Caspari Center Media Review – November 9, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the following subjects:
This week’s review addressed various attitudes towards Christianity, from spitting to justice and acceptance.
Yediot Ahronot, November 7, 2011
According to this report, a Lesbian couple are suing Yad HaShmonah over its refusal to allow them to get wed at the moshav, claiming sexual discrimination. When the moshav learned that the event was a party in celebration of the marriage, they informed the couple that they were not willing to host them. In response, Yad HaShmonah declared that the moshav was founded by Messianic Jews who believe in the Tanakh and New Testament and that at the guest house “‘one-sex marriages are unacceptable. We are not even willing to host study days organized by homosexuals or lesbians.” The moshav is claiming that that there is no issue of sexual discrimination but merely a way of life and faith.”
Haaretz, November 2; Jerusalem Post, November 7; Zman Netanya, November 4; BeSheva – Mitchalef Yerushalayim, November 3; Israel HaYom, November 6, 2011
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and rabbi of the settlement, contributed an article to BeSheva – Mitchalef Yerushalayim (November 3) entitled “Make known His deeds among the nations” this week examining Jewish attitudes towards Christian Zionism: “The great vision of the Jewish people is to add faith and blessing to all the nations of the world … to sanctify G-d’s name in the eyes of the peoples … In reality Israel’s relations with the nations are very charged, and not a few very harsh statement towards the Gentiles occur in the words of the prophets, the Sages, and the former and later commentators – to the point where the fundamental Jewish attitude towards the Gentiles according to the Torah is hatred – or, at the very least, a deep distancing. Two factors have led to this situation: the first is wickedness, which was the principal motivation of the actions of most of the rulers … and could not have existed without the full collaboration of many people and the partial cooperation of most of the people. The second reason was our spiritual weakness … About two months ago, I related to a question which has recently arisen regarding the proper attitude towards Christian supporters of Israel. In the past, apart from a small minority of righteous among the nations, the Christian attitude towards the Jews was negative. They based their faith on the humiliation of Israel, who served as proof that the Christians were meant to replace Israel as the Chosen People. In recent generations, however, changes have been occurring within segments of Christianity. Some already do not think that Israel must be humiliated and others think that Israel is still the Chosen People, whose destiny is to bring redemption. But they still hold idolatrous views, since they believe that ‘that man’ is G-d and the messiah who will arise from the dead to redeem the world. At the same time, they also acknowledge that he is a Jew. So the question which must be asked is: Does this attitude mean that we must keep an absolute division between us? At any time that we meet Christians who support Israel, must we renounce their faith in ‘that man’? Rabbi Kook wrote in relation to other religions that our intention is never to destroy them but to elevate them so that they can be amended … and this is true even in regard to idolatry – not so speak of religions part of whose foundation rests on the light of Israel’s Torah … He also wrote … that we cannot present supreme religious content … via expressions which insult their founders. Whoever they may be, we must only speak about the benefit of the supreme holiness of G-d’s Torah – the negative side will come of its own accord … [The Christian view that their messiah will come to redeem the world] is wrong, true. But their utterances concerning their messiah and the coming redemption also contain a positive aspect, which prepares hearts for the ‘mending of the world’ [tikkun] and the coming of the Messiah our Righteousness – as we have learned from Maimonides (Hilkhot Malakhim 11:4 [uncensored version]): “Yeshua of Nazareth who aspired to be the Messiah and was executed by the court was also spoken of in Daniel’s prophecies [Daniel 11:14], ‘The renegades among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.’ Can there be a greater obstacle than this?! That all the prophets said that the Messiah redeems Israel and saves them and gathers the outcasts and strengthens their good deeds – and this causes Israel to perish by the sword and the remnant to be scattered and humiliated and to replace the Torah and assimilate into the gentile world to serve other gods than G-d. But the thoughts of the Creator of the world cannot be understood by man because His ways and not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. And all these words of Yeshua of Nazareth and those of Ishmael who arose after him [i.e., Muhammad] are only meant to make straight the way of the King Messiah and to mend the whole world so that everyone will worship G-d together … So in regard to the stance I raised above, that our way is not to destroy but to elevate by removing barriers, we must relate positively to their expectations of the messiah. We have learned from the prophets that when the Messiah our Righteousness begins to be revealed, the Gentiles will arise to fight against G-d and his messiah and then they will receive him. Almost certainly, it will then become clear to these Christians that in fact this is the messiah for whom they have hoped all these days and they will become the first to gladly accept him and his teaching … How wonderful it is that precisely these Christians are repenting of the traditional tenets of Christianity in stressing the election of Israel in her land and teaching that the people of Israel will return to observe all the commandments of the Torah. So precisely at the time when we are returning to the land of our life, we can begin to speak about our mission to the whole of the world.” [Editor’s note: An English version of this piece appeared at: http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/50030]
Danny Ayalon this week received a donation of twenty pounds sterling from a Christian Zionist couple in Britain who saw him on television (Zman Netanya, November 4). Asked if he had become rich, the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister replied that he was weighing what to do with the money and considering giving it to Akim or Elem, organizations devoted to caring for mentally-challenged youth and youth in distress respectively.
