Israeli Rabbis Fear Teenage Girl

From the JTA:

Should Bat El Levy be asked at Israel’s international youth Bible quiz next week about the messiah’s coming, she may find herself in a bind.

The 17-year-old Jerusalem girl is a world-class scriptural scholar who, as it happens, believes in Jesus.

It might never have been an issue were it not for the sleuthing of an Israeli anti-missionary group, Yad LeAhim, which sees Levy’s participation in the annual Jewish Bible contest as a threat to Judaism.

Yad LeAhim director Shlomo Dov Lipschitz circulated a letter to Israel’s top rabbis last week calling for pressure on the Education Ministry to disqualify Levy from the quiz, which takes place annually on Israeli Independence Day.

…Lipschitz argued that Levy, who comes from a family of messianic Jews — who believe Jesus is the messiah — should not be considered Jewish.

Various Israeli rabbis have joined the chorus against the teenager; the Jerusalem Post reports:

“Messianics are missionaries who proselytize in very sophisticated ways,” said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the rabbis calling to boycott the quiz.

“It is forbidden to give them legitimacy by allowing them to take part in the quiz.”

Other rabbis that have called to boycott the quiz include Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed, Ya’acov Yosef, son of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Tzvi Tau, head of Har Hamor Yeshiva.

Lipschitz 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 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.”


…”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.

Another prominent member of the organization is Alex Artovsky, whom Israeli Jehovah’s Witnesses have accused of leading a campaign of harassment.

The Bible Quiz is properly known as the International Chidon HaTanach, and it was established by David Ben-Gurion. According to the JTA:

A ministry spokesman said that issues of personal belief were not the organizers’ concern and that because Levy “is Jewish according to her Israeli identity cards and school registration,” she can take part in the contest.

That of course still leaves a question-mark over the participation of non-Israeli Messianic Jews (although a recent Israeli court ruling may be of some relevance here), but one wonders how Messianics could be excluded but not other Jews who choose not to follow the usual forms of Judaism, or who are non-religious – a Messianic advocate quoted by the Post points to the Lubavitch Messianists, who believe that the late Menachem Schneerson is the messiah. And is it not unfair anyway for the Israeli Education Ministry to organize a competition with a prize which is not open to non-Jewish Israelis?

(Note on names: Yad LeAhim and Yad L’Achim appear to be same organization. There is, though, also another anti-“missionary” group called Lev L’Achim, which I blogged on here.)

2 Responses

  1. […] Given the noises currently being made by rightwing Israeli anti-missionary organizations (discussed yesterday) against Messianic Jews, a plan to “preach” to Russian Jews is not likely to be well […]

  2. […] used by Yad L’Achim, who also boast of spying on Messianic Jews and trying to get them fired from their […]

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