Christian Israelis Complain of Persecution

Staying in the allegedly “Holy Land”, an interesting report from ASSIST:

Messianic Jews have called for international protests against violations of religious freedom in Israel. Orthodox Jews have harassed a congregation in the desert town of Arad in Southern Israel for more than 18 months.

Messianic Jews are Jews who have become Christians, but who maintain a Jewish identity and worship in a Jewish style. ASSIST notes that there are about 6,000 in Israel (I previously blogged on Israeli Christians here), and continues:

An orthodox group called Gur Chassidim has been persecuting 30 messianic Jews in Arad. They have been insulted in public as Nazis, whores and dirty Christians. According to eyewitnesses the police have turned a blind eye or even sided with the persecutors. An assembly hall has been burnt down.

A fuller account by one of the Messianics can be read here.

Haaretz covered the problem last year, noting:

In the past few weeks, the Haredim in Arad have been harassing the 15 Messianic Jewish families in the Negev town. Hardly anyone has come to their aid. The police gave the Haredim a permit to hold demonstrations opposite the homes of the Messianic Jews, the mayor is ignoring the harassment, and the members of the municipal council, including those who are secular, support the Haredim, who have representatives in the local governing coalition.

The local Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Ben-Zion Lipsker, is also quoted:

“You disguise yourselves as sabras and smile at us, but you’re just waiting for the first chance to grab us and crucify us. Get out of here, hypocrites. At least if you wore robes and large crucifixes, we would be able to be careful of you. You are the ones whose forefathers burned Jews to death throughout all the years of history. You are an abomination in Israel, and therefore you must be spewed out of here.”

Lipsker told the journalist that because two residents of Arad had converted, the Messianics had broken the law. The Messianics responded with a police complaint against Lipsker, local Shepardi Chief Rabbi Yosef Elbo, and the ultra-orthodox anti-missionary organisation Yad L’achi. Given that this was a year ago, the police do not appear to have exerted themselves.

Gur Chassidim (or “Gur Hassidim”) is dominant within Agudat Israel, a body which represents many Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and has a long history of militancy that goes back to nineteenth-century Poland. Here’s a passage from a website devoted to the Jewish history of Mlawa, a Polish town:

The Gur Hassidim were very zealous and far more militant than the Alexandrower Hassidim…In later years, the Gur Hassidim stormed the building in which the Hebrew gymnasium was housed and made it into a “Talmud Torah.” The Gur Hassidim went en masse to capture the building, ready to sacrifice their lives, if necessary. Their aim was to take over all the public institutions and to rule them with an iron hand.

In Israel, the group enjoys considerable support from the Religious Affairs Ministry, to the annoyance of other Jewish strands.

Yad L’Achim, meanwhile, is well-known for targeting religious groups. Its work has been reported in a number of Jerusalem Post stories by Larry Derfner. One article notes that:

Yad L’achim mainly targets the two largest Christian sects seeking to convert Jews – the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Messianic Jews – but also goes after Scientology, Hare Krishna, Falun Gong, Landmark Forum and other cults operating in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

“Over the years we’ve brought back hundreds of Jews who had gone over to Christianity, and we’ve prevented the assimilation of many thousands of others who had started the process by going to a lecture or two from the missionaries,” says Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, who co-founded Yad L’Achim in 1950. He emphasizes repeatedly that Yad L’Achim “has nothing whatsoever against Christians in Israel, just against missionaries.”

Their methods, however, are pretty ruthless:

“When we find out a missionary is working at a company, we go to the boss and explain to him that there are plenty of ways to fire the worker without anybody being the wiser. This way there’s no trouble with the courts, the media, and with Meretz.

“Some bosses are smart, they understand, and they deal with the problem quietly. I’d say we’ve done this with nearly 10 different companies,” said Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz, head of Yad L’Achim.

There are also claims of violence:

…The most publicized attack took place last November [2003] when the Holon apartment of Jehovah’s Witnesses Yossi and Sima Levy was broken into by assailants who spray-painted death threats and swastikas all over the walls, slashed their furniture, and destroyed their books.

…The group’s ringleader, who [JW spokesman Mark] Einstein said has been identified by a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses who’ve been attacked, is Alex Artovsky of Netanya.

Artovsky runs Yad L’Achim’s desk.

Maybe the Messianics and JWs should have a word with Don Feder, the right-wing American pundit who recently set up “Jews against anti-Christian Defamation”. Feder’s main target was the ADL, which he felt shouldn’t be criticising conservative evangelicals who are pro-Israel. I’d be interested to see if Feder would be willing to take on powerful groups in Israel itself.

16 Responses

  1. […] is a somewhat sinister figure, and he has featured on this blog before; back in 2005 I quoted a couple of articles about him: Yad L’achim mainly targets the two largest Christian sects […]

  2. This posting caught my attention and I will check out others…the articles look very interesting and capture areas off the main stream media’s reporting (or follow up).

    I hope to gain a better understanding of what is going on in Israel. Thanks for your writing on this orthdox group’s anti-missionary efforts.

    Where is love and compassion?

    jr

  3. Thank you for writing about difficulty being faced by Messianic Jews in Israel.

    I do want to correct one wrong fact in your blog, however, when you said, “Messianic Jews are Jews who have become Christians, but who maintain a Jewish identity and worship in a Jewish style.”

