March 28 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – March 28, 2012

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

Messianic Jews
Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity
Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christians in Israel
Christian sites
Interfaith activities

This week’s review carried a report of the death of an eleven-year-old boy from a Messianic Jewish family in Carmiel.

Messianic Jews

Kokhav Nesher, March 16; Zohar HaTzafon, March 15, 2012

According to a report in Zohar HaTzafon (March 15), “Tragedy struck Rimon St. in Carmiel” this week with the death of the eleven-year-old son of a Messianic Jewish family. The boy lived with his mother and sister and was a special-needs student at Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. He collapsed with breathing problems on Shabbat, and was pronounced dead despite the efforts of paramedics to revive him. “The funeral will take place tomorrow in the municipal cemetery with the participation of around a hundred people, including dozens of representatives from the Messianic community in the city, to which the family belonged.” The sister’s school will provide counseling and any other services necessary, her class will talk about the tragic event, and its members have written letters expressing their condolences to her.

In another piece (Kokhav Nesher, March 16), a woman is said to have filed a charge against her husband “in which she asserts that his family belong to a Messianic sect. It should be noted that the husband himself has filed a charge over their two-year-old son. In her charge, the woman claims that, as a Jew, she is very afraid of the possibility that her young son will be given into the custody of her husband, whose parents and brothers belong to a Messianic sect whose members believe in Yeshu and utterly refuse to observe any Jewish customs, including celebration of the feasts … For his part, the husband claims that his wife threw the infant out of their apartment, has never looked after him properly, and is intending to raise the child to hate his father, not understanding the importance of a father in a child’s formative years.”

Attitudes towards Jesus and Christianity 

Globes, March 22, 2012

A column looking at events taking place “Around the globe: April 1-8” (Globes, March 22) noted that “This year, Passover and Easter occur on virtually the same date – not surprising in view of the fact of Yeshu’s Jewish origin and the fact that his last supper with his disciples was almost certainly the Seder night. Anyone abroad this week – especially if they’re in a Catholic country – should take a peek and experience some of the Easter events taking place – the events of Holy Week (Semana Santa). This terms denotes the week commemorating the week in which Yeshu entered Jerusalem according to Christian tradition, his crucifixion and resurrection.”

Anti-missionary Activities

Chadashot HaGalil, March 16; BeSheva Bnei Brak, March 8; BeSheva Tzafon, March 8; BeSheva Darom, March 8; HaMevaser, March 23, 2012

The “postal strike” story continues to run, this time covered in Chadashot (March 16), BeSheva Tzafon (March 8), BeSheva Tzafon (March 8), and BeSheva Bnei Brak (March 8).
According to a report in HaMevaser (March 23), Benjamin Kugler of the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim was arrested last week on suspicion of perpetrating a “price tag” offense against a top “missionary” by damaging his car and writing graffiti on the walls of a church in Jerusalem – “facts which have no foundation whatever,” the article alleges. Another Yad L’Achim activist, Benny Volken, was also questioned by police. The owner of the car is said to have been a “member in the Messianic Jewish cult who hangs around with suspicious types in ‘Makhon Gemila’ [a rehabilitation center] – which is not recognized by the authorities and apparently operates criminally in order to give benefits to induce people to convert (prohibited according to clause 174b of the Punishment Law).” Both men deny any involvement, Kugler being quoted as saying: “‘The background to the arrest derives from a basic lack of awareness on the part of the police about the nature of the organization I work for and a complete lack of knowledge about me personally, as well as a fundamental ignorance about the sects and the psychotic conditions which accompany them,’ R. Benjamin said. ‘The members of many sects in general and Messianic Jews in particular suffer from paranoia and have a tendency to think that they are being persecuted by Satanic forces. Systematically, and for financial reasons, the sect leaders brainwash their members to believe that Yad L’Achim is a terror organization. In the past, a pastor from Rishon L’Zion even composed a prayer in which Yad L’Achim was represented as the agent of Satan … In contrast to many missionaries, I’m not a criminal but a law-abiding citizen’ … In addition to the issue of incitement, the police also looked into what motivated Kugler, a righteous convert from France. ‘They were afraid that I was a psychopath holding a grudge against Christians and acting out of revenge – when precisely the opposite is true: these sectarian elements within the Messianic Jews have tried several times to plot against me personally – because of my conversion – by means of false complaints and the spreading of specious rumors.’”

Christian Zionism

Haaretz, March 25; Makor Rishon, March 23; Ma’ariv, March 20, 2012

A feature in the religious paper Makor Rishon (March 23) reported on the convening of unprecedented conference of Rabbis “announcing the transition from a time-honored tradition of cold-shouldering the Gentiles towards a different understanding of our attitude in the face of those Christians who regard the restoration to Zion as a realization of the prophetic vision.” The participants fell into two groups: those with daily contact with Christian Zionists in Judea and Samaria via various tourist avenues and a number of Rabbis to whom the first group sought to “demonstrate the importance of opening the door to these supporters of Israel. Welcome to the first rabbinic conference for consolidating an appropriate attitude towards Christian friends of Israel.” The sole difference between the two groups lies in the “extent of their familiarity with the intriguing phenomenon of Gentiles in contact with the Zionist endeavor, which these view as the climax of the realization of God’s covenant with His people and the source of light which must influence them.” In the opinion of Yoav Soreq, the article’s author, the sea change can be traced to a “mental leap from age to age” which enables Jews to recognize that, when the Jewish people are no longer threatened by assimilation but constitute an independent nation in their own land, Israel can find the wherewithal to fulfill her calling of being a light to the nations. The meeting concluded with the decision that it should be followed by further encounters to discuss halakhic issues and principles in need of determination.

