During the two weeks covered by this review, we received 12 articles on the following subjects:
Arab Believing Communities
Christians and the Holocaust
Hamodia, February 4, 2019; Hod Hair, February 11, 2019
The first article reported that an anonymous man had fallen into “the Messianic Jewish cult” for a considerable period but became increasingly confused about his beliefs. After the man’s friend called Yad L’Achim, the group made an appointment to meet with the confused man, who confessed that during his stint in the cult, he had begun to draw closer to Judaism. As a result, the man decided to take up the study of Judaism at a Yeshiva in order to “make up for the time lost” during his phase as a Messianic Jew.
The second article concerned the magazine published by Yad L’Achim called “Mechapsim” (Seekers). The magazine is meant to provide theological answers to Jews who have “fallen into the nets” of Messianic Judaism. Every issue highlights a “high-ranking” member of the “missionary group” that has since left the faith. In addition, the magazine explains Jewish teachings that the “missionary cult” has falsified. Initially, claimed the article, the missionaries mocked the magazine, but soon realized that it caused members to ask questions, and that it posed a danger to the cult. They therefore instructed members not to take magazines handed out to them by Yad L’Achim activists in front of their congregations. After the third issue came out, the missionaries decided to respond with a magazine called “Motzim” (Finders), but this initiative failed. An “internal missionary report” obtained by Yad L’Achim showed that the missionaries are questioning the effectiveness of their approach. In the report, a “missionary convert” named Eitan Bar, who, the article stated, is known for his “anti-Semitic provocations”, confessed: “The magazine [Mechapsim]… causes some Jewish believers, including those who were missionaries, to deny their faith in ‘that man’ (i.e. Jesus) and to return to Orthodox Judaism.” Yad L’Achim knows that its endeavors have been successful, but this confession, which comes from the missionaries themselves, shows just how significant Yad L’Achim’s successes really are.
The Jerusalem Post, February 5, 2019
Eighty-three Ethiopian immigrants (of the Falash Mura) arrived in Israel a few weeks ago – the first wave of about 1,000 Ethiopians who have had their applications approved. More than 7,000 Ethiopians are still awaiting approval. The Falash Mura cannot technically immigrate under the right of return since their ancestors converted to Christianity, and as a result, their Jewish status is contested. Those approved are therefore immigrating under the principle of family reunification. The International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem has donated $1.2 million to help fund immigration costs.
The founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 67. Eckstein is credited with erecting a charity empire, raising more than $1.4 billion, mostly from Evangelical Christians, to support marginalized communities in Israel, including Holocaust survivors. Eckstein has been named on Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the US several times, as well as on the Jerusalem Post’s list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. Hundreds attended his funeral in Beit Shemesh, including several dignitaries. Pastor John Hagee said of Eckstein that he “had an impact on the State of Israel and on bringing Jews and Christians together, which will be felt for generations”. Pastor Pat Robertson said Eckstein was a “pioneer and champion of Christian-Jewish relations for decades”.
Eckstein’s work was not without controversy, however. He was criticized by Yad L’Achim for his close ties to Christian Zionists “whose ultimate goal is the conversion of Jews”, according to them. In 2009, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that taking donations from the IFCJ was forbidden because it was “close to an act of idolatry”. Not all Orthodox groups agree with this interpretation, however. Eckstein was himself an Orthodox rabbi before founding the IFCJ in 1983. He made aliya in 2002, and in recent years was critical of the Israeli Government for promoting policies that further impoverished and harmed marginalized communities in Israel. The Jewish Agency for Israel chairman, Isaac Herzog, wrote in one piece: “Yechiel is the one who identified the potential connection to the Christian world of Israel-supporters, and managed to develop through his singular talent a partnership that contributed for many years to the support of the poor, the elderly, Holocaust survivors, and marginalized populations.”
Arab Believing Communities
Haaretz, February 12, 2019; Haaretz, February 12, 2019
The mayor of Haifa, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, ordered that the sculpture of Ronald McDonald hanging from a cross (known as “McJesus”) be taken down after it spurred demonstrations from within the Christian community in Haifa. In response, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel appealed to the district court, arguing that politicians should not have the right to censor works of art. The court rejected the appeal, noting that the museum in question is owned by the Haifa municipality, and that certain politically-sensitive situations could justify the interventions of local government. The Association for Civil Rights now plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. One commentator expressed concern that the case may set an anti-free speech precedent, and that “today it’s the feelings of the Christians” that are hurt, but “tomorrow,” the racist, homophobic, feelings of Orthodox Jews or Jewish settlers will be used to shut down art that is not to their political liking. Therefore, elected governments should remove themselves from situations that smack of cultural censorship.
Christians and the Holocaust
Haaretz, February 13, 2019
This was a letter written in response to an article published in ‘Haaretz’ on February 10, 2019 about the murder of thousands of Jews at the hands of Finnish soldiers during World War II. The writer is a former ambassador to Finland. He argued that for the sake of “historical justice”, certain clarifications need to be made. The Finnish, he maintained, had to cooperate with the Nazis in order to protect their border with Russia. Hundreds of Finnish Jews participated in the fight against the Former Soviet Union, and some even ironically received medals of honor from the Nazis. At the same time, the Finnish government took care of the Jewish community, and refused to deport them despite pressure from the Nazis. It was famously said that Finland “doesn’t have a Jewish problem”. The original article in Haaretz had mentioned that eight Jewish refugees were given up to the Nazis, but the article did not mention that the Captain of the Helsinki Police, who was responsible for that decision, was tried and jailed as a result. Furthermore, Finnish Christians established the moshav of “Yad Hashmona” (“Hand of the Eight”) in the foothills of Jerusalem in memory of those eight refugees.
The Jerusalem Post Lite, February 13, 2019
A new Christian multimedia center has opened up in Abu Gosh under the name of The Saxum Visitor Center. The aim of the center, which was the idea of Opus Dei (a Catholic institution), is to teach Christians about Israel in a more modern way. The center includes a stone map that shows the respective journeys of Abraham and Moses. Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Yariv Lavin, was present at the opening ceremony. He said: “I truly believe that this center has the potential to attract tourists and immigrants from all over the world.”