Recently, an article on Breaking Israel News was snatched up by media around the world, but the headlines twisted the truth, inserting lies, besmirching the reputation of a prominent rabbi. The incident raises the question of whether, even now, Jews can come forward and discuss their religion in public forums without our beliefs being sidelined by the mainstream Christian culture. It raises the question, do Christians still hate Jews for not believing in Jesus.
On January 10, I published an article on Breaking Israel News about an astronomical event scientists anticipate will present itself in five years: the implosion of a binary star system resulting in a red nova. The event, which actually occurred 1,800 years ago, will appear in five years as a bright new star visible to the naked eye for six months.
This reporter interviewed Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion. Rabbi Berger noted that the arrival of a new star was mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Numbers. He cited several classical Jewish sources including the Zohar and the Rambam that described astronomical phenomena prophesied to accompany the Messiah.
A few major websites picked up the story, citing the article in Breaking Israel News and reprinting the quotes. To my horror, headlines cropped up claiming that Rabbi Berger declared the Second Coming, and that Jesus will be arriving in five years. The Daily Mail, a major media based in the UK, had as its headline, “The Second Coming? Israeli Rabbi claims birth of new star in 2022 confirms biblical prophecy and will herald the arrival of Jesus”.
Within days, the headlines had circled the globe, posted on thousands of sites.
The error was not a small typo. The headlines were not misleading. They lied, inventing a story that never happened. The misrepresentation of the rabbi’s explanation of the Jewish Messiah was so egregious it hints at harmful intent. The insult cut at the rabbi’s belief as a Jew and the offhand dismissal with no apology, simply erasing the headlines after the damage has already been done, is astounding.
The not-so-hidden message of the sensational headlines was simple, one Jews have been hearing for a millennium: ‘Come and celebrate the conversion of a Jew, an actual rabbi, to the Christian belief in Jesus as the Messiah. One more for our side, and may the rest burn in hell.’ That was the appeal and it was wildly successful.
Rabbi Berger is a prominent rabbi and it is from this that he makes a living. But his belief in Torah is, of course, much more than a job. He is above reproach and lives a pious lifestyle. In the Orthodox community an accusation that a rabbi believes in Jesus will destroy his reputation and damage his livelihood. Labelled a heretic, he will be shunned by all. For Rabbi Berger, the headlines cut him to his very soul, presenting him in the public eye as a traitor to his faith and to his people. He understood it for what it was. In his words, “This was an attack on the honor of the Torah”.
Breaking Israel News contacted the Daily Mail about their offensive headlines. They told us to write an email stating our concerns, which we did. We requested the headlines be amended, a retraction printed, and an apology offered to the rabbi whose reputation was besmirched. After several days and several more emails, the headlines were finally changed. No retraction was printed, no apology was offered, and no explanation was given for this horrendous violation of basic journalistic principles.
Though it is universally known that Christianity believes a star appeared over Bethlehem announcing the birth of Jesus, that was not mentioned in the article. The article discussed Judaism and presented its belief in how the Messiah will arrive.
Jews and Christians have a long history of difficult relations, It has been entirely one-sided with Jews as the perpetual victim, persecuted for our beliefs. In an unprecedented manner, Jews and Christians are finally making tentative moves to remedy this. It is a glorious testimony to both religions.
For this relationship to flourish, Jews must be permitted to be Jews, to have a belief in Messiah that is separate and different than Christians, a belief that does not include Jesus. This is absolutely not a criticism of the Christian faith. This is the bare minimum needed for coexistence. Unless Christians are willing to instigate a modern Crusade, go back to killing Jews and torturing them until they profess a belief in Jesus, Jews must be allowed to be Jews.
Matters of faith must be treated with the same careful respect as matters of race and gender. For these publications to take the words of a rabbi discussing his belief in a Jewish Messiah and twist those words to fit their xenophobic agenda is far more than insensitivity. It is no less than religious persecution. Their intent may have been to attract viewers, but it is unacceptable in the public forum to utilize “Kill the Jew” tactics to appeal to society’s lowest elements. These headlines typify a form of Jew-hatred that should have been abandoned, left behind in Inquisition-era Spain.