Caspari Center Media Review – September 28, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:
Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
This week’s review includes a review of Israel College of the Bible’s activities, HaMa’ayan congregation, and Caleb Myers’ involvement in the UN demonstration in NY.
Haaretz, September 26; Zman Netanya, September 23; Zman Hadera, September 23; Zman HaSharon, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Hod HaSharon, September 23; Zman HaSharon, September 23; Makor Rishon, September 20, 2011
Four articles (two doubles) published in local papers in the center of the country were contributed by Ziv Goldfisher, one looking at HaMa’ayan Congregation, the other at Israel College of the Bible, both institutions falling under his geographical scope. Under the title “Messianic diploma” and the sub-headline “Yeshu for advanced learners,” Goldfisher turned his attention to Yad L’Achim’s claims that the college is a hotbed of evangelism (Zman Netanya, September 23; Zman HaSharon, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, Hod HaSharon, September 23). While “it resembles many other institutions in the country – its classes are conducted in Hebrew, a young group of students study together, the lecturers possess academic degrees, and the degrees offered are first and second degrees [BAs and MAs] – here begins and ends the similarity with other ordinary academic institutions.” ICB “stands out” from in constituting the “sole establishment in the country that trains spiritual pastors (priests/ministers, if you will) amongst the Messianic Jewish community … Only a close scrutiny of the college’s website reveals that this is not another academic institution along the lines of Netanya Academic College [in the same city] but a religious body which trains spiritual pastors.” Despite addressing Yad L’Achim’s complaints that the college is missionizing, Goldfisher states very clearly that: “It must be noted that the college’s activities do not contravene the law. Missionary activity has never been prohibited in Israel. In a democratic country, it is impossible to infringe on the rights of religion and conscience. At the same time, however, it should also be noted that the college has a sole purpose: to advance the mission in Israel.” Goldfisher notes at the end of the article that Dr. Erez Soref, ICB’s President, “refused to respond to the piece.”
In a separate article, Goldfisher turned the spotlight on HaMaya’an Congregation – principally due to the fact that it has just dedicated a new building for use as a shelter for single mothers (Zman Hadera, September 23; Zman HaSharon, September 23). The issue at stake here is whether the congregation’s website justifies the claim that the congregation is in fact violating the missionary law in Israel by offering financial or material benefits in order to induce people to convert: “On the website, the congregation’s members describe their goal: ‘Our purpose is to give Glory to our Heavenly Father by serving Him and our fellow men, proclaiming the good news of salvation to Israel and its Arab neighbours and by desiring to follow in the footsteps of His Son, Messiah Yeshua, King of the Jews’ [translation taken from the website itself]. In disseminating the teaching of the messiah, the congregation’s members are violating Israeli law. One of the ways in which they are attempting to bring the Israeli populace closer to faith in Yeshu is through supporting families in need.” The fact that the congregation says that it has “adopted” around 25 single mothers and is giving them food coupons, paying their bills, and helping them educate themselves amounts, claims Goldfisher, to missionizing, especially in light of a further statement on the website: “The long term [goal] is to help these women know God as their father & as their children’s father. ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling’ [Psalm 68:5]. That’s where we want to lead the orphans and the widows, to the Lord’s Holy of Holies’ [translation from the website].” According to Goldfisher, “One of the members rejects the claims against them: ‘These are false claims. God has sent us to serve the orphans and widows – not to persuade anyone to join our faith. We take broken women who have been abused and give them a shelter under our wings, not in exchange for any benefits. This is our commission.’”
In the wake of the “discovery” that Caleb Myers is a “Messianic Jew,” the religious paper Makor Rishon (September 20) interviewed him about his intentions in organizing the demonstration against the Palestinian declaration of statehood at the UN. Myers explained that he identifies himself as a Jew even though his mother is not Jewish, that he is not “a religious man,” that he prefers not to relate to his personal worldview because it is “‘complicated,’” and that his purpose is not to convert Jews. He was further quoted as saying that the news of his Messianic Jewish identity was publicized by the Jewish press in the States primarily as a pretext for Jewish organizations not to join the demonstration. Ultimately, it was decided that he would not speak at the demonstration.
Addressing the issue of the recent Knesset approval of the preliminary reading of an amendment to the Nature Reserves and National Parks Law which would allow non-profit associations to manage national parks, Amit Bracha commented in Haaretz (September 26) that, if it passes, the bill will allow the parks to fall into very dubious hands: “Who will guarantee that the entrepreneur who wants to build a resort complex on HaPalmachim beach won’t set up an ecological non-profit organization and, under the Nature Reserves and National Parks Law, fulfill his [commercial] goal, on the grounds that only in this way can he strengthen the financial status of the Palmachim Park? Or who can guarantee us that the Nature Reserves and Parks Authority won’t hand over administration of Masada to a Messianic non-profit organization who will subsequently allow only Messianic Jews access to the site?”
Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
Ma’ariv L’Noar, September 21, 2011
An article in the youth edition of Ma’ariv set out to explain to its adventurous protagonist, Tom, why Jerusalem is important – and why everything in it is so old. Commenting that the city is the most sacred place to the three religions has no effect. Tom does promptly realize, however, the city’s tourist potential and calls his friends together in the mall dressed as Jesus in order to persuade them to sell holy air. When he is attacked by his potential buyers, his young friends ask: “‘Don’t they feel a bit odd in relation to the fact that they’re Christians and are beating to death someone dressed as Yeshu?’” – the answer coming back: “‘They’re religious tourists in Israel … Don’t let us confuse them with logic or facts.’”
Shalom Toronto, September 15, 2011
This piece noted that the Canadian group United Friends of Israel was due to hold a demonstration against the UN vote in conjunction with Bnai Brit Canada.
Haaretz, September 26, 2011
Haggai Hitron in Haaretz (September 26) reviewed a new performance of Bach’s St. Matthew’s passion in London: “‘His blood be upon us and our children’ – these are the words of a spine-tingling choral piece by Bach, one of the greatest examples of all time of the dramatic power of music. The choir that sings these words represents a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, as portrayed in the New Testament’s description of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, in the Gospel According to Matthew. The crowd demands Jesus’ blood and urges the Roman governor to crucify him; by this act, the entire Jewish community seems, in a declarative way, to openly accept the blame for generations to come … In recent decades the work has also been performed in Israel, without any dithering over the issue of historical awareness, despite its unbearably accusatory text. As opposed to the works of Wagner (which are not anti-Semitic, as opposed to Wagner himself), Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’ is not considered today to be a Christian anti-Semitic symbol which Jews or Israelis are supposed to boycott … Musicologist and literary scholar Prof. Harai Golomb (recently retired from the arts faculty at Tel Aviv University ) and his son, musicologist Dr. Uri Golomb (who completed a doctorate and post-doctoral fellowship on Bach performance at Cambridge University), attended the dress rehearsal and first preview last weekend. Here are some of their impressions, in a phone conversation from London. We’ll begin with the Jewish aspect. Does this version, which is supposed to be more dramatic, end up being more anti-Semitic than ordinary versions of the ‘St. Matthew Passion’? Harai Golomb: ‘The answer is no. The anti-Semitic basis is not reinforced here. By the way, strangely but perhaps not paradoxically, Jonathan Miller gets close to Bach here in a certain sense. Miller’s overall approach is to present the story of the Passion as an internal drama of an individual within himself. As a human being, he can hesitate, sin, have regrets, be sorry. After all, we know from historical research that when Bach performed his Passion, the singer who sung Jesus’ role also took part in all the choruses – even those demanding his crucifixion. There is a blurring here of the distinction between the accuser and the accused, between the killer and the victim.’”