“JESUS, JESUS, I’M COMING TO YOU”
Yedi’ot Aharonot, August 6 1997
“Jesus, Jesus, where are you? / Jesus, do you love me? ……. Jesus, Jesus, who am I? …… Jesus, Jesus, I’m coming to you …..” (translated from a Hebrew translation of the English original).
Not your typical Jewish song, but Aviv Gefen, the “bad boy” of Israeli rock music, isn’t exactly a typical Jew… This is one of his recently recorded English language songs, sure to make waves back home. Other new songs are still filled with his trademark rebellion and objectionable language, but the lyrics quoted above make me think there’s good reason to pray!
Ha’Ir; Kol Ha’Ir, July 18 1997
This year, the repertoire of the Ra’anana childrens’ choir included the song Ave Maria, set to Bach’s first prelude. Many parents were, to make an understatement, not happy about this. They argued that the history of the church’s persecution of the Jews makes it abominable to teach a Christian text to Israeli children, and that doing so is akin to missionary preaching. Others, however, took a stand for artistic/cultural freedom, saying that forcing the choir to drop the song would be censorship. In the end, a compromise of sorts was reached: Ave Maria was sung by the youth choir, whose members, being older, are presumably more immune to the subliminal influence of Christian words.
RABBIS RECEIVE MISSIONARY MATERIAL
HaModia, August 5; Yated Ne’eman August 7 1997
Rabbis in Jerusalem and B’nei Brak were shocked to receive missionary pamphlets, mailed to them personally by a church (or organization?) in Arkansas in the USA. The chairman of Yad L’Achim blames PM Netanyahu, who has spoken out against the new anti-missionary bill, saying that this has created a climate in which Christians scorn religious Jews. A central burning of the pamphlets outside Mr. Netanyahu’s offices has been suggested.
SOLDIER ATTACKS MISSIONARIES
Kol HaNegev, August 1 1997
Missionaries at Beersheba’s central bus station were attacked by a religious soldier, who got upset about their distribution of tracts to travelers there. A local activist plans to file a complaint with the police against the missionaries.
Makor Rishon, August 1; Yom HaShishi, August 8 1997
These articles, after blasting PM Netanyahu for his letter against the proposed anti-missionary bill, are basically litanies against Messianic Jews and their Christian supporters. Among the charges:
The mission buys children from poor families, in order to convert them and raise them as Christians.
Missionaries use social welfare information in order to target materially and emotionally needy people with their “heavily funded and well oiled” propaganda machine.
Approximately 45 Messianic congregations, with ca. 5000 members, exist in Israel, disguising themselves as Jewish organizations and providing free medical care, etc. as a cover for their missionary activities. They even organize huge gatherings, and “social events” for children and youth.
The Dugit coffee shop in Tel-Aviv regularly influences young people with cultural events.
King of Kings congregation has a “Messianic Yeshiva.”
The ICEJ’s real intentions are revealed in a document written by its director: “Perhaps, …. the people of the Embassy will eventually be called upon to proclaim the message of hope and salvation to those lost and groping in the dark. …. We cannot give Israel a greater grace, than to be the instrument for bringing them into a relationship with the New Covenant with the God of Israel.” Further proof is found in the ICEJ’s support for a new Messianic preschool at the Netiviyah congregation. According to the paper’s reliable sources, the ICEJ and Messianic Jews are also planning to grab seats in the Israeli legislature.
The Makor Rishon article also contains an interview with a Yad L’Achim worker. He describes the ways in which they oppose missionaries, including “espionage” tactics such as planting agents in Messianic congregations. They also have “rescue” operations for deprogramming people caught in the missionaries’ web: the rescuers are well trained in polemics, and research the potential converts’ background in order to understand the reasons for their entrapment.
Ma’ariv, July 25 & 29; Itton Yerushalayim, July 25 1997
A number of mainstream papers have published opinion pieces about the bill. The earlier article in Ma’ariv bases arguments in favor of the bill on a democracy’s right to defend itself from dangers to its society – and interprets missionary activity as an attempt to destroy the Jewish people. In the writer’s opinion, anyone who thinks that democracy has no limits and that freedom of speech permits any- and everything is not an excellent democrat but a complete fool. The others consider the bill unnecessary, mainly because the missionary “threat” is almost non-existent. They also see the bill as undemocratic in nature and harmful to Israel herself as well as to her relations with other nations.
