Caspari Center Media Review – June 29, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
Attitudes towards Christianity
Christians in Israel
Pope and the Vatican
This week’s review included a report on the Interior Ministry’s methods.
Haaretz, June 21, 2011
According to a news report filed by Attorney Yuval Livnat, who teaches at the legal clinics at Tel Aviv University, “During the past months, Haaretz has carried two stories indicating that the Interior Ministry is collecting information about people who require its services. In the first instance, the applicant was an American Jew who wanted to make aliyah but whose request was refused because the Interior Ministry discovered that there was a Christian missionary link on his Facebook page. In the second, an Israeli citizen was refused service following his statement to the Haaretz that ‘Jewish’ had mistakenly been written in his identity card. The Interior Ministry is collecting information about citizens and foreigners not only from silent sources, but I have a growing suspicion that it is operating a network of informers who are supplying information to the Ministry which it uses in determining requests for status arrangement. Several months ago, I was at the Jerusalem branch of the Ministry accompanying a client seeking to arrange her status in Israel on humanitarian grounds. The clerk knew details about her life, even if some of them were inaccurate. Thus, for example, she knew that the woman had visited a meeting of the Messianic Jews in the past, and even knew the name of her ex-husband … Is it right that the Interior Ministry – or someone representing it – should be involved in investigations and detective work with regard to citizens or foreigners requiring its services? On the one hand, there is a certain logic here, since such action can help the state prevent ineligible people according to its statutes and ordinances from obtaining status by false means … On the other, we should be very suspicious of the development of a situation, in which a ‘Big Brother’ – in the shape of the Interior Ministry (an office which is not part of the security system) – collects information about its citizens and residents, thus seriously impinging on their civil rights, first and foremost the right to privacy. In my opinion, interest in preserving the right to privacy and the fear that Israel will deteriorate into an Orwellian State override its ostensibly legitimate interest in preventing the attainment of status by deception. We should thus prohibit the Interior Ministry from acting as an investigative agency, at least with respect to any initiatory collection of information. Even if my position is not accepted and the Interior Ministry continues to gather information, it must ensure that its system is clear and transparent. Currently, no express policy exists, the Ministry thus not having settled issues which need to be resolved – such as the way in which the sources of information are validated, the procedure for revealing the information to the person to whom it relates so that s/he can respond, etc. The present situation, in which the Interior Ministry operates as an investigative agency without openly acknowledging this activity, is improper and illegal. If the Ministry insists on its wish to continue to act in such a way, it must institute this policy in a written statement. Moreover, in light of the sensitivities involved, we must demand that the matter be resolved by a Knesset ruling. Either way, sooner or later the subject will appear before the Supreme Court, which will be asked to determine the legality of this practice. It is thus fitting that the affair be conducted within a democratic State.”
Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, June 24; Jerusalem Post, June 22, 2011
Two letters published in the Jerusalem Post (June 22) responded to the Eve Levavi Feinstein’s book review last week: “Sir,– The article ‘Jesus for Jews’ … comes very close to being a plea for Jews for Jesus” (Jacob Chintz). “Sir,– When discussing dialogue between Christians and Jews, it is imperative to point out that this is profoundly different from an attempt to establish congruity between Judaism and Christianity … There are indeed many candidates of Jewish origin who have caused paradigm changes in world thought and behavior and would legitimately fit the category of ‘failed messiah,’ such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and the not-so-failed Lubavitcher Rebbe” (Zev Chamudot).
According to a piece in Haaretz (June 24), renowned singer Shlomo Carlebach’s daughter is carrying on her father’s legacy: “Fans of famed composer and singer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach may wonder why his daughter Neshama is touring Israel backed up by a Baptist choir, but the singer says she is in a way following in her father’s footsteps. ‘In 1958, on my father’s very first record, “Haneshama Lach,” all the background singers were the best brothers from the Baptist choir from the church down the street that he used to visit all the time,’ she told Anglo File this week, a few days before she and seven members of Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir gave their Israel debut last night. Shlomo Carlebach – who died in 1994 but whose tunes are still mainstays of services in Jewish communities worldwide – was very much in favor of singing to people of different faiths, his daughter maintains. ‘He visited churches constantly. He would say to me, ‘Why do you think I call everyone brother?’ … In 2009, Carlebach and the choir released ‘Higher and Higher,’ a record with gospel-like renditions of some her father’s classics and started touring across the world. Carlebach is still spellbound by the experience of singing her father’s songs with the 30-odd members of the Bronx-based choir … ‘They believe in unity, they believe in God, they are great lovers of the Jewish people, and of my father’s music and full brothers and sisters of mine now,’ she said, ticking off the choir’s pluses. ‘And I feel that together we create space for people to come together. We all believe that the world should come together, we believe that peace is possible and that it begins with us. So if my voice and their voices can bring some sort of redemption I think it’s a beautiful first step’ … Carlebach says not everyone in the Orthodox world is comfortable with her collaboration. ‘I’ve had people e-mailing me asking me if I’ve become Christian and how I can do this to my father,’ she said, adding that she and the choir never sing songs with Christian content. ‘So I say loud and clear that my connection to my Yiddishkeit has never been stronger. The feeling in my heart of what I’m here to do is that I’m here to spread the light of God, and it’s never been stronger.’”