    Messianic Jews are NOT “Jews who have become Christians.” They are Jewish people who maintain a Jewish identity and worship, but they have also chosen to trust in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). They DO NOT CONVERT TO CHRISTIANITY. They remain Jewish.

    Just like a person who is raised in China does not have to adopt western dress, language, and holidays in order to believe in Messiah, Jewish people similarly do not have to give up their identity as Jews. For example, read again what Shaul/Paul says as he speaks to people about his identity:

    ” Acts 21:39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” and Acts 22:3 “Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”

    and

    Acts 21:20 “When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.”

    The Bible does not say that Jews who believe in the Jewish Messiah cease to be Jews– so why should anyone else?

    I belong to a Messianic Synagogue, and the Jewish believers at my synagogue are born Jewish and die Jewish. They have just listened to what the Prophets and the Torah says about the Messiah Who was to come, and they have turned from their sins to G-d. That does not make them Christians. That makes them Jewish believers.

    Thank you for listening and asking G-d about this and researching in the Bible for yourself.

  4. Thanks for that clarification, but it raises another question: then how do Messianic Jews relate to other followers of Yeshua/Jesus if they do not consider themselves to be Christians?

  5. […] (I noted a particular campaign against Messianics here) […]

  6. Go to the source about Arad! Visit my website! I’m there on the front line! Newspaper articles, eyewitness reports, photos, etc.

  7. “Messianic Jews” practice Christianity. Many are not even Jewish by birth. They claim to be another branch of Judaism that is legitimate in order to deceive Jews into believing that they can be both Jewish and Christian. Deceptive tactics for conversion are not only practiced de facto, they are institutionalized in the Christian scriptures, themselves. In Philiuppians 1:18, Paul writes: “What then? Only that in in every way, whether IN PRETENSE OR IN TRUTH, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, I will rejoice.” In I Corin. 9:20, Paul is even more specific about his motives and methods: “And to the Jews I become as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law.” Clearly, Paul endorsed using false flags to bring in converts to Judaism. This is what Messianic Jews do, and why they (in this very blog) defend their tactic by explaining that they are “Jewish.” Well, no they’re not.

  8. […] assault follows attacks on Messianics and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Arad and Holon, which I discussed here. It is also part of a long campaign against the Beersheba group. Back in 1998 Compass reported […]

  9. […] Fired UpNew Church Constructed in Tel Aviv « Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion on Christian Israelis Complain of PersecutionNew US Religious Freedom Report Out « Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion on Sudan Still […]

  10. […] of Christian Israelis is something I have looked at a couple of times in the past: see here and here. Grace and Truth was founded by Baruch Maoz, who sees himself more as a Reformed Christian than a […]

  11. […] to have a bit of a rough time of it on both sides of the Green Line in Israel/Palestine: I’ve previously noted the persecution of Messianic (i.e. Christian) Jews in various towns within Israel proper. However, […]

  12. Dear Baruch Gershom:
    Concerning Phillippians:

    You took the verse out of context:

    Paul mentioned people that preach the Christ because of envy and strife.

    He wasn’t saying he supported their motives, but was saying that nevertheless, Christ is being preached and even then at least people know of The Jewish/Gentile Messiah. Same with pretence.

    The beloved Apostle Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, was in no way deceptive.

    PHILLIPPIANS 15 Actually some also preach the Christ because of envy and strife, and some also because of good-will. 16 Some indeed proclaim the Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to bring affliction to my bonds. 17 But some from love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the good-news. 18 What then? Except in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice, but also I will rejoice.

    Also: Concerning Beseder: Dear Sir, The beloved Apostle Peter was and is a Jew as was and is Paul:

    Galatians:

    14 But when I saw that they did not walk uprightly toward the truth of the good-news, I said to Peter before all, If thou being a Jew, live as a Gentile and not as a Jew, why do thou compel the Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We are Jews by nature and not sinful men of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not made righteous from works of law, instead through faith of Jesus Christ. And we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made righteous from faith of Christ, and not from works of law, because no flesh will be made righteous from works of law. 17 But if, while seeking to be made righteous in Christ, we ourselves were also found sinful, then is Christ an aide of sin? May it not happen! 18 For if I build again these things that I torn down, I demonstrate myself a transgressor. 19 For I, through law, died to law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And what I now live in flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. 21 I do not disregard the grace of God, for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died in vain. ———————————————–

  13. […] Lev L’Achim is apparently distinct from Yad L’Achim, an anti-missionary group that featured on this blog here. […]

  14. […] there is real evidence that Messianic Jews do indeed face serious problems in Israel (blogged here), and reason to suspect anti-Missionary fanatics of sending a parcel bomb to a Messianic pastor […]

  15. […] there is real evidence that Messianic Jews do indeed face serious problems in Israel (blogged here), and reason to suspect anti-Missionary fanatics of sending a parcel bomb to a Messianic pastor […]

  16. […] – Messianic Judaism is not generally well-received among Jewish groups (indeed, I’ve previously blogged about instances of anti-Messianic persecution in Israel) and Bush’s involvement has led to […]

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