Caspari Center Media Review – March 9, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 24 articles on the subjects of anti-missionary activities, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, Jewish-Christian relations, interfaith activities, cults, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
3 dealt with anti-missionary activities
4 dealt with Christian Zionism
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Christian tourism
9 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations
1 dealt with interfaith activities
1 dealt with cults
2 dealt with anti-Semitism
1 was a book review
This week’s Review contained a lengthy article looking at the activities of the so-called Israel Center for Cult Victims and carried various responses to the publication of the Pope’s latest book.
Ka’an HaDarom, March 4; HaMagazin Ashdod, February 26; Haikin, February 24, 2011
HaMagazin Ashdod (February 26) and Haikin (February 24) ran last week’s story of the anti-missionary demonstration in Ashdod.
Ka’an HaDarom (March 4) printed a very interesting piece examining the reaction of the writer Shmulik Duek, a resident of Ashdod, to the comparison of Messianic Jews with Hitler made by the city’s chief Rabbi: “I read the report about the Orthodox demonstration against the Messianic Jews and was astonished,’ wrote Dueck in a statement he asked to be made public. ‘Since when does a person have the right to say to another person what or how to believe? When will the Orthodox understand that even those whose beliefs differ from theirs have a right to exist? I want to point out that this demonstration has given superb publicity to these Messianic Jews, since beforehand I had never heard or known anything about their existence in Ashdod. In contrast, we never stop seeing the Orthodox mission on every street corner and knocking on our doors – in most cases disturbing our afternoon rest – in order to distribute another flyer. I am amazed that the police let such a demonstrate go ahead, because essentially it was a racist demonstration which had no foundation or right to be held. The Messianics didn’t violate any law or do anything unlawful to anyone. The comparison the chief rabbi made between them and the Nazis is a very severe act which must be investigated within the framework of the law. It’s a serious and intolerable injury that is liable to be translated into an extremist act by some fanatic. We live in a State which upholds the freedom of religion and observance, and a demonstration against believers such as these or others is illegal and dangerous – and may well come back to bite its instigators.”
Ma’ariv, March 1; Zman Haifa, March 3; Din Ve-Cheshbon – Sederot, Netivot, VeHaSviva, February 25; Shishi BaGolan, February 25, 2011
According to Zman Haifa (March 3), “Around 100 evangelical Christian friends of Israel under the leadership of Mike Hays, who are amongst the contributors to the Bnei Zion Hospital, arrived this week to visit the hospital as guests of the Friends of the Hospital Association. The welcome ceremony was conducted in the presence of the city’s Mayor, Yonah Yahav, the hospital director, Dr. Amnon Rofe, the President of the Friends of the Hospital Association, Liora Kalish, the director of the American Friends of the Hospital Association, Jack Greenspan …”
Likewise, “A number of months ago, a Dutch delegation from ‘Christians for Israel’ visited Katzrin under the directorship of Baroness Henrietta. This is the delegation’s sixth consecutive visit to Katzrin to contribute tulips, the Dutch emblem” (Shishi BaGolan, February 25).
Noting the unprepared status of many communities in the south in the face of missile attacks, Din Ve-Cheshbon – Sederot, Netivot, VeHaSviva (February 25) reported that MK Zuartz commented that “‘We’ve discovered a gap in the physical aspects relating to defense issues, and unfortunately [sic], as the Ashkelon Mayor remarked, they’re lucky to have the Christian Zionist organizations which supports Israel, who raised funds and help us prepare defenses. It’s very sad that a Mayor should have to fly abroad and raise funds in order to answer the defense needs of his residents.”
Ma’ariv (March 1) devoted a lengthy article to a Dutch volleyball player who has chosen to play for Maccabi Hadera. Her grandparents sheltered and saved Jews during the War, “and the next generations also maintain this Dutch Christian family’s special relationship with the Jewish people. ‘There’s a verse in the New Testament that says “whoever blesses Israel will be blessed,”’ says Livia. ‘My mother remembered this verse all her life and tried to come to Israel, but beyond that we love the people here very much, the weather, and the State itself.’ As is well known, it’s not simple for non-Jews to come and live in Israel. For that reason, Livia’s father established a company in Israel, initially being the only person permitted to work here. Only subsequently did the whole family receive visas. There are only two families who have received citizenship in this way, and one of them is Livia’s … In 2006, when the van Averkirk family were here as tourists, the Second Lebanese War broke out. ‘My mother went out and bought ice cream for the soldiers. We went to Tiberias when it was attacked by missiles. According to the New Testament my mother believes, and we all think the same, that the Jews are the older brother of the rest of mankind.’”
