Caspari Center Media Review – November 23, 2011
During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
This week’s review featured various expressions of Messianic Judaism.
Yediot Haifa, November 18 (x 2); Eastern Mediterranean Tourism, November 10, 2011
Lior Perry contributed two articles about Messianic Jews to Yediot Haifa this week, the first a general piece on “Messianic Jews: We’re Jews and Israelis like everyone else,” the second looking at the outrage a recent outreach campaign in Haifa has aroused amongst the religious sector in the city. According to the first, “Messianic Jews claim that they are Jews and Israelis in every respect. They believe in God, regarding Him as the essence of the essence. Thus they assert on their website, whose address is imprinted on a large numbers of magnets stuck on the cars of the residents [of Haifa] … According to their belief, everyone can read the Scriptures, study, understand, and live faithfully according to his understanding: in the life of the individual, the family, society, the State, and the world. This is the essence of the Jew’s commission and the meaning of the title ‘Light to the nations.’” The article then proceeds to quote extensively from the site, a text which appears on www.yeshua.co.il and is used by several other congregations explaining “Who we are.” The second noted that the Haifa campaign – which also included the placement of tracts in mail boxes, books, guidance brochures, and the offering of free correspondence courses – has aroused the ire of the local religious populace: “Much of the material is difficult to identify [as Christian] because it is messianic. Most of the leaflets focus on the Tanakh, biblical stories and deeds, without any messianic or Christian connotation. It’s only when the reader gets to the end that he understands that the material is intended to promote Yeshu as Messiah … One of the Messianic Jewish activists to whom we turned said in response: ‘We aren’t trying to convert anyone and we don’t have horns. We’re simply calling on the public to read the Torah, including the New Testament. The Messianic Jewish community is very positive in nature. We have a meeting place, we work on behalf of the community, help one another, give a lot of aid to the weak populace – and all in the most positive manner. In every city in which we work we have a center where we teach the Tanakh, give lectures and hold other activities, and contribute to society, primarily through humanitarian aid. It is thus legitimate that someone who believes in the Tanakh and New Testament would want to disseminate these books. There’s no reason whatsoever to fault us for being prepared to give out for free books explaining the Tanakh. The only difference between us and the Jewish populace is that we believe in the New Testament and the Jews don’t and that while the Jews are awaiting the Messiah we believe that Yeshu is the Messiah. Apart from these differences, our beliefs are very similar and so there’s room to accept other theological views in love and understanding.’”
An article in Eastern Mediterranean Tourism (November 10) noting the appointment of a new manager over the “Yad Hashmona Country Hotel” reported that “one of her first orders of business was to revamp the property’s F&B department. Now, the hotel’s new kitchen staff is headed by a chef with experience in hotels, and the new F&B manager too comes with experience in both five-star-level hotels and in catering. ‘Until I arrived, all our food needs were outsources,’ Goldberg says, ‘and we only employed a very few cooks – this despite the fact that we serve a large number of meals every week, including a huge kosher Friday dairy buffet that has become extremely popular, biblical theme meals based on menus echoing foods available in biblical times, where guests are encouraged to scoop their food with pita bread and to eat with their hands, against a background illuminated by oil lamps, and meals served around a triclinium – the only place except for Nazareth where such a theme setting is offered – served by waiters dressed in biblical-period costumes and with the option for guests to dress up too, at no additional charge.’ A few years ago the hotel took over management of the Biblical Garden located on Moshav Yad Hashmona. The garden, an attraction for hotel visitors and also for groups stopping in for a tour – ‘about four or five on a good day,’ Goldberg remarks – is a general representation of a village from the period of the Old Testament, from Joshua and until the Second Temple era, featuring reconstructions of a watchtower, threshing floor, wine presses, olive presses, a rock-hewn burial tomb that contains ancient sarcophagi and ossuaries, a mikveh (Jewish ritual immersion pool), biblical trees and plants, and more … Yad Hashmona – a collective settlement in the Judean Hills that was founded by Finnish Christians and Messianic Jews – also features two saunas, and discussions are underway to investigate the feasibility of using them as the basis around which to develop an in-house spa complex.”
Yediot Yerushalayim, November 18, 2011
This brief captioned photo addressed the Harley-Davidson bike riders who visited Israel recently (see previous Reviews).
Ma’ariv, November 18, 2011
This piece reported on the holding of a baptismal ceremony conducted by a group of pilgrims from “the far-away Macedonia” at Kasr-al-Yehud – the “Palace of the Jews” – which, “according to Christian tradition is the place at which John the Baptist baptized Yeshu (Yeshua), making it the third most important place in the Christian world.”
Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, November 15, 19, 2011
In the wake of the recent reports of Jews spitting on Christian clergy, David Michaels, director of intercommunal affairs for B’nai B’rith, wrote an open letter to “over a dozen of the most senior church leaders in Jerusalem, with copies to officials at major Christian bodies abroad” which was also printed in the Jerusalem Post (November 19): “I write with a request: for your forgiveness. As a representative of the oldest Jewish communal organization – B’nai B’rith International, which includes members of many backgrounds in over 50 countries, including Israel, where we have been present in Jerusalem since 1888 – I feel obliged to express my revulsion over new reported incidents of spitting at Christian clergy in certain areas of the Holy City. I feel especially obliged to do so as an Orthodox Jew. Though these acts are committed by a decided minority of young, ostensibly highly observant yeshiva students, the fact that many leaders and seminarians identifiable as Christian have experienced them compels me to ensure you know that Jews overwhelmingly find this behavior disgraceful and intolerable. In various parts of the world, there clearly remain problems of acute anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism; demonstrations of hostility toward Christians by individual religious Jews make combating these problems even harder. However, hateful actions toward a religious minority do not only risk harming the image and safety of Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora. These also violate essential Jewish and Israeli values, representing a desecration of God’s name. Jews around the world rightly take pride in Israel’s diverse democracy, despite a very difficult environment, and its protection of religious freedom, not least in Jerusalem. We are taught to love peace and pursue it, to uphold the principle of free will, to treat others as we would want to be treated – and to strive to refine our character, recognizing all people as created in the Divine image. Those relatively few religious youths who spit in the direction of Christian clergy are often responding to Christian symbols seen to conflict theologically with Judaism. They are also undoubtedly informed by a painful history of church persecution of Jews, and by a general fear of proselytism in Israel today. But there is little consideration of the human impact of these actions. Even in a world where inter-religious acrimony can be manifested with rocks, knives and firebombs, spitting is plainly unacceptable, a gesture that impinges upon the targets’ personal dignity. And, though most haredim too are characterized by decency, by an eagerness to be hospitable and by core values shared by other traditions, there is limited awareness across various segments of Jewish Orthodoxy of the distinctions, and the evolved attitudes toward Jews, among contemporary Christians. I, too, recall the members of my family who fell victim to violent Christian contempt in the not-distant past. But I am also mindful of my own grandfather’s rescue by an extraordinarily heroic Catholic family during the Holocaust. And I strongly believe that one need not, and must not, attack others in order to witness to the firmness of one’s faith convictions. Thankfully, the broad spectrum of the Orthodox rabbinate – including staunchly conservative religious bodies in Jerusalem – is on record as rejecting the acts of hostility toward Christians. Obviously, more needs to be done. While there may be no way of imposing discipline on every young person, Orthodox rabbis and other leaders will work to urge counterparts to further impress upon all their students the need for conduct becoming their religious identity. For now, we offer our modest outreach, and our acknowledgment of the routine forbearance of Christians in the face of deeply offensive treatment. We pledge to challenge intolerance in our own midst, just as we do elsewhere and just as we hope others would. And we reaffirm our commitment to the principles of peacefulness and goodneighborliness, in the spirit of the forefathers who preceded us in Zion. I would be grateful indeed if you would share this letter with members of your communion.”
A second piece in the same paper (November 19), contributed by Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, dean and director of interfaith relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and headlined “Palestinians to Evangelicals: Zionism is a sin,” made another call, this time to “concerned Jews to reach out to their Evangelical friends and expose the Palestinian assault on the lovers of Zion of two faiths – before another alliance is drowned in a sea of lies”: “Evangelical and conservative Christians – Israel’s most important allies – are increasingly targeted for conversion from Christian Zionism to Christian Palestinianism. One of the most troubling purveyors of this stealth theo-terrorism lies within sight of Jerusalem. In 2010, Palestinian Christians convened the Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference under the aegis of the Bethlehem Bible College, aimed specifically at Evangelicals. CATC repudiated Christian Zionism as a false teaching, an erroneous misreading and manipulation of Scripture. One of the architects was Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, who denies that he is an anti-Semite but hangs out with Holocaust revisionists and whose trip to Tehran included a defense of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. Other CATC participants, however, came from churches and schools completely identified with the traditional Evangelical mainstream. Evangelicals who came with an open-minded commitment to hear both sides heard Mitri Raheb, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem deny the connection between modern Jews and those of the Bible. ‘I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David … and Jesus … and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages…. I always loved to say that most probably one of my grand, grand, grand, grandmas used to babysit for Jesus.’ No one stormed out in protest. Rather to the contrary: Some participants, like Lynne Hybels (who is married to the head of the Willow Creek network of 13,000 Evangelical congregations), returned to the US as committed workers for the Palestinian cause. The list of 2012 CATC conference participants includes names of those who used to be firm and unequivocal supporters of Israel. Among the scheduled speakers is the president of the World Evangelical Alliance, Sang-Bok David Kim. The WEA is the parent group of the National Association of Evangelicals, the largest Evangelical network in the US. The ‘affirmations’ representing the beliefs of the organizers have already been published. They include the supplanting of Christian Zionism with a supersessionist understanding of Scripture that leaves no room for Jews. In other words, all Scriptural covenants with the Jewish people, as well as its religious dignity, have been replaced and abrogated … Another affirmation deals with Jewish Zionism. ‘Modern Zionism is a political movement created to meet the aspirations of Jews around the world who longed for a homeland,’ it begins, quickly growing ugly: ‘It has become ethnocentric, privileging one people at the expense of others.’ So, Zionism wasn’t always equal to racism, but it is today, according to CATC’s organizers. The UN’s debunked ‘Zionism is Racism’ has been reborn in theological garb, absorbed and preached by some who a few years ago were among Israel’s greatest allies.”
Yediot HaSharon – Kfar Saba, November 18, 2011
This article, entitled “Religious war,” noted that a Jehovah’s Witness convention last week on the New Testament aroused the ire of the residents of Ra’anana.
Makor Rishon, November 18, 2011
This religious weekly rather surprisingly noted the fact, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic and cultural ties between Spain and Israel, “the work ‘John writing his Gospel’ [John the Evangelist] by El Greco has arrived at the Israel Museum direct from Madrid and is being exhibited with other works which portray scenes from the Tanakh and the New Testament.” The article discusses the painting and some of the Christian legends surrounding John. Some of the other paintings forming part of the permanent exhibition include seventeenth-century works dealing with New Testament themes painted in the neoclassical style.