During the week covered by this review, we received 15 articles on the following subjects:
Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, October 3, 2012, Yisrael HaYom, October 4, 2012, The Jerusalem Post, October 5, 2012
Four articles reported on the latest “Price Tag” attack on the Franciscan convent on Mount Zion that occurred on Tuesday morning, thought to have been carried out by Jewish extremists protesting government policy in the West Bank. The vandals spray-painted “Jesus is the son of a bitch” and “price tag” on the door of the monastery, less than one month after the monastery in Latrun was similarly vandalized (see second Media Review for September).
The attack drew sharp condemnation from across the board. President Shimon Peres said: “We are a people of belief and good deeds. Price tag activities are in opposition to the Jewish religion and strike a great blow to Israel.” Some rabbis were also quick to condemn the attacks, saying “we have only just finished with Yom Kippur . . . and now we have another sin for which we must atone – contempt for another religion.” Another rabbi added that “the price tag epidemic threatens to become a routine part of Israeli public life, causing moral, social and international damage. Law enforcement, which has failed to deal with the phenomenon, must make this a much higher priority than it has until now.” Church officials, however, said that condemnation is not enough. The Assembly of Catholic Ordinances in the Holy Land released a statement in which they blamed the latest attack on the “’contempt and intolerance’ taught in Israeli schools. ‘More than anything, the assembly again asks that radical changes be made in the educational system; otherwise the same causes will produce the same effects over and over.’” Father Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, added that “it is important to make clear that these incidents are very serious since words can also do harm.”
The Jerusalem Post also reported on an initiative led by the anti-extremist organization “Tag Meir” to meet with Father Pizzaballa in an expression of solidarity. The activists expressed their anger at the incident, saying that “since December 2009, 17 places of worship, mosques and churches, have been desecrated or set on fire in Israel and Judea and Samaria. It is a great embarrassment and we need to stop this.” Activists indicated that the group “represents the majority of Jews in Israel and that the ‘price-tag’ phenomenon is conducted by an outlandish extremist minority.”
Yirael HaYom columnist Aviad HaCohen expressed his frustration with these attacks, writing that the abusive insults are not a “price tag” but a mark of shame added to the growing pile of “hate crimes that have nothing to do with Israel’s Torah or with its values.” HaCohen gives a brief history of the origins of Jewish hatred for Christianity, citing, for example, the Inquisition, or the Church’s silence during the Holocaust, but says that “the establishment of a Jewish state should have put an end to all such hatred. The founding of a state that is both Jewish and democratic set before us a challenge of the first degree: granting full religious freedom to members of all religions, guarding their sacred places, and defending their right to perform their religious ceremonies in safety.” He adds that one of the greatest commandments in the Torah is “do not do unto others what is hateful to you,” meaning that “the Jewish people, who for years suffered religious persecution, must stand at the forefront of the war against hate crimes.”
All four articles reported that so far, no suspects have been arrested in connection with any of the “price tag” attacks that have been carried out in the past year, though police have established a special unit to deal with the investigation of these attacks.
Calcalist, October 4, 2012
Ari Liebsker reports on his visit to kibbutz Nes Amim, which was the first Christian commune to be established in Israel. Dr. Johan Pilon from Holland had a vision for reestablishing the relationship between Jews and Christians in the wake of the Holocaust, and subsequently started the kibbutz in 1963, despite opposition from the neighboring kibbutz of Lohamei HaGetaot. In 1970, the German volunteers, who today make up the majority of the community, received permits for permanent residency.
Liebsker describes meeting Plaus Blom, the administrator at the kibbutz, who is quick to assure him that “there is no missionary activity here and we do no convert Jews in this place. We committed to that in our contract with Levi Eshkol.” Instead, the kibbutz’ ethos is that of promoting peace between Jews and Arabs. “In recent years,” writes Liebsker, “the kibbutz has hosted workshops of mixed groups which have been funded by Protestant churches in Europe who are interested in historical peace-making in Israel.”