Christians in Israel
Zman Yerushalayim, March 3, 2011
The lengthy feature article looked at the “Jerusalem Syndrome” which afflicts so many Christian visitors to Israel.
Globes Nadlan, March 7; Haaretz, March 1, 2011
Under the headline “Deliverance,” this brief caption stated: “One of the Chilean miners rescued from last year’s mine collapse being baptized yesterday in the Jordan River, where according to Christian belief, Jesus was baptized. The ceremony took place at the Yardenit baptism site in northern Israel. The Tourism Ministry is sponsoring an eight-day trip for the miners, which included a visit to the Via Dolorosa, Church of the Nativity and other key Catholic sites.”
Globes (March 7) devoted a lengthy article to the deplorable state of Christian sites in Nazareth, principally due to the fact that many of them rest in private hands rather than belonging to the State and thus receiving the necessary funding.
Globes, March 4; Jerusalem Post, March 1, 4; Israel HaYom, March 3, 6; Yediot Ahronot, March 3; Haaretz, March 3 (x 2), 4, 2011
In the build-up to the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest book next week, Haaretz (March 4), noted that “It was believed to be the first time a pope had made such a detailed dissection and close comparison of various New Testament accounts of Jesus’s condemnation to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.” It further reported that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Pope Benedict a letter yesterday applauding his personal exoneration of Jews of responsibility for Jesus’ death. ‘Your Holiness, I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been the foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries,’ Netanyahu wrote in the letter released by the Prime Minister’s Office. ‘My fervent hope is that your clarity and courage will strengthen the relations between Jews and Christians throughout the world and help promote peace and reconciliation for generations to come,’ he wrote, echoing praise from Jewish groups.”
The Jerusalem Post (March 4) further noted that “Jewish groups applauded the move. The Anti-Defamation League called it ‘an important and historic moment’ and hoped that it would help complicated theology ‘translate down to the pews’ to improve grass roots inter-religious dialogue … ‘Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus’ accusers?’ the pope asks, adding that the gospel of St John simply says it was ‘the Jews’. ‘But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate – as the modern reader might suppose – the people of Israel in general, even less is it ‘racist’ in character,’ he writes. ‘After all John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews,’ he writes. Benedict says the reference was to the ‘Temple aristocracy,’ who wanted Jesus condemned to death because he had declared himself king of the Jews and had violated Jewish religious law. He concludes that the ‘real group of accusers’ were the Temple authorities and not all Jews of the time … Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, welcomed the pope’s words … ‘This is a major step forward. This is a personal repudiation of the theological underpinning of centuries of anti-Semitism,’ he told Reuters. ‘This pope has categorically stated that the canard that Jews were Christ killers is a gross theological lie and this is most welcome in view of the setbacks that we have seen in the past few years.’”
Haaretz (March 3 [Hebrew and English editions]) also devoted a lengthier article to the same subject: “Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book. In excerpts from ‘Jesus of Nazareth-Part II’ released yesterday by the Vatican publisher, Benedict explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death … In his book, Benedict comes to the same conclusion as Nostra Aetate, but he explains how with a thorough, Gospel-by-Gospel analysis … Rabbi David Rosen, head of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee and a leader of Vatican-Jewish dialogue, said the pope’s book may make a bigger, more lasting mark than Nostra Aetate because the faithful tend to read Scripture and commentary more than church documents, particularly old church documents. ‘This is a pedagogical tool that he’s providing, so people will be able to interpret the text in keeping with orthodox Vatican teaching,’ he told the Associated Press. Rosen also said the tendency humans have to accept things at face value sometimes leads to a decline in the awareness of anti-Semitism, and the book leaves no doubt as to Benedict’s personal belief in the matter … Benedict re-enacts Jesus’ final hours, including his death sentence for blasphemy, then analyzes each Gospel’s account to explain why Jews as a whole cannot be blamed for it. Rather, Benedict concludes, it was the Temple aristocracy and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were responsible. How could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamor for Jesus’ death? Benedict asks … Benedict says in his book that Jesus’ death wasn’t about punishment, but rather salvation and that Jesus’ blood does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation [sic].”
