April 25 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – April 25, 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 9 articles on the following subjects:

Attitudes towards Christianity
Anti-missionary activities
Christians sites

This week’s review included reports about Chabad’s celebration of the “Last Supper.”

Attitudes to Christianity

Haaretz, April 20 (Hebrew and English editions), 2012

Under the headlines “The day Chabad came to the Last Supper” and “Yeshu’s Last Supper tabled on Chabad’s agenda,” this article (printed in the Hebrew and English editions of Haaretz) reported that “A prominent Chabad figure has been accused by participants in an ultra-Orthodox online forum of adopting Christian symbols to describe a Jewish event, following an article he wrote in an official Chabad publication. Chabad spokesman Rabbi Menachem Brod sparked a lively debate in the Haredi forum ‘Stop, Thinking Here,’ when he referred to bread and wine as allegories for flesh and blood. The article, in last week’s Talk of the Week, the Chabad Youth Organization’s weekly newspaper, dealt with the Hasidic ‘Messiah Feast,’ eaten on the last day of Passover. The feast was originally introduced by the founder of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer, also known as Baal Shem Tov, to express the yearning and anticipation for the messiah. The feast includes matza, and the Chabad custom is also to drink four glasses of wine at the meal, as is done in the Passover seder.

Brod concluded his essay by writing, ‘Let us then draw strength from the faith in the coming of redemption and the anticipation of it. We will eat on the seventh of Passover the “Messiah Feast,” intended to infuse the faith in the messiah’s coming into our blood and flesh, like a meal that becomes our blood and flesh. And may we celebrate the last Passover holiday with the messiah in the Third Temple.’ The idea of bread (or in this case matza ) and wine becoming flesh and blood is typically thought of as Christian, and they are symbols used often in Christian ceremonies. In addition, bread and wine are central symbols from the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus shared with his apostles prior to his crucifixion, according to the New Testament … Frequent use is made in symbols of wine and bread in Christian masses and ceremonies. Thus some readers saw Brod’s article as a nod to the Christian world of references. One, who calls himself Ben Zion Cahana, wrote, ‘If we’re dealing with ignorance and accidentally similar phrasing, so be it. But if [the author] was aware and ignored this similarity, then it’s complete idiocy.’ Later he retracted the word ‘ignorance.’ Brod and other Chabad figures vehemently rejected the allegations, saying the claims might be proof of the critics’ own tendencies. Brod told Haaretz these comments expressed ‘wild associations that say more about the forum’s participants, who are apparently immersed in Christian ideology. I, happily, don’t have such associations.’ Brod added that the idea that spiritual values enter our body by means of food is ‘an authentic Jewish idea, reflected in eating the sacrificial animals’ flesh in the Temple era, eating the Sabbath and holiday meals, etc.’”

Anti-missionary Activities

Yediot Haifa, April 20; Yediot HaEmek – Afula, April 20, 2012

An article in Yediot HaEmek – Afula (April 20) reported that the Mayor of Upper Nazareth has demanded that billboards with such texts – in Russian – as “Love is returning to our families,” “All the mistakes I’ve made God has corrected,” Young people need God” be removed, claiming that they are missionary propaganda. “The posters also contained a phone number, residents being invited to call and receive a free book, without noting which specific book.” The company responsible for putting up the billboards stated that “whoever calls the company receives a book via a person whom delivers it to his home – a book with stories about people who have survived calamities through God’s help. The person who comes will also give personal counsel to whomever asks for it regarding crisis resolution, out of a sense of vocation and not in exchange for any financial recompense … Alex, from osp.mobi, stated: ‘It’s not missionary material. We’re absolutely not Christians but Messianic Jews. We believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of Israel. Religious Jews living here might not like our faith, but we also have the right to believe what we wish. Through advertizing we want to help people in distress. We living in a democratic state, and we have the right of speech and religion. This is an infringement of democracy. We will not be silent and we will advertize in other ways.’”

A piece in Yediot Haifa on the same day (April 20) noted that “Missionaries exploited the Passover holiday to engage in missionary activity throughout the city [Haifa]. The hippies hung out in center of the Carmel, the zoo, and the beach were exposed to a large amount of missionary literature, including comics, propaganda leaflets, and illustrated flyers lauding Yeshu and presenting him as the messiah. In the centre of the Carmel the activists distributed Jews for Yeshu flyers, offering the public at large a gift of a book explaining why Yeshu is the messiah. One of the flyers contains a picture of a broken heart and a detailed explanation, according to which a heart broken cannot be fixed by a doctor or by drugs or alcohol or even religion – only Yeshu can take care of it: ‘Only Yeshu can mend your heart.’ The flyers also offer heart to heart talks, inviting people to call the number given. They also include an email address and a Jews for Yeshu website. On the beach they also distributed flyers which presented Yeshu as the scapegoat. The flyers state that if you have ever felt yourself a scapegoat, you are not the only one – someone takes your guilt in your place, and that’s Yeshu.” The flyers, it claimed, are brightly colored and appear innocent, the missionary material only occurring on the last page. Many residents were up in arms, R. Witzman, for example, asserting that “the dissemination of material which presents Yeshu as the messiah and God’s agent should be prohibited because Yeshu was in fact a deceiver and mistaken.”

