December 29 – 2010

Caspari Center Media Review – December 29, 2010

During the week covered by this review, we received 28 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews, attitudes towards Christianity, Christian Zionism, Christians in Israel, and anti-Semitism. Of these:

5 dealt with Messianic Jews

7 dealt with attitudes towards Christianity

1 dealt with Christian Zionism

14 dealt with Christians in Israel

1 dealt with anti-Semitism


This week’s Review continued to report on Kay Wilson – as well as on Christmas in Israel.

Messianic Jews

Haaretz, December 21; Zman Yerushalayim, December 24; HaModia, December 22; Jerusalem Post, December 19, 23, 2010

According to the Jerusalem Post (December 19), “The police investigation is still under way into the attack that wounded Givat Ze’ev resident Kay Wilson, an olah from Great Britain, and killed her American friend Kristine Luken, as they were hiking in the wooded hills west of the capital. ‘We are still looking at all directions, still continuing the investigation, and questioning people who may have seen them,’ police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. ‘The main direction is that this was a nationalistic attack, though we haven’t ruled out the possibilities of a criminal incident.’ On Sunday, police investigators interviewed Wilson in her hospital bed for several hours. Her condition was improving and she was expected to leave the hospital in two to three days, a Hadassah spokesman said. ‘[Wilson] had her hands bound, and she was stabbed pretty bad in the upper part of her body,’ Rosenfeld said. ‘The obvious intention was to have her killed. This was not something where they were just trying to take her purse. It was a serious crime scene. We’re talking about two women walking around the Jerusalem Forest, we’re not even talking about Judea and Samaria’ … the police were waiting for ‘concrete answers’ before updating security procedures.”

The same paper (December 23) reported that “Police are maintaining a media blackout on the investigation on the stabbing of two women, one fatally, near Beit Shemesh on Saturday, though they said they believe the attack was nationalistically motivated and not a random act of violence. Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday night that no terrorist groups had taken responsibility for the attack … Luken will be buried in the United States later this week. A memorial service will be held at Christ Church in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thursday, and the church plans to create a memorial in Luken’s name. ‘She had an infectious love for God and a great admiration and love for the Jewish people and the Holy Land,’ the church said in a statement … A representative of Luken’s family declined to say where she will be buried.”

Zman Yerushalayim (December 24) reported that the police made a request to Kristine Luken’s family, via the Foreign Ministry, for permission to perform an autopsy on her body. “A couple of days before her vicious murder, Luken wrote to an ex-colleague at the University of Virginia, ‘Remember to seek the good in God when you stand before a tragedy.’ ‘From the first day I met her, she loved the Jewish people,’ said her friend Naomi Harrison in a conversation from the States. ‘She never felt as at home as in Israel.’”

A piece in Haaretz (December 21) stated that Kristine’s family had been informed of her death the previous day “and since then have sought to safeguard their privacy. As a result, the church [Christ Church, in the Old City of Jerusalem] – which Luken attended when visiting Israel – has become the gathering place of friends of the mission who knew the two women.” A memorial service was scheduled at Christ Church for Thursday to commemorate Luken’s work – whose Hebrew name was Rivka. ‘It’ll be like shiva. We’ll gather together, read the Tanakh, sing, and mourn. Lots of people are coming to comfort us and we’ve received hundreds of emails from people all over the world who know Kay and Kristine,’ said [David] Pileggi, who was the person who identified his friend’s body yesterday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute … ‘It’s very difficult … Many of us are mourning, but as Christians we have hope of another world after this one.’” Luken’s body was due be taken to the States the day of publication of the article, the funeral arrangements being taken care of by the American consulate as a result of the “assumption that this was a terrorist act, the consulate bearing the costs of the transfer of the body. Kay, who is still recovering in hospital in Ein Karem, has repeated to friends that she is in doubt that this was a nationalistic act.”

A report in HaModia (December 22) noted that “The court in Beersheva has acquitted a member of Yad L’Achim in Arad of all charges following a provocative suit brought against him by the missionary Eddie Beckford for bringing his name into disrepute and slander.” Following the resignation of Beckford’s lawyer, the court announced that the hearing would be postponed, during which period he would be given the opportunity to find a new lawyer. The charge itself was based on the fact that, thanks to the vigorous work of Yad L’Achim, and the exposure of centers run by the missionaries in Arad under Beckford, such as a food distribution center and a chess club – they were encountering opposition and contempt from passersby due to their dubious identity, and their disgrace was exposed, circumstances which led them to sue for slander. A video of Beckford allegedly viciously beating the Yad L’Achim worker was shown during a previous trial, in the wake of which Beckford was ordered out of Arad for 45 days. “Despite his dubious criminal past, Beckford did not hesitate to bring a charge against the Yad L’Achim worker who, in his words, had slandered him and brought his name into disrepute.” The court initially sought to reach a compromise between the two sides, with Yad L’Achim agreeing to keep their distance from the centers, a suggestion the organization’s lawyer rejected on the grounds that “‘It is our legal right and our halakhic duty to stand and protest.’” While the court declared that the halakhah was irrelevant to the proceedings, it acknowledged that Yad L’Achim was under no compulsion to come to any compromise with the mission.” Beckford represented himself “and when asked about the matter replied that ‘No lawyer is prepared to represent me’ – to which the judge responded: ‘There are five thousand lawyers in Israel and not one is prepared to represent you?!’ It transpires that Beckford was unable to find any legal representation due to the material evidence against him amassed by Yad L’Achim’s lawyer which directly linked him to clear missionary activity. The court understood that Beckford had no case and therefore suggested to him at an early stage in the trial to withdraw the charge. Beckford, who perceived that he was unlikely to succeed, immediately announced that he would accede to the court’s decision. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court declared that the withdrawal of the charge meant that Beckford could not bring another further charges against the defendant.”