Under the headline “The Vatican vs the ‘Zionist tsunami’” (Jerusalem Post, March 1), Giuli Meotti noted that “The slandering of Israel is growing at an alarming rate among the most important Catholic journalists … To understand its new mood about Israel, one has only to read what happened in the special synod on the Middle East, hosted in Rome. Nothing was said about Islamist persecution of Christians; indeed, every effort was made to show the Catholic Church sympathetic to Muslim grievances, especially against ‘Zionism’ – a word evoked as a symbol of evil … The January edition of La Civiltà Cattolica – the most authoritative magazine of the Jesuits, printed under the supervision of the Vatican – opens with an editorial about Palestinian refugees. Adopting the Arab propagandist word Nakba, it declares they are a consequence of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Israel. The journal also … falsely proclaims that ‘the Zionists were cleverly able to exploit the Western sense of guilt for the Shoah to lay the foundations of their own state’ … The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, just joined an ‘interreligious meeting’ in Doha, Qatar. Sponsored by the Arab League, the event occurred on Jerusalem, with the participation of ‘Christian and Muslim leaders.’ But no Jewish presence … [He] affirmed also that ‘you can’t have both Zionism and democracy,’ supporting the ‘one-state solution’ – a euphemism for the destruction of the Jewish state … Vittorio Messori, who conducted the first book-length interview with Pope John Paul II, recently wrote an editorial for the Italian daily Il Corriere della sera where he stated ‘All governments of all Muslim nations are under the tsunami of the violent intrusion of Zionism that has come to put its capital in Jerusalem’ … Archbishop Edmond Farhat – the official representative of Vatican politics – proclaimed that the ultimate cause of all the evils in the Middle East is that ‘foreign body’ which is Israel: ‘The Middle Eastern situation today is like a living organ that has been subject to a graft it cannot assimilate and which has no specialists capable of healing it’ … Elias Chacour, the Catholic archbishop of Galilee and Nazareth, went on to say that Israel committed ‘an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.’ Israel bashing is also part of the strategy of the Vatican Secretariat of State in the Middle East; its default position vis-à-vis militant Islamism is to try to reach accommodations with regimes and forswear condemnation of Islamist ideology … Yet the Church should have a strategic interest in a friendship with Zionists. Israel and the Vatican should be natural allies against the devotees of death. There is only one Middle Eastern country where the number of Christians has grown – Israel (from 34,000 in 1949 to 163,000). Pope Benedict should now reverse the tragic wave against Israel and the Jews – which its enemies want to annihilate – with the same powerful determination with which he raises his voice in defense of the ‘nonnegotiable’ principles concerning human life.”
The same paper (March 4) printed a piece reporting that “A top-level Vatican-Jewish conference in Paris this week marked the fortieth anniversary of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC), the official interreligious organism created by the Second Vatican Council … The ILC – composed of Vatican officials and Catholic clergy and scholars on one side, and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) representing the world’s major Jewish organizations on the other – was created in 1971 to apply and develop the principles of ‘Nostra Aetate.’ This 1965 Vatican II document aimed at permanently changing the course of a 2,000-year history of Catholic anti-Semitism. Contemporary dialogue between Catholics and Jews is based on this document, which denounced all forms of anti-Semitism and particularly the ‘deicide’ myth that stereotyped the Jewish people as Christ-killers … Keynote speeches on the past, present and future of Catholic-Jewish relations worldwide were delivered by the American Jewish Committee’s present and past directors for International Interreligious Relations, Rabbis David Rosen and Jim Rudin; Rabbi David Sandmel; Interreligious Coordination Council in Israel President Deborah Weissman; the head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) Richard Prasquier; Rev. Lawrence Frizzell; Monsignor William Murphy; the Franciscan Custos Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa; Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli; and Dr. Christian Rutishauser … Participants agreed that the upsurge of ‘religious’ hatred plus reigning uncertainty regarding the future of the Middle East called for further strengthening of the alliance between Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims, especially via examples of interreligious cooperation on social and educational issues. The ILC’s joint final declaration expressed ‘profound sadness at repeated instances of violence or terrorism “in the name of God” including increased attacks against Christians, and the calls for the destruction of the State of Israel,’ and it deplored ‘every act of violence perpetrated in the name of religion’ … Pleas for help in strengthening Palestinian Christian institutions ‘for the benefit of all’” were heard, while some delegates lamented the ‘disproportionate’ dearth of media attention to the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East.”
