Last week, the religious Israeli news portal Arutz 7 happily reported that Orthodox Jewish "anti-missionaries" had successfully demonstrated against a "new" Messianic Jewish congregation in the desert city of Arad, and thereby prevented a number of locals from entering what they called a "church."
The report made it sound as if the entire city of Arad, or at least its religious population, had turned out to protect their town from the "dangers" of the Gospel. It even stated that Mayor Nisan Ben Hamo had led the charge.
But the report was largely false, an unfortunate example of "fake news" aimed at curtailing the growing presence and influence of Messianic Jews in Israel.
The congregation in question is Hasdey Yeshua (Yeshua's Grace), which is by no means new, but rather is long established in Arad. The congregation was simply meeting at an alternate location due to the heavy summer heat.
Israel Today reached out to Hasdey Yeshua to find out what really happened.
Indeed, a couple weeks ago, when they first started meeting in their cooler warehouse location, Hasdey Yeshua was the target of a demonstration by local ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to the sect known as Gur Hassidim.
But it wasn't the entire Gur population. It wasn't even hundreds, as Arutz 7 stated. A representative of the congregation told us that only about 20-30 protesters showed up, and they arrived well after the service had already begun.
Safe inside the closed warehouse, the local believers knew the Orthodox protesters were outside, but could barely hear them. Of course, that didn't stop Hasdey Yeshua from dedicating much of the service to praying for those who (attempted to) persecute them.
"We began to pray for them, and as we did there was supernatural joy and peace; we could sense the presence of the Lord," said our contact. "Thankfully they were gone by the time we were finished."
There were numerous other inaccuracies or outright falsehoods in the Arutz 7 report, chief among them being:
Mayor Hamo wasn't part of the protest. In fact, according to our contact, he wasn't even in town that weekend. And he wouldn't have joined the Gur demonstration even if he was, considering that local Orthodox hate him nearly as much as they hate Messianic Jews.
The Gur said they were "praying" against the Messianics, but all our contact could hear was cursing and hostile slogans. Granted, given the Orthodox sect's enmity toward Jewish believers in Yeshua, they might have considered those curses to be "prayers."
The Arutz 7 article made much of the "fact" that the Gur demonstration had succeeded in preventing several local Jews from entering the service, and had thereby "saved their souls" from being corrupted by the Gospel. Our contact noted that everyone was inside well before the Gur even arrived, and no one was turned away by their petty protest.
The Gur returned the following Shabbat, but, as our contact reported, the congregation wasn't at the warehouse, so all the "anti-missionaries" accomplished was to "yell at a padlocked door."
It is an interesting time in Israel in regards to these confrontations between Messianic Jews and fringe Orthodox sects.
As the general public becomes more and more fed up with the hypocrisy, violence and failure to contribute by many of these Orthodox sects, it is in turn increasingly welcoming of Messianic Jews.
Perhaps the primary motivating factor behind this phenomenon is to spite the Gur Hassidim and other like-minded sects. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that. Be that as it may, far from driving Messianic Jews out of the country, actions like these by the Gur Hassidim and other sects are more likely to strengthen the position and influence of local believers.
PHOTO: ILLUSTRATION. Young Orthodox Jews protest. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.