June 27 – 2012

Caspari Center Media Review – June 27, 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:

Christians in Israel
Christian tourism
Jewish-Christian relations

This week’s review included a report on a new Christian internet tourism venture.

Christians in Israel

Jerusalem Post, June 22; Haaretz, June 20, 2012

In the continuing saga of the Israel-Vatican accord which the PA fears may “indirectly recognize East Jerusalem annexation,” this piece noted that “A Palestinian delegation is expected to travel to Vatican City in the next few weeks to discuss an economic accord under negotiation between the Vatican and Israel … ‘The Agreement in question concerns the life, activity and tax status of the Catholic Church in Israel,’ Vatican Under Secretary for Relations with States Ettore Balestrero said on Vatican radio’ … A PLO source said the statements were not enough, therefore a meeting between Palestinian and Vatican officials is necessary” (Haaretz, June 20).

The Jerusalem Post magazine (June 22) carried a lengthy interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas leader in Israel, who has returned to Israel after a faith experience which led him to the States. “His trip was not planned in advance, and he ‘didn’t know about it two weeks ago,’ he says. ‘I was having a conversation with my producer for Son of Hamas, because my wish is to shoot here in Israel. So our plan is to shoot in Jerusalem, and one of the goals on my part is to bring attention to the Israeli security necessities and to bring attention to the human drama that is happening because of all the conflict, and I think that the Son of Hamas movie is going to shed light on lots of facts that the world doesn’t know,’ he explains. ‘This is my dream’ … In his book, the Hamas member once known as the Green Prince – for the color of Islam and his position as the son of the terror group’s founder – paints a portrait of his family that is nuanced and sometimes sympathetic toward some of the greatest war criminals of this generation. Without whitewashing their evil, he humanizes men who would kill, and have killed, innocent civilians – not to make their crimes less horrific, but to bring his readers into a world that they would never otherwise understand. As he explains it, ‘whatever Hamas members are doing is their conviction. They don’t see themselves as terrorists. They have codes to fight for and they believe in those codes.’”

Christian Tourism

Kav Le-Moshav, June 14; Haaretz, June 22, 2012

The first of these articles (Kav KeMoshav, June 16) reported on the opening of the Gospel Trail.

The second (Haaretz, June 22) noted the establishment of “Travelujah” – a “website for a new wave of Christian pilgrims who want to ditch the tour-group scene”: “Travelujah is a content-oriented site focused exclusively on Christian tourism to the Holy Land. What sets the three-year-old site apart from other online destinations, according to [founder Elisa] Moed, is her decision to make it as interactive as possible, and her aim to create a ‘dynamic community’ of travelers who can get advice and tips not only from travel operators and experts, but from each other. This particular segment of tourists, according to Moed, is made up of extremely careful shoppers. ‘Coming to Israel on a faith-based journey is not an impulsive purchase. It is something people dream about for years and they want to plan their experience carefully,’ she says. A wiry, athletic mother of four, Moed lives with a foot in two worlds. After seven years in Ra’anana, she and her family are well-absorbed into mainstream Jewish suburban life in Israel. But she feels just as comfortable interacting with Christians, she says, easily speaking their language as she discusses how they ‘share blessings,’ ‘experience fellowship’ and ‘feel God’s spirit’ … Over the last several years, faith-based travel to destinations worldwide, including Israel, has grown significantly, she says. In 2004, Israel welcomed 440,000 Christian tourists, Moed says, and by 2011, 2.3 million Christians visited Israel, representing an annual growth rate of more than 26 percent. The Internet has also multiplied the number of Christians traveling independently to the Holy Land. And these independent travelers, says Moed, are her target audience for Travelujah. Users can use the site to book a full tour or several day-trips, and it has a reservations system for 36 Christian-run guesthouses across the country. Referral fees for these services, together with advertising, support the business. David Parsons, media director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, notes that until Travelujah came on the scene, the majority of Christian tourism sites catered to the Catholic and Orthodox market, with pictures of ornate churches and audio clips of Gregorian chants and hymns. ‘This wouldn’t sell to the Evangelical market, which has the greatest growth potential for tourism to Israel these days,’ Parsons says. ‘Elisa is doing a good job of presenting a site that welcomes Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelicals.’

