Tuesday 7 February 2012

The Talented Mr Hathaway

The Rosh Pina Project features a lengthy, detailed and devastating critique of ‘evangelist' David Hathaway. The post consists of a lengthy Open Letter to one of the senior pastors of a pro-Israel Pentecostal church in Derbyshire, England which has invited Hathaway to address a conference it has organised for this coming Saturday.

On his website, Hathaway claims that, as a direct result of his preaching, thousands of Holocaust survivors in Israel have become believers in Jesus.

Thousands of Holocaust survivors attended David Hathaway's November meetings in Israel … After listening to David preach and pray, they found a new hope and faith. We have developed a long term relationship with these survivors – we were able to provide humanitarian aid, food and other essential items – also, our representatives will keep co-operating with them to help them grow in their faith.

Hathaway (caught in an unfortunate pose preaching to Holocaust survivors, above) has claimed that a thousand Jews became believers through his April 2011 meetings and that last November 6,000 unbelievers attended his meetings, of which ‘over 90%’ were ‘unbelieving Jews’ and the response rate from these was ‘at least 80%’. That implies a minimum of 4,320 new Jewish believers in Jesus!

If the claimed results of Hathaway’s six meetings were true, it would be totally unprecedented in Jewish evangelism. Zachor has investigated the reports using a number of different methods, and his conclusions make for disturbing reading.

He reveals, among other things that a ‘Messianic Jew’ who was at the meetings ‘did not see the reported events.’

Noam Hendren, who is the chairman of the National Evangelism Committee in Israel, has asked if anyone can confirm Hathaway’s claims. The messianic community within Israel is relatively small, and Stern and Hendren, by virtue of their roles, will be widely connected and will know what is happening. If these people have to ask if Hathaway’s claims are true, that immediately suggests they may not be.

Those interviewed on a video of one of Hathaway’s meetings testify not to new-found faith in Jesus, but to supposed physical healing, using typical Christian language.

A senior member of staff at a Jewish mission says that the Messianic community has not even heard of David Hathaway, which is inconceivable if he had actually held such a major event with such amazing results.

An Israel-based Messianic Bible teacher with an international ministry says Hathaway’s claims are entirely unsubstantiated, and have little relationship to discernible truth.

A pastor who spent several years in Israel with a Jewish mission has concluded that Hathaway’s claims are false and were written to raise money. He is disgusted by Hathaway’s behaviour.

Zachor points out that Jewish people are extremely resistant to the message that Jesus is the Messiah. This results from centuries of Christian persecution and the huge differences between Christianity and Judaism. The Holocaust is frequently viewed as an event in which those claiming to be Christians played a major, if not central, role. Many Jews, especially older people, are not afraid to say that they hate Christians.

Hence it is extremely unlikely that large numbers of Jewish people, especially Holocaust survivors, would attend a meeting hosted by a Christian evangelist, let alone respond to his message. Hathaway’s reports contradict the experience of numerous other people involved in Jewish outreach.

If Hathaway’s claims are true, then thousands of new Jewish believers would be found in Israeli churches or messianic congregations, and the resulting increase in numbers would become public knowledge very quickly. This has not happened.

If Hathaway’s claims are true, his activities would have immediately attracted the attention of aggressive Jewish anti-missionary organisations such as Yad L’Achim.

Furthermore, if the April trip did result in around 1,000 Jewish people becoming believers in Jesus, as claimed, news of this would have reached the anti-missionaries and the response to his November visit would have been extreme. They would have tried to block his entry into the country and sent large numbers of activists to violently picket and disrupt his meetings. All this would have been reported in the media. There have been no such reports.

The report is sobering and depressing. But Hathaway is not alone in making grand unsubstantiated claims. The lesson is, if claims of large numbers of Jewish people coming to faith sounds too good to be true, they probably are.

Dickens and the Jews

Two hundred years ago today, the man who is arguably the second greatest English author was born. Whether you’ve read the books themselves or only watched the movie or BBC dramatisations, there is at least one story you will be familiar with. Most people, even if they have not read Oliver Twist or seen David Lean’s magnificent film adaptation, will be familiar with Oliver, Lionel Bart’s feel-good musical romp that succeeded in transforming the reptilian ‘Jew’ Fagin into a pantomime villain.

