December 29 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – December 29, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:

Anti-missionary activities
Christian Zionism
Christians in Israel
Christian tourism
Jewish-Christian relations

This week’s review once again focused on various events relating to Christians in Israel.

Anti-missionary Activities

HaShavua BeEmek ve-ha-Galil, December 28; Hamodia, December 29, 2012

A piece in the English edition of Hamodia (December 29) carried the recent story that “Hundreds of thousands of homes across Israel have received missionary material in their mailboxes in the past week. Yad L’Achim warns that this represents a dangerous escalation in missionary activity, which until now limited its activities to approaching people on the streets with their spiritually poisonous literature. The 100-page booklet that arrived in the mail, which misleadingly bills itself as ‘Important Information for Every Israeli Citizen,’ includes complete chapters from the ‘New Testament’ as well as a long introduction that tells the reader ‘what will happen in the near future and the good news.’ In order to give the booklet a feeling of relevance and legitimacy, the cover says it ‘includes important information that has been distributed to Knesset members’ … Meanwhile, the missionaries were busy over Chanukah, distributing tens of thousands of brochures headlined, ‘We’ve come to banish the darkness.’ This deliberate attempt to mislead the public into thinking that the brochure contained information on Chanukah led many to innocently bring it home.  Yad L’Achim received many calls complaining of the deception. Yad L’Achim stresses that recently there has been an increase in the number of publications bearing apparently Jewish themes that are in fact missionary material … Rabbanim and communal leaders, as well as Jews from across the religious spectrum, have appealed to Yad L’Achim to put a halt to this massive mailing. Yad L’Achim opened a preventive PR campaign, which, at the initial stage, included the distribution of flyers in all major cities and communities in which the booklets have been received.”

An article in HaShavua BeEmek (December 23)  likewise noted the fact that “Many residents of Afula have been astonished to discover a ‘Sabbath gift’ in their mail boxes recently in the form of a booklet calling on them to convert before it’s ‘too late’ … According to estimates, this is the beginning of a missionary campaign expected to appear in all the mail boxes across the country.”

Christian Zionism

Israel HaYom, January 9, 2012

According to this report, an evangelical Ugandan pastor visiting Israel was “violently assaulted by Muslims extremists” in Kampala on Christmas Eve “presumably because he had recently begun to preach support for Israel” – and received treatment at Sheba Hospital, having requested he be transferred to Israel to obtain the best possible treatment for the severe facial burns he sustained. Oman Molinda has been offered free treatment and rehabilitation from the hospital.

Christians in Israel

Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2011; Yediot Ahronot, January 5, 2012

A brief piece in the Jerusalem Post (December 30) noted Peres’s toasting of Christmas in Jaffa (see previous Review).

Guy Bechor set out in Yediot Ahronot (January 5) to review the “crusade against the cross” being waged in Arab countries against Christians, looking at the poor prospects many Christian communities can expect in the coming year in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the PA, and Israel. With respect to the latter country, he noted that “Precisely the Jewish State is the only safe place in the Middle East in which Arab Christians can live securely and conduct their religious worship undisturbed as equal citizens … Only many Arab Christians are also emigrating from Israel as the Islamic movements are growing in strength here too and putting pressure on the Arab Christians, who today only constitute around 8% of Israeli Arabs … What irony. How the Christians praised the Arab regimes and how they hated Israel – at least in public. And now it’s their only refuge.”

Christian Tourism 

Chaim Acherim, January 1; Jerusalem Post, January 9 (x 2), 2012

Under the caption “Statement of faith,” the Jerusalem Post (January 9) noted that “A Christian pilgrim emerges from the water during a baptism ceremony in the Jordan River yesterday. Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the site near Jericho, known as Qasr-el-Yahud, where it is believed John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.” In similar fashion, the same paper also commented on the “Walk to water” of “Christian pilgrims led by Catholic clergy” who marched “yesterday from St. John Monastery towards the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud, near Jericho.” A piece in Chaim Acherim (January 1) also noted the “ceremony which closes the Christmas holiday and constitutes the jewel in its crown.”