According to Israel HaYom (November 6), “71 American evangelical Christian supporters of Israel, 45 of them riding heavy-type Harley-Davidson and Honda motorbikes, yesterday visited the old bridge at Kibbutz Gesher in the Jordan Valley. They are encouraging Israel and contributing large funds out of a sincere religious belief that the country’s security is based on the coming of the messiah. Reserve Lieutenant Shalom Almog, who accompanied the group in Israel, said: ‘The members of the group collected a donation of $600,000 to buy medical equipment for the needy in Israel, and during their stay they’ll visit IDF bases and the Western Wall. We hope to turn this visit into a tradition and to keep it going in the coming years.’” The Jerusalem Post (November 7) noted the same event.
Another group of constant visitors comes from Brazil where, “for thousands of Christian pilgrims, Israel means the Holy Land where Yeshu walked” (Haaretz, November 2). In an interview with Kurt Kaufman, the chairman of “Jesus Tours,” which brings thousands of such pilgrims to Israel, the latter discussed this “tourist potential – despite the security fears and the lack of infrastructure” and the fact that the country is failing to properly exploit its status as a “magnet for millions of Christian tourists … to the place where Yeshu of Nazareth was born, walked, died, and ascended into heaven.” Kaufman brings around 500 such groups from Brazil annually.
Haaretz, November 3, 6; Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2011
According to a report in Haaretz (November 6), “When Narek Garabidian, a Canadian of Armenian extraction, came to Israel to study at the Armenian Orthodox theological seminary in Jerusalem, he never thought he would have to endure harsh insults from passersby. For the past 18 months, Garabidian said last week, he has been spit at and cursed by ultra-Orthodox passersby in the Old City. About a month ago he was spit at again, but this time, it hit his clothes. Garabidian, a former football player, said: ‘I pushed the two young ultra-Orthodox men up against the wall and asked, “Why are you doing this?” They were really scared and said, “Forgive us, we’re sorry.” So I let them go.’ When asked about the matter, Armenian clergymen said they had all been spit at, from the archbishop to the youngest of the divinity students. The most recent incident was on Thursday night, when a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews got together to spit at the gates of the Armenian church. However, the police found out about the incident and thwarted it by stationing officers in front of the church. Police say that in every case where a complaint is filed, the offender has been caught thanks to security cameras installed in the Old City. But in a verdict almost two weeks ago, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dov Pollock said: ‘The enforcement authorities are unable to root out the phenomenon and do not catch the spitters.’ Pollock dismissed charges against Johannes Maratersian, an Armenian divinity student, who was spit at by an ultra-Orthodox man in May 2008 and responded by punching the man. Pollock ruled that prosecuting a man who has been spit on for years as he walks down the street in his clerical robes would contravene the principles of justice. The Jerusalem district police responded: ‘All complaints of mutual assault are treated with the utmost severity. In the past, more than one case ended with charges being filed and the deportation of clergy involved in assault. As opposed to the situation about three years ago, the frequency of spitting has declined dramatically.’”
In a letter to the Jerusalem Post (November 4) on the issue, Adrian Becker noted that “Admirably, in my view, the judge exonerated the priest. According to Christian teaching, however, the priest should have been admonished by his superiors for not ‘turning the other cheek.’ Israel is held to ransom by the entire world, which expects us to turn the other cheek when rockets are fired at us daily from Gaza. Although such behavior was never part of Jewish theology, could it be that the international community demands its fulfillment only from Jews?”
Relating to the phenomenon, Alexander Yakobson opined in Haaretz (November 3) that “The magistrate … dismissed the indictment on grounds that it was in the interest of justice. The magistrate should be praised for his ruling, but it seems to me that even without the reason that the police have failed to stop this phenomenon, the accused should be acquitted in a case like this. And if Israeli law does not allow such a result, it’s worth considering whether we can find a formula that will make it possible. A punch in the face in response to spitting in circumstances like these, when it was clear that the spitting was intended to insult and the insult was part of systematic and continuous ugly persecution, seems to me to be the right act in the right place. Anyone who thinks differently should ask himself what his response would have been if we were referring to a Jew abroad who had suffered anti-Semitic harassment. Clearly not everything is permissible even in circumstances like these, but I for one am unhappy with any anti-Semite who ever spat at a Jew or ‘near him,’ as is the custom in Jerusalem, without getting a punch in the face. By the same token, if I were to hear that anywhere in this country secular thugs systematically harassed ultra-Orthodox Jews in this way and a person with side-curls and Haredi dress had to suffer such spitting for years, and if one of the victims reacted to the spitting like the priest in Jerusalem, I would say this act was fine. I would certainly not think there was cause for an assault indictment against the man who threw the punch. It could be that the priest’s act was not exactly in keeping with the Sermon on the Mount, but there is no doubt that the act fits with Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state. And that’s enough for us.”
