March 24 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – March 24, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, Christians in Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, and anti-Semitism. Of these:

1 dealt with Messianic Jews

3 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

5 dealt with Christians in Israel

2 dealt with Jewish-Christian relations

1 dealt with anti-Semitism


This week’s Review focused on a counter-demonstration in favor of the rights of Messianic Jews in Israel in Arad.

Messianic Jews

Channel One, March 10, 2011

Although not a printed article, it is worth noting that Channel One aired a broadcast this week about the anti-Messianic demonstrations in Arad. As promised, the Orthodox are protesting every Monday, this week, at least, outside the home of Polly Sigulim, a widow and mother of three IDF soldiers. According to the report, “the National Religious are joining forces with the Gur Hasidim to drive the Messianic Jews out of the city of Arad … Against the haredim stands Polly’s neighbor. He cannot remains indifferent in the fact of the daily harassment of his neighbor. ‘While the children of this woman are in the army and are guarding our borders, officers in the elite corps, the haredim, who don’t serve in the army, everyday harass their mother and abuse her’ … On the one side were about 200 haredim … Across from them on the other side of the neighbor’s fence were 100 residents of Arad who believe in the right of the Messianic congregation to continue to exist and to function. ‘You are not Jews; you are racists!’ ‘This reminds me of the dark times in the history of the Jewish people when they stood in front of the Jews and screamed, “Jews, get out!”’ [For the link, see]

Attitudes towards Christianity

Haaretz, March 16; Haaretz, March 21; Skoop Darom, March 10, 2011

In a letter to Haaretz (March 16), Honey and Gene Stollman responded to last week’s story about the hounding of a evangelical Christian in Jerusalem’s Old City: “We grew up in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, when there were still places where Jewish people could not live and the universities accepted only a small number of Jews … But here in Israel today, Shlomo Atias, the director general of the government company that is developing the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, wants to evict a resident of the quarter because he is a Christian … When the Israeli flag flies over a house in the Christian Quarter in which a Jew lives, or over the house of a Jew residing in the Muslim Quarter, he is not required to relocate to the Jewish Quarter. Atias’ demand is reminiscent of dark chapters in Jewish history and it is horrifying. Where is democracy? Where are morals? What have we come to?”

According to a report in Skoop Darom (March 10), “One of the top lecturers at the Ashkelon Academic College is apparently demanding that his students read the New Testament – so students taking one of his courses are claiming this week. Students in the general course ‘Christianity in the Holy Land’ turned this week to Skoop with the claim that the course contravenes the Jewish nature of the institution and is contradictory to their faith. Moreover, they did not expect and were even surprised by the fact that the College is operating under the aegis of Bar-Ilan University, which emphasizes a religious Jewish perspective. ‘The lecturer asked us to bring a New Testament to every class. It doesn’t seem logical that in a College which is associated with Bar-Ilan I should bring the New Testament and read it. He says that he’s not there to convert anyone and that we should simply be exposed to different cultures. This is unacceptable to me and to dozens of other students who have registered for the course. If they’d told us before or indicated it in the syllabus, we might not have registered. When we turned to the Administration, they claimed that there was nothing to be done and it wasn’t that bad, but it bothers me on a personal level. I myself am not racist, and I truly believe that everyone must live according to his own faith. It’s simply that this doesn’t fit in with my faith. I don’t want to have a run-in with the lecturer because I know that that will have an effect on my grade … I never believed that the College would give a hand to such material.’ In response, the College stated: ‘We’re talking about a course on Christianity in the Holy Land. In the framework of the studies there isn’t and never has been any obligation to read the New Testament. Students can listen in class and to the lecture and write down what’s said. At the beginning of the semester the obvious regarding a class on Christianity was stated, namely, that it would include discussions about material from the New Testament. It is not a compulsory course and anyone who wishes can take another class. Similar courses, with the same material, are given in other academic institutions in Israel.’”

