Average Israelis may be indifferent at best toward their Jesus-following Jewish brethren, but their distaste for the domineering attitude and behavior of many in the Orthodox Jewish community has resulted in a new phenomenon of average “secular” Israelis coming to the defense of Messianic Jews.
Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in the Israeli media, which over the past several years has on numerous occasion portrayed Messianic Israelis in a positive light.
The latest occurrence of this was on Wednesday evening, when Israel Channel One’s “Second Look” program compared local Messianic Jews to the anti-missionary group Yad L’Achim, which has dedicated itself to harassing and driving out believers in Yeshua (Jesus).
Opening the program, the Channel One anchor noted that at a recent Yad L’Achim rally, Messianic Jews were declared as dangerous to the Jewish nation as Hitler had been, a significant escalation in incitement against local Messianics.
The segment, which was titled “The Jewish Big Brother,” began with an interview with a young Jewish woman who does not believe in Yeshua. She is an organ player, and the only place she could find to practice her music was a downtown Jerusalem monastery, which was happy to oblige her.
But that’s when the trouble began, both for the girl and the monastery.
The girl recounted how her parents received an anonymous written warning from Jewish “anti-missionaries” who said their daughter was being preyed upon by Christians.
When the girl continued accepting the hospitality of the monastery she began receiving anonymous phone calls, and was sure she was being followed and watched.
“I felt like I was in a suspense movie,” she said. “I was constantly looking over my shoulder.”
Yad L’Achim also targeted the monastery itself, advising Israel’s Ministry of the Interior to revoke the residency visa of the priest overseeing the facility. His case is still pending, but the priest has been forced to all but go underground in an effort to preserve both his and his staff’s ability to be in Israel.
Yad L’Achim director Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz told Channel One that if the “missionaries” are not stopped, soon “there will be no Jews left here.”
The girl who was interviewed said she had never once been pressured to accept Yeshua by the priest or his staff. But, in addition to wondering why Yad L’Achim has such influence over the Ministry of the Interior, Channel One questioned why it is such a problem for Jews to believe in Yeshua.
The second part of the report interviewed several local Messianic Jews, including Avner and Rachel Boski, whom the anchor noted “believe that the Messiah has already been here, and that his name is Yeshua. They believe there is no problem believing in him and remaining Jews.”
Avner Boski explained that not all Israelis feel that way. A few years ago, the Boskis went to the Ministry of the Interior for a routine renewal of their Israeli passports (they had already received citizenship decades earlier).
"Everything was going fine,” said Boski. “Suddenly, we were told that there is a problem, that information had come from Yad L’Achim - she said this three times.”
The problem is that Yad L’Achim views believers in Yeshua as “soul snatchers” who want to turn Jews into Christians, thus spiritually destroying the Jewish people.
A Yad L’Achim promo video teaches that there are two parallel efforts to destroy the Jews - the physical, and the spiritual - and that Messianic Jews are the product and the proponent of the second.
Boski noted that today Yad L’Achim has gone far beyond just targeting those believers in Yeshua who openly proselytize. “Just believing in Yeshua makes us dangerous enough in their eyes,” he said.
Asher Intrater, head of the Revive Israel ministry and the Jerusalem-area Messianic congregation Ahavat Yeshua, said it is not right to refer to Messianic Jews as missionaries, at least not without applying the same label to Orthodox groups like Yad L’Achim.
“We are not ashamed of our faith, and will share it with anyone who asks,” said Intrater. “But we don’t pressure or coerce anyone.”
“The truth,” Intrater pointed out, “is that the Orthodox Jews proselytize a hundred times more than we do.”
Anyone who has driven a car in Israel can attest to how often Israelis are approached by proselytizing Orthodox Jews at stop lights throughout the country.
A number of other Messianic Israelis were interviewed and given a chance to tell their stories, including Pnina Conforti, whose popular bakery has been repeatedly targeted by Yad L’Achim.
Following the interviews, the anchor debated with two Israeli lawmakers - Michael Ben-Ari of the religious National Union party, and Nitzan Horovitz of the secular Meretz Party.
Horovitz and the anchor were openly agitated by the Ben-Ari’s defense of Yad L’Achim’s actions and his insistence that believers in Yeshua pose a threat to the Jewish state by simple virtue of their faith.
“I receive far more complaints of missionary activity by Orthodox Jewish organizations!” Horovitz exclaimed, echoing Intrater’s earlier assessment that it is not Messianic Jews who are trying to coerce Israelis to accept their beliefs.
“They [the Orthodox] are constantly looking for enemies,” Horovitz continued. “But we do not have an enemy in Christianity.”
Throughout the second half of the report were interspersed clips of Yad L’Achim and its Orthodox supporters holding hostile and heated rallies, while Messianic Jews were shown calmly praying for Israel at their places of worship.
The message was clear: Messianic Jews are not a threat to Israel or the spirit of the Jewish nation, but Yad L’Achim just might be.