Rheiner Stulmann, one of the kibbutz’s three priests, tells Liebsker: “We Protestants have changed our perception that the Jews killed Jesus. But beside our support of the Jewish enterprise, there is also criticism of the occupation. I’ll say it simply: if a Frenchman and a German can live peaceably together, then so can a Jew and an Arab. The problem is that every time a German says so, you immediately raise the Holocaust flag and tell us we don’t have the right to talk. I don’t believe this is fair, since the Protestant church today is fighting against anti-Semitism.”
The kibbutz operates entirely on a volunteer system, with most of the volunteers (from Germany and Holland) serving for one year.
Yisrael HaYom, October 3, 2012
3000 Christians from 100 different counties came together to show support for Israel in the opening night of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem’s annual Feast of Tabernacles gathering. Among the participants were 25 members of parliament from Canada and the United States. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the participants in a short video, saying: “You came to Jerusalem to stand by truth. You remind the world of the fact that when the Jews arrived in Israel they did not come to a foreign land but to their home. I know you will continue to support the Jewish people and Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2012
The Jerusalem Post featured a photograph of the parliamentarians visiting Jerusalem on the occasion of ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles. The caption explains that “the pro-Israel MPs are here for the Chairmen’s Conference of the International Israel Allies Foundation.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 4, 2012
A photograph of the Israeli Guest Night show of ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles. The caption adds that “the theme this year is ‘The Spirit of Grace and Supplication.’”
Haaretz, October 5, 2012
A photograph of “an evangelical Christian pilgrim from the United States” waving an American flag during the annual Jerusalem parade. The caption continues: “Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world waved Israeli flags and marched the streets of downtown Jerusalem alongside Israeli soldiers and workers, in an annual show of solidarity with the Jewish state.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 2, 2012
The Jerusalem Post featured two articles articulating opposing views of Christian support for Israel (on the occasion of ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles).
The first article, written in defense of Christian Zionism, is by David Parsons, the Media Director for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. In it, Parsons dismisses charges brought against Christian Zionists by “spell[ing] out what truly motivates [Christian Zionists] into caring so deeply about Israel.” His starting point is the charge that Christian Zionists are callous to Palestinian suffering and stand in the way of peace initiatives in the Middle East. He writes that, on the contrary, Christian Zionists are not indifferent to Palestinian suffering; “we just don’t blame all their troubles on Israel.” And yet, says Parsons, “if suffering is the main measuring stick for determining who deserves our sympathy, what about the Jews? Have they not suffered far more down through history than any other people on earth?” Parsons goes on to explicate Jewish suffering throughout the ages, arguing that the depth of the pain stems from the “redemptive purpose behind that affliction,” meaning that what sets Jewish suffering apart is that it is “largely inflicted by God for the sake of all other peoples.” He explains: “Through much tribulation, God has used the Jews to deliver to us Gentiles all the means necessary for salvation” resulting in a wound to the Jewish people that only God can heal. “But,” says Parsons, “He indeed promises to heal it, including through ‘Gentile mercy’ shown back to Israel. In the end, God promises to restore to Israel ‘double’ for all their los and dispossession.” Parsons concludes by saying that “Christian Zionists are thus grateful for the rich spiritual blessings we have received through Israel. And we long to see this people, who suffered so much for our sake, healed from the wounds of exile and restored fully to their God-given inheritance.”
