FIREBOMBS… (Ma’ariv 8/3/99)
The day before yesterday unidentified assailants threw three Molotov cocktails into the house of a family living in Migdal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Police think that this act was motivated by the fact that the family belongs to the cult of the Messianic Jews.
Michael and Tirzah Schoenberg, with their eight children, are members of the Messianic community who believe that Jesus and the New Testament are a direct continuation of Judaism.
Two nights ago someone tried to harm them.
Hadassah, the eldest daughter, recalls:
“At 03:00 AM I heard glass breaking and spotted the fire on our porch. I called everyone and we put out the fire. It is a miracle from God that the house didn’t burn down and that nothing was damaged.”
The family car was also slightly burned by a Molotov cocktail.
Tiberias police commander Ya’acov Zigdon has ordered the opening of an intense investigation to find those responsible for this act.
The family revealed that this is not the first time they have been attacked: two years ago the tires on their car were slashed.
… AND THE RESPONSE (Ma’ariv 15/3/99)
To the attention of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
On the 7th of March three Molotov cocktails were thrown into the house of a family of Messianic believers who live in Migdal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
What was the crime of this family of eight children? Believing in an unpopular religion.
Recently there has been in increase in terrorist activities against us as well as proposed legislation. As citizens should we not expect equal rights of protection from those who would harm us?
Is it not the prime minister’s duty to be a moral as well as a political leader? Your speeches against violence are admirable. Would you be so kind as to condemn religious persecution too?
The Bible calls for justice and mercy. Is it possible to have one or the other?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES COME TO LIGHT (Ha’aretz 12/3/99)
The ministry of education has given permission for a five year old to be absent from celebrations welcoming the Sabbath in his kindergarten every Friday because he belongs to the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult or community.
They are generally known as an International Association, although Eric Miller, their representative in Israel, prefers simply “religion.” They believe in the Kingdom of God and the raising of the dead, as is written in the New Testament. They believe that Jesus is the messenger of God who came to save humanity from sin — yet they are not Christians. Their religion holds its own principles. Miller, a New York Jew, says they have close to six million members world wide, one thousand of whom live in Israel.
Most of the “Israeli” Jehovah’s Witnesses settled in Israel in the 1930’s. Their belief in the end times, including “they will study war no more,” prevents them from taking any political view and consequently from serving in the army. “It is not easy,” says Miller, but he recognizes that the army has recently shown a better understanding in releasing them from the required service.
Israeli society is becoming more and more open to this cult, according to Miller, although they still face occasional oppression and violence. Lately they have decided the time has come to make themselves known — going from door to door, explaining their faith and leaving material. They wish people to know that they too were persecuted during the Second World War by the Nazi army. Thousands of them were put to death in the concentration camps, refusing to identify themselves with Hitler’s regime. Unlike the Jews, they had the choice of signing a proclamation of identity with the Reich which would have left them unharmed. Most refused to sign. Recently a film documenting their persecution during the war was produced, and they hope to have it screened in an upcoming science convention (which will correspond with Holocaust day).
KABALAT SHABBAT (Ma’ariv and Yediot Aharonot 8/3/99; Kol haDarom 12/3/99)
Member of Jehovah’s Witnesses opposed to son taking part in kindergarten ceremony welcoming the Sabbath.
A resident of Ashkelon and member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult has recently won a long struggle with the Ministry of Education concerning the participation of her son in the celebrations “welcoming the Sabbath.” It turns out there are 30 members who live in Ashkelon and 70 who live in Ashdod. It is presumed that the number of members will grow significantly in the next few years due to growing interest in the cult.
Members of the cult do not celebrate religious holidays, a fact which brought about the mother’s request. The mother, along with her husband and three children, arrived in Israel two years ago from Romania, and joined the cult then, though her husband refused to join with her. They are not yet agreed on the religion of their children.
When the mother first asked to have her son removed from the ceremony, the teacher approved. But for some reason she later changed her mind, telling the mother “if you do not like the ceremony, you may leave the country.” The mother was not discouraged and directed her request to the Ministry of Education. There too she was faced with opposition to her request, the ministry claiming they were sad the mother did not wish to have her son experience a different culture and religion. She was not granted permission until the intervention of the Human Rights Association. They were able to persuade the ministry to change their minds, saying “if she wishes to make the differences between her son and other children more obvious we will do as she asks.”
The Ministry of Education has made it clear, however, that this agreement does not, in principle, set a precedent. “If we are asked our opinion, we will hold a discussion taking all educational and legal aspects into account.”