Following is the text of an open letter sent by the Messianic Action Committee to PM Netanyahu, which appeared as a full page ad in the Jerusalem Post and (in Hebrew) in Ma’ariv and Ha’Aretz on July 25 1997:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
On the 19th of February a bill was introduced in the Knesset, amending the Penal Code of 1977 (174c). The bill proposes: “anyone who possesses without legal sanction or prints or copies or distributes or hands out or imports or makes public material in which there is any form of enticement to a change of religion shall be subject to one year’s imprisonment. A leaflet or (any form of ) publicity material in which there is any form of enticement to a change of religion will be confiscated.” The Government did not oppose the bill except by way of a weak statement. It was supported by two senior cabinet ministers.
Prime Minister, you undoubtedly are aware of the implications such a bill would have on the foundations of democracy in our State. The bill transgresses our Basic Law: Man’s Dignity and Freedom, international conventions to which our country is signatory and our Declaration of Independence. This bill proposes to limit the freedom of speech in Israel. It arrogates the right to determine for the Israeli public what literature it may read, under pain of imprisonment. It proposes to establish in Israel a religious and political censorship and to restrict freedom of expression at its most delicate point: the freedom of religious expression.
The opposition of many in the country to this bill, as seen in the attached Gallup poll, is understandable. A true democracy is measured by the majority’s attitude to the minority – not by the privileges which the majority accords itself. Some 5,000 Messianic Jews live in Israel today. They are faithful citizens of the State, maintain its laws, pay taxes and serve in the IDF. Although we are a minority, our struggle is just and enjoys the support of many, including some Knesset Members and Ministers in your Cabinet who have expressed their support in various ways.
Prime Minister, you are aware of views prevalent in the American public and in Europe. You know how wide a support there is for Israel among Jewish Messianics and evangelical Christians throughout the world. The proposed law threatens that support, as can be learnt from the tens of thousands of protests that have arrived from all over the world. How do you imagine they will respond when they learn that the liberties of those who share their faith are subject to undemocratic restrictions and that their literature is forbidden?
You have committed yourself and your Government to strenuously opposing the bill in question. We here note for the record that nothing less than its complete rejection should be acceptable. Like peace, democracy is indivisible.
As the Prime Minister of all the nation and as one who is sincerely committed to the principles of democracy and their defense, there is need for you to take up an active, public stand against the present effort to limit freedom of expression. We call upon you to issue an appeal to the Knesset to work for the bill’s rejection. By this you will demonstrate your support of Israel’s democratic principles and your defense of the right of every minority to live according to its conscience, as is true in all the world’s democracies and has been the case in our country—to date.
With all due respect,
The Messianic Congregational Action Committee
Letter to the Editor, the Jerusalem Post, August 13 1997
Sir, – In regard to the Messianic Congregational Action Committee’s ad of July 25, at last Messianic Jews have openly admitted they are not a branch of Judaism as they deceitfully claim, but simply Christian missionaries holding to the same beliefs as evangelical Christians with whom they align themselves (fourth paragraph, line two of the ad): “You know how wide a support there is for Israel among Jewish Messianics and evangelical Christians throughout the world.”
From: Y. Ze’evi, Yad L’Achim Anti-missionary organization
NEWSPAPERS USED IN THIS EDITION:
Yedi’ot Aharonot: National daily published in Tel-Aviv. Attitude to believers depends on the reporter.
Ha’Ir: Tel-Aviv weekly.
Kol Ha’Ir: Jerusalem leftist weekly. Pro-Palestinian, anti-religious, objective towards believers.
HaModia: Jerusalem religious daily. Very hostile to believers.
Yated Ne’eman: National religious/political daily published in B’nei Brak. Very hostile to believers.
Kol HaNegev: Southern region weekly.
Makor Rishon: B’nei Brak weekly.
Yom Ha’Shishi: Jerusalem religious weekly. Hostile to believers.
Ma’ariv: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv. Politically tends to the right, mostly objective towards believers (depends on the reporter).
Itton Yerushalayim: Jerusalem weekly.
Ha’Aretz: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv, mostly objective towards 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.