In two articles relating to this subject in Israel HaYom (March 3, 6) Eli Leon and Avi Becker noted, respectively, that “2000 years’ late: Pope Benedict 16 acquits the Jewish people in his latest book of responsibility for Yeshu’s crucifixion” and “Some people will tell you that Pope Benedict 16 has done nothing new in denying in his latest book the claim that the Jews, as a people, are guilty for Yeshu’s death. Others will say that it’s a pity that the Catholic Church waited 2000 years to remove the source of incitement that has led to so much hatred, persecution, and murder of untold numbers of Jews. Whatever the case, it’s hard not to exaggerate the importance of his action. It’s a theological shift in the Christian worldview, especially that within Catholicism … The conflict over the title of ‘Chosen People’ has accompanied Christianity and Islam since their foundation. The claim that God has forsaken His elect because of their sins and hardness of heart against Yeshu and his Christian followers stands at the center of the experience of the Christian faith. That is why the ‘New Testament’ was created – to exchange the old of Sinai – and why the title of ‘Chosen People’ has passed to Christianity, which took on the name ‘the New Israel’ (verus Israel).” Mati Golan in Globes (March 4) suggested that “The event could have been important had it aided in fighting anti-Semitism, but now it’s too late … No book by any pope can any longer change this Christian belief [that the Jews killed Christ]. The tenet is steeped in the blood of those who were educated in this belief … We should state the following: Dear Vatican friends, we don’t need any acquittal of the ludicrous and irresponsible claim of collective guilt. Those who are in need of such acquittal – by us – is you, the popes and priests of generations, who planted the malicious lie in the minds of the ‘flock of your pasture.’ Unfortunately, we can’t acquit you in regard to this matter, since the facts lead to the conclusion that you are indeed guilty, and many even continue to believe the lies today. In contrast, we can perhaps acquit you for having killed Yeshu – i.e., your early fathers, the Romans, in whose land you chose to locate the seat of your holy throne … The Romans killed Yeshu, and you are their offspring, just as we are the offspring of those who delivered Yeshu up. Despite this, however, we shall acquit you of collective blame for the execution of Yeshu, but we shan’t forget – nor shall we let you forget – that your fathers were the ones who killed Yeshu, the son of our Jewish people.” Similarly, Yediot Ahronot (March 3) noted that the pope “will be ultimately be judged primarily for his attitude towards the Jews. According to many commentators, up until now he has failed the test.”
Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2011
According to this report, “The historic reconciliation between Jews and Roman Catholics over the past 40 years should be extended to Muslims to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, a senior Jewish official has said. The regular dialogue the two faiths have maintained since the Catholic Church renounced anti-Semitism at the Second Vatican Council, should be ‘a model for transformed relations with Islam,’ Rabbi Richard Marker told an interfaith conference … ‘Forty years in the histories of two great world religions is but a blink of an eye,’ Marker, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation, said. “But 40 years of a relationship is a sign of its maturity.’ ‘The focus of the world is no longer specifically on Jewish-Christian amity. We must, for so many reasons, involve the third of our Abrahamic siblings … Islam’ … Christian and Jewish leaders increasingly meet their Muslim counterparts to seek common ground and better understanding, but none of these discussions have the history or depth of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue officially begun in 1971 … During the meeting, participants will plant a tree in memory of Ilan Halimi, a French Jew killed by an anti-Semitic gang in 2006, and visit the Drancy camp outside Paris where the Nazis sent French Jews to death camps during World War II.”
Yediot Ahronot, March 3, 2011
Shosh Molla set out to discover the true identity of groups known as “cults” or “sects” in Israel and the “Israel Center for Victims of Cults” and discovered some interesting facts: “The term or ‘cult’ automatically arouses negative connotations in the Israeli consciousness. We immediately envision a charismatic guru, a cynical trickster who exploits his followers financially and perhaps also sexually. What is the definition of a ‘cult’? This question has never been conclusively answered in Israel, including legally. But that doesn’t stop the frenzied activity of a body known as ‘The Israel Center for Cult Victims,’ which has taken upon itself to fight the phenomenon. ‘7 Days’ exposes here for the first time the fact that behind the activities of this organization, which calls itself ‘a secular institution whose goal is to aid the victims of esoteric cults in Israel and their families,’ has stood from the moment of its inception an Orthodox organization, ‘The Ministry of Charity Affairs’ by name. This body, so our investigation reveals, is responsible for approximately 98% of the contributions received by the Israel Center for Cult Victims (1,030,000 NIS out of 1,048,738.80 NIS in 2007). The investigation also reveals that the person who stands behind the Ministry of Charity Affairs is the millionaire Orthodox businessman Rami Feller, who donates around 80% of all the organization’s income (9.4 million NIS out 11.7 million NIS for the same year). And that’s not all: Feller and the chief executive of the Center, Rachel Lichtenstein, have something in common – both worked in the past for Yad L’Achim, which for decades has been conducting a war against the mission and its forces, in parallel with another Orthodox organization, Lev L’Achim. So why the new name, ‘The Israel Center for Cult Victims?’ Perhaps because both the former organizations have an awful reputation with respect to religious coercion and bringing people back into Judaism. The fight against cults under the guise of a secular institution can grant them legitimization to attack organizations and groups in the eyes of many … And who is defined as a cult by the Center? The detailed list on its website is a mishmash of various groups and clusters of people, none of whom have any ostensible connection, except for the fact that they don’t accept the Orthodox establishment and haven’t been koshered by it. Examples? You can find there philosophies and techniques regarded as legitimate and accepted by many Israelis: the Institute for the Study of Kabbalah, yoga and meditation groups, philosophy study-groups, Landmark Education (the Forum), and ‘Humanication’ for self-improvement, as well as religious groups well-established and legitimate across the globe, such as Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Some of the bodies which appear on the ‘black list’ think otherwise, some of them have sued the Israel Center, and others are weighing the possibility of initiating legal action.” According to one of its former workers, the Center is Rami Feller and its aim is not to take care of “cult victims” but to persecute anyone non-Orthodox: “‘Anything that isn’t Jewish is a cult.’” According to the article, the aims of the Center – which has changed its name twice since its foundation in 2006 – are to “work on behalf of the Israeli public with respect to the activities of cults, organizations, and spiritual study groups in Israel and across the world that operate to harm the public and exploit its members physically, mentally, financially, etc.” The benefit Rami Feller receives from the Center is clearly implied by the fact that it was granted “Public Institution” status in 2007, thus giving tax deductions to any donations made to it. Given the controversial nature of the term “cult,” Molla consulted with Prof. Benjamin Beit-Halachmi, of the Psychology Department of the University of Haifa: “‘The agenda of all the groups is to get money out of people … The difference between them lies in their variant beliefs. The Messianic Jews are well known, too. It’s an interesting and important phenomenon. I don’t call any of these groups cults.” Likewise, Prof. Ofra Meisels, head of the “Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality” and the Dean of Education at the University of Haifa “is working hard to get the subject introduced into academic studies. ‘To call some of these movement cults is not necessarily accurate academically speaking,’ she claims. ‘In my opinion, the most problematic aspect is the attempt to delegitimize and intimidate in the face of what I regard as a natural search for spirituality.’” Among those considering suing the Center is Kehilat Shemen Sasson.
Jerusalem Post, March 4; Haaretz, March 4, 2011
According to a report in Haaretz (March 4), “France’s ambassador to Israel presented data yesterday showing a 45 percent drop in anti-Semitic incidents in his country during 2010. Cristophe Bigot attributed the year-over-year drop to a sharp rise in 2009 in the wake of Operation Cast Lead. The data showed that during 2010 there were 466 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism in France, 131 of which involved violence. This compared to 832 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2009, of which 174 were violent. According to an annual report on anti-Semitic incidents, published last month by the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, the drop in anti-Semitic incidents during the past year is not unique to France. However the data from France show the sharpest drop in the number of anti-Semitic incidents from any other country in the world. Bigot credited a determined effort by the French government to quell anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2009, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed a special commissioner to combat racism and anti-Semitism. The commissioner coordinates educational work in schools, which includes study of the Holocaust, and is authorized to also monitor police investigations into anti-Semitic incidents. The French government has also invested 15 million euros in a five year program for protecting institutions of the French Jewish community. The program covers a total of 349 institutions, of which 107 are schools. The embassy also noted that the French Foreign Ministry recently joined forces with a non-government organization which works against Holocaust denial in the Arab world. The organization, Alladin, recently translated the ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ into Arabic and Farsi, as well as books by Holocaust survivor Primo Levy.”
The Jerusalem Post’s editorial on March 4 was headlined “Anti-Semitism’s many expressions” and made the following points, among others: “In Anti-Semite and Jew, Jean Paul Sartre famously argued that anti-Semitism is best understood as a ‘criminal passion’ as opposed to an idea. ‘It is not a point of view based rationally upon empirical information calmly collected and calibrated in as objective a manner as is possible.’
