November 25 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – November 25, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 11 articles on the subject of Messianic Jews, anti-missionary activity, and anti-Semitism. Of these:
11 dealt with Messianic Jews
This week’s Review focuses exclusively on Messianic Jews, including the Ortiz family, the congregation in Beersheva, and Pnina Konforti.
Messianic Jews
Makor Rishon, November 22; HaMevaser, November 20, 22; Mishpacha, November 19; BeKehila, November 19; HaModia, November 19; Yated Ne’eman, November 20; Meida, October 23; Ma’ariv, November 20; Haaretz, October 6, November 20, 2009

Ma’ariv (November 20) carried further details concerning Ya’akov Teitel’s attack against the Ortiz family, printing a copy of the email he sent them: “Rabbi David Ortiz: I would like to join your services with my girlfriend Ronit, to see if we would like it. I am not very religious, but I feel very close to God. I live in Eli, so travelling is not a problem. Please tell me what you will have next service, and where we should go. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Daniel Ivgeny” (English original). It further quoted the family’s lawyer as saying that they “will not rest” until the police investigation has discovered all the suspects, given their belief that Teitel had several accomplices.
According to a report in Meida (November 23), the recent publicity campaign in the north of the country is the outgrowth of missionary work whose origin, “decades ago,” was “modest” but which has now become “open and provocative. No longer do they meet under cover. No longer is it a case of putting written literature in mail boxes. No longer is it small house groups in which the missionaries preach their message. Now it’s going out into the field, into the lion’s den – to the central junctions across the Galilee and the country. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve bumped into youth who are bringing with them the new good news at every junction in the north. Three to five youngsters hold placards and attract the attention of drivers and passersby. ‘Yeshu is the Messiah,’ they proclaim, and wave posters heralding the coming of Yeshu the Messiah. Now close your eyes and imagine three bearded Jews wearing yarmulkes and fringes standing at the entrance to the Vatican in Rome and persuading the locals to convert to Judaism. An exaggeration? Take these three Jews and stand them in the middle of Um al-Fahm [an Arab village in the Galilee] with a poster promoting Judaism. I don’t have to say that within a minute there won’t be any poster or Jews left. The lynch in Ramalla that we all remember would be dwarfed by what would happen to these youngsters. But here, everything’s allowed. That’s why we have democracy.”
The Supreme Court’s verdict ordering the Ashdod rabbinate to return Pnina Pie’s kashrut license to the bakery was reported in most of the religious papers (Mishpacha, November 19; BeKehila, November 19; HaModia, November 19; Yated Ne’eman, November 20; HaMevaser, November 22). Judge Dorit Beinisch ruled that “the local rabbinate has no authority to remove the kashrut license from the bakery in Ashdod, despite the fact that its owner indisputably belongs to the missionary sect of ‘Messianic Jews’ and cannot therefore be held reliable with regard to the kashrut of her bakery … The Supreme Court determined that the kashrut practices the rabbinate was demanding be observed were ‘unreasonable’ and that it had no authority to make them of the proprietress, since in its view, the ‘law of kashurt’ derives its force from the civil laws of the State. It thus ruled that the rabbinate must restore the license unconditionally. Beinisch warned that if it was not restored, the chief rabbi of the city would be liable for the consequences and would receive a heavy fine. This upsetting verdict contains a serious judicial precedent, according to which the law of kashrut in Israel does not derive from the authority of responsa and the rabbinate but has the status of a civil law. ‘The reliability of the owner of the business and its employees is to be determined according to the criteria of general law rather than halakhah. The law of kashrut is a secular law. The conduct of the chief rabbinical council in this case was unreasonable and unrealistic,’ wrote Beinisch.” In response to the ruling, Yad L’Achim has called on the chief rabbis to convene to discuss it, as well as appealing to the religious MKs to alter the law of kashrut ‘before it’s too late … Henceforward, the missionaries will be able to do whatever they like, backed by the ruling of the Supreme Court.’”
The Haaretz editorial of November 6 addressed the issue of Yad L’Achim’s “harassment” of “innocent and law-abiding citizens in Israel” through its collaboration with the Interior Ministry (see Review of October 8, 2009). In the eyes of its writer, the “schemes and plots” routinely employed by Yad L’Achim “cross the legitimate boundaries of action permitted to a civil body and come across as unlawful behavior. The organization, which has spread out a net of workers across the country and the world, boasts that it ‘rescues’ – through coercive measures and dubious means – Jewish children, women, and men from the ‘clutches’ of other religions and faiths. Most disturbing of all is Yuval Azulai’s disclosure (“Unbelievable,” Haaretz 2.20) of the fact that behind the threats and dissemination of hurtful and conspiratorial rumors stand not only the hooligans of Yad L’Achim but also top officials in the Interior Ministry. The latter, including the head of the Population Registry Office in Tel Aviv, Amos Arbel, receive information concerning the personal lives of those who are defined as ‘members of the Messianic sect’ or ‘missionaries’ – and, with the justification that they are ‘working against the Jewish people,’ trample on their rights. It is indeed unbelievable: a government office, appointed to provide services to the public in the civil sphere – principally with respect to the issuing of documents – is engaged in pursuing people on the basis of their ideas and beliefs, the details of which it receives from a fanatic and violent organization. The humiliating investigation which the student Barbara Ludwig was made to undergo, for example, and the fact that her personal file, which is supposed to be confidential, was passed to Yad L’Achim, constitutes a gross violation of the Basic Law: The Dignity of People and their Freedom. Yad L’Achim’s hooligans’ dark connections with the authorities are not new. For years, the organization has been providing information to the rabbinical courts and endeavoring to put its hands on sensitive files in the Welfare Ministry. More than once, it has received assistance from ultra-Orthodox politicians such as the deputy minister Menachem Porush, who in 1991 wrote to the court asking for its protection for Yad L’Achim members who had kidnapped an orphan from his ‘insufficiently religious’ relatives. The cooperation from clerks in the Interior Ministry breaks even this record of disgrace. The government must call the clerks to order immediately, and make it clear to the Interior Minister that his ministry was not appointed for Jewish ethnic cleansing of the fanatic Jewish type, and that any cooperation with Yad L’Achim effectively constitutes the persecution of citizens.”
In a letter to Haaretz (November 20), responding to the editorial, Shalom Dov Lipshitz, Yad L’Achim’s director, provided a sample of “quotations from rulings made by the Supreme Court, which determine the legal standing of Messianic Jews.” These included the rulings given by Berenson (467/75) and Aaron Barak (265/87), which state that Messianic Jews are not recognized as Jewish. The letter concluded with the assertion that, “Despite all these rulings, the missionaries lie to the Interior Ministry and declare that they are Jews and hide their identity as Messianic Jews.”
Makor Rishon (November 22) related to the US State Department’s report on freedom of religion in Israel (see Review of November 9, 2009).