Caspari Center Media Review – August 9, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
Attitudes towards Christianity and Jesus
Christians in Israel
This week’s review included attitudes various Christian and Muslim attitudes towards Jews – both positive and negative.
Attitudes towards Christianity and Jesus
Chaim Acherim, August 1; Mara’ot HaMishtara, August 1; Shishi BaGolan, July 29; August 5, 2011
In honor of the Feast of Mary celebrated in August, Chaim Acherim (August 1) devoted a lengthy article to “Miriam,” the occasion affording an opportunity “to examine the fascinating figure of the Holy Virgin and mother of the tradition.” The feature looks at New Testament references to Mary, Catholic traditions regarding her, and sites associated with her.
On the occasion of a visit by the Nigerian ambassador to the north of the country, his hosts at the oldest fish restaurant on the shores of the Sea of Galilee presented him with a copy of Mendel Nun’s book about Sea of Galilee fisherman in the New Testament period (Shishi BaGolan, July 29).
Mara’ot HaMishtara (August 1) explained the “Fire Ceremony” held every year before Easter in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem: “This year, too, the event took place in perfect order, thanks to the implementation of an uncompromising policy matched by restraint and coordination between all the parties.”
Jerusalem Post, August 4; Ramat HaNegev, July 31; Zman Ma’aleh, July 28, 2011
According to the Jerusalem Post (August 4), “[Latrice] Nettles came on the Israel Experience College Scholarship Program, a rigorous, three-week study tour of Israel, which takes top Christian students from universities in the US, and other countries, and educates them about Israel. Billed as the ‘Christian Birthright,’ it encourages the students to gain a strong identification with the Jewish roots of their faith; comprehend the history of Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust; learn about Zionism; and more fully grasp the Middle East conflict. To that end, the students visit Christian holy sites, Sderot, Yad Vashem, the Foreign Ministry and the Knesset. They spent Shabbat with Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his community, and they will be visiting Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem and Jericho. ‘The goal of the program is to educate the next generation of Christian leaders and provide them with a firsthand perspective of the issues facing Israel and the Middle East,’ said Michael Onifer of Eagles’ Wings Ministries near Buffalo, New York, who organized the program. ‘I hope each one of these young people become lifetime friends of Israel and the Jewish people [and have] an immediate influence on their campuses.’ Now in its eighth year, several of the program’s alumni have become advisers to top American and European officials. Onifer said it was important for the group to go to Nazareth and Bethlehem to see how Arab-Christians are treated with equal rights by Israel and how they are discriminated against by the Palestinian Authority. On the group’s visit to the parliament on Tuesday, the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus arranged meetings with Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud), and MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima) and Robert Ilatov (Israel Beiteinu). Caucus Director Josh Reinstein briefed them about how the Israeli government works. ‘The program has been bringing to Israel the best and brightest Christian students from campuses across America, and the results are staggering,’ Reinstein said. ‘The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus is proud to partner with this program, as it produces some of Israel’s top Christian ambassadors in the war for public opinion.’”
Another group was also touring the country, this time from Ohio, as part of the “continuing wave of Christian evangelicals flooding the country on support visits with an emphasis on the settlements beyond the Green Line and in Jerusalem,” who visited the city of Ma’aleh Adumim, promising it support and funds (Zman Ma’aleh, July 28).
