August 31 – 1999



These past two months have seen much press devoted to the coming millennium. Many articles have related to the expected upsurge in tourism and the preparations, or lack of them, for the increased number of tourists and pilgrims. A number of the articles, in both the secular and religious press, have expressed grave concern regarding Christian extremist groups who are feared to be planning violent action if Jesus does not return according to their expectations. Other articles cover the expected tours of big American evangelists and their plans for the millennium celebrations. The upcoming visit of the Pope to ‘The Holy Land’ is also covered in much detail.


Investigation of Ethiopian Messianic Amuta (Iton Yerushaliam, 18/6/99)

Under the heading ‘Expose’, this paper carried an extensive two page report on the recent police investigation of the Amuta ‘Lapid Gidon’ and its director, Kocheb Gedamu. The Ministry of the Interior appointed an external examiner to investigate the claims against the amuta as well as its financial affairs. Kocheb Gedamu is suspected of offering financial enticement and  bribing individuals to “join the mission,” to  embrace the beliefs of the amuta and with failing to act in accordance with the declared aims and purposes of the amuta. Gedamu denies the accusations against him. On the articles of association of the amuta Kocheb Gedamu is listed as non-Jewish but he maintains that he is in fact Jewish and is a Messianic Jew.

There are several photographs accompanying this article. Kocheb Gedamu is pictured preaching at a conference held at Moshav Yad Hashmona and there are photographs of conference participants together with descriptions of the conferences.


Interview with Yad L’achim Activist (29/6/99 From a transcription of the ‘Daily Heritage’ (19:40) program presented by the first radio station)

In the opinion of Alex Atarski, Yad L’Achim expects an influx of 6 million pilgrims to Israel in the year 2,000 with one half million of them being fully funded and equipped missionaries whose aim is to target the weaker elements of Israeli society with their evangelistic message.  Atarski expresses great anxiety over this missionary program. He goes on to describe one of the most prevalent ways that these ‘missionaries’ are recruited.  Jews from the United States who are in crisis, either psychological or financial, are evangelized and then they become ‘first class missionaries.’

Atarski attacks the anti-mission law as ineffective and without teeth and expresses his disillusionment with the law. He proposes an increase in public demonstrations in order to raise public awareness regarding the missionary threat. He is particularly concerned for the vulnerability of Russian, Bucharian, Kafkazi immigrants. He says that those who call themselves Messianic Jews or believers are particularly dangerous.


Messianic Jew gives Lecture at Bar Ilan University (Israel Today, June 1999)

This monthly Jerusalem paper reports on  a lecture given by Tvika Sadan (an Israeli Messianic Jew)  as a part of a seminar on philosophy at the religious university, Bar Ilan in Tel Aviv. Tvika Sadan was introduced as a Jew who believes in Jesus and spoke about Messianic Judaism. He quoted from the Old and New Testaments and also traditional sources of the Talmud, Kabbala and Maimonides to support his belief in Jesus. His lecture was well received and the students asked questions about sin, baptism, Jesus and the New Testament.


Pope’s WWII anti-Semitic Letter (Jerusalem Post, 2/7/99 Front page article)

The Pope’s letter to FDR of June 22, 1943 is quoted in he context of the current process of canonization of  Pope Pious  XII who served as Pope during the second world war. The letter states; “…at one time Palestine was inhabited by the Hebrew Race, but there is no axiom in history to substantiate the necessity of a people returning to a country they left 19 centuries before. If a ‘Hebrew Home’ is desired it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting place than Palestine. With an increase in Jewish population there, grave new international problems would arise.

A spokesman for the Wisenthal Center, Marvin Hier, says, “many people around the world will say that a saint was alive in the Vatican during the holocaust. This is an insult to the memory of the holocaust and is an insult to the survivors.”


Knesset Debate on Anti-Missionary Legislation (Ha’modia, 1/7/99)

The paper reports on the a proposal by MK Rabbi Yakov Litzman on the anti- missionary law. Rabbi Lizman raised this issue in the Knesset proposing that the law be debated in committee in order to increase the effectiveness of anti-missionary legislation in light of the increasing danger of missionary activity. A unanimous decision was taken to debate this in committee.


Bible Shop in Gaza (Israel Today, July Edition)

This monthly paper reports on the opening of the first Bible shop in Gaza. The shop is located on Palestinian Square in the center of Gaza. It is called ‘Teacher’s Book Store’ as it carries educational materials in addition to Bibles.


Non-Jewish Israeli Army (Yom L’Yom, 1/7/99)

In a lengthy (3 page) article this paper reports on a proposed law that would grant automatic citizenship to all who serve in the Israeli army and would also grant rights of citizenship to the families of those who serve in the military. This proposal has passed the first reading and is expected to pass the three necessary further readings in the near future.

The tone of the article is inflammatory as it describes a scenario in which Jewish values are undermined by the non-Jewish elements who will be accepted as full citizens in their thousands. The article accuses the army as being a “department of non-Jewish immigration” and as a center of the Russian Mafia and accuses the army of changing its face and character by the inclusion of non-Jewish elements. It expresses concern at the growing non-Jewish character of both the military and the nation.