Jewish-Christian Relations 

Jerusalem Post, January 4, 2012

“Jerzy Kluger, the Polish-jewish boyhood friend of the late Pope John Paul who had a major influence on the pontiff’s revolutionary relations with Jews, has died, friends said Monday … Kluger and Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, were classmates in the southern Polish city of Wadowice and were friends from first grade through high school. ‘The young Karol Wojtyla learned a lot about Judaism from Kluger,’ said Italian author Gianfranco Svidercoschi, who was an aide to the late pope and wrote a book about the pontiff’s friendship with Kluger. ‘He had a great influence on the pope’s life,’ Svidercoschi, who wrote about their friendship in the 1993 book Letter to a Jewish Friend, told Reuters. ‘The young Wojtyla visited the Kluger home in Wadowice, helped Jerzy with his studies, particularly Latin, and started a friendship that would influence his relations with Jews for the rest of his life,’ said Svidercoschi, who was editor of the Vatican newspaper during part of John Paul’s pontificate. They lost track of each other when World War II broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and did not see each other again until 1965 … [Kluger] re-connected with Archbishop Karol Wojtyla in 1965 when Wojtyla was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. Until they met for the first time since 1938, each presumed the other had died in the war. After Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years in 1978 they intensified their friendship and Kluger helped organize reunions between the pope and classmates from Wadowice either in Rome or during the pontiff’s trips to Poland. Kluger was in Rome’s synagogue when Pope John Paul made his historic visit there in 1986 and called Jews ‘our beloved elder brothers.’”


BeKitzur HaMazleg, December 22; Matzav HaRuach, December 30, 2011

BeKitzur HaMazleg (December 22) reported on the discovery of a 1600-year-old bathing pool noted in last week’s Review.

Another find – this time of a Second Temple period synagogue on Mount Hebron – was noted by (December 30). This is a rare event, few synagogues from this period having so far been discovered.

Book Review

Haaretz, January 6; Yediot Ahronot, January 3, 2012 

Raphael Ahren reviewed Shmuely Boteach’s new book Kosher Jesus (Gefen, 2012 [English]) in Haaretz (January 6): “‘Kosher Jesus,’ Boteach’s first book published in Israel, asserts that because Christians no longer consider Jews to be their enemies, it is therefore time to recognize Jesus as a Torah-abiding Jewish patriot. ‘This book is telling the Jews to reclaim Jesus, the authentic Jesus, the historical Jesus, the Jewish Jesus’ and to be inspired by his ‘beautiful’ teachings, the U.S.-born author and TV show host told Anglo File this week in Jerusalem. ‘It’s asking Christians to make an effort to enrich their Christianity through an understanding of the Jewishness of Jesus.’ ‘Suddenly we have evangelical Christians emerging as the foremost supporters of the state of Israel,’ he said. ‘We have this political alliance. What is a lacking is a theological bridge.’ ‘Christians don’t know the Jewish Jesus,’ Boteach continued. ‘They know the Christ-divinity but not the Jewish man Jesus. There’s a need to discover the humanity of Jesus.’ ‘Kosher Jesus’ amalgamates research (mostly by Hyam Maccoby) which suggests that the gospels give the wrong impression of Jesus. ‘There was a lot of embellishment and editing,’ Boteach said. ‘We have to remember Paul [the apostle] never met Jesus. He cannot offer us a first-hand account of Jesus’ life.’ Christian scripture ‘doesn’t add up’ when it portrays Jesus as a self-hating Jew, or when it lists sins that allegedly led Jews to condemn him, Boteach said. Jesus never declared himself God or meant to abolish Jewish law, he asserts. And the fact that Jesus thought of himself as the messiah shouldn’t bother Jews, he insists: ‘I could declare myself the messiah right now. There’s nothing blasphemous about this,’ Boteach said. ‘I even encourage people to have a certain messianic tendency in their lives, a desire to redeem the world.’ Boteach said he regrets that Jews allowed Jesus ‘to be ripped away from them without even a fight.’ ‘We just accepted a Christian interpretation of his life and narrative,’ he said. ‘One of the most influential people of all time is seen as a Christian who loved the Romans and said about the Jews that they are all the children of the devil.’ But ‘Christian ideas of Jesus as divine messiah emerged as a savvy adaptation following the destruction of the Second Temple,’ Boteach explained. Once Jews understand that, he writes that they ‘can take inspiration from Jesus’ often beautiful ethical teachings and appreciate Jesus as a devoted Jewish son who became martyred while trying to lift the Roman yoke of oppression from his beloved people.’”

Noting the publication of a revised Hebrew edition of Haim Cohen’s book The Trial and Death of Jesus, this review in Yediot Ahronot (January 3) asked “So did the Jews kill Yeshua? The conventional answer to this two- thousand-year-old question is that it’s not certain – but they certainly took the soul out of him. More seriously, the dramatic question whether our fellow citizens were indeed responsible for the death of the Nazarene is directly linked to the question of whether Yeshu received a fair trial. In 1968, one of the greatest and most admired magistrates in Israel addressed this issue, whose national and theological significance alike cannot be exaggerated … If you want to know where all the problems came from – at least a substantial part of them – try to read and understand.” This edition is accompanied by a new preface by Doron Mendels of the Hebrew University.