A smaller group – a single family with three children – has settled in Nitzana, a communal settlement in the western Negev desert (Ramat HaNegev, July 31): “Three years ago, a French family arrived at Nitzana asking to volunteer. After a brief investigation, the Israeli suspiciousness in me raised the thought that they must be missionaries – otherwise, who would want to leave the cool climate of Brittany and abandon everything to come to the heat of July and August in the Holy Land? The Holy Land, ok – but to the end of the world, turn left – Nitzana? And to ask to volunteer? And to add to all this, let me also say that they came with their three children, all of them school age.” This suspicion was promptly put to rest by the evident Christian Zionism the family displayed: “‘So what can we learn from these good people?’ (1) We don’t always appreciate what we have. Only someone who comes from the outside and looks with open and unbiased eyes knows how to value the wonderful things we are doing here in the desert. (2) It’s a pity that the Interior Ministry and the government of Israel don’t easily accept such people. It took me a long time to convince them that these people aren’t migrant workers or missionaries. They’re the best ambassadors we have for the Jewish people, and we must nurture others like them. (3) We can also learn from them that when you truly love something, you can leave your comfortable life behind and find richness and contentment in a very modest lifestyle. This is a parable for us Israelis, who are becoming increasingly materialistic, covetous, and unwilling to be satisfied with a little. (4) These people are characterized by the ‘gratuitous love’ about which we’ve learned and which our forefathers sought to practice. If we learn from others who love us with a large and free love – truly ‘gratuitous love’ – maybe we will have the privilege of attaining the elevated level of unity and brotherhood.” The family attribute its care and concern for Israel to the fact that, as Huguenots, they identify with those who are persecuted. Underneath a photo of the family, the caption reads: “First give to others and only afterwards worry about yourselves.”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, August 5, 2011
Under the headline “Torah-observant but not Jewish, Beit El couple fights to stay here” Haaretz, (August 5) carried the story of the Moores: “Sporting a white beard and long side curls and letting his ritual fringes hang out, Claud Lee Moore looks like a typical Orthodox resident of the West Bank settlement of Beit El. But he is everything but ordinary. Born in Pie Town, New Mexico − a city of 2,900 named after a dried-apple pie business − he spent 27 years traveling the Bible Belt preaching the Christian gospel, before embracing Jewish observance and later moving to Israel. Moore, who circumcised himself at age 40, and his Texas-born wife Larue Moore, consider themselves ‘Hebrew Israelites.’ Born Christians, they never officially converted to Judaism and currently live in Israel without residency or citizenship … The Moores would not have this problem [of being refused medical rights] if they had converted and immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return. But since Moore considers himself a member of the Ten Lost Tribes and a ‘Hebrew Israelite from the House of Israel’ in spirit, he never considered undergoing a conversion procedure acceptable to the government. ‘I don’t need any conversion anywhere else besides where I am,’ he said in his heavy rural drawl. ‘When the Almighty gives you himself which is called the Holy Spirit, you have met the approval of the creator of the universe. Who are you going to convert to?’”
Jerusalem Post, August 5 (x 3); Haaretz, August 5
These three reports noted the gathering of an interfaith forum this week in Jerusalem: “Interfaith dialogue is encouraged in Islam, but only so long as the interlocutors don’t seek to harm the Muslims ‘or remove us from our homes,’ according to the cadi (judge) of the Haifa Shari’a court. ‘Muslims are told they can be fair and benevolent and connected to those who are not coreligionists, as long as those don’t fight our religion or remove us from our homes,’ Iyad Zahalka said on Wednesday in an address on interreligious dialogue from a Muslim perspective he gave ahead of an Iftar meal, the traditional dinner held at the end of each fast day of Ramadan, which began on Monday … Zahalka’s address was the opener to the discussion organized by the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel at the Mishkenot Sha’ananim center in Jerusalem, hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Representing Judaism and Christianity on the panel were Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman of Kehillat Kol HaNeshama and Rev. Canon Hosam Naoum of the Anglican St. George’s Cathedral, who spoke about the significance of fasting in these religions, and noted the cross-fertilization of such interreligious encounters and debates … The point of the meeting, explained ICCI director Rabbi Ron Kronish, was for Jews and Christians ‘to participate in a Ramadan event with Muslims, honoring the Muslims and giving them a chance to share their culture and religion with others.’ Kronish added the additional dimension of the joint learning that took part in the dialogue, where ‘each of the three religious leaders tried to teach a text, and share their perspective on it.’ A Sufi group from Nazareth and Druse sheikhs from Galilee were in attendance, as well as Rabbi Shlomo Shok, an Alon Shvut resident and member of the Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace) movement, dedicated to promoting direct dialogue between settlers and Palestinians” (Jerusalem Post, August 5).
Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2011
Under the headline “Middle Eastern Christians anti-Semitism,” Aymenn Jawad commented in the Jerusalem Post (August 2) that “I was recently told by my aunt in Baghdad that there was a widespread belief among Iraqis that some external force was behind the protests and uprisings across the Middle East. What outside conspiracy, I wondered, could be responsible for the Arab Spring? Not to worry, however; George Saliba – the Syriac Orthodox Church’s bishop in Lebanon – offers us a simple answer. In an interview with Al-Dunya TV on July 24, Saliba declared that ‘the source… behind all these movements, all these civil wars, and all these evils’ in the Arab world is nothing other than Zionism, ‘deeply rooted in Judaism.’ The Jews, he says, are responsible for financing and inciting the turmoil in accordance with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These remarks are not an isolated case among Middle Eastern Christians. The anti-Semitic trend has become especially apparent in the aftermath of Iraq’s assault last October on the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, leaving 58 dead and 67 wounded in the worst attack on the Iraqi Christian community since 2003. Two months after the atrocity, for example, the Melkite Greek Patriarch Gregory III Laham characterized the terrorist attacks on Iraq’s Christians as part of “a Zionist conspiracy against Islam.’ He further affirmed, ‘All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam… but it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism … and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam.’ He then said the massacre ‘is also a conspiracy against Arabs and the predominantly Muslim Arab world that aims at depicting Arabs and Muslims in Arab countries as terrorist and fundamentalist murderers in order to deny them their rights, and especially those of the Palestinians.’ While the patriarch has warned of the dangers of Christian emigration and the formation of a “society uniquely Muslim,” he attributed the risk of ‘demographic extinction’ solely to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Similarly, in an interview with NBN TV on November 9, 2010, Iraqi priest Father Suheil Qasha claimed that the Jews consider all gentiles to be beasts, and asserted that the ‘real danger’ to Middle Eastern Christians came from Zionism. He went on to state that those who perpetrated the attack on the church in Baghdad were certainly not Muslims, but probably those trained and supervised ‘by global Zionism.’ Anti-Semitism extends to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which, serving around 10 percent of Egypt’s population, is the largest single church in the Middle East and North Africa. As liberal Egyptian blogger Samuel Tadros points out, a certain Father Marcos Aziz Khalil wrote in the newspaper Nahdet Masr: ‘The Jews saw that the Church is their No. 1 enemy, and that without [the] priesthood the Church loses its most important component . Thus the Masonic movement was the secret Zionist hand to create revolution against the clergy’ … it is telling that other non-Muslim minorities that have suffered discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamists – including the Yezidis, Mandeans and Baháis have never blamed Jews or Zionism for their persecution; their religions have not featured anti-Semitic doctrines … Ultimately the malaise of anti-Semitism among Middle Eastern Christians is entrenched in charges of deicide (i.e., of killing Jesus) against the Jewish people as a whole … It is clear that in general, the Eastern churches have yet to move beyond the noxious anti-Semitic motifs repudiated by the Vatican in its Nostra Aetate declaration issued in 1965, after the Second Vatican Council. If anti-Semitism in the Middle East and North Africa is to be eradicated, the burden of theological reform will evidently not be a task for Muslims alone.”
Chadashot Shelanu – Yerushalayim, July 26; Chadashot Shelanu – Beer-Sheva, July 29, 2011
These two pieces carried the story of the recent discovery of a gold bell in the City of David (see July 26).
Haaretz, August 5, 2011
Under the title “The resurrection of Oswald Rufeisen,” Shalom Goldman reviewed Ludmila Ulitskaya’s novel Daniel Stern, Interpreter (Duckworth, 2011, translated from the Russian), the name referring to Rufeisen’s assumed identity as a Pole of German descent in order to work for the military police in Mir, thus enabling him to save over three hundred Jews. “In the struggle over definitions of Israeli and Jewish identity, Oswald Rufeisen, better known Brother Daniel, was a pivotal figure. The case that Rufeisen (1922-1998) took to Israel’s High Court of Justice in 1962 brought the question of ‘Who is a Jew’ to public attention in a new and startling manner. And the decision in that case, which historian Michael Stanislawski has called ‘a fundamental episode in the history of the Jewish State,’ has influenced Israeli law and public opinion to this day. In it, the court was asked to decide whether Rufeisen, a Polish Jew who had converted to Catholicism during World War II, and had served for many years as a Catholic priest, should be granted citizenship under the Law of Return. In a four to one decision, the High Court ruled against Rufeisen, on the grounds that by joining another religion, he had forfeited his right to fast-tracked citizenship in the Jewish state. In ‘Daniel Stern, Interpreter,’ Russian novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya has fictionalized Rufeisen’s life and presented his remarkable story in what she dubs ‘documentary’ form … It is a story so compelling and difficult to believe that is hard to see what is gained by turning it into fiction. And it is even more challenging to have to read this fictional account in the form of hundreds of documents, all of which are imagined rather than authentic – including letters, court decisions, transcripts of imagined conversations, and imagined newspaper articles … For the reader who has never heard of Brother Daniel, this book provides an introduction to the fascinating life of the ‘Jewish monk.’ But for those already familiar with the life’s outline, Ulitskaya’s novel will be a disappointment.”