July 19 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – July 19, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 16 articles on the following subjects:

Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christian sites
Jewish-Christian relations
Pope and the Vatican

This week’s review included a miscellanea of items, including responses to the article on missionary activity in Mevasaret Zion.

Anti-missionary Activities

Zman Mevaseret, June 30; Star HaDarom, July 8, 2011

Zman Mevasaret (June 30) published three letters written in response to last week’s article about Messianic Jewish activity in the city: A “concerned citizen” wrote that it was a “nonsense, beginning with the strange missionary literature distributed claimed to have to been found on car windscreens and up to the story about some family in Mevasaret one of whose children fell victim to a Messianic Jewish family. Let me thus please correct the misleading facts for you on the basis of familiarity and true acquaintance with many members of the community. We are talking about law-abiding citizens who want to live a quiet and peaceful life. They have never harmed any citizen, their homes are open to all who wish to develop a relationship with them. They are just like me and the majority of Mevaseret residents. I only need conclude sadly and shamefully with the fact that we are enabling radical religious organizations – who have no idea of the notion ‘each man shall live by his faith’ – to dictate to us how and where to live.”

Netzer and Talya De’i similarly wrote lamenting the tone of the article: “We read the piece in shock, written as it was in a McCarthyist, paranoid, and anxiety-provoking style. As Jews from a Conservative background who hold democratic ideals and believe in democracy and pluralism, we were shocked by the call for a ‘witch hunt’ in our city. In the interests of truth: we have no connection with the Messianic community in any form, but as educated people who grew up on democratic principles and freedom and learned the dangers of McCarthyism and infringement on democracy, we feel it our duty to express shock and sadness over the publication of such an article.”

On a slightly different note, Yitzhak Mei’ri stated his objection to any form of missionary activity – including Habad – in the city, the Lubavitcher sect being, in his opinion, also being guilty of “missionary activity” and, in according to R. Shach, “a sect close to Judaism.”

According to a report in Star HaDarom (July 8) headlined “Yeshu revived in Ashkelon,” “Many Messianic Jews are operating across the country, but it has recently transpired that they exist on Independence Rd. near the water tower hill [in Ashkelon]. Messianic Judaism is a stream in which Yeshu is defined as the true Messiah. The activists in this stream relate to the Tanakh and the New Testament as Scripture. Members of the Messianic Jewish community define themselves as Jews but are not recognized as such within Judaism. Although they regard themselves as sons [followers] of Yeshu, a large part of them also keep kashrut and shabbat laws, just as real Jews. Recently, Yad L’Achim has received complaints from residents of the road about missionary activity in one of the houses. The premises are rented by an older Russian couple who serve as the organizers and coordinators of Messianic Judaism in the city. Residents of the area have noticed that increasing numbers of people have been visiting the house, which serves as a study center for those interested in learning.” The couple are said to distribute food to the needy throughout the city, many of whom also attend twice-weekly meetings at their home at which “they hear that they must believe that Yeshu is the Messiah and bring as many people as possible into the stream because when all the Jews accept Yeshu as the Messiah he will return.” In light of these reports, this week Yad L’Achim organized a “quiet protest” outside the house, with the participation of the deputy mayor, Shimon Cohen – although the couple “refrained from responding to the calls of the demonstrators.” Although Yad L’Achim appealed to the owners of the house to stop renting to the couple, the request was turned down.

Christian Zionism

Kokhav HaDarom, July 1 2011

This piece reported on Dr. Deichmann’s generosity to Israel (see last week’s Review).

Christian Sites

Haaretz, July 14, 15 (Hebrew and English editions); Yediot Ahronot, July 12, 13; Israel HaYom, July 13, 15; Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2011

Under the headline “Second Temple artifacts may be buried under Ein Karem toilet,” Haaretz (July 15) noted that a good possibility exists that “the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality [have] buried treasures from the Second Temple under a giant lavatory” at Mary’s Fountain in Ein Karem: “The spring is the fourth most important site in the Holy Land to Christian pilgrims, after Jerusalem’s Old City, Bethlehem and Nazareth, and about one million people visit it each year. According to Christian tradition, this is the place where Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, and Mary, Jesus’ mother, met when both women were pregnant. But for the last two years, these visitors have been greeted by the adjacent sight of a huge, sealed building that, according to the approved plan, is supposed to serve as a public lavatory and a municipal warehouse for gardening tools … There is a well-known legend about a Palestinian treasure being buried in one of the neighborhood’s houses during the War of Independence in 1948, and [Ron] Havilio [a neighborhood resident and leading opponent of the project who has researched Ein Karem’s history extensively] … claims this legendary treasury may actually have comprised treasures from the Second Temple. His source for this claim is the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1952. The scroll, which was written on metal, details the places where the Second Temple’s treasures were hidden after its destruction in 70 C.E. Among other things it says: ‘At the ashuach in Beit Hakerem, when you go 10 cubits to the left, are 62 talents of silver.’ The accepted view is that ‘ashuach’ signifies a reservoir and that the ancient Beit Hakerem is the modern-day neighborhood of Ein Karem. The only question, Havilio argued, is the location of the ancient pool referred to in the scroll – and analyses of the area’s former geography indicate that one possible answer is right under the giant lavatory … The city responded that all of the allegations are now being considered by the appeals panel and the courts. As for the decision to bury the archaeological findings, ‘this stemmed from the municipality’s inability to conclude the project because of the costs of preserving it.’”

Another site, similarly closed for years, has recently been opened, this time at Qasr-el-Yahud, “the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho … The hope is that the site will help draw Christian tourists, who have been coming to Israel in growing numbers in recent years” (Haaretz, July 14) (see also Israel HaYom, July 13, 15; Yediot Ahronot, July 13).

