December 14 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – December 14, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the following subjects:

Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christian sites
Christians in Israel
Jewish-Christian relations
Religious Freedom

This week’s review reflected Christian support of Israel and the status of various Christian communities in Israel.

Anti-missionary Activities

Olam Katan, December 2, 2011

Shmuel Ben-Meir wrote a response to the report on the anonymous woman who got “sucked into” the Messianic Jewish “cult” through Lilach, arguing that “Messianic Jews” are nothing but “Messianic apostates.”

Christian Sites 

Yediot Ahronot, December 13; Calcalist, December 15, 2011

In its weekend edition, the Calcalist (December 15) suggested walking the Gospel Trail in its tips for getting out and about, while Haaretz (December 13) introduced its readers to Qasr al-Yehud, the baptismal site on the Jordan.

Christian Zionism

Chadashot Haifa, December 14; HaIr Kan Darom – Ashkelon, December 16; Shishi BaGolan, December 9, 2011

According to Shishi BeGolan (December 9), the Dutch Friends of Israel are once again helping the Golan to blossom with tulips – “with love from Holland.”

Meanwhile, Ashkelon is preparing itself for war with the help of “Operation Lifeshield” (HaIr Kan beDarom – Ashkelon, December 16), which has donated 13 free-standing shelters to educational institutions in the city.

The Knesset recently held a “special and first of its kind” ceremony hosting Dr. Akram Hasson, head of Carmel College and representing the minority communities in Israel, in honor of all the evangelical organizations who stand behind Israel and support refugees, Holocaust survivors, and Israeli society (Chadashot Haifa, December 14). Having already agreed to help fund the College, Hasson asked executives from one organization with whom he met for support for the Druze sector.

Christians in Israel

Haaretz, December 15, 16; Jerusalem Post, December 18, 2011

In the wake of the recent spate of spitting attacks against Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem, the ADL has called the rabbinate to task (Haaretz, December 16): “The New York-based ADL on November 30 sent a letter to the Rabbinate, urging it to ‘publicly and forcefully denounce the repulsive phenomenon.’ Foxman also asked the rabbis to ‘convene a meeting with Haredi rabbinic leaders to take concrete steps to ban the decades old practice and educate these communities about respect for other religions.’ After the ADL, which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry worldwide, did not receive any response from the Rabbinate for about a week, the organization took the issue to the public. In a press release, the organization repeated its demands and threw in some indirect criticism at the Rabbinate. ‘The issue makes headlines every few years, and promises are made to combat it, but it continues every day,’ the ADL’s director of interfaith affairs, Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, wrote. This time, the Rabbinate took up the gauntlet. The following day, director-general Oded Wiener issued a statement expressing ‘regret that the ADL has issued a call to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on a particular matter without doing the most basic research on the facts.’ Wiener called the ADL’s demands ‘misguided’ and ‘particularly ironic’ since ‘no Jewish institution has done more to fight the totally unacceptable phenomenon referred to than the Chief Rabbinate.’ He asserted, ‘What the ADL calls on the Chief Rabbinate to denounce has been condemned by the Chief Rabbis publicly on more than one occasion’ … The Anti-Defamation League has refused to accept the explanation by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate about its efforts to combat the phenomenon of Ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting at Christian clergymen in Jerusalem’s Old City … ‘We do not believe our statement was “misguided” in the least. On the contrary, we believe the Rabbinate needed a wake-up call on this issue. We believe they have not done enough,’ ADL chairman Abraham Foxman told Anglo File this week. ‘They’ve condemned it before, they’ve issued all of these statements, but nothing has changed’ … Foxman further demanded the Rabbinate ‘needs to institute an educational program of respect, so that there is a greater understanding in the ultra-Orthodox community of why this conduct is so offensive and inimical to Jewish values’ … Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar also invited the Christian leadership to meet with them to express their ‘abhorrence’ at the spitting and issued ‘a forceful call to all yeshivot and congregations in the Old City to make sure that no errant members of their institutions misguidedly engage in such practices,’ he wrote. Metzger paid ‘a solidarity visit’ to the Christian patriarchs and met with the police and municipal authorities to encourage greater law enforcement, he added. Wiener also wrote that the situation has improved ‘dramatically’ over the last few months. Indeed, several Armenian and Orthodox clergymen told Haaretz that while still prevalent, spitting incidents have decreased recently … Rabbi David Rosen, a British-born honorary advisor on interfaith relations to the Rabbinate, did not accept the ADL’s criticism. ‘I would be the last person to say that everything is perfect and that there’s not more to do,’ he told Anglo File Wednesday. ‘But the critique needs to be directed elsewhere. The one place that does not deserve it over this issue is the Chief Rabbinate, which has done more than arguably any other body … It’s not the Education Ministry, that’s the job of the Education Ministry. But Oded Wiener and myself are actually on our way to a meeting of the Council of the Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which involves all the Christian leadership,’ he said. ‘And one of the projects we’re working on is the review of textbooks and to see how people are being maybe miseducated or just kept ignorant altogether about one another. So in fact the Chief Rabbinate is actually involved in matters of education but obviously it’s not the primary responsibility of the Chief Rabbinate.’”

