May 16 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – May 16, 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 20 articles on the following subjects:

Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christian sites
Jewish-Christian relations

This week’s review featured attitudes to Christianity and Jewish-Christian relations.

Anti-missionary Activities
Mishpacha, May 8; Merkaz HaInyanim – HaTzafon, May 10; HaEdah, May 9; Yediot Haifa, May 11; Makor Rishon, May 11; Sha’a Tova, May 10, 2012
Anti-missionary activities continue unabated in Israel, Yediot Haifa (May 11), Mishpacha (May 8), Merkaz HaInyanim (May 7), and HeEdah (May 9) all covering the recent “campaign” in the north of the country.

A piece in Sha’ah Tova (May 10) reported that a tour guide has been “convinced to leave the mission and move his tours to Bnei Brak, the bastion of Ultra-Orthodoxy.” Yad L’Achim received complaints that the guide was “bringing the participants into direct contact with missionary congregations” in Tel Aviv “in order to see the Messianic-missionary community and its method of operation from close up.” Yad L’Achim claim to have shown him the error of his ways.

Gil Beringer in Makor Rishon (May 11) gave the platform to a variety of people to air their views regarding “Christian missionary” activity and the proposed amendment to the anti-missionary law – including the suggestion that the giving of “spiritual favors” as well as “material benefits” to induce someone to convert be prohibited by law. The article notes at the end that “Every week another suggestion reaching us through Facebook will be printed. You are invited to float problems and think of good, relevant solutions. Preference will be given to well-reasoned, suggestions with modest budgets. Tzedek [the name of the column] will follow the proposals promoted by MKs.”

Christian Zionism
Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2012
The Jerusalem Post (May 10) ran the story of Umar Mulinde, a Ugandan pastor who was the object of a Muslim terror attack in Kampala and is now receiving treatment for his burns in Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer: “Mulinde was born in Uganda in 1973 to a devout Muslim family comprising many children and wives. His maternal grandfather is an imam; his father is a well-known Islamic leader. Today, however, Mulinde is an Evangelical Christian pastor who leads a Kampala church of more than 1,000 believers. On Christmas night 2011, a terrorist made his way through the holiday crowds, and while shouting “Allahu Akbar!’ three times, threw acid at Mulinde’s face, chest and arm. The young pastor turned his head just in time to avoid being hit directly in the face; his right side bore the brunt of the injury. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was soon evident that the medical treatment in Uganda for such severe burns was inadequate. He called friends in Israel, and they quickly transported him to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, where we are meeting him. We wonder if the attack resulted from his conversion to Christianity – a capital crime according to Islamic Shari’a law. So we ask him how and why he became a Christian. ‘Even though Uganda’s population is 80 percent Christian,’ he explains, ‘it was declared a Muslim country under Idi Amin, and the Muslims were organized and motivated. They always found ways to disprove Christianity’s claims by using passages from the Koran. But a pastor named Deogratias decided that if he wanted to convince Muslims about the truth of Christianity, he needed to study Arabic and be familiar with the Koran.’ Deogratias convinced Mulinde that Christianity was true by explaining passages from the Koran that mentioned Jesus, and he taught Mulinde about the New Testament … He recounts for us how his attitude toward Israel changed. ‘When I was a Muslim, I hated Israel,’ he says. ‘Don’t know why. Everybody was like that. I knew nothing about Israel – not even where it was on the map. But after I became a Christian, I loved reading the Bible – both the Old and the New Testaments – and I saw phrases like “the God of Israel” and “the people of Israel” repeated continually in the Scriptures. What did that mean?’ In Kampala, he met a group of devout Christian women who prayed for Israel every day, which also raised questions in his mind. So in 2008, he made his first visit to Israel, arriving through Egypt via the Taba crossing.”

Christians in Israel
Yediot Ahronot, May 14, 2012
According to a piece in Yediot Ahronot (May 14), the Templers are returning to Israel – in the form of 30 offspring of the community, invited by the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, the meeting taking place in the building which had originally served as the community’s main building. The community vanished from sight with the outbreak of the Second World War, when its members were expelled by the British army.

Christian Sites
BeShvil HaAretz, May 3, 2012
This article, which looked at the National Park at Hamat Tiverya, noted the presence of the church.

Jewish-Christian Relations
Ramat HaNegev, April 30; Jerusalem Post, May 10, 14Makor Rishon, May 11, 2012
Outstanding students from Ramat haNegev were recently hosted by a delegation of German-Christian supporters of Israel, part of a reciprocal visit (Ramat HaNegev, April 30).

The Jerusalem Post (May 10) ran last week’s story of the “IEC pole at Gethsemane [which] angers monks.”

The same paper also reported that “Renowned artist Avner Moriah will present the pope with his illustrated version of Genesis, the first book of the Torah, at the Vatican this Wednesday. The work, which juxtaposes the Hebrew text of the Bible with the artist’s interpretative drawings, took Moriah two years to complete, and is the first stage of his larger project to illustrate the entire Torah – the Five Books of Moses – with his unique form of visual commentary … The book will be included in the Vatican Library’s distinguished holdings section.”