It is sobering to think that England’s two greatest writers – Shakespeare and Dickens – between them succeeded in creating two of the greatest villains in world literature – Shylock and Fagin – both of them Jewish. The only literary bad guys worse than Shylock and Fagin are supernatural baddies such as Sauron, Grendel and the Wicked Witch of the West. In Oliver Twist, even Bill Sykes is overshadowed by ‘the Jew’ Fagin.

In the Jewish Chronicle of 22 December 2011, Jennifer Lipman pointed out that in Dickens’s novel, ‘Fagin is refererred to as “the Jew” more frequently than he is referred to by name – more than 250 times – and as a “hideous old man [who] seemed like some loathsome reptile”.’

Lipman’s article goes on to point out that Dickens later amended his portrayal of Fagin and that in a final reading of the book that he gave in the year before he died, he included no reference to the Fagin’s ethnicity. She reveals also that Dickens also created the rather more flattering Jewish character of Mr Riah in Our Mutual Friend. But Fagin was not unique in Dickens’s oeuvre.

The 1852, Household Words, the weekly periodical Dickens edited, featured a story called 'Old Clothes', in which Dickens appeared to suggest that all Jews were ‘old-clothesmen in disguise’ – essentially, lower-class peddlers. The story became the subject of a long and sarcastic letter to the JC from a reader who signed himself ‘P’.

‘P’ thanked Dickens for bringing to his attention the previously unknown fact that ‘carrying the bag, and crying ‘Ogh clo,’ seemed to be a sort of apprenticeship to which ‘all Hebrews’ were subjected, and speculated that Dickens must be haunted by a spectre from his childhood who caused him to see ‘in every beard a Jew, and in every Jew an old-clothesman, even in countries where no such thing as the ‘Ogh clo’ trade exists’.

‘P’ pointed out sharply that if Jews were dealers of second-hand clothing, it was largely because Dickens’ ancestors had prevented Jews from taking up more ‘ennobling’ pursuits.

A few weeks later, Dickens was offered ‘proof’ that ‘the Jews have minds and ideas above the ‘old clothes bag’, when several University of London graduates sent the JC notice of their examination success in fields including anatomy and physiology. ‘Is Mr Charles Dickens yet disposed to do us justice, and retract his unjust aspersions?’ they asked.

In March 1851, the JC devoted a front page to coverage of Dickens’ article ‘Biography of a bad shilling’, in which ‘a Jew’ was held responsible for the atrocious crime of melting down a respectable zinc door plate.

The JC complained that the author ‘once more seizes on the opportunity of adding to the insults and calumnies he had previously heaped on the Jewish community’.

Noting that Dickens was influential enough to ‘eradicate from the vocabulary the fatal word “prejudice”,’ the JC questioned why so many criminals in Dickens’ work were Jewish when this did not match the ‘criminal calendar of the country’.

The previous year, a debate raged in the JC over The Old Lady in Threadneedle Street, which claimed that the gold of the Bank of England was ‘sweated by Jews’.

Reader ‘L L’ complained that Dickens had ‘held up my creed to scorn and detestation in charging Jews with this dishonest practice’ and suggested that the Jews of whom Dickens was writing must belong to the tribe ‘that has been charged with the murder of Christian infants, to make the Passover-bread with innocent blood’.

Another reader claimed there was ‘no more enthusiastic admirer’, but was saddened that Dickens only alluded to the Hebrews ‘for the purpose of attaching to our nation reproaches of vice, meanness and unworthiness’. He added: ‘Were Dickens a miserable penny-a-liner, his observations would have been unworthy of remark.’

Yet despite complaining of ‘20 years of misrepresentation on the part of the most generally read novelist’, Dickens was still considered worthy of a fulsome editorial on his death in June 1870. The JC mourned the fact that ‘the greatest ornament of the press of England passed away’.

To the Jewish community, a man who was once criticised for libelling a people with his words was, by the time of his death, a hero to be celebrated for years to come.