November 3 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review –November 3, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the following subjects:

Attitudes towards Christianity
Christian Zionism
Jewish-Christian relations
Interfaith activities

This week’s sparse review featured the Pope in various guises.

Attitudes towards Christianity

Yediot Tverya, October 28, 2011

According to a poll taken by mynet and the readers of Yediot Tverya, the Sea of Galilee best symbolizes the city: “The Sea of Galilee is regarded as sacred according to Christianity, which attributes unique respect to it. It draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually, who come in order to see the place where, according to Christian belief, Yeshu walked on the water, performed various miracles, and also delivered his first sermon.”

Christian Zionism

Yediot Ahronot, October 26, 2011

This lengthy article looked at the changing trend in the nature, age, and location of foreign volunteers in Israel. While volunteers have been a traditional feature of kibbutz life, they are now finding their way to the hills of Samaria as the “hottest thing on the Samarian hills … volunteers from all over the world, armed with Psalms, messianic fervor, and a romantic spirit: kibbutzim – out, settlements – in … no longer are there beautiful Swedish volunteers on the kibbutzim but no less than 250 volunteers of all ages who landed this summer on the soil of the Holy Land, armed with ethics, Psalms, and copies of the New Testament … After they conquered the kibbutzim, made the desert bloom, and introduced us to the treasures of Sweden, the time has come for you to meet the new volunteers – hundreds of Christians from all over the world … who have crossed the green line and begun putting price tags on bottles of wine they have harvested in the settlements.” [Editor’s note: the final comment relates to the “price tag” operations carried out by settlers – the vandalization of Palestinian property when police or soldiers are sent in to dismantle outposts in order to pressure the Israeli government against making concessions regarding settlement building in the West Bank.]

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Post, October 26, 28, 31, 2011

According to a note in the Jerusalem Post (October 26) entitled “More than just an olive branch,” “As a sign of improved relations between Jerusalem and Rome, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a 200-year-old olive tree on a 2,000-kilometer voyage to the Port of Ravenna in Italy. From there, it went to the Port of Rome and was then transported to the Papal Gardens in the Vatican. The tree is a gift from Netanyahu to Pope Benedict XVI, following Netanyahu’s recent visit to the Vatican Museum. During his visit to Israel in 2009, the pope stopped in front of an ancient olive tree and expressed a wish for a similar tree to grace the Vatican Gardens. This wish did not go unheeded. Netanyahu enlisted the help of the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet Le’Israel in selecting a suitable tree and facilitating its transfer to Rome. The tree was chosen by a KKL team headed by Aviv Eisenband. The official replanting of the tree in the Vatican gardens is set to take place Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the presence of senior Vatican dignitaries, including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state; Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Mordechai Levy; World Keren Hayesod chairman Effi Stenzler; Rafi Sasson, president of the JNF’s Italian branch; and Rafi Ovadia, the JNF emissary to Italy. According to Netanyahu, the tree, which joins others in the Viale Degli Ulivi (Olive Tree Boulevard) of the papal gardens, is a symbol of the flourishing friendship between Israel and the Vatican, and represents their mutual aspiration to foster peace and brotherhood between peoples and religions.”

Another article in this paper (October 28) noted that the Eight Annual John Paul II Bethlehem-Jerusalem Run took place this week: “‘People here live close to each other, but they don’t get to meet,’ said run organizer Father Caesar Atuire, the head of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, a Vatican-based group that brings 50,000 Italian pilgrims to Israel every year. ‘Some Israelis running today said they have never been to Bethlehem [Israeli runners were given special permission to enter Bethlehem, which is normally off limits to Israelis, as it is fully under Palestinian Authority control]. It’s about getting people to cross borders and get them out of their comfort zones. Sometimes when there are conflicts and prejudices, they don’t leave their borders,’ Atuire added … Also joining the race were half a dozen members of the Unione Sportiva Cremonese from Cremona, Italy, who played friendly matches against Bethlehem’s youth soccer club. More than 20 Haitian volunteers involved in the rebuilding effort in Haiti also joined the event.”

