During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the following subjects:
Missionary Activities/History & Culture
Pope and the Vatican
The Jerusalem Post, October 9, 2012, The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012, Yediot Yerushalayim, October 12, 2012
Three articles reported on the attack on the Romanian Orthodox church in Jerusalem which took place on Tuesday morning. Vandals threw stones, trash, bottles, and eggs at the door, which was damaged, although there were no reported injuries. A police spokeswoman said they do not believe the attack is related to last week’s “price tag” attack on the Franciscan convent on Mount Zion “since there was no mention of the words ‘price tag’ or any spray paint.” Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, condemned the attack, noting that “extremist elements responsible for these types of attacks have also vandalized sites sensitive to Jews.”
Yediot Yerushalayim ran an extensive article on the latest spate of attacks on Christian sites, interviewing a number of monks and nuns as well as church leaders in order to assess the current atmosphere amongst Christians living in Jerusalem. One nun told the paper that they are very afraid: “Every night, when we go up to our cells to get ready for bed, rotten eggs are thrown at our windows.” Father Peter, a monk who has lived in Jerusalem for twenty years, says it is obvious to them that these are Jews, “because we hear them snickering in Hebrew.” He adds that he has been spat on numerous times by religious Jews passing him on the street. Sister Jenny, from Belfast, says: “I know a thing or two about religious tension. But Jerusalem is a much harder place than Belfast.”
The Vatican has also expressed its frustration at the increasing aggression towards Christians, saying “we are sorry and disappointed. These kinds of things have happened before, and nothing was done about it, so why should something be done about it now?” Catholic church leaders added that all these attacks against Christians in Israel are damaging Israel’s image: “Israel is trying to make it appear that it is the only sane place in the Middle East . . . The many attacks against Christians prove that this is not true.”
Professor Klein, from Bar Ilan University, explains that these attacks are carried out by “activists who have an anti-Christian obsession . . . These people are stuck in the Inquisition. As far as they are concerned, it is a religious struggle and the Christians are Israel’s enemies. This happens in spite of the fact that the fundamentalist Christians in North America are some of Israel’s greatest supporters. These extremists [Jews], who think in terms of idol worship, believe that the Christians are desecrating the Holy Land.”
The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012
A photograph of Earl Cox, who is the founder of Israel Always, was featured in the Jerusalem Post. The caption explains that the backpack held by Cox is one of many that will be distributed by his organization to school children in Ashkelon in an effort to “build bridges of understanding between Jews and Christians in the US” (see last Media Review for September).
Missionary Activities/History & Culture
Segula, October 3, 2012
This eight-page feature article relates the history of the establishment of the first missionary hospital in Jerusalem in 1842 by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. The conditions in Israel at the time were bleak: 80% of children born in the land did not survive past the age of five, and the average life expectancy was 22 years. The Society, who had sent a delegation to the Holy Land, quickly recognized the dire need for medical services, and subsequently opened its first missionary hospital in 1842 with the dual intention of providing medical care and missionizing the local Jewish community. “In order to tempt the Jews, the hospital offered medical care of the highest standard – including medicine, clothing, and kosher food – free of charge.”
However, those who were hospitalized were subjected to missionary activity as part of their stay at the hospital. The Jewish community was scandalized, and fought back by opening their own Jewish clinic. And yet, the missionary hospital’s high quality care continued to lure many Jews, especially the poorest of the community. As a result, in 1945 the leadership of the Jewish community in Jerusalem declared a general boycott on any individual who would “dare set foot in the doorway of the missionary hospital.” The leadership made clear that the boycott extended even to the grave, stating that anyone who died within the confines of the hospital would not receive a proper Jewish burial. Not long after this declaration, the leadership was given the opportunity to demonstrate how serious they were, when an old Jewish lady died inside the missionary hospital. The Kadisha group refused to bury her in a Jewish graveyard. Consequently, the missionaries arranged for her burial themselves, and though the Jewish leadership did nothing to prevent them from digging the woman’s grave in the Jewish cemetery, they opened her grave the following night and dumped the body outside of the graveyard.
This was the beginning of the “grave wars,” which lasted for many years, though to little effect on the Jewish community who continued to use the missionary hospital. Eventually, zealous youngsters from the Jewish community formed and stationed a permanent guard at the entrance to the hospital in order to prevent Jews from going in, using force, if necessary. After a year, the guard was turned into an official anti-missionary organization (Agudat Bnei Yisrael) whose strategy was to supply medical services, food, and clothing to poor Jews in order to keep them away from the missionary hospital.