Haaretz (March 21) printed an AP story regarding the publication of a new “gender-equal” translation of the Bible: “In the old translation of the world’s most popular Bible, John the Evangelist declares: ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.’ Make that ‘brother or sister’ in a new translation that includes more gender-neutral language and is drawing criticism from some conservatives who argue the changes can alter the theological message. The 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible, or NIV, does not change pronouns referring to God, who remains ‘He’ and ‘the Father.’ But it does aim to avoid using ‘he’ or “him” as the default reference to an unspecified person. The NIV Bible is used by many of the largest Protestant faiths. The translation comes from an independent group of biblical scholars that has been meeting yearly since 1965 to discuss advances in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage … According to the translators’ notes on the Committee on Bible Translation’s website, ‘The gender-neutral pronoun “they” (“them”/”their”) is by far the most common way that English-language speakers and writers today refer back to singular antecedents such as “whoever,” “anyone,” “somebody,” “a person,” “no one,” and the like’ … The group’s website says its goal is ‘to articulate God’s unchanging Word in the way the original authors might have said it if they had been speaking in English to the global English-speaking audience today’ … The publisher says the NIV 2011 will replace both the 1984 and 2005 versions.”

Christians in Israel

Haaretz, March 18 (x 3), 22; Yediot HaNegev, March 18, 2011

According to Yediot HaNegev (March 18), the Statutory Sub-committee of the District Planning and Construction Committee in the south of the country recently recommended that a cemetery for Christians must be established in Beersheva “‘because a need exists for a separate plot for the burial of Christians, whether within the bounds of the alternative cemetery or as a separate cemetery’ … This decision contravenes that made by the Local Planning and Construction Committee, which ruled that no funds should be allotted for the establishment of a Christian cemetery.” In addressing the Committee, Lawyer Cohen stated that the alternative cemetery was designed for Jews who wished not to be buried according to halakhah and was not intended for Gentiles.

Under the slightly misleading headline “Jerusalem syndrome,” Haaretz (March 18) printed a guide to Derekh Shechem – the old “Nablus Road” – along which can be found the Garden Tomb, St. Etienne’s College, the Church of St. Thomas, St. George’s Cathedral, and the American Colony. Of the Garden Tomb it is stated: “A short walk down the alley leads to the Garden Tomb. The surprise here is especially great. In the heart of a crowded construction area extends a large garden, whose almond trees are now in blossom in their full glory. The garden is owned by the ‘Garden Tomb Association,’ whose headquarters are in London. Virtually all Christian denominations concur that the place of Yeshu’s burial and resurrection was at the site which today is located in the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter. Several Protestant denominations, however, point rather to the Garden Tomb as the holiest site to Christians. General Charles Gordon identified this site as Golgotha, the reason being that several caves in the hillside can, with a little imagination, be seen to resemble a skull. Dozens of pilgrims who were praying there when we visited seemed utterly convinced … The disparity between the cavernous Holy Sepulchre and this modest green site is huge, to the point of tempting one to prefer the latter. Whatever the case in this regard, the visit to its extensive garden … is enjoyable and fascinating. Scattered around it are wooden statues and it has several quiet corners meant for fellowship and prayer. In the souvenir shop at the entrance they sell books, one of which catches our eye – a small volume in English entitled ‘Dead or Alive?: The Truth and Relevance of Yeshu’s Resurrection.’”

The same paper on the same day reported that “The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate sold most of its leasing rights to large swaths of Jerusalem to a group of Jewish investors last week. The NIS 80 million agreement puts an end to the long draw-out land affair – at least for the next 140 years. In the deal, signed March 10, the Patriarchate sold most of its rights to lease the land it has held in Jerusalem to a group of Jewish investors from Israel and abroad … The sale includes 85 parcels on hundreds of dunams of the capital’s most expensive properties, including in the very pricey neighborhoods of Rehavia, Talbieh, Baka and Katamon … The deal will give the buyers the ownership rights on the new land as of 2051, and they have already started talks with the ILA over the conditions of the renewal of the leases in 2051 … The Israel Lands Administration manages the Patriarchate’s properties, in the name of the Jewish National Fund. The ILA and the Patriarchate are signed on leasing agreements through 2051, but the ILA will sign the renewed leases in the future with the group of Jewish investors … The agreement has long-term political significance though it may not make economic sense for the buyers, said property assessor Koby Bir. ‘There are those who may say the amount [paid] is too low … But, the investors bought the rights starting only another 40 years,’ he said. ‘Only then will they become the owners of the land and can sign the agreements to renew the leases,’ he said. Bir said the deal was high risk. ‘No one promises that tomorrow morning, or in a few years, the JNF will start making deals to renew the leases,’ he said. ‘But now the land is being managed by a group of Jewish investors and the Palestinian threat has been removed. We have already heard that the investors are chasing after the ILA, and [the ILA] will not just let them make any amount they demand. The ILA is in no hurry.’”