Under the headline “Christians Called To Serve Jewish Settlers: Evangelicals Volunteer on West Bank Because the Bible Says So” (Haaretz, March 25), Nathan Jeffay noted that: “For years, Westerners have flocked to the Israeli-occupied West Bank to help Palestinians with their olive harvest, as part of left-wing activist groups like the International Solidarity Movement. Among other things, the activists seek to resist efforts by settlers to disrupt the Palestinians’ reaping. Now, the settlers have international harvest help of their own. The young Christians working in the Psagot Winery’s vineyards near Ramallah in mid-March were members of HaYovel. Last year, this Tennessee-based evangelical ministry started a large-scale operation to bring volunteers to tend and harvest settler grapes. They attach epic importance to their work. ‘When you see prophecy taking place, you have the option to do nothing or become a vessel to it,’ said volunteer pruner Blake Smith, a 20-year-old farmer from Virginia. HaYovel preaches the old-school ideology of Religious Zionist settlers with one innovation: a sacred role for Christians. The group’s members believe that the establishment of the State of Israel, its subsequent conquering of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and specifically the flourishing of agriculture in the occupied areas are fulfillments of biblical prophecies. Like many settlers, HaYovel cites a prophecy by Jeremiah that refers to the Samaria region of the West Bank: ‘Again you shall plant vines on the mountains of Samaria.’ And like them, HaYovel believes that the settlement movement will help to bring the Messiah to Jerusalem – the only difference being that the volunteers anticipate a second coming. But these Christians also focus on a prophecy rarely cited by settlers, who tend to place ideological value on using only avoda ivrit, or ‘Hebrew labor,’ whenever possible. ‘And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vine-dressers,’ Isaiah prophesized to the Israelites. Basing itself on this verse, HaYovel — which takes its name from the Bible’s twice-a-century agricultural jubilee – has made reverence of settlers into a central religious virtue … The volunteers are a mix of people who, like Smith, had a mainstream Christian upbringing and were drawn to HaYovel out of curiosity; people from families that gave up the organized church to develop their own brand of religion, one they see as closer to Judaism, and some people who are emerging from personal crises.”

Ma’ariv (March 20) conducted an interview with David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI).


Christians in Israel

Haaretz, March 26; Yerushalayim Shelanu, February 29; Chadashot Caesarea, March 9; Yediot Tel Aviv, March 23, 2012

Under the headline “Reaching the holy grail of tolerance, by ‘manipulation of facts,’” Amira Hass in Haaretz (March 26) disputed a recent claim by Michael Oren, Israel’s envoy to the United States that Israel is a good place for Christian communities: “Oren’s piece did, in fact, anger these Christian Palestinians. Eighty prominent Christian Palestinians signed a letter sent to the ambassador last week in response to his article, accusing the ambassador of manipulating the facts. ‘Your attempt to blame the difficult reality that Palestinian Christians face on Palestinian Muslims is a shameful manipulation of the facts intended to mask the damage that Israel has done to our community,’ they said in the letter. ‘The exaggerated growth of the Christian population in Israel that Mr. Oren claims is due primarily to the immigration of Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from the Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union.’ One of the letter’s signatories is Rifat Qassis, the coordinator of Kairos Palestine, an umbrella organization of Palestinian Christians of various denominations that was founded in 2009 to explain, primarily to fellow Christians, what Israel’s occupation is all about. Speaking in measured tones, Qassis, who lives in the West Bank town of Beit Sahur, told me: ‘Oren is trying to reap propaganda dividends from what is occurring in the Arab world, whereas the context in which we Christian Palestinians live is completely different. There are problems in this region, and I don’t want to downplay them, but Oren is trying to erase the occupation as the main cause of Palestinian suffering.’ In 2006, Qassis conducted a survey of Christians who live in the occupied Palestinian territories, and, he says, the vast majority said their desire to emigrate was linked to the lack of security and stability they feel under Israeli rule. Less than 1 percent spoke about being afraid of Muslims. Kairos Palestine also sent a letter to The Wall Street Journal that blamed Israeli policy for driving away Christians, but it was not published. ‘In the case of Bethlehem, for instance, it is in fact the rampant construction of Israeli settlements, the chokehold imposed by the separation wall and the Israeli government’s confiscation of Palestinian land that has driven many Christians to leave,’ the letter states. ‘At present, a mere 13 percent of Bethlehem-area land is left to its Palestinian inhabitants.’ The letter also states that Oren’s article ‘reveals a disturbing conception of democracy itself’ by claiming that Israel is acting to promote the prosperity of Christians who live under its rule. ‘Oren implies the Israeli state’s lack of interest in ensuring the same [prosperity] for Muslims. Any democratic state that bothered to implement its own ideals – and, moreover, any ambassador to such a state – would be ashamed of such an evidently distorted attitude toward its inhabitants and their rights,’ the Palestinian Christians write. They also expressed amazement at Oren’s ‘ludicrous boast’ that Israel guarantees free access to all Christian holy sites, writing that ‘one of occupation’s chief outrages is the fact that anyone would need a permit to visit the city to begin with: restricted freedom of movement is among the fundamental injustices constricting our lives.’” [For Oren’s original article, see:]

