During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the following subjects:
The first article stated that the distribution of missionary materials is a frequent occurrence in the city of Ashdod, and that missionaries have even handed out booklets and pamphlets to children in playgrounds. Last January, Yad L’Achim hosted an explanatory conference in Ashdod thats drew 500 participants, some of whom now volunteer for Yad L’Achim. Ashdod Mayor, Avi Amsalem, expressed anger at recent missionary activity in the city, saying that missionaries should not feel that they can evangelize without repercussion, and that some Israelis have needed therapy after damaging involvement with the Messianic Jewish community.
Two articles reported that a school in Jerusalem taught about Christianity and the New Testament as part of a course on Western foundations. Parents complained to Or L’Achim, which in turn said that the way the material was presented was compatible with missionary methods. They further said the curriculum was sowing dangerous seeds. Parents reportedly did not understand why their children should have to learn about a religion that persecuted Jews during the Crusades.
A final article was in the form of a dialogue, with one person asking questions about Christianity and the other providing answers aimed at debunking Christian claims. The person providing answers argued that Jesus was a charismatic person who gathered disciples around himself, and was then executed by the Romans, just like many other Jews at that time. While he was alive, Jesus was not treated as if he were God, and was rejected by the wisest in Israel. It was only years later, when four gospels were composed by obscure writers, that Jesus was presented as a messianic figure who performed miracles. Almost no historians at the time mention Jesus, with the exception of Josephus, who lacks credibility. While the prophet Jeremiah indeed mentions a new covenant, he meant a renewal of the covenant with the same people and not a new Torah given to a new people. The new covenant has nothing to do with Christianity. Christians have often taken verses out of context and twisted them to fit their religion. The author warned that missionaries historically used violent and coercive means, often targeting Jews. In Israel today, missionaries have invested a lot of money in the Messianic Jewish community, and have distributed many videos and propaganda materials in an attempt to convince Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.
Kivun Hadash LeGimla’im, January 7, 2021
This was a piece about Chanoch Ackerman, a German Christian who is the coordinator of volunteers at Saxon Friends of Israel. Ackerman believes that Christians are blessed if they bless Israel. He joined the Beth-El community in Zichron Ya’akov in 2003, and raised his children in Israel. Saxon Friends of Israel brings nine groups of Christians to Israel every year to renovate the homes of Holocaust survivors. The volunteers also purchase new appliances and provide Holocaust survivors with stocks of food. In Israel, about one third of Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line and are in need of assistance. Ackerman chose to help Holocaust survivors because of the history of Germany, but also because he believes his faith commands him to help Israel. Each group begins its trip by touring Jerusalem, and then each member becomes an ambassador for Israel upon return to Germany. Ackerman said that some survivors are suspicious at first, but over time, they form a connection with the volunteers and walls are broken down.
HaMagazine Driver, January 1, 2021; Kivun Hadash LeGimla’im, December 31, 2020
The first article was about the holiday season celebrated by the Arab Christians who work at the Egged bus company. The company has 235 Christian workers, some of whom were interviewed for this piece. The drivers said that normally at Christmastime, they gather with their families in groups of 20-30, but that this year, that wasn’t possible because of the pandemic. Normally, each year, one family in the community is given the task of preparing the food for the church service, and bringing the holy bread, which symbolizes the body of Jesus. The priest breaks the bread, dips it in wine, and distributes it to all those gathered to pray (sometimes up to 1,000 people). To receive the bread is also to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This year, it wasn’t possible to hold the service.
The drivers said that Egged is a melting pot of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim workers, and that the company is very good at treating everyone fairly and giving time off for their respective holidays.
The second article provided a history of Christmas, nothing that the first celebration took place in the 4th century, when Christians were legally allowed to gather for the first time. Christians chose December 25th as the celebration date because it was close to the winter solstice and represented the movement from darkness into light (Jesus is called “the light of the world”). That time of year was also associated with worship of the sun god, which was gradually displaced by the celebration of Christmas throughout the empire.