Caspari Center Media Review – May 6, 2011
During the weeks covered by this review, we received 43 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, anti-missionary activities, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, Christian tourism, the Pope and the Vatican, Christians in the Holocaust, Christianity, and archaeology. Of these:
6 dealt with Messianic Jews
5 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity
1 dealt with anti-missionary activities
2 dealt with Christian Zionism
12 dealt with Christians in Israel
2 dealt with Christian tourism
2 dealt with the Pope and the Vatican
3 dealt with Christians in the Holocaust
1 dealt with Christianity
9 dealt with archaeology
This Review featured an article on Kay Wilson’s continued recovery, a full-length portrait of Mary Gardner, killed in the latest bombing attack in Jerusalem, a biblical exegesis by Rotem Magen in the IDF BaMachaneh magazine, as well as coverage of Easter celebrations and Holocaust Memorial Day – and a new documentary claiming to have found two of the nails used to crucify Jesus.
Haaretz, April 13, 22, 29; Ma’ariv, April 22; Jerusalem Post, April 28; BaMachaneh, April 4, 2011
The two pieces in Haaretz (April 22) and Ma’ariv (April 22) carried a follow-up story on Kay Wilson, who miraculously survived a terror attack last year: “‘It happened not far from here,’ Kaye Wilson said this week on her first tour of the Jerusalem Forest since a brutal knife attack there that left her friend Kristine Luken dead and Wilson severely wounded. Wilson told tourists about the assault four months ago, for which Palestinian militants have been indicted. ‘I haven’t worked as a tour guide for a long time,’ she said. ‘That day, my world changed forever. Terrorists attacked us and held us at knifepoint. They jumped on us, bound us and stabbed us … We are celebrating the festival of freedom now, we are free, and I am free today,’ she said. ‘I want to thank God for letting the Angel of Death pass me over. I will never understand why Kristine died and I was saved, but I thank him for giving me back my freedom,’ she told a group that gathered at random … Ilana Dahan, an elementary school teacher from Ramat Gan, told her two children: ‘You may not know this but she pretended to be dead and that’s how she was saved. She is the symbol of the Jewish spirit.’ Every half hour another group of visitors arrived at the spot. They listened to the story of the attack and gazed at the place where it happened. They applauded Wilson and continued on the stretch of ancient Roman road … ‘Wilson’s need to call on people to visit here is so great that I don’t care if people don’t want their children to hear the details and take them aside,’ [Jewish National Fund forester Gidi] Bashan said. ‘Besides, today people are immune to that. The children are exposed to horrors and bodies on the news anyway.’ Wilson told Haaretz: ‘Returning to this place brings up difficult associations, although I know Kristine’s murderers have been caught. At first I didn’t want to see a tree, or the brown sign directing visitors. But I’m not going to sit at home and be scared. My sweet revenge is to be here and not to let fear overcome me’” (Haaretz). “‘Before we understood and decoded the murder, the place was known as the ‘Black Forest.’ Today, now that we’ve deciphered the murder, I call it the ‘Beautiful Forest.’ I won’t let terror be victorious over me,’ Wilson tells the group of tourists … ‘I don’t feel like a hero,’ she told the tourists. ‘I simply feel as though I was saved through a miracle while Kristine paid with her life for her love of this land’” (Ma’ariv).
Rotem Magen, daughter of Howard and Randi Bass, contributed an exegesis of the Torah portion of the week (Shmini – Lev. 9:1-11:47) to the IDF magazine BaMachaneh (March 25), in which she her profile included the following information. With respect to “the army and faith,” she stated: “‘My faith in God accompanies me in all areas of my life, including my army service. The Lord of Hosts, in whose hand are the treasures and sources of wisdom, is my shield [the name ‘Magen’ signifies ‘shield’].” The Bible verse which guides her is Isa. 40:31: “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” and her favorite biblical figure is “‘the works and office of the Messiah according to the biblical prophecies.’”
