BUYING YOUR WAY TO HEAVEN
Itton Yerushalayim; Ba’Makom; Ayalon; Kol HaDarom; June 20, 1997
These four identical articles focus on the increasing missionary activity in Israel’s Ethiopian community. Until now, the subject has been taboo, for fear of adding yet another reason for the immigrants to be suspect and unacceptable to “normal” Israelis.
But some community leaders feel that it can no longer be ignored. According to them, missionaries are targeting young Ethiopians – students and soldiers – as well as their impoverished families, and offering them regular monthly subsidies in exchange for participation in Christian activities. These missionaries regularly approach travelers at bus stops, offering a range of free materials, including videos and Bibles. If people are interested, and come to their meetings, they receive $100 or more each month. Ethiopian MK Adisu Masala says that the missionaries are simply taking advantage of the immigrants’ poverty and frustration with not being accepted as equals in Israeli society.
MORE ON THE ANTI-MISSIONARY LAW
Yom L’Yom, July 3; Yom Ha’Shishi, June 27, July 4; The Jerusalem Post, June 30, July 6; Jewish Chronicle (London), June 6,20; Ha’Aretz, June 29; Israel Radio (three separate programs), June 2 1997
All these articles center around the uproar in the international community caused by the proposed amendment to Israel’s anti-missionary law. Included are interviews with Israeli ambassadors, foreign ministry officials, and foreign diplomats. In general, foreign Christians are seen as being concerned about Israeli democracy and freedom of religion. Israeli diplomats abroad are concerned about a possible anti-Israel back-lash if the bill is passed into law, citing the need for a clear statement from the government in order to counter press reports that focus on the idea that the bill could outlaw the New Testament.
This statement has now been made, with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s promises (in writing) to a prominent American minister as well as foreign politicians that his government “strenuously objects to this bill and will act to ensure that it does not pass.” On his part, Nissim Zvilli, one of the bill’s sponsors, has stated that it is not intended to outlaw the New Testament, and that he would be willing to withdraw it on condition that Israeli Christian organizations sign a commitment to stop all missionary activities.
This, apparently, is unlikely: as reported in the orthodox paper Yom L’Yom, “missionaries” from Israel’s Messianic congregations have stated that even if the bill is passed into law, they will not stop their activities. Messianic Action Committee chairman Baruch Maoz is quoted as saying that Israeli believers engage not in inducing people to convert but in “PR,” and that “you can fill the prisons with us all, but we’ll continue sharing our faith!”
NO FREE LUNCH
Yated Ne’eman, June 10; Ha’Modia June 13 1997
Orthodox Jewish activists have, through their vigilance, stopped missionaries from distributing food parcels to immigrants in Ashkelon. The students in a local Yeshiva noticed the “strange activity” and a group of them demanded that the missionaries cease their scheme of entrapping souls in exchange for groceries. When the latter refused to leave, the students “decided to act without delay to stop the distribution of groceries. … After the members of the cult understood that they would not be allowed to continue, they retreated quickly…” When the immigrants complained that they were prevented from receiving the food parcels, the local Rabbi gave instructions to purchase groceries and distribute them.
CHRISTIAN EMBASSY GROUNDS DEFACED
Itton Yerushalayim, June 20; Kol Ha’Ir, June 20, July 4; Yom Ha’Shishi June 20 1997
The International Christian Embassy’s (ICEJ) new headquarters in Jerusalem have become the target of anonymous vandals. Their sign has been spray painted a number of times, neighbors claim they have seen orthodox youth urinating on the gates, and most recently the entrance was locked with a bicycle lock. This last incident drove ICEJ officials to file a complaint with the police, an action they had avoided until now. Neighbors support the ICEJ, but area Yeshivas, while denying knowledge about the attacks, oppose the “missionary” activities that take place there.
According to the article in Yom Ha’Shishi, the secular news reports of orthodox youth perpetrating these attacks are untrue. They claim to have been told by an unnamed ICEJ staffer that none of the local yeshiva students is suspected of being responsible. When the head of one of these schools remarked to a (secular) reporter that as far as he knows, the ICEJ is a missionary organization, she responded with the question: “Aren’t you?”
The Jerusalem Report, July 7 1997
This in-depth article covers the situation of Israel’s Christians, both indigenous Arabs and expatriates – but Messianic believers are conspicuously absent. Arab Christians (with no distinction made between traditional/orthodox and evangelicals) are feeling increasingly pressured by growing Islamic fundamentalism, with inter-religious violence erupting in one Galilee town. On the other side of the political fence, Christian workers in Israel are feeling the effects of orthodox Jewish extremism, which has led to difficulties in obtaining visas, the proposed anti-missionary law, and even occasional harassment.
Note: the full article is worth reading. If you do not have access to the Report, I can send you a copy.
SABBATARIANS WILL LOSE CITIZENSHIP
Ma’ariv, Ha’Tzofe, Ha’Aretz, June 5; Yediot Aharonot, June 5,8; Jerusalem Post, Yated Ne’eman, June 6; Kol Ha’Ir, June 13 1997
A group of immigrants from Russia who are suspected of falsifying Jewish documents in order to move here is under investigation by the Interior Ministry. The 13 families, about 130 people, all live in a Jordan Valley settlement. They are, according to the Interior Ministry’s report, Sabbatarians – members of a Christian sect who observe Jewish laws and customs. If this is found to be true, their citizenship will be revoked, but they will most likely be allowed to stay as temporary residents since they have been here for some time.
The people in question state that they are definitely Jewish – and that their lifestyle as observant Jews and faithful citizens proves it. Many of the young adults remember suffering with their parents under communist rule because of their beliefs and practices, some were even “Prisoners of Zion.” One member of the settlement has left, saying that he had had enough persecution in Russia and wasn’t willing to go through it again. Others are more optimistic, hoping that the storm will die down and they’ll be able to go back to their simple, quiet life.
NEWSPAPERS USED IN THIS EDITION:
Itton Yerushalayim: Jerusalem weekly.
Ba’Makom, Ayalon: Rishon Le’Zion area weeklies
Kol Ha’Darom: Ashdod weekly.
Yom L’Yom: Jerusalem religious/political weekly. Hostile to believers.
Yom Ha’Shishi: Jerusalem religious weekly. Hostile to believers.
The Jerusalem Post: National English language daily, published in Jerusalem. Tends to the religious right, but careful and relatively fair towards believers (has a large Christian readership). Friendly towards right-wing political Christianity.
Ha’Aretz: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv, mostly objective towards believers.
Yated Ne’eman: National religious/political daily published in Bnei Brak. Very hostile to believers.
Ha’Modia: Jerusalem religious daily. Very hostile to believers.
Kol Ha’Ir: Jerusalem leftist weekly. Pro-Palestinian, anti-religious, objective towards believers.
The Jerusalem Report: English language bi-monthly published in Jerusalem, world-wide distribution. Politically centrist or left of center. Sensitive and objective towards believers.
Ma’ariv: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv. Politically tends to the right, mostly objective towards believers (depends on the reporter).
Ha’Tzofe: Tel-Aviv religious/political daily. Hostile to believers.
Yedi’ot Aharonot: National daily published in Tel-Aviv. Attitude to believers depends on the reporter.