The same paper (October 31) also reported that “In a rare ruling, a judge in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court dismissed an indictment filed against a priest who punched a haredi yeshiva student in the face for having spat at him as he passed. In June 2008, Greek Orthodox priest Martarsian was walking along The Armenian’s Street, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, when the yeshiva student spat toward the ground in his direction. The priest then punched the man in the face, causing him to bleed. The priest did not dispute that he had punched the man, but asked that the indictment be dismissed in accordance with a clause in the law that allows for charges to be dismissed ‘if the indictment contravenes the essence of the principles of justice and fairness.’ Judge Dov Pollock said in his ruling last Tuesday that the court had heard evidence of daily incidents in which Christian clergy were spat upon by members of the ultra-Orthodox community, something which, the judge added, has been occurring for a number of years and which the police has not acted to prevent. ‘Needless to say, spitting toward the accused when he was wearing the mantle of the church is a criminal offense,’ the judge said. Those who do this ‘hurt not only the people they spit at, but the image of our country, tourism and our values.’ The judge criticized the priest for taking the law into his own hands but said that it was equally deplorable that the authorities do not take the required action to uproot the phenomenon through prosecution and education. ‘It is intolerable that a man of the Christian faith should be demeaned because of his religion, in the same way that it is for a Jew,’ Pollock said. ‘The Jewish people experienced a long history of Christian anti-Semitism that brought great suffering to Jews and Judaism,’ the judge continued. ‘However, with the realization of the return of the Jewish people to sovereignty and independence, the state must strive not to look back but to establish a country that guarantees freedom of religion and worship to every religion, a state where every person is equal before the law without distinction of race or religion. These things are the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence, and the rock of the foundation of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state.’ The plaintiff told the court that he had not spat at the priest to degrade him but because he suffered from a medical complaint that caused him to produce a lot of saliva … Pollock dismissed this argument owing to the fact that he had not produced any medical documentation to substantiate the claim, nor had he needed to spit during the duration of the court proceedings. ‘The defendant is being prosecuted for having, in a single incident, punched a man who spat in front of him, after having suffered years of being spat at and demeaned while wearing the mantle of the church, and having never received any response from the authorities for this distress,’ the judge said. He ruled that the indictment represented a contravention of the principles of justice, for which he was dismissing the charges. Shahar Ilan, vice president of Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality, applauded the ruling and called on rabbis and leaders of the haredi community to denounce the phenomenon of members of their community spitting at Christian clergy.’ The haredi leadership has to understand that the fact that we have established a Jewish state brings responsibility, Ilan told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. ‘We have to prove that we don’t treat people from other religions as Jews were treated in the past. The idea that we came here and treated others as we were treated is simply insufferable.’”

Interfaith Activities

Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2011

“Pope Benedict XVI, leading a global interreligious meeting, said that violence in the name of Christianity had no place in the world today. On the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s first summit of the world’s religious leaders in Assisi, Benedict held an interfaith ‘Day of Dialogue, Reflection and Prayer’ in Assisi, Italy, on Thursday. About 300 international delegates of “Pilgrims of Peace, Pilgrims of Truth” came dressed in their ceremonial robes, speaking all languages and professing Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, indigenous religions, Islam, all branches of Christianity and Judaism … ‘As a Christian, I want to say at this point [that] yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith,’ he said in his address to the delegations in an Assisi basilica. ‘We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature.’ It was one of the few times that a pope has apologized for events such as the Crusades or the use of force to spread the faith in the New World. The late pontiff, John Paul II, apologized in 2000 for Christianity’s historical failures … He [Benedict XVI] said the concentration camps of World War II had revealed ‘with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.’ The Jewish guests were mainly officials of international Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, World Jewish Congress, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and IJCIC – the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, an umbrella group that serves as the Vatican’s official partner in dialogue with Jews. Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s international director for inter-religious affairs, who represented world Jewry, was seated on the left side of Pope Benedict, while the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, sat on the pope’s right. The various leaders of the different religious delegations branched out in a semicircle. Rosen said he considered this memorable day as ‘a reaffirmation – like his visit to the Rome Synagogue – of Benedict XVI’s continuity with John Paul II’s outreach to other religions, especially Judaism.’ ‘These events are critically important.’ he said. ‘They prove that it can no longer be said that such initiatives were merely John Paul II’s personal whims.’”


Haaretz, October 31, 2011

According to this report, “Israeli archaeologists have discovered what may be the oldest miniature Byzantine prayer box to date, archaeologist Yana Tchekhanovets announced last week. The discovery – made by Tchekhanovets and fellow archaeologist Doron Ben-Ami about a year ago during an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in the Givati parking lot across from the City of David – sheds light on art in ritual in Byzantine-era Jerusalem. The box, discovered in the Byzantine strata (324-638 C.E.) in the plaster between two floor tiles, is approximately half the size of a matchbox: 2.2 centimeters by 1.6 centimeters, and a few millimeters high. The inside contains delicate and partially erased drawings of Christian icons. With a little effort it is possible to discern a blurred feminine face and, on the bottom, a clearer male face. The colors used to make the icons have survived and shades of red, blue, brown and white are detectable, all against a delicate gold background. ‘Never before have we held such an object in hand,’ said Tchekhanovets, who announced the discovery at an archaeology conference held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority. ‘It’s very exciting that we uncovered it,’ she said. The big question revolves around the identity of the two icons in the prayer box. The likely answer, says Tchekhanovets, is that they are Jesus and Mary, but it is certainly possible that they could be other local saints who flourished in that era. Like the prayer boxes sold today in souvenir shops, its Byzantine predecessor was used as a personal ritual object that could be taken anywhere. When worshipers wanted to pray, they would open the box and pray before the icons, and it would function as a miniature church … This is not the first ancient prayer box to be discovered in the region. The cover of a similar, and perhaps identical, box – but not the images inside – were found in the Jordanian city of Jerash many years ago, indicating that the prayer box discovered in a modern-day parking lot in Jerusalem is not the only one of its kind.”