The second article, which opposes Christian Zionist support for Israel, is written by Tristan Strum, assistant professor at York University in Toronto. Strum’s bent is political, focusing especially on the current debate on whether or not Israel should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. He frames his argument by claiming that, for Christian Zionists, “Israeli policy is understood as God-sanctioned and therefore infallible.” Israeli politicians have taken advantage of the Christian Zionist perspective, using it to garner support for their “most risky foreign policy decisions.” A case in point is the International Christian Embassy’s Feast of Tabernacles taking place in Jerusalem this week with an attendance of 7000 Christians from around the world. “Each year,” writes Strum, “Israel’s prime minister has addressed this body,” and this year, Netanyahu has been eager “to address these Christian Zionist pilgrims to gain support for the bombing in Iran.” Strum explains that this is made possible because “since its inception in the 1980’s, the organizers have structured the Feast’s itinerary around an existential threat to Israel” in an attempt “to foment anxiety around the promise of Armageddon and Christ’s return to earth.” Iran is the current existential threat popular in Christian Zionism, as is evidenced in the writings of Mark Hitchcock, “a pastor from Oklahoma and of prophetic fame among Christian Zionists,” who argues that “Ahmadinejad is the Antichrist and will take the throne at the Third Temple by threat of nuclear provision.” Strum strongly criticizes Christian Zionists for celebrating these “prophetic” events and for finding “vindication in [the] atrocities” associated with nuclear war, adding that it is easy for Christian Zionists to support Israel’s politics because “the blowback from such religious politicking will have few repercussions for them except their faith in redemption, at the cost of Israeli lives.” He concludes his argument against Christian Zionist support for Israel by encouraging his readers “to attend the conference and ask a delegate where Jews fit into Christian Zionist vision of the End Times. Let me give you a hint,” says Strum. If you are a Jew, “in the End you die.”
Makor Rishon, October 5, 2012
This article focuses on former politician Beni Alon and his efforts to raise political support for Israel amongst the 600 million Israel-loving Christians around the world. Journalist Ariel Kahana asks Alon if it doesn’t make him uncomfortable working so closely with those whose God is Jesus “the Christian,” and who persecuted the Jews for thousands of years. Alon explains: “I look only for those who believe that the return to Zion is applicable to us, the Jewish people, and that there is no such thing as ‘replacement theology,’ not now or ever. As for those who say that they will replace us at the end of time, after the return of their messiah, I have nothing to do with them. But those who work with me know that missionary activity is not permitted.” Kahana asks Alon how he finds people who match this criterion, and he explains that it is no easy task, that it takes a lot of thorough research in order to determine their theological bent and ideology. “We have missed out on working with some factions for this very reason,” says Alon. “For example, we don’t work with the Messianic Jews or with Jews for Jesus, as well as other missionary groups, even though they love Israel.”
Alon is at pains to make clear that his purpose is not to raise financial support in building these relationships, but rather to garner political support for Israel. In fact, says Alon, “contrary to what people are saying about me, I do not raise money from Israel-loving Christians . . . Our funding comes almost exclusively from Jewish monies.” It is for that reason that his organization focuses much of its efforts on establishing connections with political figures by offering to support them in their political endeavors within their own countries. One example is Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the national parliament in South Africa, who was able to temporarily block the South African initiative to boycott goods produced in the West Bank settlements.
The threat to Israel and to the Jews is not from Christians, says Alon. “There are a billion Muslims who want to destroy us. If there is to be a new Holocaust, it won’t come from Christianity or the West. Christians are totally guilt-ridden about what they have done . . . The threat lies in the billions of Muslims who wish to destroy us.” Alon concludes by saying that “if we work well with the Christian world – the strength and motivation of the Muslim world will diminish effectively. We must work with them.”
HaShavua BeYerushalayim, September 27, 2012
This religious weekly reported on statistics released by Yad L’Achim relating to Jewish children being “held captive” in Arab villages across Israel. “In every one of the Arab towns and villages across the country there are Jewish children, the sons of Jewish mothers, who are there without knowing a thing about their being Jewish.” The statistics released also included information on the missionary activities of cults and organizations in Israel who are “planting themselves among Jewish families . . . in order to convert them. These cults are divided into two main groups: Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . and the ‘Messianic Jews.’” The article ends by asking its readers to reflect on what they have done this year to save Jewish children, to enable these children to call out the “Shma Yisrael” once more.
Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, September 30, 2012
The paper featured a photograph of the Pope together with Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican, Dr. Zion Evrony, who “presented his credentials to Pope Benedict at the Apostolic Palace.”
Kore BeMaalot Tarshicha, August 31, 2012
The article gives a brief description of the Domos Galilaeae International Centre on the Mount of Beatitudes. The retreat center was the initiative of Pope Paul VI and includes a seminary, a house of prayer, a church, and a large library. “The purpose of the center is to teach the Jewish traditions at the core of Christianity and to deepen the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.”