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A satiric sketch on Channel 10 television prompted dozens of Christians in the Galilee to demonstrate against the channel this weekend, while the heads of local Christian churches published a denunciation of their own.

In their denunciation, the clergymen accused the skit of fomenting interreligious hatred.

The skit, which aired on Lior Shlein's nightly program, was called "Like a Virgin," after the Madonna song.

It denied that Jesus had walked on water, as stated in the New Testament, and claimed that not only was Mary not a virgin when she gave birth to him, as Christian tradition holds, but that she was promiscuous and had sex with many men besides her husband.

These events followed a denunciation by the Vatican on Friday.

After the show aired, the local Christian community demanded an apology from Shlein and even threatened a lawsuit against him and Channel 10; attorneys are now examining whether there are legal grounds for such a suit. Christian and Muslim clergymen also urged Pope Benedict XVI to cancel his planned trip here later this year. In addition, two Knesset members, Hanna Swaid (Hadash) and Nadia Hilou (Labor), demanded that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz order a criminal investigation of Shlein and Channel 10.

The Vatican's statement said that in the skit, Mary and Jesus were "ridiculed with blasphemous words and images" that amounted to a "vulgar and offensive act of intolerance toward the religious sentiments of believers in Christ."

It added that the Vatican was particularly saddened that such an attack had been directed at Jesus and Mary, who were themselves "children of Israel."

The statement by local clergymen, headed by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, said the skit "causes rifts and divisions, foments hatred and distances values that the church professes, first and foremost tolerance and acceptance of the other."

It also said the skit was merely the latest in a series of disturbing anti-Christian incidents over the last year, such as the burning of several New Testaments in Or Yehuda.

"For years, Christianity has been fighting anti-Semitism, and now Christians find themselves under anti-Semitic attack," the statement said. It also urged the state to take action to prevent further affronts to Christian sensibilities.

The demonstration against the skit took place yesterday along the Acre-Safed highway in the Galilee. The organizers said they were very pleased by the Vatican's statement, and particularly by its conclusion that this was not acceptable satire, but an affront to the sensibilities of all Christians everywhere. "Shlein crossed red lines," said one, George Anton.

Both Shlein and Channel 10 issued apologies immediately after the storm erupted. Channel 10 also promised that the sketch would not be aired again.