Yediot Haifa, June 24; HaModia, June 22, 2011
In the wake of outreach at the various festivals and parties held around the country (see last week’s Review), Haifa council member R. Arieh Blitenthal is called for the prohibition of all missionary activity at such events, “whether overt and official or the distribution of gifts, so-called, when the recipient has no idea that he is being exposed to missionary material” (Yediot Haifa, June 24).
HaModia (June 22) carried the recent story of Yad L’Achim’s national advert countering missionary activity (see last week’s Review).
HaIr Arei Modi’in, June 24; Yediot HaEmek, June 24, 2011
This lengthy article features Grace Gupana, a prominent Christian Zionist characterized as “a Philippine nun who wants to contribute millions of dollars to fund a ‘Decalogue Exhibition’ in Tiberias.”
According to HaIr Arei Modi’in (June 24), the filming “of a movie shot for Christian evangelical friends of Israel” at Kfar Hashmona’i near Shiloh has been wrapped up. “They were here in April and shot a film about the Psalms, and last year they shot one about Ruth – all with devout Christian connotations and out of true love for the people of Israel” (see Review of May 6, 2011).
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, June 22, 2011
Under the title “‘Torn’ between two worlds,” this piece featured Jakub Weksler: “Can a priest be Jewish? That’s one of the many questions raised by the new documentary, Torn, which will be screened tonight at the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 7:30. The film, which was directed by Ronit Kertsner, tells the compelling and moving story of Jakub Weksler, a Polish-Catholic priest who has moved to Israel and wants to make aliya. Born Jewish in 1943, his parents managed to convince a Polish family to take him in and adopt him. His biological parents were murdered in the Holocaust and no relative came back for him after the war, so he grew up thinking he was Romauld Waskinel. You may have heard stories like this before, but this one is different, because Weksler, who was a devout Catholic, became a priest. But in his thirties, when he learned of his Jewish identity, he struggled to figure out his place in the world, eventually coming to the conclusion that he could never repudiate his Jewish identity. Appalled by the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church in Poland, he decided, in his mid-sixties, that he must come to Israel. At this point, things got really complicated. While Weksler wanted to live in Israel and learn Hebrew on a religious kibbutz, he also could not deny his Catholic faith. Churches in Israel did not want to take him in because he was Jewish, and he searched hard for a religious Jewish community that would allow him to attend church on Sundays. Formally requesting to be granted citizenship under the Law of Return, he entered the Kafkaesque labyrinth of the Israeli bureaucracy … Although many believe that anyone born Jewish can get citizenship here based on the Law of Return, Kertsner explains that a provision in the law forbids citizenship to anyone who has chosen to practice another religion, without choosing to abandon the other faith when moving here … After a struggle, in which he was helped by his friend, Nina, who lives in Israel and has a similar background to his, he found a place at Sede Eliahu, a religious kibbutz with an ulpan, where he lived for about a year. Even there, however, the kibbutz leaders were not comfortable with the idea that Weksler would attend church, although they said he could worship privately in his room … One disagreement the director had with her subject was over the title of the film. ‘We have between us not exactly an argument. He says he is not torn. He says he lives in peace with the his two identities. I say that people see him from outside as torn … All his life in Poland he didn’t feel safe, even though he didn’t know exactly why … But he said he feels more at home on the kibbutz and in Jerusalem than he ever did before.’ Recently, Kertsner says, Weksler has found himself through working at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where he works on Polish documents. ‘It’s as if he’s piecing together the parts of his own puzzle,’ she says. ‘And it’s the only place in Israel that accepts both his identities completely.’”
Pope and the Vatican
Haaretz, June 27 (Hebrew and English editions); Israel HaYom, June 27; Jerusalem Post, June 27; Ma’ariv, June 27, 2011