Missionary and Anti-missionary Activity
From Caspari Center Media Review, February 12, 2007
BaKehila, December 28, 2006, January 4, 14; Yom L'Yom, January 4, pp. 3, 8; HaMekoman, December 28, 2006, January 18; HaShavua be'Ashdod, December 1, 2006; HaTzofeh, January 24; HaModia, January 26, 28; Kol HaNegev, January 19, 2007
Several of the articles received in this week's Review are repeats of earlier stories. These include "missionary activities" in Bnei Brak and Beersheva, together with coverage of the restraining order against Yehuda Deri. In continuation of the latter incident, several papers reported that Deri met with the Chief Rabbi of Beersheva's police force in order to encourage cooperation between the two parties on such issues as road accident prevention - and anti-missionary activity (Kol HaNegev, January 19; HaMekoman, January 18). The "missionaries" were described as "Messianic Jews, who pretend to be Orthodox [Jews]" and "endanger Judaism when apparently breaking the law against conversion, which forbids offering anything [to someone to make them change their religion]." According to Deri, while these "posers" do not give money, they do offer "benefits, such as Bible studies and trips." As previous articles indicated, Deri's ire has been roused precisely because of the missionaries' Jewish identity: "If they came with a cross to their activities, fine. [But] they come with a Star of David and mitzvot [commandments] and Torah and brain washing." The Chief Rabbi for the police suggested in response that the local religious council hire a person "to document all missionary activity, in order to try and prove that they apparently offer benefits, and only then to turn to the police."
Two articles (HaTzofeh, January 24; HaModia, January 28) respond to the recent incident in Beersheva which resulted in an interview with Howard Bass, the local congregation's leader. Both articles stressed the fact that Bass had acknowledged - even boasted - that he/the congregation had baptized 40 Jews since his arrival in Beersheva. According to HaTzofeh, Deri responded to Bass's interview by stating that: "If it turns out that the missionary's words are true, we shall not rest or stop and will hold a huge demonstration of protest and crying out against conversion [apostasy] activity in the city." HaModia indignantly reported that Bass "even pointed out the place of the crime [baptisms], without any fear of the law or police reaction. This proves that, quoting MK Meir Porush, the missionaries relate to the State of Israel now as to a 'lawless' state that encompasses a broad and unlimited field for their activity." Porush continued his attack on the mission by claiming not only that "they are overflowing with financial means" but also, far more significantly, that they constitute a national as well as a religious problem, given that "it has been proved in the past that there is even a connection between several missionary bodies and groups close to terror organizations."
In a letter to the local HaShavua be'Ashdod (December 12), a writer related that "last Shabbat, I was exposed to the disgusting phenomenon of the sect of Yeshu's Messianics [meshichei Yeshu]" who were distributing tracts on the beach and "persuading people to take holy books for free. In retrospect, I realized that these were part of our holy Torah and that the stall-keeper ... was part of a dangerous sect whose teachings and faith are contrary to our faith and we are completely forbidden to believe these words of abomination, which can easily enter every kosher Jewish home and even influence our innocent children."
BaKehila carried a Yad L'Achim advertisement on December 14 calling for an Orthodox protest against the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds for allowing its premises to be used - yet again - for the baptism of Jews to Christianity on Shabbat. According to this report, the Jehovah's Witnesses brought 800 people to hear their preaching, "as a direct result of which six Jews were immediately baptized to Christianity."
Caspari Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies, Jerusalem