August 24 – 2012

During the week covered by this review, we received 6 articles on the following subjects:


Messianic Jews
Christian Zionism


Messianic Jews

Yediot Yerushalayim, August 17, 2012

“After a long legal struggle, Messianic Jew, David Ram (20), who is from Jerusalem, has succeeded in fulfilling his dream and was drafted into the IDF.” So begins the article, which features a large picture of Ram in his army uniform. The article tells Ram’s story, how his father discovered Messianic Judaism and decided to raise his children according to this faith. Ram’s family came to Israel from the Czech Republic when he was five. He studied at the Anglican School in Jerusalem, and being surrounded by many non-Israelis, he became aware the scope of the anti-Israel attitude. But when Ram wanted to be drafted to the army, the Ministry of Interior would not grant him citizenship because of his beliefs. “Ram did not give up and commenced a legal battle which included an appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice – and he won. Now, after being granted permanent residency, and after being officially considered and Israeli, he has fulfilled the dream he was fighting for.” Six months ago, Ram joined the armored core, and he says his friends in the army accept him in an “amazing” way, regardless of their religious differences. “I am very glad God has directed me to this place,” says Ram. Now his only hope is that his 17 year old brother will not face the same challenges he did as he prepares to join the army.


Christian Zionism

Markor Rishon, August 17, 2012

This six page article begins by asking why Evangelical Christians are so “on fire” for Israel, and if this is something to be happy about or afraid of. On August 3rd, a Facebook page that said “share if you love Israel” was created by the American Evangelical organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI). According to the article, within two hours, the page had been shared 6000 times and had received 13,000 “likes” on Facebook. The big question, for the writer, is why: “As Jews and as Israelis who are used to being on the world’s bad side . . . this phenomenon seems odd . . . What is actually going on there, and why do they love us so much?” CUFI is one of the largest Evangelical groups in the United States, with more than a million members. This organization is only just the tip of the iceberg of a growing support group for Israel consisting of tens of millions of Evangelical Christians.  “The facts are clear,” says the writer. “The Christian Evangelical movement, mostly in the United States but also in other areas, has turned support for Israel into one of its central themes.” Indeed, “one out of every ten American Evangelicals believes that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews. More than 60% of Evangelicals believe that Israel’s becoming a state is the fulfillment of an old biblical prophecy.”

At this point in the article, the writer decides to give some historical background to the relationship between Jews and Christians over the centuries, surmising that “Christianity was apathetic towards the Jews at the very least, if not outright hostile . . . The Christian persecution of the Jews throughout history continued into the modern era. Even though the European Holocaust was not carried out under the auspices of a Christian ideology, from its inception, Nazism gained the support, at least through silence, from the leaders of the Church.” It is against this backdrop that the writer asks: “What changed? . . . Why do the Evangelicals care about us so much? Is theirs a true love, or simply a strategic move whose end-goal is bringing about the second coming of their crucified Christ?”

Here the writer delves into a short history of Christian theology regarding the Jews, explaining how, up until the 20th century, the main doctrine within the Church was that of replacement theology, where “the people of Israel, who are the chosen nation in the Bible, do not necessarily include the direct biological descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but rather their spiritual descendents, who are the Christians” – a theory that quickly leads to the abandonment of the Jews, “because these are the people who were abandoned by God himself.” On the other hand, “the Evangelical roots hark back to a European-Christian movement that cancelled the doctrine of replacement . . . and brought forth the two-covenant theology. According to this doctrine, God divides the world into time-periods, and in each period he activates a plan that is suited to that time. According to this opinion, the physical nation of Israel, the biological descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, continue to be the chosen nation all the time. But when this nation does not accept the authority of Jesus (Yeshu), the Church steps in as God’s mouthpiece, a role the Church will continue to act out until the end of this present era in history . . . In other words, God has two chosen people: an ‘earthly’ people – the biological people of Israel, and a ‘heavenly’ people – the Church.”

This movement quickly gained support throughout the United States in the 1800, and became a dominant and influential force, especially with regard to the Jews and to the establishment of a Jewish state, “since every step along the way to the establishment of the nation of Israel was for the Evangelicals a sign that the words of the Bible were being fulfilled.”

It wasn’t until the 1980’s, however, that the Evangelical movement began to be involved in the political arena in Washington. “The first time their electoral power became evident was when [the Evangelicals] helped Republican Ronald Reagan be elected as president in 1980 . . . From this point on the Evangelicals became deeply involved in American politics,” with support for Israel as one of their main objectives. This is why they are often associated with the far right on the political spectrum, and also why “Evangelicals donate large sums of money to Israeli organizations and institutions situated in Judea and Samaria.” Furthermore, the Evangelicals have the strongest ties with Israeli politicians on the far right of the political spectrum. “For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while speaking at a CUFI conference in Washington last year, said that ‘our enemies think that you are us and that we are you. And you know something? They are completely right.’ . . . It is no wonder that the Israeli left is vehemently opposed to the growing ties and cooperation between Evangelicals and Israeli persons of influence. They claim that the Evangelicals only aim is to provoke a war between Israel and its neighbors by encouraging the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria if only to expedite the ‘Armageddon’ that will bring on the return of their Messiah.”

