R. Dov Lipschitz (left) with R. Yehuda Deri (right)
Yad L’Achim is a Chabad-led organisation It is overseen primarily by three men: Alex Artovski (who has previously trained Chabad missionaries in Russia), ex-Catholic-turned-meshichist Binyamin Klugger, and his fellow meshichist, Yad L’Achim boss Dov Lipschitz.
As Haaretz points out this week, Chabad is the world’s largest Jewish missionary movement. Chabad, I believe, are quite welcome to proselytise wherever they like. However they would not extend the same rights to Messianic Jewish missionaries.
Matzav reports that Yad L’Achim are trying to bypass Israeli national law, and enforce municipal law to clamp down on proselytising activity from Yeshua-believing Jews. Under Yad L’Achim, Jack Teitel the “Jewish terrorist” was allowed to volunteer for missions and perhaps cultivate his extremist ideology and actions.
As I’ve previously noted, China have taken advice on “cult-fighting” from the Israeli antimissionary group Yad L’Achim. Yad L’Achim feature prominently in the US State Department 2010 report on religious freedom in Israel. This includes details about the Penina Pies incident (where activists urged a boycott of a Messianic bakery), the riot in Beersheva at a Messianic house of worship, and the firebombing of a Messianic Jew’s car after his daughter was approached by Yad L’Achim activists in school.
With the exception of Tel Aviv, cities around Israel have agreed to cooperate with a Yad L’Achim initiative that aims to use little-enforced municipal bylaws to battle missionaries.
In a letter to Israel’s mayors, Yad L’Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz noted that one of the strategies of the missionaries is to flood an area with their pamphlets, littering sidewalks, public squares and streets in violation of city cleanliness bylaws.
“It is incumbent upon every Jew to do what he can to stymie missionaries, to prevent them from succeeding in their ultimate goal, the destruction of the Jewish people,” he wrote.
Toward this end, Rav Lifschitz asked local leaders to enforce municipal bylaws that forbid “dispersing or distributing announcements in a public place” due to the litter and harm to the ecology they cause.
“In the event that missionaries scatter their pamphlets, we ask that you insist on enforcement of the law,” Yad L’Achim’s chairman wrote. “This includes bringing up violators on charges and imposing fines.”
The letter concludes: “It is your merit, and duty, to save Jews from shemad.”
Rav Lifschitz enclosed with his letter shocking figures on the extent of missionary activity in Israel in recent years, as well as pictures showing missionaries in action, distributing massive amounts of material that not only aimed to destroy Jewish souls, but also the appearance of major cities around the country.
Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat: support for Yad L'Achim
By and large, the Yad L’Achim appeal was well-received. The mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat pledged not only to pass it on to the appropriate department head, but to follow up and ensure that it was carried out with maximum efficiency.
“I am hopeful that the response meets with your satisfaction,” he wrote.
The deputy mayor of Ramat Gan, Avihu Ben Moshe, said “the law will be enforced against anyone who violates it.” He asked Yad L’Achim to update his office on any illegal activity and promised that “I will deal with it personally.”
Rehovot mayor Rahamim Malul: will comply with Yad L'Achim
The mayor or Rechovot, Rachamim Malul, wrote: “I have passed on your letter, together with my recommendation, to ensure that this phenomenon is dealt with according to the law.”
The office of Haifa’s mayor acknowledged the importance of Yad L’Achim’s letter and said it would be passed on to the relevant parties in City Hall.
The deputy mayor of Ashdod, Rabbi Mordechai Leiberman, emphasized that “we see eye to eye on the severity of the phenomenon of distributing missionary pamphlets” and promised to be vigilant in enforcing city by-laws.
The one dissenting voice came from the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Hall which refused to accede to the request. Responding on behalf of the municipality, attorney Boaz Bahrav wrote: “We recognize the Chassidim of Breslov who distribute religious material on the streets of the city and enjoy freedom of expression.” Therefore, he added, “it is doubtful that we would enforce Clause 11 of the law because of the principle of freedom of expression.”
Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai: his municipality permits Breslov, Chabad & Messianic missionary activity
Rav Lifschitz expressed satisfaction at the positive responses of the majority of mayors, but found it astonishing that Tel Aviv would compare legitimate Jewish activity in a Jewish country to destructive missionary activity. He turned the attention of the city’s legal department to a Supreme Court ruling (467/75) that Messianic Jews are, contrary to the misleading name, not Jews.