Caspari Center Media Review – September 20, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
This week’s coverage focused on various expressions of Christian Zionist and interfaith activity.
Ma’ariv, September 14; Makor Rishon, September 16; Jerusalem Post, September 14, 2011
Norman and Lola Cohen, joint chairpersons of the British Israel Group (BIG) wrote in response to Barry Rubin’s article last week (“What Jews should know about Christians”): “Sir, – We would like to express our thanks to Barry Rubin for yet another informative and muchneeded column with which we completely agree. Our contacts with the Christian world go back a long way. In the UK before making aliya, as official speakers for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, we addressed many hundreds of Christian groups of all denominations. Some of the friendships made as a result of these contacts have lasted to this day. Since living in Israel under the auspices of the British Israel Group, we have made hundreds if not thousands more such contacts with Christians visiting Israel from almost every part of the globe. We visit them in their hotels to hold question-and-answer sessions, and arrange for them to receive hospitality in Jewish homes. Often, when we talk to fellow Israelis about these Christians and their love for Israel and the Jewish people, we receive comments such as ‘It’s only because they want to convert us’ or ‘They only help Israel because they think it will hasten the coming of their messiah.’ We would like to state that in over 50 years of close contact with these wonderful people we have never heard such views expressed, nor has one of them ever shown the slightest interest in converting us. Their frequent answer to the question ‘Why do you expend so much time, energy and money on helping Israel?’ has been ‘Because the Jews are the apple of God’s eye and so we love them, too.’ Why can’t we stop being suspicious of these people and be grateful for so much love and friendship in an increasingly hostile world?”
According to a report in Makor Rishon (September 16), “Thousands of Christian supporters of Israel and Jews will demonstrate next week in Manhattan” in a “show of support of and solidarity with the State of Israel” in the face of the scheduled Palestinian attempt to declare statehood. “American-born Attorney Caleb Myers, chairman of the ‘Jerusalem Institute for Justice,’ is one of the initiators of the demonstration. In an interview with Makor Rishon, Myers said that in the wake of the enormous, coordinated demonstration organized to protest ‘Durban 2’ in Geneva, they immediately understood that they had to organize a further demonstration. Contrary to custom, most of the demonstration participants whom Myers and co are mobilizing are evangelical Christians rather than members of the Jewish community. ‘It looks more convincing when Christians demonstrate on behalf of Israel rather than just members of the Jewish community,’ he said.” While the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially objected to Jewish participation in the planned demonstration, it subsequently changed its mind and has “decided to withdraw its opposition to the demonstration. This decision has led various Jewish organizations to reconnect with the organizers. Some of these bodies criticized the Foreign Ministry, claiming that it had sabotaged their efforts to receive help. At present, the organizers estimate that between ten and twenty thousand people will participate in the demonstration.”
Atraktzia (September 10) noted the story of the visit by the “black pope” to Samaria (see Review of August 30, 2011).
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, September 13, 2011
This disturbing piece reported that “A Ghanaian national claims that members of the Interior Ministry’s Oz immigration enforcement unit arrested him, detained him for several hours and assaulted and humiliated him simply because he was not carrying his passport at the time. The alleged incident happened four months ago. Robert Ofori Asante, 49, has lived in Israel for more than 25 years. A court injunction prohibiting him and his family’s deportation back to Ghana, issued several years ago, is still in place. About 15 years ago, Asante became a pastor at Christ Believers Ministry International, one of the large churches established in southern Tel Aviv to serve the migrant worker community. Since that time he has maintained close ties with the Ghanaian Embassy in Israel, and become a spokesman on behalf of the community … ‘One grabbed my throat and hit me in the head, another grabbed my leg. They threw me to the ground and dragged me across the street, they handcuffed me. I shouted, “What are you doing to me, I only forgot my passport.”’ Asante was placed in the officers’ vehicle, and when he asked why, one of them said, ‘Because you’re a criminal.’ He says when he mentioned that his son was still waiting for him, one of the men said he didn’t care. Asante recalls that at that point he began telling himself that Israel was a law-abiding state, not Syria or Iran, and they won’t simply kill him. When they reached Petah Tikva, Asante appealed to one of the officers, saying: ‘Sir, know that despite all you’ve done to me, I am a pastor. I forgive you and love you all … Before I left I offered my hand to the officer and said despite all he did to me I loved him. He kicked me again with his boot and told me to get out,’ Asante said. Asante tried to file a complaint against the Yiftach District Police with the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, alleging false imprisonment, abuse, assault and receiving threats, but was told to take up the matter with Yiftach. Officers there referred him to the Interior Ministry. The immigration authority investigated and closed the case. In a written response, the immigration authority called the officers’ conduct ‘professional and sensitive’ … The Israel Police did not respond to requests for comment.”
