is liable to err and to see in the verses and quotes brought in their interesting and “spiritual” material. Until he realizes what is being talked about it’s likely to be too late … Our message is simple: The Jewish people lost a third of its members, six million Jews, in the Holocaust, and it can’t happen that today, in Israel, the missionaries should continue to destroy more of our brethren … We’re also trying to influence the landlord who rented the place to the sect to cancel the rental contract and to force the missionaries out of a place which before they moved in was a center for Torah-study.’”

The most disturbing aspect of the protest was R. Yosef Sheinin’s comparison of Messianic Jews with Hitler (Yediot Ashdod, February 25): “The rabbi expressed himself vehemently against the Messianic Jews in saying: ‘They want a final solution, what Hitler wanted, but they don’t have the instruments of destruction so they’re using those of apostasy.’” According to HaMevaser (February 22), he also referred to the Pnina Pie” case, claiming that “if we don’t finish them off, they’re liable to harm the city in the most dangerous way.” Another speaker declared: “‘This is a huge protest convention and, God willing, we shall bring them down.’”

Booths set up held petition forms, the aim being to get a millions signatures. This article likewise stated that “An activist in the Messianic Jewish community, so reported the police station chief, Gabi Dadun, attempted to arouse a provocation but the police immediately stopped this and evacuated him from the place to avoid his being injured,” following this with a quote by Ya’akov Damkani, a “representative of the Messianic Jews in Israel, who noted that throughout the country there are 15,000 Messianic Jews and about a half million in the whole world. According to him, they believe in Yeshua, who was a Jew, and not in Yeshu as he is considered to be in the Christian world. ‘We are Jews in every respect,’ he said. ‘We baptize into Judaism not Christianity, because in our eyes Christianity doesn’t exist. Yeshua was a Jew and his disciples were Jews.’ According to him, Messianic Jews are not a sect but a religious community which believes in the Tanakh and the New Testament: ‘Every Jew is permitted to have his own opinion. A Jew can be an atheist but he still remains a Jew.’”

According to reports of the demonstration, in various papers, under such titles as “The missionaries are try to harm Judaism in every possible way” (HaShavua beAshdod, February 25), “It’s a blood libel” (Yediot Ashdod, February 25), “And do not deliver us into the hands of the mission …” (Merkaz haInyanim, February 21), and “The ‘new’ chutzpa” (BeKehila, February 24),  it began with the reading of psalms  and then proceeded to “cries and protest prayers against ‘the presence of the destructive activity of the missionary community “Messianic Jews,” which is engaged in hunting souls and converting Jews to Christianity’ … The Rabbis also recalled that, ‘Precisely like in the days of Purim, when the Jews faced trials and tribulations and were victorious, so we too must demonstrate in the streets of the city and ask the Master of the World to put a stop to the work of these soul hunters.’” The “gall” of the missionaries reached the height of sending “missionary material in the guise of sacred books to various Rabbis” – i.e., copies of the New Testament, “the foundational book of the Christian religion in a special leather binding embossed with gold lettering. A four-page letter was attached in which a representative of the missionary sect addressed one Rabbi as a leader in deceptive ways, hoping to trick him through words of heresy to become active in the organization.” When the Rabbi showed the book to the Chief Rabbi of Ashdod, the latter order it to be “immediately thrown out and not allowed to be placed on the table where Torah was studied … In the wake of this incident, R. Pinto turned to the head of the local religious council, R. Ovadiah Dehan, with the request ‘that we must forthwith hold a conference of denunciation throughout the synagogues in the city to arouse the attention of the residents and inform them about the serious threats and the prohibition against keeping silent about this abominable act. Who knows whether they are sending such things also to simple people and exploiting their innocence and thus, God forbid, causing them to stumble and err because a sacred book is in question.’” The packages were apparently sent from Metulla, in the north of the country (Chadashot Shelanu, February 25; Yom L’Yom, February 24).

