May 12 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – May 12, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the subjects of attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism, Christian tourism, interfaith activities, and archaeology. Of these:

3 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

3 dealt with Christian Zionism

1 dealt with Christian tourism

1 dealt with interfaith activities

1 dealt with archaeology


This week’s Review contained references to Jesus in light of the present political circumstances and noted the continued support by Christian evangelicals of Israel.

Attitudes towards Christianity

Haaretz, May 6 (x 2); Nesher, April 15, 2011

In an article in Haaretz (May 6) examining the American celebrations after bin Laden’s death, Aluf Benn adduced various historical aftermaths exemplifying the potential consequences of a leader’s death – including that of Jesus: “The best-known political killing during the Roman rule of Judea was of course Jesus, whose crucifixion did not wipe out his philosophy. His successors spread his ideas, which became the greatest marketing success in human history. Ideologies disappear only when they are perceived as failures, like Soviet communism, or when a new idea conquers the masses, like Christianity, which took over from pagan religions. If this is so, what’s the point in killing leaders? The answer lies in the timetable. Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator who sentenced Jesus and ordered his execution by crucifixion, took no interest in whether hundreds of years later a Christian religion would arise and take control of Rome. His role was to maintain quiet in a remote province, and he did his duty in accordance with the codes prevailing at the time”

In a second piece in the same paper entitled “Calling all the saints,” Benny Ziffer also addressed the outcome of bin Laden’s execution: “Here’s an idea for a new reality show that no one has thought of yet: Take a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew, yell “Ready, set, go” – and see which is the first to achieve the status of kadosh (or shahid or saint, each according to his faith) … And now, if you please, bring us the Christian candidate: John Paul II. Anyone who followed the news from the Vatican this week could not help but notice the divine intervention involved in the selection of candidates for our little game: Just one day before the declaration of Osama as a Muslim saint/martyr, the pope in Rome declared his predecessor the winner of the Mifal Hapayis national lottery for beatification. Officially, in the Christian world the race for such a title requires candidates to fulfill far tougher criteria than their Muslim competitors. Shahids, God help us, are coming at us thick and fast. Christianity, however, uses tweezers to pick its sainted personages. Their candidate must endure seven circles of hellish negotiations before anyone deigns to look his way or acknowledge his sanctity. Poor John Paul II: Had you been a Muslim, you would have been treated far more generously. You gave your soul to the Church, you were gravely wounded in an assassination attempt – and you even went to ask forgiveness of the man who tried to murder you so he wouldn’t be angry at you. You suffered in silence despite endless pestering by Jews who were your classmates in kindergarten, at school and at the university in Krakow, who insisted on getting their pictures taken with you and chatting with you in Polish. This in itself would have been worthy of the award of a doctorate in suffering to any normal person. But before sending us an SMS for Mr. Wojtyla – that’s John Paul II – with the number 3 (for the Holy Trinity), please consider the panic Christianity has been experiencing recently with regard to increasing the number of its saints. As compared to Islam, which has no problem depicting Allah’s intervention in history via the many shahids it sends to wreak havoc in the world, Christianity feels it is limping behind with its bunch of withered weeds and is trying to derive maximal benefit from them. Buried in the ground there is proof that Mr. Wojtyla cured one woman of Parkinson’s disease. Habeamus beatus! Let us award him the title ‘beatified.’ In the past, mind you, a lot more than that was required to attain beatification. Jews had to have stoned you, or Romans had to have thrown you to lions. Queen Isabella of Spain had to burn and torture Jews and expel them from her country – and even then she didn’t succeed in achieving the desired status. How cheap holy titles have become nowadays, when it is enough for Jews to get you to be photographed with them so you can win points to garner such an honor! That is to say, contrary to the usual view, which has Islam being excessively generous in handing out the status of shahid to every nasty piece of work around, it emerges that Christianity – perhaps out of envy – is also lowering the bar in a way that should perhaps begin to worry us.”

According to Nesher (April 15), a tour was planned for Good Friday “in the footsteps of Christianity, in parallel with the pilgrim processions, the last day in Yeshu’s life and the day of his crucifixion. The tour will include the Via Dolorosa and a visit to select churches, following the route Yeshu was forced to take on the last day of his life from his sentencing to his crucifixion, when he carried the heavy cross on which he was to be crucified at the end of the path … Walking in the footsteps of the street events at the same time as becoming familiar with the traditions and background up to the place of the crucifixion, a visit to hidden churches including Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre, the tour is organized by Orna Sidi, owner of Digmi’im Tours in Tivon.”

Christian Zionism

Scoop HaDarom, April 28; The Marker, May 6; Haaretz, May 6, 2011

“In the framework of the defense of high schools in Ashkelon, last Tuesday two shelters were erected in Mesilla high school. They were contributed by German Christian donors enlisted by the Mayor, Benny Vaknin … The donations arrived via Operation Lifeshield, a Christian Friends of Israel organization. Each shelter weighs 65 tons and can give shelter to 55 students in time of a real attack. The cost of one shelter is around 100,000 NIS” (Scoop HaDarom, April 28).

Haaretz (May 6) reported that “Last Thursday, just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem celebrated the completion of the second phase of the renovation of the nation’s largest assisted-living facility for needy Holocaust survivors, which the embassy erected together with the Yad-Ezer L’Haver charity in Haifa. Paid for mostly by German-Christian donors, the expanded home is now able to house up to 125 survivors, providing all their lodging, food and medical care for free, with doctors and nurses from area hospitals volunteering to cover their health needs on an around-the-clock basis, the embassy announced. ‘We are especially proud that much of the funding for this unique project came from German Christians, who decided to help shoulder their national responsibility and debt to the Jewish people. … These gifts will never make up for what they suffered, but it does give hope for the present and for the future,’ said ICEJ’s director, Jurgen Buhler. Last week’s event was attended by Social Welfare Minister Moshe Kahalon, former MK Amram Mitzna and Haifa Chief Rabbi Sha’ar Yeshuv.”