Two reviews in Haaretz (November 4) related to Christian themes, the first a guide to Israel’s Beautiful Churches (Hebrew; Mapa Publishers) by David Rapp: “The long, complex and often painful nature of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity means that even today, many Israeli Jews are indifferent to, if not suspicious (or worse) of the faith that spun off from Judaism nearly two millennia ago. A colorful new Hebrew-language album … aims to make it easier for Israelis to understand and appreciate Christianity and its presence in their country. The Holy Land, of course, is the stage on which the drama of Jesus’ life and death played out, and Nazareth and the Galilee, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem and its environs are the locations identified with the individual scenes described in the Gospels, and hence where so many of the churches and monasteries that pepper the land were established. Author David Rapp selected 52 of Israel’s Christian sites, all of them open to the public and accessible to Israeli citizens, and provides brief surveys – religious, historical and artistic-architectural – of each. Rapp’s choices were also of functioning churches that are serving living Christian communities. Each chapter is accompanied by a map showing the church’s location and the relevant citation from the New Testament that mentions the site. Most notable are Hanan Isachar’s gorgeous photographs of each church. Rapp, as a student of art history and a journalist … is well-placed to help the reader take in the significance and uniqueness of each institution, and the role that it plays in the life of today’s Christian communities here, with the political, theological and demographic challenges they face.”
The second related to Jay Rubenstein’s book Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse (Basic Books, 2011). In an interview with the author, he replied to the question, “Why do you think the Jews were so victimized by the Crusaders?” with the following comment: “‘I think that the Jews play a crucial role in the end-time Christian drama. Very specifically, the Jews are expected to convert to Christianity, or basically to disappear before the last days can happen. Medieval people had a very particular version of this legend, known as the ‘Last Emperor’ prophecy. The belief was that a last emperor would appear on earth, at which time all the Jews would be converted. He would conquer Jerusalem, lay his crown down, and anti-Christ would appear, and this would be the final stage of things. In describing these events, both Christian and Jewish authors really focused on the notion that the Jews either had to convert or die. The earliest epic poem about the Crusade is called ‘The Song of Antioch,’ and it actually opens with Christ on the cross, talking to the good thief, and he tells him: Don’t worry, in about a thousand years, a group of people called the Franks are going to come here and avenge what’s happened to me. He’s referring of course to the Jews, because Christ wasn’t blaming the Romans in this poem; it was the Jews who crucified him. And the vengeance was going to be brought about by the Crusaders. And he was equating Muslims and Jews.’ ‘Why didn’t the Crusaders want to convert the Muslims, too?’ ‘I think it’s because Christians could comprehend what the Jews were. They were a remnant left over from history; they were God’s previously chosen people. History in the Middle Ages encompasses the future as well as past. Just as Marxists saw the world building toward a socialist utopia, Christian historians in the Middle Ages saw the world building toward the End Times. And in their understanding of history, the Jews would convert. I think they didn’t really comprehend what the Muslims were, but the easiest category to fit them under was as servants of anti-Christ. And in that drama, there was going to be a great war against the enemies of Christ, and the Muslims seemed to fit the bill. They were like a generic enemy. You don’t think of, can we get these people on our side; you think of, how can we take them out. Attempts to convert Muslims didn’t start until the 13th century, after the Crusaders had been there for about a hundred years.”
In recent times we have witnessed increasing support for Israel on the part of evangelical Christians. They view the establishment of the State of Israel as the miraculous fulfillment of the vision of the biblical prophets. The Jewish nation returns to its land and the soil yields its produce. “For the Lord shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert like the garden of the Lord (Isaiah 51:3).” Bible-believing Christians see the settlements and vineyards and are deeply moved. “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them” (Isaiah 65:21). “And I will bring back the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (Amos 9:14). While many countries support the Arabs out of economic interests or fear or false beliefs, the evangelicals are clearly on our side. Their point of view is very important, for they are a significant and influential group in the United States, the strongest country in the world. Many Jews wonder how we should we relate to Christians who love Israel. After all, for nearly two thousand years the Jewish nation was persecuted, plundered, forced to convert, expelled and murdered in the name of Christianity. The most severe sin of Christianity was its teaching that Israel was no longer God’s Chosen Nation, and that all the prophecies of Redemption now pertained to the Church rather than the Jews. But then came the return of the Jews to our Land after all the centuries of dispersal and mistreatment culminating in the Holocaust. Israel’s agricultural miracles, along with its ability to withstand enemies all around it, have inspired many Christians. As they understand from the Bible, Israel is still in a covenantal relationship with God, and the Jews must return to their land, settle it, and occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot. Those Christians who believe God chose Israel, and who are not working to convert us, are righteous gentiles, and God will reward them. Because of their faith in the Bible and their ethics, they are closer to us than are secular leftists. Some Jews will still ask, “What if among our friends there are some missionaries who want to convert us?” Indeed, if and when such a thing is proven, they must be fought. However, any supporter of Israel who is not a missionary must be treated with respect and love. As Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook wrote, “Love of creation should spread to all mankind, despite all the differing opinions, religions and faiths, despite all the differences of races and climates.”