In an article reporting on the fact that some event halls are refusing to host same-sex weddings, Haaretz (April 13) noted that “In another case in 2009, the High Court ruled that the kashrut certificates at two bakeries in Ashdod and Gan Yavneh could not be revoked because their owner was a Jewish woman who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.”
In a lengthy feature of German caregivers looking after Holocaust survivors in Israel, Ron Pressler (Haaretz, April 29) described how “In the middle of the 1950s a woman visited Germany whose name was Helen Weiman. She was from Haifa or London, depending on which version of the story you accept. In a small village named Maizenbach in the Black Forest, she met Friedrich Nuthaker, who had been an evangelical pastor but had resigned for health reasons and established a small guest house which he called ‘Beth-el.’ Weiman lost many members of her family in the Holocaust; she herself became a Messianic Jew, and thought that Nuthaker was the most suitable person for the task she had taken upon herself – namely, to help other Holocaust survivors – and asked him to join her for a trip to Israel. This was delayed because the two lacked the financial means for such an adventure, but Weiman prayed for funds and shortly afterwards returned to Maizenbach with the necessary resources. When Nuthaker visited the country, apparently in 1956, he devoted himself to the idea and, on the basis of religious and ethical considerations, reached the conclusion that he should help Holocaust survivors in whatever way he could. In Switzerland, he met a man from Naharya [in the north of Israel] who was interested in selling a building in the city, but in those days West Germany did not even have a consul in Israel (diplomatic relations were established in 1965), and, so as not to draw attention to the plan, Nuthaker and the seller conducted the transaction via a joint company they set up. Weiman died in 1959, and in 1960 Nuthaker founded a rest home for Holocaust survivors in Naharya.”
A report in the Jerusalem Post (April 28) concerning Marranos in Ecuador also related to Messianic Jews: “[Jose] Franco [who acts as Rabbi to the Marrono community] writes that ‘if I do not explain the Jewish practices of Jesus, that Jesus was a Jew, lived and died as a Jew, they [his congregation] won’t listen to me anymore.’ He states, ‘You have probably heard of the association Jews for Jesus; they teach Jews to become Christians. Our work is the opposite of it. We teach Christians that were unaware of their Jewish heritage to return to Judaism.’ ‘Here in Ecuador, there about 300 to 400 Messianic Jews,’ says Moti Deren, who attends services at the Communidad and at Chabad. ‘As they are coming back as Messianic, rabbis don’t like it.’ He explains that they ‘are not mainstream, but have a strong affinity with Judaism and Israel. [They] probably have this as a common ground with other mainstream Jews.’”
Attitudes to Christianity
Jerusalem Post, April 27, May 2; Israel HaYom, April 29; Le’Isha, May 2; Haaretz, April 29, 2011
According to a feature article in Haaretz (April 29), “A monument in the Templar cemetery in Jerusalem’s German Colony has aroused so much rancor that a special law is under consideration so it can be removed. Among others, the monument commemorates members of the German Christian sect known as the Templars, who died in the service of the Third Reich during World War II … Descendants of the Templars see to it that the cemetery, which is usually closed to the public, is cared for, and they visit it each year. In the 1960s, descendants of members of the sect put up a central monument at the burial ground, mentioning the members who had died during their army service in World War II. The fallen of World War I have their own monument in the cemetery, which was erected between the wars and mentions all the names of the dead and the place they fell. But aware of the sensitivity of the matter, the designers of the World War II monument used deliberately ambiguous wording: ‘In memory of the more than 450 dead and of those who fell in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945’ … The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, a right-wing group, has been working in recent years to have the monument removed. In a letter from the forum to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein about a year ago, attorney Hila Cohen wrote: ‘We believe that it is inconceivable that within the State of Israel, not to mention in its capital city, such a monument exists, glorifying figures who are war criminals, partners to the most grievous attempt in history to wipe out the Jewish people.’ According to Cohen, the monument is an ‘unacceptable contradiction to the law mandating prosecution of Nazis and their collaborators.’ Attorney Michael Blass, Weinstein’s aide, responded at the time that no legal basis existed for the removal of the monument. And so the forum began to work toward legislation of a bill with regard to the monument, along the lines of the law against the erection of monuments to terrorists, enacted to prevent the construction of a memorial to Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslims at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994. The law against the Templar monument, proposed by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), would add an amendment the law mandating prosecution of Nazis that would read: ‘No monument will exist that commemorates, either explicitly or implicitly, the Nazis and their collaborators.’ The amendment also states that any person who has been made aware of the existence of such a monument must report it to the police. The forum is also considering getting expedited passage of a municipal by-law in Jerusalem to ensure the monument comes down. The cemetery’s caretaker, Meir Aharoni, a Messianic Jew who also cares for the nearby cemetery for Messianics, says he opposes the destruction of the monument, and says the Templars had no choice but to join the Nazi party. ‘These were amazing people, who brought banana plantations and oranges to Palestine, textile factories, water pumps, tractors and generators. This monument is part of history. All they have left is this cemetery,’ Aharoni said.”
