Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Burning the New Testament - fighting the Jewish Messianic missionaries in Israel I

Jerusalem Post published the following article regarding reaction to Christian [Messianic Jewish] missionaries amongst the Ethiopian immigrants
Or Yehuda deputy mayor: I'm sorry about burning New Testaments

The burning of hundreds of New Testaments by yeshiva students in Or Yehuda last week was regrettable and unplanned, the city's deputy mayor, the man who spurred the students to act, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon of Shas used the opportunity of speaking to the Post, which publishes a monthly Christian Edition, to apologize to Christians worldwide, saying he hoped the incident would not inflame tensions between Jews and Christians.

Following the publication of the story on Tuesday, however, many messianic Jewish and other Christian groups expressed grave concern over the increasingly violent nature of anti-missionary activity in Israel.

Aharon had a very busy Tuesday. In the morning, Ma'ariv ran a story on how he organized to retrieve and burn hundreds of New Testaments given to Ethiopian Jews in his city by local messianic Jews. By 9 a.m. he was on an Army Radio news-talk show defending his actions, which he called "purging the evil among us."

At 10:30 he was on Channel 2's morning news show saying that Ethiopian immigrants in Or Yehuda were being encouraged to go against Judaism by messianic Jews. "We need to stop being ashamed of our Jewishness and to fight those who are breaking the law by missionizing against us," he said.

But by the early afternoon he had already been interviewed by Russian, Italian and French TV, explaining to their highly offended audiences back home how he had not meant for the Bibles to be burned, and trying to undo the damage caused by the news [and photographs] of Jews burning New Testaments.

But then he also told The Associated Press that he didn't condemn the Bible burning, calling it a "commandment."

Aharon then told the Post that he was very sorry for the book burning and that it was not planned, and that he was aware that the incident may have caused damage to relations between Christians and Jews. The deputy mayor said he had organized, together with "three or four" yeshiva students from the city's Michtav M'Eliahu Yeshiva to go to apartments in the city's Neveh Rabin neighborhood, which has many Ethiopian immigrants, and round up packages given to them several days earlier by messianic Jews. The packages contained a New Testament and several pamphlets, which Aharon said "encouraged on to go against Judaism."


The incident in Or Yehuda is the latest sign of rising tension between segments of the modern Orthodox and haredi sectors and the messianic Jewish community. Two months ago, the son of a messianic Jew was seriously wounded by a parcel bomb left outside his home in Ariel. Earlier this year, haredim demonstrated outside messianic Jewish gatherings in Beersheba and Arad, and there were instances of violence.

And just before Independence Day, a group of religious Zionist rabbis called for a boycott of this year's International Bible Quiz after discovering that one of the four finalists from Israel, Bat-El Levi, an 11th-grader from Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, was a messianic Jew.

The rise in tensions is partly due to an increase in the number of messianic Jews in Israel over the past few years, with some estimates putting the community at 15,000, and partly due to increased fervor within haredi anti-missionary groups.

Sources familiar with the Falash Mura - whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity under duress in Ethiopia, and who made aliya under the understanding that they would return to Judaism - say that some continue to be Christians in Israel, and that this makes them amenable to messianic Jews. Several messianic Jews and at least one Christian group in Israel contacted by the Post on Tuesday expressed fear that if they spoke on the record, they would be attacked.


"I expect the police to investigate everyone who was involved in the book burning, including those who incited the youths to the act, even if that includes Mr. Aharon," Myers said. Myers said the book burning was tantamount to incitement to violence.

"Israelis have to understand something: Messianic Jews here have strong ties to American evangelical Christians, and there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who see the burning of the New Testament as a very serious issue. The New Testament is believed in by hundreds of millions of people. It is not in Israel's national interest to allow the burning of their holy book," Myers told the Post.

Myers is not worried about opening up a legal battle over missionary activities in Israel. "Messianic Jews distribute literature here and are very careful about it. Chabad is a much larger group that distributes material and literature," he said.

[Aharon says it is okay for Jews to give material to Jews, but not for Christians to target Jews.]

"The messianic Jews in Israel are Jews like anyone else. They are registered with the Interior Ministry as Jews. So they are just as entitled to hand out pamphlets as anyone else, as long as it is from adults to adults and does not involve minors. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 there has never been one case of proven missionary work that has led to an indictment," Myers said


  1. Taking out The Trash
    Penina Taylor
    (Op Ed published on Israelenews and Israelinsider)

    It was reported yesterday by several major news outlets that recently the religious Jews of Or Yehuda set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament. Ha’aretz called it “the latest act of violence against Christian missionaries in the Holy Land.” Calev Myers, attorney representing the Messianic communities of Israel called for the people who did it to be brought to trial. But brought to trial for what?