Rather, wrote Sartre – in 1946, in the shadow of the Holocaust – anti-Semitism is ‘an involvement of the mind, but one so deep-seated and complex that it extends to the physiological realm, as happens in cases of hysteria.’ Judging from a recent spate of high-profile anti-Semitic verbal attacks, all sharing the common theme of emotional outbursts, Sartre seems to have it at least partially right” – citing the incidents involving TV and movie star Charlie Sheen, John Galliano, chief designer for Christian Dior, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. It then noted that Benedict’s latest book represents “one not insignificant step has now been made toward eradicating a Christian-based anti-Semitism once institutionalized by the Catholic Church,” lamenting, however, that “Unfortunately Benedict’s book will have no impact on Sartre’s ‘criminal passion’ variety of anti-Semitism, which remains stubbornly prevalent – even among the world’s most successful and talented.”
Haaretz, March 4, 2011
Yirmi Pinkus, a comics artist and lecturer at Shenkar College, reviewed the Hebrew edition of Michael Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated (Am Oved): “Robert Crumb’s comic book, ‘The Book of Genesis Illustrated,’ has been published in Hebrew at approximately the same time as a controversy of sorts has developed with regard to the rewriting of the Bible into contemporary Hebrew, in an edition known as the Ram Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The timing is nothing more than a publishing coincidence, but nonetheless holds significance … The Ram Tanakh is founded upon the notion that the Hebrew of the Scriptures is ancient and imprecise, a sort of semi-foreign language, and Israeli readers are therefore in need of a middleman, in the person of the translator. Crumb’s comics version of Genesis is recommended reading for anyone who tends to feel the Bible is akin to an elderly person who must be assigned a caregiver who can translate his vague mutterings into plain language. The wording used by Crumb may indeed be the old Biblical text, but it is nevertheless quite easy to understand. Without changing a word, Crumb serves up an exceptionally zesty, vibrant and current Genesis. [In the original English edition, Crumb used Robert Alter’s 1996 English translation of the Hebrew text of Genesis (Ed.: origin parentheses).] Essentially, Crumb is also interpreting the Bible, although his means of interpretation is visual, not textual. The interpretation into comics − as with all other interpretations − is influenced not only by the medium, but also by the creative spirit of the interpreter … First and foremost, one should pay attention to the division of the page into frames, the basic building block of comics. Throughout most of the book, Crumb employs a conservative division: three identical horizontal panels on each page that are subdivided into square frames. As such, he achieves uniformity throughout, with no one chapter given visual priority … Crumb elected not to cut out any text, and he even illustrates the genealogical verses … Crumb devotes six pages to Tamar’s story, whereas the more straightforward tale of the binding of Isaac − which has far fewer plot zigzags − is allotted a mere three and a half pages. The physical presence of Chapter 38 becomes, then, highly significant as you continue reading, a seemingly technical editing decision that produces a surprising hierarchy. At first glance, Crumb appears to be allocating the frames according to the original division: one frame per verse. But a more meticulous examination reveals that he is allowing himself to divide verses into several frames should the need arise, with the need always being dramatic and visual … The illustrative processes that Crumb as a figurative artist cannot avoid are what make his ‘Genesis’ a sensual and intense creative work. The comics medium unavoidably produces strong and even terrifying images: God, who fashions man out of mud, in a picture that strongly resembles the Christian Pieta; the snake, presented as a sort of muscular lizard standing on two feet, inspired perhaps by science-fiction imagery; the malice spread across Sarah’s face as she schemes to exile Hagar … His drawing style is characterized by expressionistic plasticity … The technique produces earthy, passion-filled characters. It is enough to recall the elongated and flat characters that ornament Gothic manuscripts, for example, to understand the extent to which these people of Genesis are far from spiritual. Even God is not an abstract spiritual entity, but is illustrated here in the image of a grand, patriarchal old man. This is not a particularly original solution, and is essentially a weak point of Crumb’s adaptation. The more interesting step that the artist takes in representing this being has to do with the Lord’s words: In keeping with the conventions of comics art, they are inscribed in a speech balloon emerging from his mouth. The emotional effect of these balloons is truly bizarre: Hey, God really talks! The words ‘And He spoke,’ which in an ordinary reading of the scripture is conceived as a tonal event, in which divine messages are in some vague way transmitted, becomes in comics a physical act that is defined within the human world of phenomena. Moreover, it develops that God has his own body language too. When he says to Cain, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil,’ he cups his hand around his ear. In so doing, God turns into another participant, albeit an all-powerful one, but nevertheless a player just like the others in this animated drama … In many ways, Crumb’s comics are a no-less radical creation than the Ram Tanakh, proving that one can understand the ancient text without rewriting it, and at the same time enjoy a highly emotional, sensual and intellectual experience.”