Messianic Jews Attacked in Beersheba

Compass Direct (via Crosswalk) reports on the latest anti-Christian disturbance in Israel:

Orthodox Jews disrupted a Messianic congregation’s worship service in the Israeli town of Beersheba on Saturday (December 24)…The agitators struck Messianic believers in the face, back and stomach. Though one received a blow near his eye, no one needed medical attention.

“Messianics” are Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but who maintain a Jewish identity and style of worship. They claim to have about 10,000 members in Israel, although authoritative figures are hard to come by. But here’s an interesting detail:

The Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Beersheba, Yehuda Deri, stood outside speaking to demonstrators during the incident. The police handcuffed two of the more violent agitators but then released them in Deri’s presence.

(Deri is the brother of Aryeh Deri, the disgraced one-time leader of the Shepardic Orthodox Shas political party)

…One Christian tried to videotape the incident, and when demonstrators yelled that this was “forbidden on Shabbat” (Jewish Sabbath), he told them he was not Jewish. But police forbid him to use his video camera, saying it would constitute a provocation. Others, however, did take photographs and videos of the demonstration.

This 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 (again, emphasis added):

In a November 28 incident in the Negev town of Beersheva, rumors were spread in synagogues that Messianic Jews planned to baptize Jewish children. A mob estimated by police to number 1,000 “haredim” (ultra-orthodox) Jews started to surround a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church rented by the local congregation of Messianic Jews for their Shabbat (Sabbath) gathering.

…Natan Aridan, a history professor at Ben-Gurion University, described the latest attack to the “Jerusalem Post” as reminiscent of anti-Semitic attacks in Eastern Europe. “I witnessed a pogrom,” he said. “There can be no other word for it.”

The siege lasted for about three hours, and the crowd only disseminated after being addressed by local rabbis, [elder Olavi] Syvanto said. A policeman remained at the site to keep order, but later on, leaders of the congregation were told to take charge of guarding the compound themselves.

This infuriated [Charles] Kopp, chairman of the United Christian Council in Israel.

“I think this is intolerable. If a synagogue anywhere in the Western world is attacked, the police will be there until the situation is settled. Likewise, the Israeli police should be there as long as needed. Period.”

UPDATE: A first-person account of the attack is available here.