Dror Eidar looked at the Christian foundation of European culture in Israel HaYom (April 29) in a piece entitled “The State that upset the European myth.” Noting that if traditional anti-Semitism was based on religious hatred, the secularization process should have mitigated its force, he noted that “The majority of the discussions concerning the subject deal with rational explanations. Even the Jewish ‘guilt’ for Yeshu’s crucifixion is a ‘rational’ reason – because if the Jews acted in this way they should be punished. But why does anti-Semitism continue to manifest itself within secular European culture, which has freed itself from religious fetters? For this reason we must jettison rationalism and turn to myth. Myth is the founding story, the emotional and cultural foundation of a people – the unconscious collective in Jungian terms. Europe was born into the Christian myth. Over the past two thousand years, the most important myth in European consciousness has centered around the figure of a crucified Jew. The educated Christian knows Yeshu’s origin. The European is born into Yeshu and grows up and dies in the face of the cross. We need to ponder the hidden significance of the Christian myth: a crucified Jew. Was traditional anti-Semitism not bound to repeat the religious trauma bequeathed to the European with his mother’s milk – i.e., an attempt to realize the crucifixion, the desire to be present at the traumatic and transcendent moment, belief in which constitutes the key to personal salvation?”
In an op ed entitled “Jesus, the rock star” (Jerusalem Post, May 2), David Stowe looked at the phenomenon of Christian music: “The teenage music phenomenon Justin Bieber is arguably the most popular Christian in the world … Where you won’t hear Mr. Bieber talk about faith very often, however, is in his songs. That may in part be his choice, but it’s also a reflection of a split in popular music between the secular and the godly. Despite being a rare bright spot in an industry facing difficulties, music with explicit religious content has been largely segregated from non-religious pop music, both in terms of radio stations and audiences—so much so that it even has a name, contemporary Christian music … Religious, and especially Christian, themes were common in music throughout the ’60s … Some of these references were tongue in cheek; few signaled a deep theological commitment. Still, it was hard to overlook that Jesus had turned into a highly resonant symbol for many ’60s youth. Then, at the turn of the decade, the Jesus Movement, that strange and unexpected efflorescence of the ’60s counterculture, burst onto the national radar screen … The Jesus Movement and its music eventually found their way into churches, helping them to rebrand themselves as youth-friendly and relevant, even groovy, attractive to the baby boomers moving out of their youth and into suburban family life. Adapted as congregational ‘praise music,’ the new openness to electric instruments, drums sets and rock sonorities supplanted four-part metrical hymns as the music of Sunday morning worship in an increasing number of churches … Christian popular music is a critical component in the new conservatism … As contemporary Christian music became more stylistically diverse and commercially savvy, it began to appeal to Generation X and its successors as well, who have grown up singing only contemporary Christian-tinged ‘praise’ music during worship. The result, however, has been to widen the split between secular and religious music. Since evangelicals could now choose slick, well-produced Christian music from across the spectrum of pop sounds, they had less reason to pay attention to mainstream music. And after 1980, the unmistakable convergence of evangelical Christianity with right-wing politics made ‘secular’ artists more leery of overt religious references that would antagonize most of their core audience.”