Under the headline “Israel vacates Sergei courtyard ahead of Netanyahu’s Moscow visit this week,” a related piece (Haaretz, March 22) noted that “By this evening, the Sergei courtyard in the heart of Jerusalem is to be transferred to the Russian government. The complex, which was built at the end of the 19th century by Prince Sergei, the czar’s son, was initially constructed to accommodate Russian pilgrims in the city and was later nationalized by the British Mandate authorities. It was subsequently taken over by the government of Israel … For decades, the location housed offices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, in addition to the Agriculture Ministry and other entities. Over the past decade, however, the Russian government, which reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has pressured Israel to return control of the complex to Russia … The formal transfer of the site was to have been part of a planned visit to Israel by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about two months ago, but that visit was canceled due to a Foreign Ministry employee strike at the time. Since then, the Russian embassy in Israel has made it clear that Moscow still expected the hand over to be carried out. While it’s so far unknown how the Russians will use the facility, speculations include the creation of a cultural center or offices for Russian espionage service staff.”

In the magazine section of the same paper, the regular column entitled “Family Affair,” which looks at Israelis and their lives this week featured Duah Matta, who “was born in the Christian-Arab village of Mi’ilya, she’s Catholic, lights a votive candle every night, and her family is secular and musical … We partake pleasurably and ask about the angel figurine on the television. Duah tells us it was a gift from the baptism ceremony of Cecilia, the daughter of Jalal and Monica, her relatives in Jaffa … Now living: She’s been here two months, following a frustrating search for a home. Duah: ‘Because my name is Duah, I ran into silence when I was looking for an apartment, or the landlord started to stammer.’ It always began with a nice conversation, she says, ‘and then they would ask, “What’s your name?” “Duah,” I would reply, and then they seemed to cough. “We’ll let you know,” they would say’ … ‘The only way I got to see 10 apartments in Tel Aviv and Rishon was by saying my name was Didi’ … a girlfriend (‘my good friend Dana’) found something in Rehovot on the Internet (Ynet). Duah: ‘I told her I wasn’t going alone, so she came with me. I told the landlord, ‘I want it to be clear: I am an Arab, my name is Duah, and I want you to see that I am a human being.’ Dana said, “She is my friend, we roomed together in Hungary and in Israel.” And he said, ‘I have no problem with any of that’ … Tension: ‘You’re talking on the mobile phone in Arabic and suddenly someone tells you, “Go back where you came from”‘ … Marriage: ‘Everyone is on my case – my parents, the village – but there’s nothing. I don’t feel pressured: I haven’t yet found the one.’ The one: ‘He has to be Christian, at least as tall as I am (1.77 meters ), educated, charismatic and modest.’”


Jewish-Christian Relations 

Jerusalem Post, March 17; Haaretz, March 16, 2011

According to the Jerusalem Post (March 17), “Worshipers and members of the Latin clergy are seen inside the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday carrying a casket with the bones of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The relics … will travel to Christian communities in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza Strip over the next two months in an effort to inspire what the Roman Catholic Church called ‘faith and goodwill,’ and to ‘become a bridge to peace.’” Haaretz (March 16) noted that this trip followed in the wake of more far-reaching destinations: “Remains of a revered French nun who died more than 100 years ago have traveled the world, ventured into outer space and been worshipped by hundreds of thousands of Catholics. Now the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux are making their way through the Holy Land … At a ceremony at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport Monday, pictured above, about 60 nuns, priests and local Catholics gathered to welcome the arrival of the relics, singing and chanting beside a banner bearing her likeness.”


Mishpacha, March 17, 2011

This article reported on the scheduled “hate demonstration” conducted by members of the Baptist church against three Jewish institutions in Brooklyn. “They intended to stand on the pavement in front of these two yeshivas, chant anti-Semitic songs, and carrying placards saying ‘God hates the Jews’ and ‘America is doomed.’ Instead, however, they merely stopped briefly outside the ‘Beit haTalmud’ Yeshiva and quickly passed on.”