Missionary Scam Exposed (Ha’modia, 2/7/99)

This paper carries a full page report in their American Jewish Outlook column about a couple who infiltrated an orthodox community in Denver, Colorado. The couple who represented themselves as Jews returning to the fold were in actuality Gentile converts to Judaism. The wife of the couple was the daughter of a Christian pastor with a mission to the Jewish people. The couple’s duplicity was uncovered by one of the members of the orthodox community and caused shock-waves throughout the Denver Jewish community.

The article carries an extensive description of what it means to be a Messianic Jew and expresses great concern over the danger of this movement.


Pope’s Prayer at the Warsaw Ghetto (Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Yidiot Achronot. 6/7/99, 14/7/99)

Ha’aretz devotes a quarter page to a letter from the Catholic monk Yochanan  Elichai, which includes his full translated text of the Pope’s prayer at the Warsaw Ghetto on June 11, 1999 in which he prays on behalf of the Jewish people. Yidiot Achronot also quotes extensively from the Pope’s prayer:

“Hear our prayer for the Jewish people who you have loved from the days of old till the present time for the sake of their father’s… Let them win honor and love from those who have not yet understood their suffering and from those who are not yet sorry for the wounds which were inflicted on them and let all your sons respect one another. Look favorably on the young generation, the youth and the children. Let their hearts be faithful to your name and to the exalted secret of their destiny. Let your spirit rest on them and from the testimony that they witness in their lives may all men understand that there is one source and one goal for all peoples. God who desires the salvation of all.”


Ethiopian Immigration (Jerusalem Post, Front page article; Ha’aretz, 7/7/99)

The papers both report on the funding of immigration of Ethiopian Jewry from the Kawara area of Ethiopia being undertaken by a Chicago based Christian evangelical group. When the Interior Ministry of Israel refused to fund the immigration of the Kawara Jews, this organization stepped in with the necessary funds. There are currently about 3,000 applicants for immigration and the Ministry of the Interior states that 90% will be approved. There are questions and difficulties being raised by mixed marriages and the interior ministry is checking the levels of Jewish practice before granting immigrant status to the applicants.


Yad L’achim Conference in Or Yehuda, (Yom L’yom, 8/7/99)

Yad L’Achim held a conference with the purpose of awakening a response and enlisting support against ‘the mission in the city of Or Yehuda. The conference was held in the central synagogue of the city and was opened by the director of the city’s cultural department. A video film was shown about the activities of the mission and a testimony was given by one who was ‘saved from the mission.’  Some members of the audience who numbered in the hundreds were moved to the point of weeping. They were exhorted to contribute with their bodies and souls to the holy work of Yad L’Achim against the mission.


Non-Jewish Immigration,(Yom L’yom, 8/7/99)

A page from the Israeli Statistical Abstract is reproduced to illustrate the content of this three page feature article. Statistics from 1946 till March 1999 show that the number of non-Jews who are registered as new immigrants has risen from 2.58% in 1946 to 42.82% in 1998 (the last year for which full statistics are available). The statistics for the first three months of 1999 show that 56.74 of the immigrants during that period were non-Jewish. The paper estimates that 400,000 non-Jews, mostly from mixed marriages, have entered Israeli society as immigrants during the last ten years. Concern is expressed that the Jewish nature of the State of Israel is in grave danger.


Crosses in the Classroom (Kol HaDarom, 9/7/99)

This paper carries a report about increasing numbers of students wearing crosses as jewelry. Teachers in secular schools reported intense discomfort at the sight of students with crosses and said that they had repeatedly asked the students to remove the offending symbol. The students refused to remove the crosses or to hide them under their clothing as some of the teachers had recommended.

Complaints were taken to the school principles and from there to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education advised the schools to explain that the cross is a potent symbol of the suffering of the Jewish people at its hands and therefore it is offensive to Jewish people and inappropriate for Jews to wear it. They suggested that the students be encouraged to wear the star of David in place of the cross or at the very least to hide the cross under their clothing. They, however, would make no official policy but left it to the individual schools to formulate their own internal policies on the matter. It was noted that a high percentage of those wearing crosses were from the former Soviet Union.


Interview with Yad L’Achim Director, (From a transcript of a program of the first radio channel, (7 AM), 11/7/99)

Rabbi Lipshitz, director of Yad L’Achim describes the organization’s activities to prevent a ‘mass-baptism’ of 400 people on the Sabbath. Yad L’achim’s activists worked to prevent buses carrying baptismal candidates from Ashdod, Ashkelon and Rishon L’Tzion to Capernaum. The anti-missionary activists boarded buses, laid themselves down in front of the busses and recited the Sh’ma in effort to prevent the departure to the baptismal site. Rabbi Lipshitz reported that activists were also present at the site in Capernaum and attempted to stop the baptisms there. He stated that it was permitted to break the Sabbath to save a Jewish soul. He also expressed concern over the danger represented by Messianic Jews who call themselves Jews but in his opinion are not. Baruch Maoz was named as being responsible for the ‘mass baptisms.’ Rabbi Lipshitz described baptism as an induction into idolatry.