    The people who burned these books broke no law. Despite the allusions being made to the burning of Jewish holy books during the times of the inquisition or the holocaust, there is absolutely no comparison here. The New Testaments had been basically thrown out – they were garbage, and there is no law against incinerating garbage, even by religious Jews, even in public.

    First let’s look at the whole story. The town of mostly religious Jews had recently been targeted by missionaries, a form of harassment. The missionaries were not invited to come, they invaded, and in the wake of their invasion, they left hundreds, maybe even thousands of New Testaments and other missionary literature. The townspeople were in a quandary – what to do with this heresy that they did not want in their homes? So, the Deputy Mayor came up with a solution. He offered to take the unwanted trash off the residents’ hands and dispose of them in such a way that made it clear and in no uncertain terms that such literature was not only unsolicited, but unwelcome.

    Like a modern day King Josiah, Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon set out to unburden the citizenry he was sworn to serve, and they gave him the unwanted materials willingly. In the book of 2 Kings, chapter 22 and in 2 Chronicles 34, we read the story of King Josiah who took the throne at the age of eight years old. It is said of him, “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. ” (2 Kings 22:2) – a claim that no Christian would deny. And yet, we read in 2 Chronicles 34:33 that “Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers.”

    Now, King Josiah removed the objects of heresy and idolatry forcibly, he did not give the citizens a choice in the matter, including regarding their service to God and this is where the two stories diverge. Truth be told, we could go on about how the burning of the New Testaments was simply an exercise in freedom of expression or even freedom of religion, which Israel claims to be why proselytizing is no longer illegal in the land. But the bottom line is this: there was no persecution or violence against Christians here, and no one was forced to do anything he/she didn’t want to do. If anything, it is the missionaries who are guilty and deserve to be brought to trial for mass harassment, not to mention the countless number of trees who senselessly gave their lives for the printing of the unwanted material and the ridiculous amount of space this story is now taking up on web pages and newspapers the world over.

    Penina Taylor is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Center of Jews for Judaism

  2. Christian missionaries are indeed a big problem in Israel. There are hundreds of Messianic Churches and approximately 50,000 full time Christian missionaries working in Israel. (I have provided a list under a separate cover).

    You might wonder how so many thousands of full time Christian missionaries could be living and working in Israel?

    The majority of them are "converts" to Judaism from the US, Europe, Ethiopia, India and the FSU. A few are native Israelis who are the offspring of Jewish men and non Jewish women who were "converted" so they could make aliyah pre 1970. There are a handful who are actually Jewish k'halacha as well.

    Unless Christian parasites are made to leave, we will G-d Forbid see Darfur in Israel.

    In Darfur, Muslim parents became so desperate to save their children from missionary soul poachers who even go so far as to kidnap thousands of children to send to Europe to raise as Christians, that a civil war broke out.

    I am not aware of any other religion in the world that will declare war on another religion.

    Christianity has declared war on Judaism and has planted a nuclear bomb in Israel. Religious warriors cannot be fought with bullets and bombs, they can only be fought with ideological safeguards.

    It is critical to the survival of the Jewish people, that the tens of thousands of Christians who have "become a part of" and who in many areas have superseded the identity of the Jewish nation be removed like the cancerous growth that they are.

    Treating a tumor is never "compassionate" but the patient will surely die if it is ignored or worse yet, fed by the sweet elixir of Israeli government benefits and generous Diaspora communities.

  3. Wow Jersey Girl,

    Aren't you the charming one.
    You have no qualms in accepting billions from hardcore evangelists like Hagee to build houses in the occupied territories. Talk about hypocrisy.

  4. Dear Dan,

    Who said I would accept a DIME from Evangelicals???

    My family has been vociferously protesting accepting this Trojan horse for decades.

    My parents and grandparents taught us at a very young age that Zionism is a sect of Christianity. (I was punished as a seven year old for harboring a Jewish National Fund pushka in my book bag).

    My parents are NOT Satmar or Neturei Karta. My father is a Moroccan Jew and my mother is from an Algerian Jewish mother and a Gerer Chassidic father. (Algerian, Moroccan and Turkish Muslims saved my mother's extended family during WWII).

    I don't think I am a hypocrite. I just think that the presence of tens of thousand of Messianic missionaries in Israel shows that we will not have a Jewish homeland until Moshiach comes.

    Meanwhile, we certainly have Galut.


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