As the trial date looms and anti-missionary mandarin Alex Artovski, ex-Soviet police officer, takes the stand to answer for the riot he is accused of inciting against a Messianic Jewish Congregation in Beersheva, lets remind ourselves of the violent invasion of a place of worship.
Israel is a democratic country where minority religious beliefs are protected and missionary work is not illegal, despite recent Yad L’Achim statements to the opposite, it is not liked, but not against the law. This is much to the irritation of Yad L’Achim who for a long time, have been pushing for an anti-missionary law that would imprison a person for six months who simply shared his faith. Yad L’Achim explain on its web site that the “bill calls for a prison sentence of six months for anyone who “seeks to convince another, through a direct appeal, to give up his religion.” It also calls for a six-month mandatory sentence for “anyone who conducts a ceremony to convert a person from his religion or engages in some other activity that leads someone to convert, when the decision to convert came as a result of brainwashing or persuasion.”
However Israel’s democratic nature is not making such a law an easy thing to pass. Yad L’Achim complains. “A legal opinion prepared by the Justice Ministry determines that missionary activity is ‘legitimate’ and that efforts to persuade Jews to abandon their religion ‘warrant protection in a democratic society as part of freedom of expression.’”
Yad L’Achim conducted a web poll on its Hebrew site asking who is for and against a law against “the mission”. 58% were for and 42% against, the poll is no longer online. There is now an online petition which calls for a one year prison term for missionary preaching intended to help someone covert from one religion to another.
Such a law, if it were to come into being (which seems unlikely at the moment since the previous Gafni bill was defeated), would contravene Article 18 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration which was adopted on December 10, 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, including Israel.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
A Messianic Jewish teenager in Arad made a video a while ago on the persecution of Arad’s Messianic Jews by the anti-missionaries. There are English sub-titles on it. All sides are interviewed and the background to the conflict explained. This is a great introduction to the uninitiated to the plight of Messianic Jews in Israel’s southern town of Arad.
It has been reported by Israeli Messianic Jewish pastor Israel Pochtar, that the Ashdod Police have just interrogated a sixteen year old Israeli citizen following a wave of attacks and persecution launched against the Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation in Ashdod. However he was not the perpetrator of an attack but the victim!
Yad L’Achim, an anti-messianic organization, has filed a police complaint against Beit Hallel claiming, they broke the law by holding a “missionary event for teenagers”. They based their allegations on the youth conference held at Beit Hallel where some youth in the congregation invited some of their friends. Sixteen year old Dima shared his faith with his friends and ended up getting beaten up by them, resulting in surgery to correct his broken nose.
Dima, a very gifted guitar player, was summoned to the police station to give a statement, since he was one of the young people who invited some of his friends, via Facebook, to attend the youth night at Beit Hallel. When he was there and was answering questions, he was asked about his faith and how he came to be a believer in Yeshua. Dima stated that he understands his faith, not as a different religion, but rather returning to his spiritual roots. He said “we’ve not converted to anything; we believe in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua.” What started off as a series of questions quickly turned into a full interrogation behind closed doors, which ended with the police taking his photo and fingerprints, treating him as though he was a criminal. When he was finally let go, the officer told him to stop “missionizing”, to which Dima replied: “I never started “missionizing”, I’m just sharing my faith!”
Such is the hysteria caused by groups like Yad L’Achim, surrounding Messianic Jews in Israel, that even a sixteen year old telling his friends what he believes can result in a serious physical attack. A sixteen year old minor can be taken in for questioning, (it seems without a laywer with him), by the police about a Facebook invite and end up getting criminalised for his faith and having the temerity to talk about it! We know that it can also lead to attempted murder as it the case of a fifteen year old Messianic Jew, Ami Ortiz and the mishloach manot bomb at Purim a year and a half ago.
It is hypocritical when it is Israeli teenagers that are the recent targets of anti-messianic hatred and violence, for groups like Yad L’Achim, to claim to be concerned about Israeli youth!
Posted by Gever.
JewishIsrael are outraged at the USA for commenting on Israel’s religious policies.
A disproportionate amount of the report is dedicated to depicting Torah traditions and Orthodox Judaism as oppressive, and to reporting on Israel’s “growing” but “harassed” community of apostate Jews and Christian missionaries.
The report cited that, “government allocations of state resources favored Orthodox (including Modern and National Religious streams of Orthodoxy) and ultra-Orthodox (sometimes referred to as “Haredi”) Jewish religious groups and institutions, discriminating against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.”
The State Department was hypercritical of everything from Shabbat observance to Jewish marriage counseling, divorce law, and burial rights in Israel. Jewish Israel wonders if censuring circumcision is next?
Hold on a second, the USA wants greater religious freedom in Israel, not less! Nevermind eh!
JewishIsrael’s claims have been published in Arutz7 by the seemingly unscrupulous Hillel Fendel, who having written about Chinese persecution of the Falun Gong in January 2008, then wrote a gushing piece in February 2009 in praise of Yad L’Achim’s aiding and abetting the Chinese authorities to fight “cults” such as Falun Gong!
JewishIsrael have also published this picture:
Judging from this picture, JewishIsrael treat the USA as a Christian nation.
So if the USA is a Christian country, then would it have the right to exclude any non-Christian citizens?
Of course not. The USA is a safe haven for religious Jews because of its religious freedoms.
JewishIsrael can’t have it both ways.