Judy Montague contributed an observation on “Original sin” to the Jerusalem Post (April 27) in relation to anti-Israel sentiments: “Something that persists in perplexing many Israelis is why the playing field of liberal Western opinion is so relentlessly and uniquely tilted against Israel, with recurring calls for boycott and divestment and the questioning of something as fundamental as Israel’s right – the right of a UN member! – to exist … During this Easter Week, it seems especially pertinent to note the deep belief – specifically in Roman Catholicism – that all people are born into the world bearing the sin of Adam and Eve, who defied God by eating from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only via baptism and the acceptance of Jesus can this original sin be expiated (which is why many Christians see the conversion of others as their life’s mission). This notion of original sin resonates with me not because of the biblical narrative but because it symbolizes so well another perceived fatal flaw – widely and exclusively seen as modern Israel’s – that cannot be repaired but by the most extreme measures … This jibes with another historical Christian theological tenet: the Jews’ culpability in the killing of Jesus, as a result of which they were condemned to roam the Earth in perpetuity – hence the expression ‘The Wandering Jew’ … Could this ingrained conviction of the Jews’ ‘preordained condition’ as perpetual wanderers – a notion turned on its head by the flourishing State of Israel and its outstanding achievements – help explain why a near-cosmic level of Evil has been attributed to it?”
Le’Isha (May 2), one of Israeli’s feminist magazines, welcomed the latest translation of the New Testament, suggesting that its readers could “learn from the debate” over whether God should be identified as male or female.“
HaShavua BeAshdod, April 8, 2011
In response to Shmulik Duek’s recent “defense” of Messianic Jews in light of the demonstrations against the congregation in Ashdod, HaShavua BeAshdod (April 8) printed a letter from Yad L’Achim explaining their position: “Yad L’Achim espouses freedom of religion, worship, and respect for all religious faiths. For this reason, you will not see us working against churches (or mosques) in any place whatsoever. ‘Messianic Jews,’ however, are a completely different case: the members of the sect accept all the Christian tenets and endeavor to persuade Jews by deception and draw them into Christianity. They present themselves as Jews (they call their priests ‘pastors’ or ‘rabbis’) and thus influence those who are seeking to draw closer to the Jewish religion to come to their lectures. The reason behind our protest derives from the fact that they hide their true identity from the public. There are many Catholic churches and top-ranking officials who also object to the deceiving operations of the missionaries. It is our duty to note that ‘Messianic Jews’ are part of fundamentalist Christianity, which includes the belief that everyone who does not believe in Yeshu will be judged to everlasting damnation in hell! Their principal hope and vision (frequently expressed in their literature) is the complete obliteration of the Jewish people in general and of the Jewish presence in the Land in particular.”
Jerusalem Post, April 17; Gal-Gefen, April 13, 2011
According to the Jerusalem Post (April 17), “A group of American Christians, mostly of Russian origin, plan to convert to Judaism and establish kibbutz-style communities in Samaria – and MK Lia Shemtov (Israel Beiteinu) is eager to help them. The group’s leader, Russian-language radio host Baruch Avrahamovich of Portland, Oregon, said on Thursday that around 1,000 people are interested in coming to Israel and living as Jews in the northern West Bank … ‘Ultimately, I understood that Judaism is the true religion, and that my life’s mission is to have Christians immigrate to Israel and convert’ … As Avrahamovich’s message and program gained popularity with community members they faced a strong backlash from church leaders, he said. At the same time, listeners began contacting him – inspired both by re-discovering their Jewish heritage, and by his call to return to what Avrahamovich calls ‘the true religion of the Bible’ … The MK has yet to formulate a detailed plan, including what type of visa the immigrants – many of whom do not qualify for the Law of Return – would use. In addition, sources in Shemtov’s office acknowledged that their initial absorption might not be in Samaria, but that they might live in kibbutzim, or in Jerusalem, while studying after their arrival.”