Attitudes towards Christianity 

Haaretz, December 24 (x 2); Ma’ariv, December 24 (x 3); Yated Ne’eman, December 24; Kolbo, December 24, 2010

Michael Handelzalts, in his regular column in Haaretz (December 24), opened with a reference to Jesus as a prelude to looking at the “Word of the year”: “It’s not supposed to be our – Jewish – business, but 2011 years ago tonight, give or take a few years, a certain baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem. Of the four gospels that are the cornerstones of the religion this youngster later created, that of John (one of the two that do not dwell on his birth) begins thus: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’”

As frequently happens at this time of the year, an Orthodox Rabbi in Haifa sent a letter to banquet hall owners and hotels in the city warning them that if they hold Sylvester celebrations their kashrut license will be revoked (Kolbo, December 24). “The rabbinate noted that in general it does not interfere with events held on the same date but at the same time it cannot allow any signs of Sylvester to appear in the halls, especially Christmas or any other trees.”

A similar outcry was raised by the announcement that a Christian “priest” was due to address an “heretical” cultural gathering (Yated Ne’eman, December 24): “Rabbis and public figures protest with pain and great vigor against a dangerous and unprecedented trend initiated by the Jerusalem municipality in organizing events by means of the community directors known as ‘Shabbat tarbut [culture].’ At the height of Shabbat and involving its desecration, God forbid, next Shabbat they are planning a serious upscale by inviting a priest to address the local populace.” In the framework of “A morning of interesting interviews,” Orthodox residents of French Hill in the city were astounded to discover that “a priest was scheduled to appear with the purpose of sharing his ‘teaching’ with the public” – the figure in question being “the deputy to the Latin Patriarch and the top Catholic representative of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics, in the wake of the Bishops’ synod recently held in Rome concerning relations with Israel and the Christian community in the Middle East” – Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, although he was not named in the article. While the municipality originally indicated that it would cancel the event, in its official response it stated that it was not directly responsible for its organization. This was greeted by Orthodox protests of “their pain in light of this gross and unprecedentedly insensitive step in inviting a priest to address the populace, an unimaginable thing the like of which has never been heard of before.”

Several suggestions for celebrating Christmas – or at least tasting the atmosphere – were made in various papers. Under the headline “Carpenters coming,” Haaretz (December 24) proposed taking a tour of the Templar neighborhood in Jaffa, “in which the neo-Gothic Emmanuel Church stands out. The tour will place the story of priest and former carpenter George Jones Adams, in whose footsteps 156 farmers, carpenters, and other craftsmen arrived from Maine.” A second tour includes the churches in the Ajami neighborhood of the city, this one being accompanied by “the story of the founding of Christianity and the reason for the split into denominations.”

Ma’ariv (December 23) noted that, “At midnight the church bells in Jerusalem will ring out and the holidays prayers will begin. A tour of the Christian quarter, including study of Christian Christmas customs and visits to churches in the Old City. Warm and modest dress required.”

Under the headline “New birth,” the same paper the same day recommended that its readers “Celebrate at the weekend: On Friday and Shabbat go to visit the churches and Christian villages and enjoy the colorful decorations and special Christmas masses.” More seriously, the article opens with an account of Jesus’ birth – the “agent of God.” While he attributes much to “legends,” Dubi Zakkai also notes that “some of the events invite the interested Jew. In recent years, many Jews have visited the churches in order to listen to the Midnight Mass on Christmas eve and the holidays hymns the following day. Some of them go to Christian cities and villages to see the decorations and to wish the residents a happy holiday. While the organized tours have been full for some time, people can make their own way.” Among his suggestions were the mass in Bethlehem, Zakkai cautioning that those attending should ensure that they kept quiet and remained for the whole service.

The third article to be published in the same paper on the same day was written by Shmuel Rosner and looked at the question of “The commandment of Christmas”: “Christmas – which once marked the clear boundary between Jew and non-Jew, has now become for many a matter of debate. Do we celebrate – and if so, how?” The focus of the piece, it should be noted, however, was America rather than Israel.

Christian Zionism

Makor Rishon, December 24, 2010

This lengthy article featured the daughter of Per Faye-Hansen, recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for his efforts to save Jews in Norway during the Holocaust. Hansen founded the Scandinavian Seaman’s Church in Haifa, followed in 1969 by that in Ashdod, serving for a number  of years as the pastor to the Norwegian community in Israel. He was committed to developing Norwegian-Israeli relations and published several books on Israel, also establishing the Carmel Institute (Karmel-Instituttet), an organization dedicated to “pointing out the fulfillment of prophecies in Israel today, and to proclaim it within the Nordic countries and in Israel.” His daughter, Gro Wesnke, continues to be a stalwart Christian Zionist.