Caspari Center Media Review – October 8, 2009
During the week covered by this review, we received 5 articles on the subject of anti-missionary activity and anti-Semitism.
2 dealt with Messianic Jews
2 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christian Zionists
This week’s Review focuses on a lengthy article examining an alleged relationship between Yad L’Achim and the Ministry of the Interior.
Haaretz, October 2; HaTzvi, September 24, 2009
In the wake of last week’s article in HaTzvi regarding the “spread” of “missionary activity” into the Rotem neighborhood of Arad, Arsani Rozenbaum wrote to the paper (September 24) asking why its author, Adi ben Natan, had not interviewed both sides of the “conflict,” noting that he had met Rivka Frey personally several times, and although he did not consider himself a close acquaintance, could testify that she had never attempted to convert him. In response, ben Natan wrote that since Rivka had been interviewed on television several days previously, he had felt no need to repeat her views.
In an extremely lengthy article published in Haaretz (October 2), Yuval Azulai proposed that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior works hand in hand with the anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim, making use of details and acting against Messianic Jews on the basis of information supplied by its members. The multi-headlined article (“Birthpangs of the Messiah: All Israelis are brothers – forget it!”; “Not to believe”) noted immediately underneath that, “The Ultra-Orthodox organization ‘Yad L’Achim’ locates ‘Messianic Jews’ (who accept Yeshua as the Messiah), collects information about them, and passes it on to the Interior Ministry. Clerks from the office ask them [Messianic Jews] in for questioning and turn their lives into a bureaucratic nightmare. Alongside this are also cases of harassment against them, dissemination of rumors, and attacks on their livelihood.” It continued by stating that, “In most cases, those involved are Israelis, citizens of the State to every intent and purpose: they serve in the army, educate their children according to the values of the State and Zionism, send them to regular schools, work for their living, mostly in the free professions, pay taxes, love the State, swear loyalty to it and are dedicated to it, are moved by the raising of the flag and the singing of the national anthem – but despite all this, feel like a persecuted minority … Documents which have reached Haaretz point to the possibility that a relationship of cooperation exists between Yad L’Achim and clerks in two offices of the Interior Ministry. In one case, strong verbal affinities can be found between the terminology used by the head of the Population Registry in Tel Aviv [part of the Interior Ministry], Amos Arbel, and that used by R. Lipshitz [the director of Yad L’Achim]. Arbel was recorded during his questioning of a young woman who belongs to a Messianic Jewish congregation as teaching the Torah on one leg [a reference to a talmudic story, meaning that his words could have straight from the mouth of an anti-missionary]: ‘Whoever engages in Messianic activity acts against the Jewish people. Such activity does not exactly serve the interests and purposes of the State of Israel and the State of the Jews. Messianic activity is tantamount to taking Jews and turning them into Christians. If there are such people, the State of Israel does not treat them with respect’ … Haaretz also has a copy of an internal memo from another office of the Interior Ministry which relates to another family. The memo is signed by a clerk by the name of Ilana, who writes that, ‘The woman’s file has been transferred for checking with Yad L’Achim, in order to know whether she is actually a Messianic Jew or not. I have not [yet] received the file back again’ … The Interior Ministry was asked to respond to general and specific questions in regard to these issues, which were raised with it. Its efficient spokeswoman, Sabine Hadad, who is usually very prompt in responding to queries from the media within a few hours, needed three weeks to provide an answer. At first, her office claimed that the uncharacteristic delay was due to the fact that ‘the person responsible for such matters was on vacation.’ When he returned, he was said to be preparing to transmit his response. Finally, we received the following reply: ‘Whoever is suspected of Messianic missionary activity is denied entrance into Israel at the border at the airport, or by the consulate abroad where the request is submitted. Isolated cases exist in which people are eligible to immigrate under the law of return and following their immigration engage in Messianic missionary activity. In all of the latter cases, we had no prior knowledge about them. The Interior Ministry does not engage in seeking out such information or in locating or receiving information about Messianic missionary activity. All the information which reaches us comes from organizations within Israel or from individuals.’ By the way, the ‘person responsible’ for whose answer the spokesperson had to wait three weeks is none other than Amos Arbel, who claimed in a taped conversation that, ‘Whoever engages in Messianic activity works against the Jewish people.’”
The article surveyed the cases of two citizens brought into the Interior Ministry for questioning about their religious beliefs, despite the absence of any criminal, civil, or other charges – which in most countries would be considered to constitute a clear violation of their privacy and freedom of religion. It also adduced the case of a citizen whose passport was renewed for a year rather than the regular five because of his alleged involvement in the Messianic Jewish movement, the ‘mistake’ only being rectified following the intervention of a lawyer. Although Yad L’Achim members were interviewed and gave their perspective on their activity, the article made it clear that it regarded the latter with grave suspicion: “How does Yad L’Achim fight Messianic Judaism? A hint: all methods are kosher.” It also intimated indirectly that Yad L’Achim was implicated in some way in the death of one of its members (association with whom its director later denied), who took the law into his own hands and kidnapped an Arab who was believed to be about to marry a Jewish woman. In relation to this incident, R. Lipshitz was quoted as saying that the police are quite happy to “‘turn to us for expert assistance in severe cases of assimilation.’” In asking the question, “Do Messianic Jews actually break the law,” the article brought no proof of such activity, noting on the contrary that, “The Chabad movement also distributes tracts and stands on street corners to get people to put on tefillin. Whoever does not want to, does not do so.” It further quoted Yad L’Achim as stating that it wished that it had such a good relationship with the Interior Ministry as implied, while with respect to “Pnina Pie,” an anti-missionary stated that, “‘We published the information against her because many Jews in Ashdod have become Messianic Jews. This is a restaurant. She has good food, and she might give someone some cheese and tell them, “Deary, it’s a mitzvah to come to the mission.” For that reason, the rabbinate wants the key to her restaurant, so that they can know what’s going on.’”
Kol haIr Bnei Brak, September 30; Merkaz haInyanim leTzibir haDati, September 29, 2009
Kol haIr Bnei Brak (September 30) reported a story published earlier concerning the denunciation by the “Union of Messianic Jews in America” of Yad L’Achim’s actions against Israeli Messianic Jews (see Review of August 18, 2009).
According to a report in Merkaz haInyanim leTzibir haDati (September 29), Sudanese refugees living in Arad held an “unauthorized” demonstration on Thursday hoping to draw the municipality’s attention to their plight. When police arrived in order to ensure security for the funeral of the city’s chief rabbi, violence reportedly broke out, with one of the Sudanese allegedly attacking one of the officers. “Simultaneously with these events, one of the leaders of the mission in Arad was present and documented the police conduct. At a certain point, he even intervened physically, leading to his arrest. At this stage, severe violence erupted towards the policemen, with tens of demonstrators attacking them angrily with sticks.” According to the arresting officer, “‘I was forced to evacuate him in the midst of curses, shouts, and blows aimed at us – at a place where the funeral was due to take place in a few minutes’ … Missionaries from the ‘Messianic Jews’ sect, who were responsible for organizing the whole demonstration, were taken to the police station.”
Makor Rishon, October 5, 2009
Makor Rishon (October 5) reported that “Around 5,000 Christian supporters of Israel who arrived at the weekend from eighty countries across the globe will participate tomorrow in the annual Jerusalem March. They announced that they are seeking to support and strength Israel in the light of international attacks on the State exemplified by the Goldstone report and international news coverage.”