Last week, Kfar Hashmona’i was overrun with film crews under the direction of Ken Berg, shooting chapters from Psalms (Gal-Gefen, April 13). According to the settlement’s founder and director, “‘thousands of Christians friends of Israel and American Jews have learned just how accurate Ken Berg’s films about Israel are.’”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, April 24 (x 2), 29; Jerusalem Post, April 18, 21, 24 (x 2), 26, 27; Ma’ariv, April 29; Kol HaIr, April 22; Israel HaYom, April 24, 2011
Ma’ariv (April 29) published a full-length feature article looking at the “Unknown soldier” – Mary Gardner – the only fatality in the latest bombing attack in Jerusalem and lamenting the fact that, a month following her death, her body has still not been released to her parents for burial in Scotland.
Under the headline, “A triumphal entry reenacted,” the Jerusalem Post (April 18) reported that “Catholic clergy take part in a Palm Sunday procession yesterday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem … Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry into Jerusalem by Jesus and begins a holy week that culminates in Easter the following Sunday.” The same paper (April 21) further noted that, during “Holy week in holy river,” “Orthodox Christian pilgrims stand in the Jordan River near Jericho yesterday during a ceremony for the upcoming Easter holiday. The site is known as Qasr el-Yahud and is believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus,” also printing a photograph of the Good Friday procession in which “Christian pilgrims from around the world follow Jesus’s footsteps through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem’s Old City.” Israel HaYom (April 24) reported that 16,000 participated in the “Saturday of Light” ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a ceremony Ma’ariv (April 24) referred to as “The light, the fire, and the cross.” According to Haaretz (April 29), “About 1,000 police officers safeguarded the site as the various Orthodox Christian denominations packed into Christianity’s most sacred shrine,” the Jerusalem Post (April 24) noting that “Hours of tense waiting, fatigue and rivalry turned instantaneously to joy and relief when the densely packed Church of the Holy Sepulchre was lit up on Saturday afternoon with fire, swiftly spreading between the Christians attending the Holy Fire ceremony. Police estimated that at least 10,000 worshipers crowded the ancient church in Jerusalem’s Old City, which is, according to Christian tradition, the site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection.” Haaretz (April 24) also printed three photographs of Christian worshipers in Jerusalem, Ramalla, and Rome, with the Jerusalem Post (April 26) adding another of Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal praying “near the Stone of Anointing, where Christians believe Jesus was prepared for burial, during an Easter procession in the capital’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday.”
According to the Jerusalem Post (April 22), “Heads of churches in Jerusalem have urged Christians ‘to pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land, where the deteriorating situation makes peace and justice seem further away than ever before,’ in a Thursday message ahead of Easter Sunday. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal; Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarch Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey; Maronite Patriarchal Exarch Archbishop Paul Sayyah; Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Bishop Pierre Malki; Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Fr. Rafael Minassian and Holy Land Custodian Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM, are among the signatories on the letter cited by Catholic News Agency … This year’s Easter will also be joyous to Christians since it will be celebrated on the same day by Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic believers, a rather rare occurrence given that Western churches calculate the date using a Gregorian calendar, while the Orthodox church uses the older Julian calendar.”
The Reform movement organized visits to Christian sites over the Easter holiday intended to “explain the various holy traditions linked to the final route of the Christian Messiah” (Kol HaIr, April 22).
Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post (April 27) suggested that “Many of Israel’s Arab villages have much to offer tourists: “The main problem facing many villages is historical. Not all the Arab villages in Israel have a great cultural heritage. Several dozen offer something in the way of historical interest because of the presence of old Christian communities or connections to the story of Jesus. Kafr Kana, for instance, is where Jesus turned water into wine … Jish, a Christian-Maronite village, is the ancient Jewish town of Gush Halav [reputed residence of Paul’s parents] … Nain is an Arab village not far from Afula which was on the route of Christian pilgrims. In 1878 the Catholic Church purchased land there reputed to be the place where Jesus revived a widow’s son. A photo in 1914 shows the miserable village, which was entirely Muslim, with the newly constructed church in the background. Now there is a mosque next to the church.