On another note, the Jerusalem Post (July 12) headlined a piece “Polish native walks on Kinneret’s waters, sort of,” commenting therein that “In what may be a once in a lifetime event, a young man managed to take a few steps on the waters of the Kinneret, before the laws of physics provided him an inevitable baptism. For professional kite-surfer Maciek Kozerski, a 26-year-old from Poland, the feat was not a miracle – rather the result of four rigorous days of wet practice. Part of the Red Bull Walking on Water Project, the Warsaw native saw special significance to his pulling off that stunt not far from where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus walked on water. On the backdrop of the Capernaum Church, on the north-western corner of the Kinneret, Kozerski’s technique involved gaining speed on his surfboard propelled by the kite, or small parachute, he was harnessed to. He would then disembark from the board, release himself from the kite – and free from earthly constraints, try to make a run for it. Kozerski did not lose faith or spirit, and after some 50 attempts involving high-speed dunks into the lake, managed to get it just right for the photographers to eternalize.” According to Yediot Ahronot (July 12), the event took place at Qasr-el-Yahud the day before the site was reopened to visitors, “the third most sacred Christian site in the world,” being a “trick identified with Yeshu.”

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Post, July 6, 14, 2011

“Jews and Methodists sat down to enjoy matzah, bitter herbs and four cups of wine at a model Seder Monday night, as part of the Methodist Conference currently being held in the seaside town of Southport in the UK. The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Methodist Church in Britain and the Council of Christians and Jews co-organized the event, which focused on the common origins of the Jewish and Christian faiths, in order to improve inter-communal ties following last year’s conference. The conference voted to adopt a boycott of Israeli produce from settlements, a move condemned at the time by the Board of Deputies … Monday night’s Seder was attended by a third of the conference delegates and was hosted by the Southport Hebrew Congregation. Rabbi Saunders, of the town’s Jewish community, led the proceedings, with a Christian theological response given by Reverend James Booth, chairman of the nearby Liverpool District of the Methodist Church. The Board of Deputies said the event was a ‘step in the right direction’ and followed on form [sic] conversations conducted between local Jewish and Methodist communities around the country in which Jewish communities have sought to ‘deepen relationships and offer a more balanced perspective on the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. ‘To be received with such generosity by the Jewish community in Southport was a delight,’ the secretary for external relationships at the Methodist Church, Christine Elliott, said. ‘The meal we shared together was one where representatives of our two communities could take time to sit together, talk, laugh and begin to hear each other’” (Jerusalem Post, July 6).

A second article in the same paper (July 14), under the headline, “Archbishop launches appeal to help beleaguered Christians in Holy Land,” reported that “The principal leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Church launched a campaign on Tuesday to help ease the ‘suffering’ of Christian communities in Israel and try and stem their exodus from the region. Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams called on Anglicans and others to contribute funds towards the sustainability of ‘the most vulnerable Christian communities, especially on the West Bank. I returned from a visit to the Holy Land last year with a very, very strong sense that we had to do more to express our solidarity with the Christian communities there … We know our brothers and sisters there are suffering, and we don’t always ask ourselves often enough what our response needs to be,’ he said. He called on people to support the creation of a fund to help with community development. ‘I want to appeal today to you for your support in creating, in the near future, a fund with which we might assist projects of community development and work creation, especially among Palestinian Christians,’ Williams said. His appeal comes ahead of a conference on Christians in the Holy Land which he is jointly hosting with the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the representative of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. The two-day event will take place at Lambeth Palace, the archbishop’s London residence, next week. The Archbishop put no onus on the Palestinian Authority for the plight of the Palestinian Christians under their rule in the West Bank, or on Israel; but both Williams and Nichols said they were concerned with the numbers of Christians leaving the region … ‘I want to say to Christians in the Holy Land that we treasure enormously their presence and witness. A witness which has gone on throughout Christian history, often in conditions of great trial and stress. Christians in the West need to be aware that the Christians of the Holy Land are an intrinsic part of our Christian family’ … ‘we want to say that the Christian presence in the Holy Land is important to its balance… not just its historical reality, but to its present and future viability,’ added Nichols. The archbishop was delighted that Anglicans and Roman Catholics, with the personal support of Pope Benedict – with whom the archbishop had discussed the situation of Christians in the Holy Land during his visit to the UK last year – were committed to collaborating closely to focus attention on the plight of these Christians and to finding practical ways to make a difference. ‘I hope that in the weeks ahead, fellow Anglicans will give generously to support this vision and consider ways of becoming better informed and more involved with the issues – not as part of any kind of political campaign, but as part of what we owe to our brothers and sisters in Christ’s Body, in supporting the continuance of the vital presence of Christian communities in the land where our Lord preached, lived and died the Gospel,’ Williams said.”

Pope and the Vatican

HaModia, July 8, 2011

This report carried the recent story of the Israeli ambassador’s “forgiveness” of Pope Pius XII.


Haaretz, July 6, 12, 2011

“Ultra-traditionalist bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros yesterday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX ), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust … German prosecutors demanded increasing the fine to 12,000 euros during the appeals process. Williamson’s lawyers said he never explicitly agreed to the interview’s distribution outside Sweden and had been surprised regarding the interview’s thematic focus. Williamson did not intend to deny the Holocaust, his lawyers said. The decision is not yet legally binding as the court’s judgment can be appealed again within the next week. It comes days after the Catholic Church condemned a series of ordinations by the SSPX, which are deemed illegal by the Church as the group’s priests are not recognized as Catholic clergy or allowed to exercise an official ministry” (Haaretz, July 12).

The same paper (July 6) also reported that Tadeusz Rydzyk, “an anti-Semitic priest,” has been causing tension between Poland and the Vatican.