These two papers (14/7/99 Ma’ariv, 11,15/7/99 Ha’modia) both report on the ‘war between the Jews and the Mission in Ashkelon. Both papers quote the number of 400 baptismal candidates.

In a related story (16/7/99, Hashavua in Ashdod) the paper relates that the ultra-orthodox protesters erred during their Sabbath demonstrations against mass baptisms by mistakenly targeting autobuses that were hired by a local Ashdod group for a day tour. Yad L’Achim activists boarded the buses of the group and only later did they accept that they had targeted the wrong audience.

An editorial in the ultra-orthodox daily (HaModia, 16/7/99) by religious member of Knesset, Rabbi Meir Porush expounds the dangers of the mission and the ineffectivity of the anti-mission law in light of the ‘mass baptism’ of 400 Jews.


Apology for the Crusades, (Jerusalem Post, 16/7/99)

Rabbi Lau, the Chief Ashkanazi Rabbi of Israel accepted a written apology for the Crusades. This letter was presented to Rabbi Lau on behalf of the Reconciliation Walk group by a representative of the Florida based group, the  Lutheran Orient Mission Society. Members of the Reconciliation Walk group have retraced on-foot the path of the Crusades since 1966 in a journey that has taken them from Cologne, Germany to Jerusalem. This year marks the 900th anniversary of the Crusades.


Book Review (Gesher, Edition number 45, Summer, 1999)

Gesher reviews a recently published book “Christianity and the Holy Land” 1997, 338 pages, by Aharon Liron. The review highlights the lack of Hebrew publications on the history of Christianity. “Christianity and the Holy Land” covers the history of Christianity from the time of Yeshua till the end of World War II and the Vatican’s recognition of Israel. There are sections on Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and all of the Protestant denominations. Gesher calls this book “readable, factual, and highly recommended for use in high schools, universities and schools for tour guides.”


New Hebrew Arabic Dictionary (Ha’aretz, 13/8/99)

Ha’aretz favorably reviews this new publication of the Ministry of Defense of “The New Dictionary of Spoken Arabic: Hebrew Arabic, by Yochanan Elichai. Yochanan Elichai is a monk of the order of the Little Brothers of Jesus who has lived in Israel since 1956. His life story is related in the article accompanying the book review. The article calls the current dictionary the jewel in the crown of Elichai’s work and praises it in the highest possible terms. The work is highly recommended for all serious students of Arabic. (Editors note: Yochanan Elichai is a leading member of the Hebrew Catholic community in Jerusalem)


Missionary Activity in Jerusalem, (In Jerusalem, Shabbat supplement to the Jerusalem Post, 13/8/99)

In a three-page cover story, this paper outlines the missionary activity and perceived threat that exists in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is called the “hub of missionary activities.” The paper states that there a re approximately 200 missionary organizations active in Israel, each with a staff of 5 to 6 persons. these organizations are scattered throughout Israel in a variety of locations from kibbutzim to homes for the elderly to ulpans to orthodox yeshivas.

A description of the activities at the Baptist House on Narkiiss Street is given and Opher Amitai, a Jewish-born Israeli, is named as the pastor of the Hebrew speaking congregation on the premises. Ray Pritz, an elder in the ‘Eida’ as the Hebrew speaking congregation is known is quoted as saying that “there is no formal active program for missionary activities but all believers are ready to share what they believe when asked. What we teach and what the New Testament teaches is that your life should cause people to ask.”

King of Kings is named as the largest missionary organization in Jerusalem. A photograph of a building is shown and identified as the headquarters of King of Kings (ed. note, the photograph is actually of the building belonging to Netiviah). The services of the Netiviah congregation are described as a ‘mock Shabbat service’ with no music and the congregants praying from sidurim.

Anti-missionary activist Shmuel Golding of the Jerusalem Institute of Biblical Polemics speaks about the misleading terminology of missionaries. “Professor Stephan Kaplan of the Hebrew Univeristy explains how it is possible to reconcile the concept of Messianic Judaism. As Judaism is both a religion and an ethnicity, one doesn’t stop being Jewish for believing in Jesus as Messiah. ‘If someone who doesn’t believe in God is still Jewish, so why not someone who believes in Jesus?’”


Status of Mixed Marriages, (Shavuon Holon, 13/8/99)

The new Minister of the Interior, Natan Sharansky, is beginning to fulfill his promises to the voters regarding the status of the non-Jewish spouses of mixed marriages. In his election campaign, Sharansky said that the non- Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens would be granted temporary status and the length of time required for them to be absorbed in to the country would be reduced to three years. Sharansky has approved the granting of temporary identification documents to the non-Jewish spouse that would allow the bearer to benefit from health insurance. “ The new guide lines that Sharansky has set relate to the registration of marriages that at the same time a request for citizenship is lodged. The spouse would receive a temporary status for four years. At the end of the fourth year a permanent residency status will be granted and at the end of another year (five years) citizenship will be granted.” These new regulations are in contrast to the ones previously in operation that made the process of citizenship last for up to eight years and prevented the non-Jewish spouse from obtaining health insurance or from working during the process.