February 15 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – February 15, 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the following subjects:

Messianic Jews
Attitudes towards Christianity
Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christian sites/tourism
Christians in Israel
Book review

This week’s review included further reactions to Shmuely Boteach’s book on Jesus.

Messianic Jews
HaTzvi, February 2, 2012
In a letter to this paper lamenting the “Orthodoxization” of Israel, Michal Golan noted that the Orthodox “weekly break the peace and tranquility of my neighborhood through the demonstrations they hold in front of the homes of the Messianic community. They makes a lot of noise and disturbance and display forms of violence against an innocent and nice community whose members work and contribute to the city. Who gave them the right to decide what a person must believe and what not? And where are the police? Where is the mayor who allows all this to happen?”

Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, February 7, 12, 2012
These two pieces related to Shmuley Boteach’s new book on Jesus. In the second (Haaretz, February 12), Alan Gregerman – a scholar at the Baltimore Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies – contended that Boteach relies heavily on outdated Jewish and Christian research methodologies, claiming – among other things – that his “choices are often inexplicable. For example, he cites repeatedly the completely obsolete 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia rather than, say, the revised 2002 New Catholic Encyclopedia. He relies extensively on Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus with a degree in Hebrew Bible, to explain the New Testament.” He also makes “some helpful points. By drawing on the first-century writings of Josephus and Philo, he presents a more accurate portrait of Pontius Pilate than is found in the Gospels. He surveys murky topics, such as views of the Jews in the Second Temple and early rabbinic period on messianism and the afterlife. Often, these topics have been poorly understood by Christians, especially when they relied exclusively on Christian sources. Unfortunately, the prevalence of Boteach’s simplistic and ahistorical views obscures these valuable efforts.” In a far less penetrating piece (Haaretz, February 7), Natasha Mosgovaya merely noted that Boteach has been on the receiving end of widespread and bitter criticism from within the Jewish community.

Anti-missionary Activities
Zman Tel Aviv, February 10, 2012
According to this piece, “The Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv, on Allenby St., which was one of the first synagogues in the city, has over the course of time become the target of an international missionary campaign which recently escalated with the visit of some missionaries to the actual site. ‘It began several years ago, with a letter here and there, and at the beginning we didn’t understand that it was missionary,’ the President, Yitzhak Neuman, stated. ‘We started getting letters from all sorts of countries – from England, Germany, France – each time from a different place, some in English, some in the languages of the countries from where they were sent. They all had the same address: Mr. Cohen, the Great Synagogue, Tel Aviv. Despite the fact that we never had a Mr. Cohen, we opened the letters and then discovered that we were dealing with missionary material. So we threw it out.’” Eventually, the letters to Mr. Cohen were replaced by others, some computer-generated, others handwritten, “‘tidy, arranged, and orderly – people had invested a lot in them.’” The latest letter was 28 pages long and written in Swedish. Although the writer gave his permission for the text to be translated into Hebrew – s/he insisted that the person entrusted with the task be a “devout Christian.” The Synagogue’s President has put all the correspondence aside, being careful not to throw it out, believing it his responsibility to act respectfully towards all religions. Keeping the letters will allow him to engage in a dialogue with anyone who might show up and wish to discuss the contents. In the most recent episode, two men dressed as Orthodox Jews but wearing neither beards nor pe’ot, attended the shabbat service and began shouting “‘Messiah! Pray to the Messiah!’” The President stated in response: “‘Of course, what they shouted was that the messiah is different in a billion ways from our messiah … This is a development we’re not familiar with, and we can only hope that people of other religions will respect us and not interrupt our prayers in such a way. More than that there’s nothing to do.’”

Christian Zionism
Uvda, January 27; Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2012
According to the Jerusalem Post (February 10), “The Zionist Federation of the UK reported a record attendance at its annual lobby of Parliament with 300 turning up to make the case for Israel. Organized with the Christian Friends of Israel, the group was made up of Jews and Christians from across the country. Participants heard from a range of parliamentarians from all parties who are supportive of Israel … The ZF said the general message from the MPs who spoke was that Israel was not without strong support in Parliament, but more needed to be done to galvanize support. There were also calls for grassroots activists to do their bit and ensure that MPs were informed on relevant issues. Following the meeting, participants met with around 100 MPs and their officials to raise their concerns about Israel.”

Summarizing her parliamentary and other achievements in 2011, MK Leah Shemtov (Israel Beitenu) noted that she had “she visited several hospitals and helped them receive donations from Christian Zionist evangelical organizations” (Uvda, January 27).

Christian Sites/Tourism
Jerusalem Report, January 15, 2012
This lengthy article featured the Gospel Trail.