Jerusalem Post, April 14, 17, 2011
The Jerusalem Post (April 14) reported on Justin Bieber’s “frustration at paparazzi” on his recent visit to the country: “‘You would think paparazzi would have some respect in holy places. All I wanted was the chance to walk where Jesus did here in Israel. People wait their whole lives for opportunities like this, why would they want to take that experience away from someone. They should be ashamed of themselves. Take pictures of me eating but not in a place of prayer, ridiculous… He added, ‘I’m in the holy land and i am grateful for that. I just want to have the same personal experience that others have here … I want to see this country and all the places I’ve dreamed of and whether it’s the paps or being pulled into politics it’s been frustrating.’”
The same paper (April 17) noted that “Over a quarter of a million foreign tourists are expected to visit during Pessach and Easter, the Tourism Ministry reported on Friday … Next weekend Easter, both Western and Eastern Orthodox, begins, bringing tens of thousands of Christians. One of the highlights of the pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians is the Ceremony of the Holy Fire, to be held next Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. The ceremony brings thousands of worshipers into the alleyways of the Old City as the fire is passed among the faithful … Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov has promoted a number of initiatives to encourage Christian tourism in Israel, as part of the ‘Faith Tourism’ program. These projects include launching the modular Gospel Trail, which will be completed in May and will offer pilgrims the opportunity to hike, bike, travel by car and by boat on the Sea of Galilee … Last week, the government reported that 741,000 tourists arrived during the first quarter of 2011, a drop of 1 percent from the same period last year. In March, about 274,000 tourists arrived, 12% less than in March 2010 and 37% more than in March 2009. The government sees the drop in tourists as being related to the recent unrest in the Middle East as well as the fact that last year Pessah and Easter fell in March and not in April as happened this year.”
Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, April 24 (x 2), May 2, 2011
According to a piece in Haaretz (May 2), “With his landmark actions, Pope John Paul II strove throughout his 27-year papacy to overcome the tortured two-millennia history of Catholic-Jewish relations. In a sign of appreciation for those efforts, some in the crowd at his beatification Sunday in St. Peter’s Square will be Jews, including an Israeli cabinet minister who lost most of his family in the Holocaust but was hidden by a Belgian family who raised him as a Christian. ‘We have a high respect, a unique respect for John Paul,’ Yossi Peled, a retired Israeli general, said. ‘He is not just another pope for us’ … Peled, a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, said the participation of an Israeli cabinet member at what is a religious event – the U.S. delegation is limited to its ambassador to the Holy See and two former envoys – is a sign of the importance given to John Paul’s accomplishments … In honor of John Paul’s beatification and legacy, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance is installing a permanent exhibit about John Paul, the center’s founder and dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said. John Paul ‘chartered a new course in the relations between the Catholic church and the Jewish people,’ Hier said in a phone interview. ‘No other pope did what he did to repair those relations.’ The exhibit, which includes a film about the late pope, is being installed in a very prime location in the Los Angeles museum, the rabbi said, noting it will be located just across from the exhibit featuring the desk of the renowned late Nazi-hunter and Holocaust survivor, Simon Wiesenthal … Holocaust survivors are deeply moved by the beatification of Pope John Paul, Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. ‘Still we feel compelled, however, on this occasion to renew our plea that steps toward the sainthood of Pius XII be frozen until relevant documents in the Vatican archives are opened and examined,’ he said.”
The same paper (April 24) reported that “Catholic leaders appear to be at logger-heads over expediting scholarly access to the Vatican’s Holocaust-era archives in fulfillment of a promise first made to Jewish leaders 24 years ago. The internal church tensions have manifested themselves in conflicting message that different church leaders have recently given Jews in discussions of the matter … The Vatican has said that it will wait to release any of the document relating to Pius XII’s papacy until all years through 1957 are prepared. [Rabbi Eric] Greenberg [director of interfaith affairs at the Anti-Defamation League] said that Jewish groups were pushing for releasing documents relating to the war years immediately.”