Shlomo Riskin contributed a lengthy opinion piece to the religious Makor Rishon (May 11), calling for a re-reading of Joseph Dov Soloveitchik’s 1964 paper entitled “Confrontation” in light of “the changes which have occurred in the Christian world and the Israel’s having become an unambiguous historical and theological fact.” The article was translated from the English, but no published source is given. In addition to looking at the “Evangelicals,” Riskin also discusses whether it is permissible to teach Torah to Gentiles. He concludes with some “Red lines and prerequisites: These are the three things which R. Soloveitchik opposed and which are my red lines in dialoguing with Christians: 1) We will never dialogue with Christians who represent missionary movements or whose express or hidden purpose is to convert Jews; 2) We will never argue with Christians about halakhot [laws], customs, and dogmas. To the extent that they wish to understand, we will try to share our theological world with them, but both they and we need to understand that every religious tradition has religious expressions which lie beyond logical discourse and cannot be argued about; 3) We will never enter into a dialogue in which we are expected to compromise our religious principles or beliefs just so that Christians can feel more comfortable.”

Zman Darom, May 11, 2012
This lengthy article featured the formerly Christian singer Nikki Brown, who “arrived in Israel as a tourist, got involved in ‘A Star is Born’ [the Israeli equivalent of ‘American Idol’], converted, received an ID, and settled in Ashkelon as an observant Jewess.

Chadashodati, May 4 (x 2); Jerusalem Post, May 11; Haaretz, May 9, 11, 2112
Two articles in Chadashodati (May 4) reported the recent finds of a seal bearing the name “Matanyahu” in closest building discovered to the Temple.

Another find was reported in Haaretz (May 9), this time of “a rare discovery which sheds light on building projects during the Byzantine period, around the sixth century CE.” – “a stone column which apparently was destined for an early opulent church.” According to the Jerusalem Post (May 11), “There were no other finds that could be used to date the column but Evgeny Kagan of the Antiquities Authority it is from the Byzantine era based on the type of stone and the methods used by the stonemasons. Called mizzi ahmar, Arabic for red rock, it is a red limestone that is considered difficult to mine and dress and that could be Procopius’ ‘flames of fire’ … In ‘The Buildings of Justinian,’ the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea wrote at length about the churches the emperor built in the 6th century. He related a miracle that occurred during the construction of the Nea Church, in what is now the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City: ‘God revealed a natural supply of stone perfectly suited to this purpose in the nearby hills, one which had either lain there in concealment previously, or was created at that moment,’ he wrote, adding, ‘So the church is supported on all sides by a number of huge columns from that place, which in color resemble flames of fire … exceptionally large and probably second to no columns in the whole world’ … Nearby signs of columns chiseled from the stone were found. [Prof. Yoram] Tzafrir believes they were used in the construction of a impressive church, though not necessarily the Nea Ekklesia of Theotokos described by Procopius. One possibility he mentions is the church in the Valley of the Cross. The column in Rehavia is not the only one in Jerusalem found attached to the stone it was being hewn from. The largest and most famous is known as the finger of Og, King of Bashan, in the church near the Russian Compound in central Jerusalem. It is 12 meters high and weighs 60 tons. There had been another, smaller column in the area of today’s Mahane Yehuda market, but it is covered by buildings.”

Finally, “The Antiquities Authority, backed by State Attorney Moshe Lador, has launched a desperate rearguard action to reverse its humiliating defeat in a seven-year trial that ended with the acquittal of an Israeli collector accused of faking the burial box of the brother of Jesus and an inscribed stone tablet that may have hung on the wall of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The latest twist came during a routine sentencing hearing at the Jerusalem District Court last Tuesday, two months after the stunning collapse of the high-profile prosecution. Dan Bahat revealed that the Antiquities Authority was determined not to return dozens of items, including the burial box and the stone tablet to their owner, despite his acquittal on all the relevant charges. Bahat compared it to returning drugs to a dealer acquitted on a technicality. Oded Golan, 60, was cleared in March on 41 counts of forgery, fraud and other serious crimes related to what antiquities officials and police had described as a worldwide, multi-million-dollar network designed to falsify history and dupe museums and collectors into buying worthless fakes. Golan was convicted on three minor counts of handling goods suspected of being stolen and dealing in antiquities without a license. The case attracted worldwide attention because of a stone burial box, or ossuary, inscribed with the Aramaic legend “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” (Jerusalem Post, May 13).

Book Review
Jerusalem Report, May 6, 2012
Ralph Amelan reviewed The Jewish Annotated New Testament in the Jerusalem Report (May 6): “Their aims are ecumenical rather than contentious. ‘Ideally, it will serve to increase our knowledge or both our common histories, and the reasons why we came to separate,’ state editors Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Marc Zvi Brettler, a Biblical Studies professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, in their preface. Some reasons are all too clear. ‘You are from your father the devil,’ the Gospel of John has Jesus say of the Jews. The commentator describes politely this rhetoric as ‘difficult,’ though its meaning and intention are plain. But the editors have a point. The New Testament is a fascinating source of information about Jewish history of the period, and gives a snapshot of a vital and vigorous pre-Talmudic Judaism, under pressure from both internal dissension and external Roman rule … As a matter of course, we should know about and understand the core beliefs of a religion not so far removed from our own, and here we can do so in a friendly and intelligent setting. And there is a beauty in the texts which makes one understand why so many people have adopted them as their core expression of faith … But bad marks to the publishers for the appallingly small typeface used for the essays. To paraphrase the Gospel of Matthew, it is easier for a camel and a rich man to enter the eye of a needle – together – than for print this size to enter the eye of the reader.”