Yet JewishIsrael claims that as Israel is a Jewish nation, Israel has the right to exclude Messianic Jews.
JewishIsrael are ultimately out of touch with the Israeli public. Their Israel is nothing more than an extension of their personal desires.
It is not the real Israel.
Posted by Yeze.
Coming soon in our next blog post: Jewish Israel’s reaction to the US State Department’s 2009 International Religious Freedoms Report for Israel and the “occupied territories” (and you thought Goldstone was bad)
The Rosh Pina Project is proud to present its preview of the JewishIsrael report:
In other news: Agudath Israel are also thinking along these lines!
Posted by Yeze.
The annual US state reports on International Religious Freedom have been published today, October 2009. You can read its report on Israel on the Department of State website.
This is what the report says on religious freedom in Israel:
While the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty does not specifically refer to freedom of religion, it does refer to the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, which explicitly provides for the protection of religious freedom. In addition, numerous Supreme Court rulings incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including their religious freedom provisions, into the country’s body of law. The Declaration describes the country as a Jewish state, establishing Judaism as the dominant religion while also promising full social and political equality, regardless of religious affiliation. The Basic Law describes the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Government policy continued to support the generally free practice of religion, although governmental and legal discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued.
The report notes:
There is a small but growing community of approximately 10,000 Messianic Jews.
On discrimination against Messianic Jews:
The legal defense NGO, Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), alleged again this reporting period that officials in the Interior Ministry denied services to some citizens based on their religious beliefs. The JIJ’s legal defense caseload included numerous cases dealing with attempts by the Interior Ministry to revoke the citizenship of persons discovered holding Messianic or Christian beliefs, or to deny some national services–such as welfare benefits or passports–to such persons. In other cases the JIJ alleged that the Interior Ministry refused to process immigration applications from persons entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return if it was determined such persons held Christian or Messianic Jewish religious beliefs. On May 13, 2009, the JIJ filed a petition to the High Court on behalf of three Messianic Jews under the Law of Return whose application for immigration was blocked by the Ministry of Interior. They cited an April 2008 High Court ruling, which stated that the Government could not deny status to a person eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return on the basis of that person’s identification as a Messianic Jew, provided that person was not also considered Jewish under the Orthodox definition. The case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.
On Messianic Jews in Israeli society:
Jewish-Arab tensions remained at approximately the same level as in recent years. However, tensions between some Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and evangelical Christians and Messianic Jewish communities grew significantly during 2007 and 2008, and maintained their elevated levels through the end of the reporting period.
On the activities of Yad L’Achim, the harassment of Messianic Jews, and the false belief that missionary activity in Israel is illegal:
Society’s attitudes toward missionary activities and conversion generally were negative. Most Jews were opposed to missionary activity directed at Jews, and some were hostile to Jewish converts to Christianity. While proselytism is officially legal, missionaries continued to face harassment and discrimination by some Jewish activists and organizations. The Messianic Jewish and Jehovah’s Witnesses communities, among others, accused groups such as Yad L’Achim and Lev L’Achim, and Jewish religious organizations opposed to missionary activity, of harassing and occasionally assaulting their members. According to Yad L’Achim’s annual report for 2008, quoted in the newspaper Yom L’Yom, the organization “saved 174 souls from the clutches of the [Messianic and evangelical] mission” during the year. The organization’s semi-clandestine Counter-Missionary Department, headed by Rabbi Alex Artovski, also claimed to have dozens of informants and infiltrators in the Government and in Christian or Messianic Jewish congregations, enabling the organization to force the closure of 18 religious meeting places and expel 12 “top-ranking” missionaries from the country during 2008. According to JIJ attorneys and representatives of affected religious communities, Yad L’Achim succeeded in such activities by pressuring landlords, employers and Interior Ministry officials to assist its campaign against groups it deemed “dangerous cults.”
Despite harassment, the number of Messianic Jews and evangelical Christians has grown in recent years through both immigration and conversion. During the reporting period, however, increased press reporting and complaints from religious freedom activists indicated a corresponding increase in Yad L’achim and associated activism, and a growing wider backlash against the presence of evangelical Christian or Messianic Jewish congregations and missionaries living in Jewish communities. Exacerbating these tensions was the widespread but false belief that proselytizing is illegal in the country.
On violence against Messianic Jews:
On June 10, 2009 the Be’er Sheva District Court handed down sentences to two defendants charged with assaulting the pastor of a Messianic congregation in Be’er Sheva and damaging property. Members of the congregation filed charges against the assailants after a witness to the assault filed a report with the Be’er Shiva police in December 2005. Earlier that month, a witness reported that a group of approximately 200 Orthodox Jews had violently disrupted the religious service of that congregation in Be’er Sheva. According to the account, the group pushed and slapped the congregation’s pastor and damaged property.
On May 15, 2009, ultra-Orthodox residents of the Tel Aviv suburb of Rehovot attacked and beat a group of Messianic Jews who were handing out New Testament pamphlets on the street. According to press reports, secular passers-by joined in the beating before police intervened to stop them.
U.S. government policy:
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. Embassy consistently raised concerns of religious freedom with the Foreign Ministry, the police, the Prime Minister’s office, and other government agencies.
Embassy officials maintained a dialogue with NGOs that follow human and civil rights matters, including religious freedom, and promote interfaith initiatives. Embassy representatives also attended and spoke at meetings of such organizations.
Posted by Yeze.