In like vein, Michael Satlow, writing in Haaretz (April 24) related to the Vatican museums: “In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI unequivocally states that not all the Jews in antiquity, and none of the Jews today, are to be held responsible for the death of Jesus. Although the statement is welcome, it breaks no new theological ground. Since the Vatican II council, the Roman Catholic Church has bravely and honestly (if not always consistently) faced up to its past and has developed a remarkable and sophisticated place for the Jews in Catholic theology. During a recent visit to the Vatican Museums, which sit only steps from the papal residence, I wondered whether the museums ever received the memo. Unlike the theological books and pronouncements, which have limited circulation, the Vatican Museums receive 20,000 visitors a day and offer an unparalleled opportunity for the church to educate and extend its mission. Yet to visit the Vatican Museums is to enter a vision of Christianity that not only fails to acknowledge the complicated and tortuous history between the church and the Jews, but also seems to deny the very theological connection to the Jews upon which the official Vatican statements insist. In room after room of magnificent art, art that portrays important scenes from the New Testament, there is a strange absence of Jews. It is understandable that the curators may not have wanted to display some of the more virulently anti-Semitic depictions produced by Christians through the ages, but the near-total absence of artworks that depict Jews seems to erase the Jews from Christian history.” Referring to a document prepared by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, entitled “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” Satlow noted that, since this establishes Judaism as no longer “profane” but equally “holy” as Christianity, “Housing the items from the Jewish catacombs in the Gregorian Profane Museum with artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome would thus seem to be in tension with the teachings of the Vatican itself. Jews, in this new teaching, really are not like Greeks and Romans. Therefore, the museums miss an opportunity to convey their current understanding of the theological place of Jews and Judaism, and perhaps even undermine it. The museums can do a better job reflecting the church’s position. How? I suggest that the Vatican Museums open a section devoted to Jews and Judaism … The contents of such a section would be of great interest to a great many visitors. The Vatican’s Judaica collection is interesting in its own right, and now there is no logical place in the museum complex to display it. Just as important, though, these objects often raise troubling questions of acquisition, which touch on the larger issue of historical Jewish-Christian relations. The way to deal with these questions, though, is not to hide the objects.”
Jerusalem Post, April 20, 2011
According to a proposal made by Cambridge scientist Colin Humphreys, “The Last Supper took place on a Wednesday – a day earlier than thought – and a date for Easter can now be fixed … Humphreys’ research suggests Jesus, and Matthew, Mark and Luke, were using the Pre-Exilic Calendar, which dated from the time of Moses and counted the first day of the new month from the end of the old lunar cycle, while John was referring to the official Jewish calendar of the day … ‘The contradictions have been known for a long time but not been talked about by the general public very much. I am using science and the Bible hand in hand to solve this question and showing the Gospels are actually agreeing, just using different calendars.’”
Christians in the Holocaust
Ma’ariv, May 2 (x 3), 2011
In commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day, several articles featured stories of survivors whose fate was decided in part by righteous Gentiles. Sergio Della Pergola, Professor of Population Studies at the Hebrew University’s Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, was saved by the courage of an Italian woman who hid his family in her home which she vacated in order to go to a monastery to make room for them – influenced by the words of Cardinal Del Costa, “There are [Jewish] brothers and sisters in danger. Go out and help them!” Ruti Pardes spent her early childhood (years 2-5) hidden as a Christian in a Polish village and was even hailed as “saint Antoshka” for helping the villagers avoid the fate of other Germans when it fell to the British army, while the Catholic Jan Karski determined to become the first Pole to enter the death camps, collecting photographs and documenting the horrors to pass to the Allied Forces and subsequently being recognized as a Righteous Gentile.
