New Testament sparks controversy among Israeli postmen

Tuesday, March 06, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

A controversy was brewing this week when a handful of postmen from the Ramat Gan suburb of Tel Aviv refused to deliver packages containing the New Testament.

Initial reports in the Israeli press did not specify which organization had mass-mailed the copies of the New Testament to Israeli households, but it is not uncommon for some Christian and Messianic groups to do so.

Upon discovering what they were delivering, a number of Orthodox Jewish mailmen informed their superiors that they would not fulfill their obligation to deliver those particular packages.

Speaking to Ynet, several mailmen echoed the widely believed falsehood that it is illegal to proselytize in Israel.

"We always distribute business flyers and we have no problem with that, whether we agree with them or not," said one postal employee. "But this time it's different. This is missionary material, and from our understanding there's a law against that. It's not a religious issue."

It is in fact perfectly legal in Israel to share one's faith with others unsolicited, just as different Orthodox Jewish groups often do at street corners around the country. What is illegal is offering monetary incentives for conversion or proselytizing to minors.

Orthodox lawmaker Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) took up the matter in the Knesset, with Kahlon ordering that delivery of the New Testament was to cease until the matter could be legally clarified.

But a response by the Israel Postal Company suggested that it saw no reason to not deliver the holy books, stating in an official response:

"The Israel Postal Company is a governmental company operating in accordance to the Postal Law, which obligates us to distribute any mail it receives. The Israel Postal Company has no right or ability to chose what it can or cannot distribute. Therefore, the mail will be distributed according to the law."

Many comments to the story on Ynet expressed satisfaction that such "missionary activity" had been halted, but just as many were once again angered that a small Orthodox minority was deciding what religious material they can and cannot receive. Such actions to deny access to the New Testament in the past have traditionally backfired, creating increased curiosity regarding the Gospel.

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