Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday sought to calm Israel’s Christian supporters by reassuring them that neither his government nor any other Israeli government was going to pass a law prohibiting the preaching of the Gospel in the Jewish state.
Some Christian and conservative American media was in an uproar this week after MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) proposed a bill that would expand an existing law that prohibits proselytizing to minors or offering monetary incentive to convert to another religion (the obvious target of the law being Christians and Messianic Jews who regularly share their faith).
Gafni’s proposal would, among other things, ban Hebrew-language online videos that preach about Jesus, since they could be accessed by minors without a parent’s consent. Many local Messianic and Christian ministries have taken to sharing the Gospel online in recent years.
It would also give some teeth to the existing law by mandating jail time for anyone caught proselytizing a minor or offering monetary incentive to become a Christian. Some Christian and Messianic leaders worried that the vague wording of the bill could be used to prohibit preaching about Jesus in general since minors could be present in the church, congregation or gathering place.
Lost in all the noise, however, is the fact that Gafni has been making the same proposal in one form or another for nearly 25 years. Gafni has put forward his anti-missionary bill at at the start of every new Knesset, and every time it has failed to gain even the minimal support needed to move forward. No parties except for United Torah Judaism and the the other ultra-Orthodox faction, Shas, have ever supported it.
In short, it’s a bill that appeals to very few Israeli lawmakers, even in the most right-wing religious government in the Jewish state’s history, and has almost no chance of moving beyond the proposal stage.
In Netanyahu’s estimation, it has no chance at all.
לא נקדם שום חוק נגד הקהילה הנוצרית.
We will not advance any law against the Christian community.
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) March 22, 2023
A source told Israel Today that Netanyahu’s statement via social media came after he had convinced Gafni to drop the proposal.
Gafni himself issued a statement late Wednesday reminding everyone that the proposal is an old one, that he has no real hope of it ever actually becoming law, and that he will now drop it (until the next election, presumably).
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