A report in Yediot Tel Aviv (March 23) noted that Muslim parents of students at Tabeetha Scottish School in Jaffa, founded by the Church of Scotland in 1863, are complaining that the school only celebrates Jewish and Christian holy days, to the exclusion of Muslim festivals.

According to Chadashot Caesarea (March 9), Amir and Kinneret Janach, who created a mosaic presented by the Chief Rabbi to the Pope as a gift from the State of Israel were invited to the Vatican to meet Benedict XVI in person.

A piece in Yerushalayim Shelanu (February 29) noted the presence and history of a Romanian church built between 1935 and 1938 right next to the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, home to ten monks and nuns.

Christian Sites 

Teva HaDvarim, March 13; Eastern Mediterranean Tourism, March 13, 2012

Eastern Mediterranean Tourism (March 13) reported on the “unveiling” of the Jesus Trail, while Teva HaDvarim (March 13) reviewed how the past and present interlink via the “Jesus Boat.”

Interfaith Activities

Jerusalem Post, March 21, 26, 2012

According to the first of these articles, “Muslim, Jewish and Christian clerics gathered on Monday to promote cooperation among spiritual leaders regarding reinforcing the importance of environmental protection among their individual communities. ‘Religious leaders and institutions have the potential to mobilize billions of followers in the global struggle to curb climate change and achieve sustainable development,’ said Rabbi Yonathan Neril, founder and director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. The Interfaith Climate and Energy Conference, held in Jerusalem, was co-organized by The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a German political think tank. In addition to Neril, some prominent participants in the panel discussions included Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III; Archbishop of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and the Galilee Dr. Elias Chacour; Sheik Muhammed Amara, imam of Zalafa; and Rabbi Ronen Lubitch, rabbi of Nir Etzion and lecturer at Sha’anan Religious Teachers College and at Hebrew University. Video casts from other world leaders complemented the live addresses, including the Dalai Lama; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church; Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger; Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The conference occurred 90 days prior to the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. According to Neril, the religious community is crucial with regards to furthering environmental protection as ‘the degradation of the natural world’ is equivalent to a spiritual crisis and causes a sense of imbalance for the globe’s billions of people … In Eastern Orthodox tradition, Theophilos explained, there is likewise a ‘moral responsibility’ to ensure that all humans are able to enjoy the home they share on earth, and Christianity in general has a profound understanding of environment and creation. When God took flesh as Jesus Christ according to Christianity, God demonstrated that ‘creaturely life’ is holy and that a pilgrimage toward a union with him begins in this life, on this Earth, Theophilos said. The baptism that occurred in the waters of the Jordan River only testifies to this idea of the importance of creation and nature, he added. ‘The entire liturgical tradition of the Church rings with the imagery of creation,’ Theophilos said. ‘The care of the environment begins with our own purification and stillness.’ Lubitch, speaking on behalf of Jewish ideals, supported this notion, adding that ‘viewing the world as a creation of God obligates us as humans to preserve creation. By doing so one realizes God’s image.’”

The second noted the celebration this month of the seventieth anniversary of the Council of Christians and Jews, “the oldest national interfaith organization in the UK. “CCJ’s 70th birthday reminds us of the need for solidarity, friendship and camaraderie between Jewish and Christian communities. The nature and quality of our relationships with other faiths will be crucial to our future. On CCJ’s anniversary, let us be inspired by the teaching in Pirkei Avot: ‘Who is great? One who turns an enemy into a friend.’”


Globes, March 21, 2012

In the wake of the murder of four Jews in Toulouse, Mati Golan looked at the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. Noting that while murder is an integral part of anti-Semitism the phenomenon is customarily composed of “ordinary” everyday elements, Golan traced the source of this fact, concluding that the reason lies in the fact that “the roots of anti-Semitism do not lie in Israel, the occupation, or Gaza. They lie far in the historical past, in the period of the Roman empire and Yeshu’s execution. We’re talking of masses of Christians who, together with their mother milk imbibe the libel that the Jews killed Yeshu and thus are deserving of hatred and, on occasion, even death. The ironic tragedy of the story is that none of these facts are true. Was it our fathers who killed Yeshu? Even according to the Christian claim, the Jews delivered Yeshu into the hands of the Romans. The Romans could have killed him or let him live. They chose to crucify him. In other words, those who killed Yeshu were ‘Christians’ … If it were up to me, I would concentrate all my efforts on a campaign around the slogan: ‘We didn’t kill Yeshu – you Christians did.’ If we succeed in getting that through to the poisoned minds of lots of Christians all the rest will be much easier.”