Jerusalem Post, April 13, 15; Yerushalayim HaYom, April 13; Haaretz, April 12 (Hebrew and English editions), 13 (Hebrew and English editions), May 2 (Hebrew and English editions), 2011
All these articles were devoted to the recent claim made by the “Naked Archaeologist” that two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered. “‘Jesus wasn’t Polish. He was a Galilean; he was crucified in Jerusalem. This is part of the history here,’ he says. ‘Christianity is a black hole in the Jewish space, for understandable reasons – we couldn’t get into it, or we would be crucified ourselves,’ he adds with a chuckle. ‘With the search for the historical Jesus on for more than 100 years, and with the birth of modern Israel, it’s time we said, “Wait a minute, who are these people and what do they mean in the context of history and archeology, rather than theology?’ The nails found in the 1990 dig were found not in the ornate ossuary widely presumed to be that of Caiaphas, but in the vicinity of one of the tomb’s other 11 ossuaries – a humbler vessel that Jacobovici says may have been the high priest’s actual resting place … ‘Caiaphas is known for one thing in history. He’s known for arresting Jesus and turning him over to Pilate, who then crucifies him. So you find two Roman nails in his tomb, and you don’t mention it?’ … One of the skeletons in the Caiaphas tomb, he says, was found with a coin in its skull – a pagan tradition for paying the departed’s way to the afterlife … ‘This is where we get to Jewish tradition. The Gemara talks about nails that are significant, and the only ones are crucifixion nails. They have magical properties’ … Gabriel Barkay, a Bar-Ilan University archeologist who appears briefly in the film, disagrees. ‘People in that period did not bury all kinds of objects with them,’ he says. ‘They believed in resurrection, and the nails would not be resurrected with the bones of the deceased, so there would be no use to put them there’ … Jacobovici is undeterred. ‘What do I answer to someone who says, “You haven’t scientifically proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that these are the nails”? I say, “You’re right,” he concludes. ‘Do I think that we have scientifically proven that these are the nails? No. Do I think this is a story that will capture the imagination of the world? Yes’” (Jerusalem Post, April 15).
According to Haaretz (April 13), “Jacobovici’s main claim is that the character of Caiaphas must be reconsidered. According to him, Caiaphas may have changed his mind about Jesus after the crucifixion, and his descendents thought it appropriate to bury the father of Christianity with the nails alongside other items meant to accompany him to the next world. Jacobovici says that Caiaphas even became a member of the Judeo-Christians – those who maintained their Jewish identity while claiming Jesus was the messiah (but not God). Jacobovici says that evidence of Caiaphas’ paradigm shift can be found in multiple places, including the mysterious symbols that were engraved on the ossuary … Dissenting archaeologists maintain, however, that although the ossuary is elaborate in design, it is not in the style of a typical high priest burial site.” The latter, in the form of the Antiquities Authority, “has taken a similarly wary view of the filmmaker’s latest effort … Itai Landsberg, the head of Israel Broadcasting Authority’s documentary división … believes the film could deeply affect Israelis’ very sense of self. ‘For Israelis, the history of Judaism is connected to the history of Christianity,’ he said. ‘Television needs to provoke thought and arouse interest. I think that’s what this series does. This series links the history of Christianity to us as Jews and to the Land of Israel.’ Jacobovici says his goal was not to convince skeptics that he had located the centuries-coveted nails of the cross, but merely to argue that such a conclusion wasn’t out of the question” (Jerusalem Post, April 13).
According to Haaretz (May 2 [Hebrew and English editions]), Israeli “Channel One will air next week the controversial documentary of journalist Simcha Jacobovici, ‘The Nails of the Cross’ … After assailing Jacobovici’s thesis once the claim became public three weeks ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority now claims the nails he found could not be linked to Jesus and originated elsewhere … according to Joe Zias, who served as curator at the Antiquities Authority for 25 years, the nails which Jacobovici is presenting in his movie were dug up in a different location, more than 30 years ago. Furthermore, the nails found in Caiaphas’ burial cave, and cited in an article published on the dig by archaeologist Dr. Zvi Greenhut, were lost after the excavation 21 years ago. Greenhut and staff at the Antiquities Authority deduce that the two nails in question have no scientific or other significance: Many like them have been found in archaeological digs of the Roman period and are not even cataloged, they say … Zias also says that the nails, which are 8 cm. long, could not have been used for crucifixion because they are too short. He says that it is most likely that Jesus was in fact tied to the cross and not nailed, because in that era nails were expensive although the wood used in crosses were reused … ‘The bottom line is that they lost [the nails] and I found them,’ says Jacobovici.”