The Marker (May 6) featured a lengthy article about Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, whose contributions to the needy in Israel have topped a billion shekels and yet remain mired in controversy.

Christian Tourism

Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2011

“The Tourism Ministry will invest NIS 12 million over the next four years in improving the tourist infrastructure in Nazareth, as part of efforts to boost the cultural and leisure offerings in the Galilee city. Nazareth, a magnet for Christian tourists and the largest Arab city in the country, is visited by more than 40 percent of foreign tourists. The program to boost development of the tourism industry in Nazareth is part of a 2010 government initiative to encourage development in the Arab sector, the Tourism Ministry said on Wednesday. The plan allocates NIS 25m. over four years for improvements in tourism infrastructure and the economy in the Arab sector, including NIS 6.5m. each for the Druse villages of Usfiya and Daliat al-Carmel, and the rest for Nazareth. Shfaram was also given a grant of NIS 8m. by the ministry in collaboration with the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian sector. The ministry is also offering grants to residents looking to open small tourism-based businesses in Nazareth … Tourism in Nazareth “fits into the global trend of historical and cultural tourism,” Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu) said on Wednesday. ‘The city has the potential to develop a broad range of Israeli tourist offerings, and therefore we will work to develop Nazareth while also investing in the expansion of tourism sites and tour and accommodation options.’”

Interfaith Activities

Kolbo, May 6, 2011

According to this report, a group of German evangelical pastors, including University Professors, recently arrived for a three-day educational visit at the Leo Baeck school in Haifa in order to participate in its study course on Jewish-Arab relations. Leo Baeck is known for its multi-faith program, where Arab Muslims, Christians, and Jews all study together.


Haaretz, May 6, 2011

This article reviewed the findings of Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from Khirbet Qeiyafa (Elah Fortress), which is proving to be pivotal in the “maximalist vs. minimalist” debate regarding the extent of David’s kingdom and the existence of the United Monarchy. “Scholars are divided on the question of when the region’s peoples moved from a simple rural society to a more developed urban way of life. [Prof. Israel] Finkelstein and his colleagues espouse a view known as ‘low chronology’ or ‘late chronology.’ Its essence is that archaeological strata attesting to fortified settlements and traditionally dated to the reigns of David and Solomon in the 10th century BCE are actually from a period decades later, perhaps as much as a century. The low chronology method effectively rules out the existence of a developed united monarchy in the 11th and 10th centuries BCE.” Garfinkel, however, “notes that before he began the Khirbet Qeiyafa dig he was not involved in the dispute over the united kingdom” – but “once in the arena he took up the cause with enthusiastic devotion” on the maximalist side of the debate: “Garfinkel identifies the settlement he is excavating with the city of Sha’arayim, which is mentioned in I Samuel. He identified two gates in the settlement’s fortifications, in the west and in the south (Sha’arayim means ‘two gates’ in Hebrew). ‘You won’t find another city in Israel or Judah with two gates,’ he notes, and adds, ‘In the Bible, Sha’arayim is mentioned only in the Davidic period, in the region of Elah Valley: when David kills Goliath, the Philistines escape via Sha’arayim. And where does David kill Goliath? In this region, between Socoh and Azekah’ … According to Garfinkel, the kingdom that existed here in the 10th century BCE was something between the two versions: not tiny, but also not as large as the biblical account would suggest. It comprised at least three major cities: Jerusalem, Hebron and the settlement he is excavating. Even such a scale, he emphasizes, is larger than the humble village evoked by the minimalist archaeologists. At the same time, other archaeologists are recruiting Khirbet Qeiyafa in support of the claims for a large united kingdom … Other archaeologists also argue that they have unearthed significant findings in recent years from the United Monarchy of Israel. Thus, the proponents of the biblical approach now feel they can hold their heads high after years of fighting a rearguard battle against Finkelstein and his colleagues … Some scholars also cite finds made in Jordan to reinforce the notion of a highly developed kingdom. The American anthropologist Prof. Thomas Levy, from the University of California, San Diego, is currently excavating at Khirbat en-Nahas in southern Jordan, which was a large copper mining center in the Iron Age and is located in a region thought to have been under the control of the Edomites. Three years ago, Levy, using carbon-14 dating, dated the site to the end of the 10th century BCE, the Solomonic period. According to the conservative camp, the finds bolster the credibility of the biblical narrative, which tells of a developed entity in the region of Edom that was engaged in a struggle with the United Monarchy … Criticism of the earlier finds by Finkelstein and others may please Garfinkel. It enables him to claim that Khirbet Qeiyafa is different from all the sites hitherto investigated in that it is the first Judahite settlement that has been radiocarbon-dated to the 10th century BCE and also shows a highly developed level of construction. In other words, for Garfinkel this is the first site that attests saliently to the existence of an established kingdom in the 10th century and definitively rebuts the notion that David was “a sheikh in a Bedouin tent” – the viewpoint he attributes to Finkelstein … Garfinkel, together with the co-director of the excavation, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, is currently presenting the finds of the latest season of the dig at professional conferences and trying to promote his interpretation of the site. Despite the criticism leveled by the moderate minimalists, he is convinced he is right. “Qeiyafa is like a bone in the craw of all the minimalists,” he says. “This city exists, how do you explain it? Gradually there will be more and more sites from this period.”