Travelujah encourages its users to create blogs where visitors can share their experiences. During the Feast of Tabernacles celebrations, for example, pilgrims posted photos and reports to friends and family back home. ‘This,’ Moed says, ‘adds value to their visit and helps us spread the word and attract visitors for the next year’s celebration.’ ‘People are looking for something beyond the traditional pilgrimage,’ she adds, ‘so it really helps them when other pilgrims describe their trips and offer advice.’ David Nekrutman, executive director of the Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Cooperation, an Orthodox Jewish organization that promotes outreach to Christians, says the site’s most valuable contributions are its ‘insider’s view’ of what to expect from certain sites, and its social media aspects which offer suggestions for ‘outside-the-box’ activities – particularly those that include opportunities to meet Israelis.”

Jewish-Christian Relations

Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2012

According to this piece, “Two Christian groups are calling on the British government to boycott produce that stems from Israeli settlements, claiming it would promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Christian Aid and the Quakers are set to tell the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons on Tuesday that the government should implement a total ban of settlement produce by introducing legislation … Christian Aid’s advocacy officer for Israel and the Palestinian territory, William Bell, said that the settlements are illegal under international law, a major cause of poverty among Palestinians and an obstacle to peace … Bell said he does not support a total boycott on trade with Israel but claimed that banning settlement products is justified because ‘settlements are illegal and have a negative impact on the Palestinian economic development’ … Bell said that it is the role of governments to protect the consumer from purchasing goods from an illegal source, so the group is calling on the government to impose a ban. The Quakers said that they see it as a non-violent action to support efforts to build peace in the region … ‘The problem goes beyond the obvious effects on Palestinian livelihoods and damages prospects for peace,’ said Marisa Johnson, of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) that is managed by the Quakers. Jerusalem-based research organization NGO Monitor stated that EAPPI harbors an anti-Israel stance, in that it supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel as well as the right of return … The call has been strongly condemned by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), a London-based interfaith charity espousing constructive dialogue between Jews and Christians, who are urging MPs not to support the ban.”


Haaretz, June 21, 2012

In an interview with Haaretz (June 21), Stuart E. Eizenstat, a former U.S. Undersecretary of State, who served as the Clinton administration’s special representative on Holocaust-era issues, called on the EU “to encourage Croatia and Serbia to take responsibility for their roles in the Holocaust before granting them EU membership … He said [Croatian President Ivo] Josipovic must go beyond his apology, issued last February, for his country’s role in the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War. He called on him to commence with a restitution program and the formation of an independent commission of international scholars to examine the country’s wartime past … According to the Yad Vashem’s website, 30,000 of Croatia’s Jews died during the Holocaust – 80 percent of the country’s Jewish population. Croatia is expected to gain EU membership next year. Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009 and may be granted entry as early as 2014. Yad Vashem estimates that 14,500 Jews were exterminated in Serbia during the Holocaust. ‘This is a time to say, “Look, if you’re going to get into a democratic organization with rules of law, you have to demonstrate that the rule of law applies to you as well, and that you’re going to find ways to deal with your past,”’ said Eizenstat, America’s ambassador to the EU from 1993-1996, who accused the EU of not holding Central and Eastern European countries accountable. ‘It’s never been on the EU’s agenda,’ said the 69-year-old diplomat, a native of Atlanta, Georgia. ‘They need to take the lead, and they simply haven’t.’”


Jerusalem Report, June 6, 2012

Looking at the state of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Matthew Kalman noted that “Nearly 10 years have passed since the world learned of the discovery of a 1st century burial box bearing the words ‘James, son of Joseph and brother of Jesus’ [which] if authentic, would be the first physical artifacts ever found from the family of Jesus … The IAA refusal to hand back the artifacts means the case could drag on further.”