The US Department of State International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 has an overview of religious freedom issues in all countries where religious minority groups have experienced problems. Israel has been featured in the report again this year with its record showing signs of improvement for, what the US DoS estimates is, 20,000 Israeli Messianic Jews.
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom
There were no violent attacks against Messianic Jews
However there were violent attacks on other minority religious group members, and a stigma against Messianic Jews deeply embedded in society.
Societal attitudes toward missionary activities and conversion were generally negative. Most Jews opposed missionary activity directed at Jews, and some were hostile to Jewish converts to Christianity. Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses were harassed regularly by Yad L’Achim and Lev L’Achim, Jewish religious organizations opposed to missionary activity. During the year, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported assaults, threats of violence, and other crimes to the police. On July 22, a Beersheva resident assaulted a 62-year-old woman, breaking her nose by butting his head against hers when she and another woman shared their faith with him outside his front door. The police arrested the perpetrator at his house on August 28, the same day the victim identified him to the police.
US Embassy officials sought to raise the profile of religious hate crimes and see them investigated properly. Also the previous practice of the Ministry of Interior using Yad L’Achim’s missionary blacklist to refuse people entry into Israel has, it seems, been ended.
Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare
Embassy officials engaged in detailed discussions on religious freedom with the government, as well as with religious and civil society organizations. The ambassador hosted and attended many events with Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, and Bahai religious leaders, including on many of their holidays. The U.S. embassy consistently raised concerns about religious freedom with the MFA, the MOJ, the police, the Chief Rabbinate, and other government agencies. Issues included expanding the list of officially recognized religious groups; investigating religiously motivated acts of violence against minority religious groups, including Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses; investigating vandalism of mosques and churches; upholding women’s rights against religious or social coercion in public spaces and on buses; and ensuring that the practice of preventing entry into the country based on the MOI’s lists of suspected “missionaries” was indeed ended.
Under the the section Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom, it is noted.
The MOI did not arrest, detain, require bail for entry or a written pledge to abstain from missionary activity, or refuse entry to anyone due to their religious beliefs. There was no indication that the MOI collected data on alleged missionaries from antimissionary groups and used it to deny entry to the country to foreign individuals. There was no official statement that the policy had changed, but no incidents were reported since the July 2011 action of a Jerusalem district court judge who reprimanded the MOI for the illegal procedure.
It is a welcomed sign of healthy Israeli democratic institutions seeking to give all citizens of Israel their full rights and protections under the law, irrespective of their religious faith commitments.