When Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently appointed his Messianic Jewish sister-in-law Ilil Keren to the board of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), religious news outlets created a fire storm across the Israeli media resulting in Keren resigning the post. Keren, it was discovered, had been a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation in Tel Aviv together with her husband who held the role of “prayer leader” in the community. See the full story here
The fact that Lapid had appointed his Messianic Jewish relative to such a prestigious position was too much to swallow for many and the attacks on social media and discussions about Jesus and Jews who believe in him keep coming.
One of the most interesting comments came from well-known journalist and former Member of Knesset, Yinon Magal, who added oil to the fire when he posted an old video of Foreign Minister Lapid proudly declaring himself to be in the bloodline of Jesus.
— ינון מגל (@YinonMagal) November 8, 2021
“I am a Zionist,” Lapid says in the video. “I am a man of the future who also lives his past. I am from the line of Moses, Jesus, the Rambam, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Kafka, Herzl, Ben Gurion. I am part of a tiny, persecuted minority that influenced the world more than any other nation. While others invested their energies in war, we had the sense to invest in our minds.”
Connecting himself to the family line of Jesus caused many to scratch their heads in bewilderment. There can be no question that Jesus was Jewish, but for an Israeli Jew, and one in such a prominent and public role in Israel, to highlight his family connection to Jesus? Unheard of. A scandal!
But not everyone was horrified. Yair Netanyahu, son of the former prime minister, had an insightful response to Lapid connecting himself to Jesus: “The thing that concerns me more (than being connected to Jesus) is him (Lapid) being proud of his connection with Karl Marx and Woodie Alan.”
Another commenter actually said that he “is looking forward to seeing a descendant of Jesus as Prime Minister of Israel.”
Some believe that Lapid’s embrace of Jesus has affected his government policy decisions. Some years ago Lapid opposed a Mission Law that sought a sweeping ban to all missionary activity in Israel. Opponents now wonder if Lapid, and family members, hold special sympathies toward Jesus. And could this be the result of his conversations with his Messianic sister-in-law? It is intriguing to note that Yair Lapid’s father, Tommy Lapid, who led the anti-religious Shinui party, was a very vocal supporter of the current anti-missionary law that prohibits proselytizing minors or offering remuneration to convert to Christianity. His son Yair seems to have distanced himself from his father’s position on Messianic Jewish activities in Israel.
Israeli law recognizes freedom of religion and there are about 15,000 Messianic Jews in approximately 150 congregations in Israel, though there are no official numbers, and some reports offer wild exaggerations. For more on this: Overstated Figures Regarding Israeli Jewish Yeshua Believers and Messianic Jews in the News.
Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah, which is still considered anathema in almost all streams of Judaism. Their belief in Jesus puts these Jews outside the pale of traditional Jewish faith. In a decision over two decades ago, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled against a Messianic Jewish couple who wanted to immigrate to Israel according to the Law of Return. The Court determined that Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus and were baptized are now Christians, and since the Law of Return was created to support Jews coming back to the Land, and not Christians, they were denied immigration.
For more on the history of how Israel is trying to cope with “the Mission” see Can Israel Stop the Christian Gospel?