The National Catholic Review

Not perhaps since the infamous 19th century fiction Maria Monk has such a fanatically anti-Catholic tract appeared as the pamphlet that circulated for the last four months among troops of the Israeli Defense Force. According to a report in Haaretz, the respected Israeli daily, July 19, the brochure, entitled “On Both Sides of the Border,” alleged that the Vatican had sponsored tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah leaders to teach them how to exterminate Jews. Haaaretz reported that the allegations were widely believed by the soldiers who read them.

Responding quickly to the Haaretz story, the IDF suppressed the pamphlet’s  circulation and the Orthodox Union, the umbrella group of Orthodox Jews in the U.S., repudiated its message, which had been endorsed by an OU Israeli affiliate and Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, who is known for his extreme racial views. The quick response is welcome, but we are forced to ask: How could such outrageous lies be allowed to distributed and read for four months, and what will be done to correct them?

Catholic-Jewish relations are under extraordinary stress on a wide front these days, and energetic leadership is needed to put them on track. Catholic leaders are currently trying with great care, for example, to repair the damage done by their apparent assertion in a document released in June that interreligious dialogue implicitly holds an invitation for dialogue partners to convert.

In the case of Judaism, and particularly Israeli Jews, a key issue is knowledge of contemporary Christianity, particularly of the advances made in Catholic-Jewish relations since Vatican II. Beyond the horrors of medieval pogroms, the Inquisition, and expulsions from Spain and other countries,  Israelis know little about Christianity. “Jewish kids in Israel who finish high school will be totally ignorant about Vatican II. They will not have a clue,” said Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel in a recent CNS report carried in America.. This latest incident of anti-Catholic incitement ought to be an occasion for Jews in the U.S. and Israel to educate themselves about the good news in Catholic-Jewish relations over the past four decades, even as Catholic leaders struggle to sustain that very legacy.

Drew Christiansen, S.J.

Comments

Anonymous | 8/4/2009 - 3:58am
please be advised that some religious elements in israel are about as representative of israeli public opinion as is the KKK regarding US public opinion. these are people who are behind the assassination of one relatively beloved prime minister and just the other day two kids (one a 16 year old girl) - members in a gay support group. they sell amulets, wave dead chickens over one's head and engage in hate. unfortunately - israel being a democracy with free speech FOR ALL(!! - even anti-israel palestinian parliament members who call for the destruction of the state they proport to represent), they have access to soldiers too. luckily, most of them do not actually serve in the army, prefering to populate the dark classrooms of their secluded seminaries, so their opinions are not taken very seriously by those soldiers - most of whom are doing a 3-year obligatory service, and very few who have actually had first hand experience of any kind of battle. these soldiers are kids waiting to get on with their lives and who would rather be having fun in college - just like their contemporaries anywhere else in the world. they don't read the booklets they're supposed to read, much less fanciful lit distributed by crazies.
anyone with a knowledge of israel knows this. so i ask: what is the purpose of spotlighting the incident? what is the true aggenda of anyone who would create a news story out of this?
Anonymous | 7/31/2009 - 10:26pm
Forgive me for pointing out that the students of so-called "Orthodox" Catholic schools also run the risk of graduating in total ignorance of Vatican II.......
Anonymous | 7/31/2009 - 1:12pm
I saw this article about the pamphlet and my first reaction was one of incredulity -mainly towards the idea that the IDF soldiers would believe such trash; after all, the Jewish culture is not one of lack of learning or of teaching. So, I also have doubts about your statement, "Israelis know little about Christianity". Com'on, they live in the birthplace of Jesus and of Christianity. They may not like that Jesus called himself the Son of G_d, but they surely know that the culture that mostly believes this is also the culture that makes it possible for Israel to continue to exist; and for Israel's establishment in the first place. There are 52 cards in a deck and a few wild cards too; this is a wild card.
Anonymous | 7/31/2009 - 11:15am
I have two thoughts on this issue.  The first is that there is a reason some Jewish leaders are worried about our intentions - since Christianity is a prostelizing religion, although the evangelical Protestants have been more energentic than the Catholics of late.  Considering how the Zionists have gotten in bed with End Time Protestants, perhaps there are valid reasons for them to worry.  The second explanation may actually be because people may be quietly converting or some are resisting the call of the Spirit.  Sometimes people react violently to the invitation at first.
 
None of this is politically correct or ecumenical and I am not one of those who insists that the Jews must convert, however there are those who think otherwise.