Here the article turns its focus to the way Evangelical support is received among the religious community in Israel, claiming that anything to do with the political aspect is welcomed, but anything to do with theology  has given rise to a heated debate among the religious-right in Israel. “There are many rabbis . . . who claim that the State of Israel and its Jewish constituents should not receive any aid or help from [the Evangelicals], even if it looks tempting.” Quoting one rabbi who holds this perspective: “Christians who are friends of Israel, friends of the settlements, friends of anything Israeli – are friends who eat their prey. Their hidden and open agenda is the elimination of the nation of Israel by general anesthesia, in other words, extermination, which is more deadly than a blood bath.” On the other side of the debate are those who avidly support Evangelical Christian Zionism. Quoting another rabbi: “When we are speaking of Christians who believe that God chose Israel, and that all the good prophecies need to be fulfilled in Israel, and who are not actively seeking our conversion (God forbid) but to strengthen us – all the negative things that have been said about Christians do not apply to them, indeed, quite the opposite, for they are making amends and are of the Righteous Gentiles, and God will give them their rewards.” Those rabbis who tend more towards a middle-ground opinion, say that it is OK to accept donations for social purposes (e.g. daycare centers, or ambulances) but not for religious purpose (e.g. building a yeshiva).

Evangelicals face opposition outside of Israel as well, in the Jewish-American constituent. This is partly because the American-Jewish lobby is largely Democratic, while the Evangelical one is Republican. Furthermore, some of America’s Jews claim that the Evangelical ideology is based on prejudices that are rooted in fundamentalism – sometimes even verging on the anti-Semitic. So, for example, in 1999, “one of the leaders of the Evangelical movement in America at the time, preacher Jerry Falwell, said that the anti-Christ dwells within America today and is, of course, Jewish.” Still others have been quoted as saying that Hitler was God’s emissary. Such statements have caused a deep dislike among American Jews of the Evangelical movement.

“Those Jews who support the Evangelicals are aware of the criticism laid at the door of Christian Zionism, and they try their best to respond and give answers. On the political front, they say that the Evangelicals do not support returning land to the Palestinians and believe that Israel belongs to the nation of Israel according to God’s promises.” Regarding the claim that Christian Zionists are trying to convert all the Jews, they say that “it might be true that Christians want to see Jews receive Jesus as their savior, but there is nothing to prove the connection between their Evangelical zeal and their support for Israel.” Quoting a Jew who supports the Evangelicals and who worked together with many of them to write a book: “Not one of the Jewish leaders who were interviewed for the purpose of writing this book can remember a time when one of his or her Evangelical friends tried to convert them.”

The article concludes thus: “The Evangelical movement is a challenge to the Jews of the world at large, and the Jews in Israel in particular, especially religious Israelis. On the one hand, the zealous support of tens of millions of Christians for the State of Israel cannot be denied or ignored, especially in light of our not-so-popular status around the world today. On the other hand, the not-too-distant past relationship between Jews and Christians, and the complicated belief-system and religious goals of the Evangelicals movement are also elements that cannot be ignored. What’s certain is that a public debate must begin. So here – we have begun it.”


Israel Today, August 17, 2012

Israel Today ran a similar article to the one above, but focused its attention on the recent Christians United for Israel conference in Washington DC, where 6000 Evangelical leaders and activists gathered together to formulate the three issues they will raise with their representatives in Congress and the Senate. This year they have focused on legislation that will stop Iran from arming itself with nuclear weaponry; strengthening the security relations between Israel and the United States; and financial support for Israel’s defense system and the prevention of anti-Israeli propaganda in the Palestinian Authority.

According to this article, the majority of the 75 million American Evangelicals are not interested in converting the Jews; rather, they support Israel because it is part of their faith. John Hagee, the founder and current chairman of CUFI, affirms that Israel is a major part of his faith. “’God created the world,’” he says. “’He made a covenant with Abraham; he blessed the Jewish people; in the Psalms it says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It’s a command, not a request. That’s why we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah says, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet.” In Romans, Paul says: “if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” It’s explicit. What are the spiritual things the Jews have given us? We have a debt of gratitude to pay, for you gave us the Word of God; you gave us Christianity’s first family – Mary, Joseph, and Jesus; you gave us Jesus’ 12 disciples. That’s why Jesus says in John that “salvation is from the Jews.” In other words, without the Jewish contribution, Christianity wouldn’t be. Judaism doesn’t need Christianity to explain its existence; but Christianity needs Judaism to explain its existence.’”