Christian sites 

Haaretz, April 17, 20 (Hebrew and English editions), 2012

Under the headline “Next warden at Megiddo to be tourism expert,” Haaretz (April 20) noted that “A plan to relocate the Megiddo prison and build in its stead a tourist site featuring the remains of the world’s most ancient Christian church is moving one step closer to fruition. An international tender is expected to be published in coming days, in an attempt to find an investor that will construct and manage the site. The price tag is an estimated NIS 26 million. The investor who is chosen will enter a partnership with the Megiddo Development Economic Company, which has been tasked with the construction and management of the site. Several U.S. and Korean companies have reportedly expressed interest in the tender. Bids must be submitted by June 5. As already reported in Haaretz, the prison would be moved two kilometers to the west. Project manager Gad Yaakov said that half a million visitors are expected to tour the site in the first year, with a moderate rise in the number of yearly visitors expected in following years. The church remains were unearthed four years ago, during prison renovations. The excavations revealed a mosaic floor, with three inscriptions. The one to the west of the mosaic reads, ‘The god-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial.’ The inscription and other findings, such as coins, are believed to date from the third century. The findings suggest that the Roman army that was positioned at the site was involved in Christian community rituals even before the institutionalization of the Christian church … The site is believed to be part of an ancient Jewish village named Kfar Othnay, mentioned in ancient sources. Nearby the Romans constructed the headquarters of the sixth legion and a city named Maximianopolis … The site will be called ‘Megiddo, the gate to the north.’ It will include the Mosaic of the ancient prayer house, an archaeological garden, a restaurant, a multi-media presentation, a museum, a souvenir shop and the Ramat Menashe biosphere visitor center. Yaakov said that ‘the location of the site, on the road to the north, and the site’s uniqueness as a major spiritual revelation for all Christians visiting Israel, will transform the site to a central target for tourists in Israel.’ He added that the site will be ‘part of a master plan for the whole area that will include an industrial zone run by Jewish and Arab councils, a Jewish National Fund Park in the Keini stream, and more.’”

In response to objections that the Israel Antiquities Authority’s projects around the city of David reflect a political agenda, Yuval Baruch noted in the same paper (April 17) that “in the middle of the nineteenth century Christian institutions began to build structure in the Old City and its surroundings which have become part of the landscape of modern Jerusalem and its architectural features. Frequently, the building was preceded by archaeological excavations, sometimes even as a prerequisite for gaining building approval, and often with the intention of revealing and displaying the artifacts.” These include the Russian Orthodox Church named after Alexander Nevsky, the Church of the Redeemer, and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.

The In Jerusalem section of the Jerusalem Post (April 12) ran a lengthy feature on “Underground Jerusalem” in which its author, Yadin Roman from Eretz Magazine, also referred to the pool of Siloam: “The New Testament also tells of the sanctity of the Siloam’s water. John relates that a blind man’s vision was restored after he followed Jesus’s instructions to rub his eyes with mud and then wash his face in the Siloam Pool. The New Testament emphasizes the symbolic significance of Jesus’s healing miracles: ‘Faith cured you,’ Jesus told the blind man at Bethsaida, meaning that his faith enabled him not only to heal [sic], but also to see clearly.” Noting that “Some connect these miracles – the healing of the blind and the lame – with David’s conquest of Jerusalem [cf. 2 Sam. 5:6-7] … researchers have pondered the meaning of the blind and the lame in these verses, wondering if it refers to an ancient magical ritual or an ancient curse that clung to David and the children of Israel and had to be removed. Since the New Testament relates that Jesus is a descendant of the Davidic dynasty, it is tempting to relate David’s mysterious interaction with the blind and the lame to Jesus’ healing of the blind and lame individuals, perhaps in order to lift the ancient curse on the House of David.”


HaModia, April 20, 2012

This article looked at various current expressions of anti-Semitism, including a Hungarian parliamentarian’s “recycling of a blood libel which occurred 130 years ago,” the party he represents standing on a blatantly anti-Semitic platform – and Gunter Grass’s recent anti-Israel poem.