During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:
Yom LeYom, November 29, 2012
In a follow-up to the article reporting on the missionary material recently distributed to a number of teachers working within the education system in the north of Israel (see fifth Media Review for November), Yom LeYom added that the material included copies of the New Testament. The unmarked envelopes were mailed to thousands of teachers at their personal home addresses. According to Yad L’Achim, the Messianic organization Tikvat Yisrael is responsible for the delivery. In response, the anti-missionary group sent an urgent letter to the minister of education, Gidon Sa’ar, asking that his department “warn the public and all teachers that this is missionary material, the content of which can jeopardize their Jewish identity.”
HaEda, November 23, 2012
Yad L’Achim was unsuccessful in its attempt to shut down a huge missionary conference that took place in Haifa at the beginning of November and specifically targeted Holocaust survivors. The conference was organized by the “infamous and cursed missionary David Hathaway” who has already “caught hundreds of stray Jewish souls in his missionary net.” Most shocking, according to the article, is that these innocent Holocaust survivors, whose suffering was encouraged by the silence of the church and the Vatican, “are now being sent by the Zionist nation to a Christian event, where the church’s emissaries will attempt to perform the ‘final solution’ on them and finish the job that their predecessors (may their name be blotted out) began sixty years ago – the former by the destruction of the body, and the latter by the destruction of the soul.”
Yad L’Achim sent an incriminating file on David Hathaway to the Committee for Holocaust Survivors in Israel, demanding that the conference be canceled. But their request “fell on deaf ears, of course,” and the conference went on as planned. However, “many of the Holocaust survivors who attended the conference . . . contacted Yad L’Achim after the conference was over and testified in pain and tears about the deceptive ways in which the missionaries conned them into attending the conference.”
The Jerusalem Post, December 6, 2012
Representatives of the Methodist, Lutheran, and Anglican churches released a document this week entitled the “Jerusalem Declaration,” a “remarkably evenhanded description of sectarian tensions in the Middle East.” The Declaration noted that “the forces that refuse to tolerate the existence of a Jewish state are fiercely intolerant of other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East,” whereas the Christian citizens of Israel “enjoy equal rights of citizenship and a good standard of living despite occasional frictions.” Members of the Protestant Consultation on Israel and the Middle East (PCIME) added that they were “distressed to see how certain European and North American church officials approach the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as if it were a zero-sum game.” The Jerusalem Post described the Declaration as a refreshing alternative to many of the anti-Israel statements often made by Protestant leaders, adding that “PCIME’s ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ probably better reflects the sentiments of the vast majority of mainline Protestants throughout the world.”
Makor Rishon, December 7, 2012
Makor Rishon printed three letters in response to the article written by David Berger exploring the question of whether or not it is right for Jews to engage in theological dialogue with Christians (see third Media Review for November). In the first letter, Sandra Ostar Braz explains that Christian attitudes towards Judaism have changed drastically over the years, and that “today, many Christians approach Judaism with a desire to understand what has been hidden from them for hundreds of years. Anti-Semitism was essential to the church . . . and this prevented Christians from viewing Judaism from a true perspective in order to understand it as the root of Christianity.” Braz adds that Judaism did not interest Christians because they believed it was a passing episode, replaced by Christianity. And yet, “with the establishment of the State [of Israel] . . . many believing Christians began asking themselves questions, and they looked for answers in us – the Jews. Is it not right that we should meet with these Christians to pass on to them our truth?” Braz disagrees with Berger that all Christians are out to convert the Jews: “I can testify that our religious dialogues with [Christians] solidifies their understanding that their hopes [for converting us] will not be realized.”
The second letter, written by Moshe Meir, also suggests that Jews have nothing to fear from dialoguing with Christians. “A Jew is someone who is sure of his/her identity and is not afraid that someone might force him/her to convert or weaken his/her faith.” On the contrary, says Meir. “When a Jew who is confident in his identity faces what is different and strange . . . he can conclude that Christianity, by virtue of its difference, completes [Judaism]” because it only deepens the Jew in his or her religious identity.
The last letter is written by Rabbi Riskin, whom Berger quotes extensively in his article. Riskin disagrees with Berger’s conclusions about avoiding theological dialogue with Christians, explaining that “we live in an age where fundamental Islam . . . threatens the entire free world – and especially (and actively), Israel.” And while the world continues to condemn and threaten Israel, it is only the Christians, and specifically the Evangelical Christians, who are standing with the Jews today. “In the world there are barely 13 million Jews . . . But there are more than a billion Muslims, and more than two billion Christians. Are we allowed,” asks Riskin, “under these circumstances . . . to reject the hand that is reaching out to us?” Regarding the dilemma of the Christians’ desire to convert the Jews, Riskin says: “In my extensive contact with Christian leaders I have never encountered an attitude of elitism towards me or towards other Jews and have never experienced any attempts to convert me [to Christianity].” Riskin concludes his letter by saying that “the religious and political benefit that springs from our relationship with the Christians will far outweigh the benefit of distancing ourselves from them.”
Makor Rishon, December 2, 2012
Christians United For Israel (CUFI), headed by David Brog, has petitioned Twitter to ban Hamas from using its social media platform. “We have decided to ask our members, numbering tens of thousands, to sign the petition,” said Brog, adding that “the fact is that it is illegal for an American company like Twitter to provide services to Hamas” since Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the American government. CUFI will take legal action against Twitter if the company does not comply with its request.
Yediot HaEmek, November 30, 2012
Israel-loving Christians from Holland donated thousands of tulip bulbs to the Yezreel Valley College in an act of solidarity and to show their love and support for Israel. The bulbs were handed over by a small group of representatives who traveled from Holland especially for this purpose. Each package of bulbs was sealed with the email address of a donor in the hopes that staff and students at the college would take the time to write them back and thank them.
The Jerusalem Post, November 30, 2012
This two-page article focused on the recent renovations of the Yardenit site on the banks of the Jordan River. “Yardenit is of particular significance because it is the baptismal site for Christian pilgrims in Israel. Yet despite the fact that some 600,000 tourists and pilgrims visit the site every year, Yardenit remains relatively unknown to most Israelis.” The site was constructed in 1981, and is open every day of the year. It is by far the most popular baptismal site in Israel, even though it is unlikely to be the exact place where Jesus was baptized. Says one pilgrim: “It’s about identification, not about location,” while another pilgrim adds that “Yardenit is a wonderful spot for recollection, serenity, tranquility, and inspiration.”