Jerusalem Post, September 9, 14, 15; Ma’ariv, September 14, 2011
Two pieces in the Jerusalem Post (September 9, 15) – one prior to the event and one following it – reported on the third annual conference on interreligious tolerance conducted at the Ethics Center of the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Jerusalem: “As in the previous two years, there will be high-profile representatives of several local religious communities on various discussion panels and at speakers’ podiums. These include Sheikh Abdul Rahman Kabha, the Interior Ministry’s inspector general of the Islamic Holy Places in Israel; Dr. Albert Lincoln, the Haifa-based secretary general of the Baha’i International Community; and Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who runs the hesder yeshiva in Petah Tikva and has a long history of exploring common ground between religious and secular Jews … Religious leaders of all stripes, gowns and headgear gathered in Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood Wednesday to attend the third annual Interfaith Ethics and Tolerance conference. Bringing together Jewish and Muslim clerics, as well as clergy from numerous Christian denominations and those of the Bahai and Hindu faiths, the conference this year focused on the role of spiritual leaders in promoting peace and tolerance as well as the challenges of religious leadership in today’s globalized world. One of the driving forces behind the event is Ethics Center director Daniel Milo, who says that the conference is based on the premise that, beyond the religious and national discrepancies, there are many areas where cooperation can take place. ‘There are many common topics among the different religions,’ says Milo. ‘The idea behind the conference is to focus on the things we share rather than the differences between us, as a unifying and not a divisive factor.’ The director adds that ethics offers a good platform for examining fundamental issues across the board … The day of lectures, panel sessions and roundtable discussions, which included debate on the impact of the Internet on religion, ethical behavior of religious leaders and the challenges of globalization to religion, culminated with a ceremony at the Tolerance Park and Monument in Armon Hanatziv … A series of blessings was also intoned by the assembled clergy, followed by the release of dozens of white balloons … ‘Our organization has taken on the task of working to improve the ethical behavior of all peoples and all the adherents of all religions,’ said Rabbi Yuval Cherlow … ‘Unfortunately, the world is full of religious leaders who are part of the problem at the moment, so we are looking for ways in which religious leaders can be part of the solution’ … Kabha takes somewhat of a dim view of Orthodox Jewry, although he says he appreciates ‘the openness’ of other approaches within Judaism, such as liberalism and Reform Judaism. ‘I don’t think Orthodox Jews are interested in globalization at all; I hope I have got that wrong … I studied the Bible and [Jewish] Ethics of the Fathers when I was at school. We need to study each other’s scriptures and religions,’ he says.”
In light of the conference, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow contributed an opinion piece to Ma’ariv (September 14), focusing on the issue of ethics, the topic of the conference.
The Jerusalem Post (September 14) also noted that “The Jewish Theological Seminary said it will establish an interreligious center with a $2 million gift from New York philanthropist Howard Milstein … Rabbi Burton Visotzky, a professor of midrash and interreligious studies at JTS, will serve as the center’s director. ‘The new center will expand the long commitment of JTS to interreligious dialogue and partnership, and enable us to highlight an annual schedule of distinct programs that range in complexity and content,’ he said in a statement.”
Haaretz, September 13, 2011
This brief note reported on the recent various archaeological discoveries in Jerusalem.