The key verse for Evangelicals is Genesis 3:12, which says: “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” “They read this verse as it is,” says the writer of the article. “God promises that whoever blesses, helps, and supports the Jewish people, will be blessed, and so also the opposite: whoever hurts the Jewish people will be hurt. This is also how they read history: those nations who respected the Jews and gave them their rights prospered. The moment they turned their backs on them, there began a national, social, economic, and military decline. So Pharaoh’s Egypt, Spain until the expulsion, Germany, Britain and more. According to them, this is the source of America’s power.”

Here the writer goes into an explanation of replacement theology and the way this doctrine was passed down through the centuries by the church. This is why the Evangelical stance on the Jews is so revolutionary: it completely rejects the age-old doctrine of replacement. Hagee explains: “’It’s true that there was an element in Christianity that taught that the Jewish people had been replaced, but it didn’t come from the Bible. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who taught basic Judaism. He said: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And when he talked about his brothers, he wasn’t talking about us, the church, but about his Jewish brothers. So one of the last things Jesus said to his believers was that God extends grace to the Jewish people. Paul, in the epistle to the Romans, says: “Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendent of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.” In other words, if God had cast off Israel, then what is he using me for? It’s simple logic and is strong from every theological standpoint. When you read the Bible, you learn that every time something was replaced, it passed and never returned. But Israel was re-born in May 1948 and became a thriving nation. She was born miraculously according to all the prophecies in the Bible.’”

The Evangelical movement has much support from high-ranking figures in the United States. One such individual is the Democratic Jewish Senator Joseph Lieberman, who told those gathered at the conference that “’we are all brothers and sisters in faith, children of the same father. Historically our families were separated, but now they are being reunited. One of the reasons for this reunification is our shared love for the State of Israel and the Jewish people – it comes from our shared belief in the Bible.’”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also gave a speech via satellite during the conference. The audience, who were on their feet, would not stop cheering and clapping for him. He said: “’You are helping us repel the biggest lie of our time – that the Jews are an occupying nation in Judea and Samaria. You can’t deny 4000 years of Jewish history. We want peace, but we are not willing to deny the truth. The truth is that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped one God, where the prophets Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah walked. To deny the connection between the Jewish people and their land is to deny our joint heritage and our purpose.’”

The article ends with a quote from another one of CUFI’s leaders: “’Israelis need to know that there is a point of light outside, and that not only are there millions of Christians who support Israel, but that we are now an organized political entity active within the borders of Israel’s most important ally – the United States.’”


Mishpaha, August 16, 2012

This article expresses outrage at the upcoming massive Christian prayer ceremony that is due to take place at the Western Wall several days before Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year. It calls the event a “scandal,” claiming that the Western Wall is “not a tourist site.” The article states that “this is another attempt to perform an explicitly Christian ceremony in Judaism’s most sacred site.” This ceremony is to be broadcast to thousands of Christians around the world, and its aim, according to the organizers, is “to encourage all those millions of supporters to come and visit Israel, and especially Jerusalem.” The article goes on to detail all the various Israeli institutions who have worked together with the Christians to grant them permission and make this “abomination” possible. When Mishpaha attempted to contact the various facets, each one claimed that the responsibility was not theirs, and that they cannot prevent such an event from happening. What’s more, says the writer, these decisions have been made without consulting the Western Wall’s official rabbi, who says that the whole event is completely unacceptable: “The Kotel and its surrounding area is not a tourist site that you can do with as you please. It is a holy place, a place through which the heart of Israel pulses.” When Mishpaha turned to Jerusalem’s municipality, they were told that this is not the first time an event like this has been organized by Christian Zionists, and that two other events took place without the media’s interference. The Ministry of Tourism has told the paper that the event will not be cancelled: “This is an archeological site where many diverse events are always taking place. It is a pluralistic place that is open to all . . . The Ministry of Tourism generally supports Christian tourism to Israel . . . Christian tourists to Israel return to their countries as goodwill ambassadors for Israel and promote more tourism to the country.”



Haaretz, August 12, 2012

This is a weekly column on language, and the week’s topic was “Yoshke of Nazareth.” The column traces the origins of the name “Yoshke” in a certain Yiddish song entitled “Yoshke Ofrt Avek,” claiming that it is a diminutive of Jesus. “Yoshke is a diminutive of Yiddish Yoysif (Hebrew Yosef – that is, Joseph), and Jesus was also sometimes known to Yiddish speakers as Yoyzl, another diminutive of the same name. Yet the name Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshu (a shortened form of Yeshu’a, itself a shortened form of Yehoshua or Joshua) and the ‘Yoshke Pandre’ is more likely to have originated from that.”  The article then examines  another diminutive name that appear in the song, Pandera, and the way it originated in the Talmud where it might have referred to Mary, the mother of Jesus, or to Mary Magdalene.



Tmura, August 2, 2012

This article reported on the stone seal found in Tel Beit Shemesh that resembles the story of the biblical Samson (see review from the first week in August).