Other items reported that “around 500 people – mostly residents of Orthodox neighborhoods of Ashdod – assembled on Monday evening” opposite the community building “in order to protest against the existence of what they called a ‘Christian mission’ of the Messianic Jewish community, under the heavy security of dozens of police and security men” (Ka’an HaDarom, February 25) or “around 1000” (HaShavua BeAshdod, February 25; Yediot Ashdod, February 25). The Chief Rabbi, Yosef Sheinin, “did not shrink from a chilling comparison when uttering his words: ‘We stand here in a continuation of the Christian pogroms and Christianity from over 2000 years.’” R. Yehezkel Govner, in charge of the protest, vowed that similar demonstrations will continue every Monday evening (HaShavua BeAshdod, February 25).

The editor of Ashdod BeKoterot (February 23) devoted a column to the subject, which included the following: “Reform and Conservative Jews and members of various sects who come in the name of weird and wonderful ideas have, over the years, endeavored to breach the vineyard of the house of Israel, to uproot its shoots, and to introduce a ‘new’ spirit into pure Judaism. This time, it’s the sect of the ‘Messianic Jews,’ which has recently been operating openly in Ashdod, people raising their heads, becoming bold, and making souls [converting people to] their foolish ideas, notions whose final goal is conversion and baptism to Christianity, God have mercy … Let us take it upon ourselves to act, to protest, and to do everything in our power to dam up the breach and make it difficult for the activity of the counterfeiters of Judaism. The Jewish people lost a third of its members seventy years ago, and the loss of the soul, as we have said, is far graver than the loss of the body.”

Significantly, Yediot HaDarom (February 25) conducted a poll of its readers’ attitudes toward Yosef Sheinin’s comparison of Messianic Jews with Hitler. Readers were asked to comment on the following statements, the results due to be published next week: “1) Every day he serves as a public officer is a mark of shame for Ashdod. To my minister, for immediate action; 2) An unfortunate statement. It’s very sad that the taxpayer’s money, including that of Holocaust survivors, is going to fund such a black person; 3) The statement is perhaps disturbing, but it’s good that someone is looking out for the Jewish character of the city; 4) The highest commandment of the Torah is: ‘You shall love thy neighbor as thyself.’ The eminent Rabbi appears not to have gotten to this text yet.”

Christian Zionism

Iton Savion, February 21; Yediot ha-Negev, February 25, 2011

In continuing developments with regard to Al-Arakib (Yediot ha-Negev, February 25; see February #2), a group of “Rabbis for Human Rights” visited the Bedouin village, the site of a feud between the villagers and the Israeli government – in cooperation with GOD TV, relating to the latter in the following statement: “‘The spiritual leader of the Christians says he had a dream that in order for Yeshu to come again a million trees must be planted in Israel. This is the same group funding the forest which will soon cover all this place.’ At this point in the conversation, Sheikh Siah cannot restrain himself any longer. ‘So what if he said. If a leader went crazy and said that he dreamed that a million Arabs must be killed, what do we do today? Would they kill us? He dreamed that trees must only be planted in Al-Arakib. People are doing what they like here.’”

In very different spirit, in honor of Tu Bishvat, a group of religious and secular Jews in Savion participated in a festive “seder” together with “guests from a Dutch Christian Zionist group (Iton Savion, February 21), the latter being warmly welcomed by the city’s chief Rabbi. “‘This year we have not been blessed with sufficient rain yet and we are praying that it will still come. And not just us, but our guests are also holding mass prayer meetings in Holland within their communities to pray for the peace of Israel and that rain may fall here. If there’s anything moving which warms the heart, it’s that.’”

Jewish-Christian Relations 

Gal Gefen, February 24, 2011

St. George’s in Lod this week welcomed the newly-appointed head of the Co-existence Committee, who was warmly greeted by church heads and the Orthodox Society in the city, the latter explaining their contribution to the city, including a Scouts group, orchestra, classes for studying religion, women’s empowerment groups, summer camps, and computer and music rooms at the Orthodox club. According to the visitor, “he was happy to see the Christian community in Lod growing and developing as a quality community contributing to the fostering of the principles of peace and mutual respect and thereby constituting an exemplary instance of co-existence and joint living between Jews and Arabs.”