The Jerusalem Post (December 18) featured the town of Jish (the ancient Gush Halav whence Paul’s parents are said by some to have originated) on Mount Merom: “The town of around 3,000 is predominantly Maronite, with around 65 percent of the population adhering to the branch of Eastern Catholicism and living in harmony, residents say, with Muslim and Greek Catholic (Melkite) minorities. Jish has the largest Maronite population of in Israel, where around 7,000 live mostly in Jish and the neighboring village of Ikrit, as well as in Nahariya, where former members of the South Lebanese Army and their families (estimated to number 2,000 to 2,500 people today) were relocated after the IDF withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Like Israel’s other small, non-Jewish communities, the Maronites of the Galilee are a population in flux, cut off from their brethren in neighboring countries. They continue their assimilation into Israeli society while trying to ensure that their customs carry on into the next generation. Those in Jish are also waging an ongoing battle with authorities to regain land near Kibbutz Bar’am, the one-time location of the Maronite village of Kafr Bir’am. Today, around half of the Maronite residents of Jish trace their heritage to Kafr Bir’am, residents say … It’s clear that the Maronites of Jish view themselves as a distinct ethno-religious group, apparently seeing themselves as neither Arab nor Palestinian, rather as Aramaic or Maronite citizens of Israel. According to Jish native Dr. Elias A. Suleiman, a lecturer from Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Middle Eastern Studies and supervisor of Jish’s schools, the majority of Maronites ‘reject Arab identity in favor of a distinct Maronite one… They live as citizens and will continue to live here, and if the Palestinians establish their state, no Maronite from Israel will move to live there.’ Suleiman said the Maronites are loyal, law-abiding citizens of Israel who ‘did not deny the existence of the state and the fact that Israel exists. They also do not forget that they are a minority with problems that need solutions’ … about 40% of the Maronite population of Jish are descendants of people relocated there after War of Independence, when Israeli forces called on the villagers to evacuate in order to clear a buffer zone on the border with Lebanon. They were never allowed to return, and they now seek the return of some of the 1,200 hectares (2,965 acres) in Kibbutz Ba’ram/Moshav Dovev to build a small historical village for tourism, as well as a small village to house Maronites … [local activist Shadi Khalloul] described a community that smuggled Jews to the pre-1948 yishuv, and has seen its contribution forgotten, with the people left unable to recover lands they lost in the war. ‘We helped Jews escape to Israel through Lebanon when the British wouldn’t let them in. Some of these Jews would sleep in our village at night until the bus would come the next day and take them to Haifa. So in 1948 we didn’t run; most of those who ran were Muslims. We didn’t run because we knew the people we were facing, so we stayed,’ Khalloul said. ‘Instead of treating your allies well, you treated us like enemies. We were not enemies, we were allies. We helped the Jews and we expected the same treatment, and now we ask them to help us, allow us to go back and build the village again,’ Khalloul said.”

According to a report in Haaretz (December 15), “The Haifa district planning and building committee approved a plan this week for the renovation of the Carmelite Catholic complex in Haifa’s lower town. The complex includes a church and on orphanage that were built in 1862, and an office building built in the 1930s. The church has been refurbished in recent years by the Carmelite order. The newly approved plan calls for the renovation and expansion of the office building and the construction of a bell tower. A new museum on the history of the Carmelites in Haifa will also be developed. An inner courtyard will be open to the public and will host cultural events.”

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Post, December 14, 2011

“Following an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Britain’s chief rabbi described relations between Christians and Jews in his country [as] “as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world.” In an interview with Vatican Radio following his meeting with the pope on Sunday, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said Benedict had raised the issue of the current state of Christian-Jewish relations. The pope ‘continually wanted to know how was that state of relationship in Britain, where in fact of course it’s as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world,’ Sacks said. He said the pope also wanted ‘to reaffirm his belief in our shared belief in the God of Abraham, our shared commitment to the Ten Commandments and our shared belief that society must have a spiritual dimension.’ He and the pope were both ‘very concerned obviously with the soul of Europe, I mean Europe was built on Judeo-Christian foundations.’”

Religious Freedom

Haaretz, December 14, 2011

According to this report, “What do Israel, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have in common? All of them scored a big fat zero on the annual freedom of religion index published by CIRI, the Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Dataset. The index, which measures governmental restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom from religion, ranks 195 countries. Of these, fully 52 scored zero, including Russia, Romania, India, Mexico and Turkey. Israel has scored zero on CIRI’s scale for several years now. The index ranks countries on a scale of zero to two, where zero indicates severe and widespread governmental restrictions on religious freedom, one indicates moderate restrictions and two indicates almost no restrictions. The countries that received a score of two included many Western states, like the United States, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Poland, as well as non-Western states like South Africa, Angola and Lebanon. Countries with a score of one included Italy, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Thailand, Spain and Mongolia … Rabbi Uri Regev, president of Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality, said the CIRI index ‘reveals to the world the sorry fact that when it comes to freedom of religion, Israel is closer to extremist Islamic countries than to the democratic Western world. In no other enlightened democracy is the principle of freedom of religious undermined to such a large extent. What causes this shameful situation is the practice of [political parties] buying power in exchange for capitulation to religious coercion, while ignoring the wishes of the majority of people in both Israel and the Diaspora. Israel is becoming famous worldwide as the leader of the democratic world in assailing freedom of religion and conscience, something that is liable to deal a mortal blow to our status in the free world and to Western countries’ attitude toward us’ … CIRI has been collecting data on parameters comprising 15 ‘internationally recognized human rights’ annually since 1981. The project is run out of Binghamton University in upstate New York, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It is headed by two professors, David Cingranelli of Binghamton and David Richards of the University of Connecticut.”


HaMevaser, December 16, 2011

This lengthy article examined “Underground Jerusalem” and the numerous excavations and discoveries made in the city in recent years.