Christians in Israel
Jerusalem Post, February 8; Haaretz, February 8, 2012
According to these reports, “A Jewish-Arab bilingual school and a Christian monastery in Jerusalem were defaced with graffiti on Tuesday in suspected ‘price tag’ attacks by Jewish extremists. ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘Kahane was right’ were scrawled in Hebrew on a wall outside the bilingual school. ‘Death to Christians’ was written on the walls of the Greek monastery, an 11th-century fortress-like holy site in a valley overlooked by Israel’s parliament. The tires of two cars outside the monastery were punctured. Jerusalem police are investigating both incidents, and are still unsure whether they are connected. The bilingual school is a symbol of coexistence in Jerusalem. Half the students are Jews and half are Arab, and they study together in both languages … Attacks on Christian shrines in Jerusalem are rare … ‘I am a priest and I forgive,’ said Father Claudio of the monastery, which is administered by the Greek Orthodox church” (Haaretz, February 8). “Two cars and a stone fence at the Valley of the Cross Monastery, below the Israel Museum, were covered with anti-Christian graffiti, and the cars’ tires were slashed. The vandals wrote ‘Jesus drop dead,’ ‘Death to Christians’ and ‘Kahane was right.’ They called themselves ‘The Maccabees of Migron’ and left the words ‘price tag’ … Sister Thekla said it was the first time in recent memory that the monastery had been vandalized, but that extremists sometimes threw stones at the entrance. The graffiti was removed by the municipality by 9 a.m.” (Jerusalem Post, February 8).

Mabat Nehariyah, January 26; Uvda, January 27; HaModia, February 7; Zman HaDarom – Ashdod, February 10, 2012
The first two of these pieces (Mabat Nehariya, January 26; Uvda, January 27) reported the menorah-decorated seal recently discovered close to Acre (see previous Review).

The second two (HaModia, February 7; Zman HaDarom – Ashdod, February 10) reported on the discovery of an archaeological site at Givat Yona in Ashdod which “confirms the existence of life in the place during the period of the prophets.” The findings include the base of a large fortress built during the first Temple period, the numerous traditions associating the site with Jonah corroborating the city’s existence during that period: “In the estimation of the excavation director, Dmitri Egorov, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, these walls constituted the base of a large building from the First Temple period, the time when Jonah the prophet was active, who lived in the eighth century BCE and was famous for having been swallowed by a fish after he refused to ‘go to Nineveh … and proclaim against it’ (Jon. 1:2) … According to Sa’ar Ganor, the Ashkelon District Archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, ‘Giv’at Yonah, which rises about 50m. above sea level, is the highest hill in Ashdod, whence one can look out to sea, to Tel Mor – located in the Nahal Lachish estuary which was probably an ancient anchorage, and to Tel Ashdod. Due to its strategic location, it is not surprising to find there remains of a fortress that overlooked the region in the First Temple period.’ Ganor added: ‘There are two possibilities regarding who inhabited the fortress at that time: one possibility is that it was controlled by the Assyrians who were the regional rulers in the Iron Age. Another possibility is that Josiah, king of Judah, occupied the fort at the time, who we know conquered territory from the Assyrians and controlled Ashdod-Yam in the seventh century BCE.’”

Book Review
Haaretz, February 8, 2012
Finding herself in a book shop without any tour guides to Jerusalem for children, Tamar HaYardeni set out to write one herself. In reviewing the result, Orit Hirt-Ramon noted that the list of 54 sites in this guide “do not include, for example, the Holy Sepulcher, the church marking Yeshu’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, or the Via Dolorosa – the route along which thousands of Christians walk every week in Yeshu’s footsteps, from the place of his trial to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (in 2010, around 2.4 millions Christian tourists visited Jerusalem). A deeper glance at the chapters themselves also reveals that the chapter dealing with the Mount of Olives makes no mention whatsoever of the Christian sites there – the Church of the Ascension, Dominus Flavius, and Gethsemane – or the Christian and Muslim traditions related to the Mount … I thought that the chapter devoted to Ein Karem would perhaps present the Christian links with Jerusalem, because most of the sites in this picturesque neighborhood are connected with Christian tradition. But here too: the illustration was of the Russian Church and the Church of the Visitation – but the text only contained a reference to them in a column entitled ‘Did you know?’, which states that according to Christian tradition, Ein Karem is where John the Baptist was born. Not a word about the Christian presence and association to the site … Just as you can’t imagine a guide book to Paris not including an entry on the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower … so a basic guide book to Jerusalem has to include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Muslim sites on the Temple Mount. It seems, therefore, that the book before us is not a guide book to sites for the use of children and their parents but a book whose purpose is to ‘reeducate’ them, perhaps as part of the trend initiated by the Ministry of Education to reinforce Jewish and Zionist values within the education system.”