The London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews continued its missionary activity in Israel up until the middle of the twentieth century, when it was finally closed down in 1951. Two buildings are the only remnants of the Society in Jerusalem today – a house in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and the Anglican School on Prophet’s Street, which mainly serves the children of diplomats.
The Jerusalem Post, October 10, 2012
Fifteen leaders representing the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches and the National Council of Churches sent a joint letter to the US Congress asking it to reevaluate its military aid to Israel and to investigate possible violations on Israel’s part of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act.
In the letter, they wrote: “As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional US financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued US military assistance to Israel – offered without condition or accountability – will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories . . . We write to you as Christian leaders representing US churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians . . . [We call] on Congress to examine Israel’s compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”
Jewish groups across the United States criticized the letter, saying it did little to further the two nations’ shared goals for peace and security. The Rabbinical Assembly even called for “a reevaluation of the interfaith partnerships between the assembly and the denominations represented in the letter,” adding: “we find the breach of trust to be so egregious that we wonder if it may not warrant an examination of the part of the Jewish community at large of these partnerships and relationships that we understood ourselves to be working diligently to preserve and protect.”
The Jerusalem Post, Haazretz, October 9, 2012
Jewish and Christian groups are working together to counter Pro-Israel ads that went up in the New York subway system and read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” In response, the Jewish group Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, and the Christian group Sojourners, will hang their own ads, which read: “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.” And: “Love your Muslim neighbors.”
Pope and the Vatican
Makor Rishon, October 12, 2012
This four-page article paints a detailed portrait of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican, focusing on the crises in which the Catholic church now finds itself. Eli Ashad describes Joseph Ratzinger as one of the foremost theologians of the Catholic church, but also as a man whose past is tainted. “When he was young, he was a member of the Hitler Youth movement, and after that he served as a soldier in the Nazi army. It was only at the very end of World War II that he defected.” Then, after Ratzinger joined the church, he became known as “the Inquisitor” on account of his hyper-conservative stances on theological issues.
When he was appointed Pope in 2005, the big question was what his attitude towards the Jews would be like. Surprisingly, says Ashad, it was favorable, and not long after his appointment, Pope Benedict XVI “removed the collective guilt of the Jews in murdering Jesus.” In one of his theological discourses, Pope Benedict surmised that it was only a fraction of the Jews – the Temple leadership – that were responsible for the death of Jesus. In response to this statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of appreciation to the Pope. And yet, the article questions the Pope’s motives in removing the Jewish people’s collective guilt by claiming that it was simply a ploy by the German-born Ratzinger to “remove the possibility of the collective guilt of his people in the Holocaust.”
The article goes on to examine the many crises the Vatican has faced in recent years, and questions whether the whole institution is strong enough to withstand the external (and growing) threat of Islam with so much of its internal structure in tatters, as a result of all the corruption from within.
The Jerusalem Post, October 12, 2012
The Jerusalem Post lists the ten must-see “Jesus sites” in the Galilee for the 3.4 million Christian tourists who visit Israel annually. These include: Capernaum, which has the “House of St. Peter” and which “served as a meeting place for early Christians”; Tabgha, where Jesus is said to have fed 5000 people “(Matthew 14:13-21)”; Mount of Beatitudes, where “Jesus is believed to have given the Sermon on the Mount . . .(Matthew 5:3-11)”; Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the transfiguration; Kursi National Park, “where Jesus exorcised demons from two possessed men (Matthew 8:28-33)”; Bethsaida, “birthplace of the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip” and also where Jesus preformed some miracles; Yardenit, where Jesus was baptized by John “(Mark 1:9-11)”; Cana, where “Jesus was said to have turned water into wine at the wedding of a poor couple”; Mary’s Well in Nazareth, the town where Jesus was raised, and where “tradition has it that Mary used to bathe the young Jesus”; and finally, the Gospel/Jesus Trail, which “allows Christian visitors to walk nearly 25 km. in Jesus’ footsteps along the path he probably took from his childhood home in Nazareth to the future center of his ministry in Capernaum.”
Haaretz, October 7, 2012
Professor Avraham Balaban analyses the victim motif in Israeli literature, focusing on the way many Israeli writers use the image of the suffering Jesus to portray their victim “heroes.” Though Balaban does a close-text reading of several books, his main explication is of Yoav Elvin’s newly published book Yula. He writes that “the abandoned child in Yula is portrayed as Jesus, but his mother, who suffers no less than him, sacrifices just as much as her child does.” The book is saturated with allusions to the New Testament, pitting the Israeli family it describes against the Holy Family. “But,” says Balaban, “in an Israeli family a la Yula, there is no holiness, only suffering and agony.”