During the week covered by this review, we received 8 articles on the following subjects:
Pope and Vatican
Arab Believing Community
Israeli Attitudes towards Christianity
Haaretz, April 22, 2019
This article was about the rise of Evangelical Cinema in the United States. When Mel Gibson first pitched his idea to make The Passion of the Christ, it was turned down by many studios. The movie went on to be a box office hit, facilitating in its wake the rise of a movement of Christian movies. The most recent of these is “Unplanned”, a movie that deals with the subject of abortion. It rose to number four in the box office, despite stunted marketing. The industry of Evangelical cinema is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These are movies that are used to instill Evangelical values, as well as serve as platforms for Evangelical activism.
Pope and Vatican
Haaretz, April 22, 2019
The Pope recently gave an Easter address in which he called Christians to turn away from the shiny temptations of “wealth, career, pride and pleasure”, and to turn instead towards Jesus, who is “the real light”.
Arab Believing Community
Haaretz, April 24, 2019
Israel has reversed its decision not to allow any Palestinian Christians to visit Jerusalem for Easter, though it still only issued a small number of permits. Out of the 900 Christians who requested to leave Gaza and the West Bank, only 300 were given permits to go to Jerusalem for the holiday. The State did not say why it changed its policy on this issue.
Kfar Chabad, April 18, 2019
This was a long exposé about Yad L’Achim’s rise to prominence. The article stated that Yad L’Achim’s anti-Missionary department began 60 years ago, after it emerged that priests were attempting to convert Jewish immigrants. The priests agreed to meet a group of Jews on a certain day to initiate a “mass baptism”. The Haredi community mobilized that day and gathered an angry crowd, which drove the missionaries away. The Jews who had gathered to be baptized understood their mistake and asked to return to the God of Israel. Despite the “success” of that story, however, missionaries have since managed to set up 171 outposts throughout the country. In the last five years, missionaries have received donations upwards of half a billion shekels from Evangelicals, and there are now 6,000 Messianic Jews around the country. Yad L’Achim claims that without its activities, however, those numbers would be much bigger – as many as 100,000 would have converted without the organization’s work, it claimed. Yad L’Achim’s activities are focused on three areas: First, exposing the “tricks” of missionaries; second, returning Jews to the fold; and third, engaging in public education (while abstaining from public theological debates, which, it is argued, are not helpful and in fact do damage). The article stated that missionary activity has changed over the past 60 years, and has become more sophisticated. Missionaries now come to your door, and they dress in a manner which gives them the appearance of being Jewish. Furthermore, they use deceptive language – churches are called “synagogues” or “congregations”, Christians are called “Messianic Jews”, and pastors are called “shepherds”.
Israeli Attitudes Towards Christianity
Globes, April 24, 2019; Israel Hayom, April 25, 2019; Makor Rishon, April 25, 2019
After the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris went up in flames, there were Jews asking whether they were allowed to be sad about the event. The question was put to Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who replied obliquely that “there is no mitzvah to look for Christian churches abroad in order to burn them”. Aviner then added that the question of whether Jews should burn churches in the Holy Land “is more complex”. A number of articles were written in response to Aviner, expressing wonder at Aviner for referencing Jews burning churches, in relation to the Notre Dame fire. One article claimed that Aviner was drawing upon a previous rabbinical ruling from an American rabbi, who had proclaimed that Jews should not make aliya to Israel because that would oblige them to burn churches. In drawing upon that influence, Aviner may not be explicitly calling on anyone to burn churches, but he is also leaving the issue open-ended (in the Holy Land, in particular).
Some in the religious community speculated that the fire in Notre Dame was a punishment from God, though they qualified this by saying that no one knows God’s dealings. Nevertheless, given that Christians burned the Talmud in front of Notre Dame, it follows that Jews do not need to feel sorry about the burning of the cathedral. One commentator said this attitude embarrassed him as a “Jew and as a human being”. He agreed that the burning of the Talmud was barbaric, as were many things Christians have done to Jews over the centuries. Nevertheless, he was ashamed of Jews who see God’s hand in every disaster, and continued “… that God is not our God… What would we make of someone who viewed the Holocaust, for instance, as punishment from God?”
Another commentator noted that Jews are aware of the history of Christian animosity towards Judaism, but are not always aware of Jewish animosity towards Christianity. Rabbinical literature, he argued, is littered with hateful sayings towards Christians, and even the name of Jesus in Hebrew (“Yeshu”) is not his actual name, but an acronym that stands for “may his name be crushed and forgotten”. Aviner’s stance represents a “distancing from the West”, given that inter-religious dialogue has become very common over the past few centuries. One commentator claimed Aviner was taking the side of Islamists: “If he is not opposed to burning churches, we might ask him what he thinks about the burning of Coptic churches in Egypt, the attacks on churches in Pakistan, or in Sri Lanka.” Finally, one commentator noted that despite the fact that Jews and Muslims have more in common in terms of their theological beliefs, inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Jews has been more successful. Therefore “…those of us who wish to get closer to Christianity do not forget what Christians have done to us, but seek to put aside hard feelings in order to form an alliance between religions that share common interests.”
The Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2019
American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar retweeted an article in the New York Times, which made the following claim: “Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.” The article was about the question of why Jesus is often depicted as a white man with blue eyes, but was retweeted by Omar with the caption: “Don’t they [Christians] know Jesus was a Palestinian?” The article speculated that Omar’s intentions were to soften Jesus’ Judaism in order to change the narrative of the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and to strengthen the narrative of foreign occupation.