There is much tension regarding Christian missionaries who are proselytizing in Israel in and among Jewish people. After all, Israel is the only nation in the world to have been established (again) on the basis of their religious heritage and not race, geography, economics or any other attribute.
This news article from June 2012 states,
"Yad L'Achim Gets Missionary Ad Pulled from Israel Radio': 'Quick action by Yad L'Achim forced Israel Radio to pull a cleverly disguised missionary ad from its Russian-language programming."
Therefore there's much open hostility by Jews against Christians, particularly against "Messianic Jews." Sometimes Messianic Jews are targets of terrorism from Jews just as much as Jews are targets from Muslims.
There is an enormous amount of suspicion and hostility leveled against Christian missionaries and evangelists. The website at Jewish Israel makes this statement:
"Due to the numerous political, economic and security hardships facing both Israel and the Diaspora, large sectors of the Jewish community in Israel have become dependent upon evangelical Christian political influence and charity. While much of this support appears to be benign and benevolent - and some is indeed sincere - Israel's embracing and accepting of Christian fundamentalist sponsored activities and philanthropy has been exacting a serious cost and adversely affecting both religious and secular individuals and groups throughout the private and public sectors of Israeli society. Our Jewish values and heritage are being compromised."
As most Christian Missionaries walk a fine line between hostility and acceptance, and as each mission field is fraught with its own particular demands and challenges to proselytizing, so it is in Israel.
In this article from the Israel daily newspaper Haaretz from 2010, we read of an "Aggressive Missionary Campaign in Central Israel"
Note the language the reporter uses. It is snide, sneering, biased, and he makes frequent use of journalistic tricks like "scare quotes". Here is a sample:
"Jews for Jesus” in Israel brags that it has launched a missionary campaign in “an area that has never had a significant evangelical activity since 1948” – namely, Tel Aviv’s satellite cities." Uses the word brags.
"Different groups spoke Hebrew, English, or Russian, providing their “services” for all sectors." The word services is in scare quotes.
"The missionaries' latest gimmick is the placing of thousands of “traffic tickets” on cars"... the word gimmick is a bias word.
"Deceptive tactics of this nature have become the accepted protocol in the evangelical Christian movement, writes Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz"...deceptive and tactics are both heavily biased words that leave a taint in the reader's mind.
"Rabbi Shalom Lifshitz said, “Now is the time to demand a change to the missionary law, and to put a stop to this wild, criminal missionary activity that leads to tragic results.”'
Needless to say, Christian Missionaries in Israel have a hard row to how.
And that brings us to the laws Israel has instituted to control, limit or even prevent missionary activity. Although the laws at present there appear to be only two laws being enforced which limit missionary activity in Israel:
1) No one can offer a material inducement for someone to change their religion
2) No one can discuss changing religion with a minor (under 18 years of age) without their parents' permission,
...the facts on the ground are that there is much discrimination and hostility against missionaries and Christian materials. Make no mistake, when it is stated that there are laws and guidelines against missionaries, the focus is really on the Christian Evangelicals.
With this context in mind, here is an article reporting on how new testaments mailed to the Israeli Congress (Knesset) were reacted to. While most 'quietly dispose' of the materials, one Minister of Knesset reacted violently. This happened three days ago. Jerusalem Post reports.
"Many MKs opened their mailboxes on Monday morning and were appalled to find a New Testament inside, sent to them by a messianic organization. The Bible Society in Israel, a messianic Judaism institution for research, publication and dissemination of holy books, sent a “Book of Testaments,” which combines the Tanach and New Testament in one, leather-bound volume, published with references in Hebrew for the first time."
Gasp! In Hebrew!
One MK in particular had a more violent reaction than others. He is Michael Ben Ari, acknowledged to be an extremist- on the Jewish side. The Hebrew daily newspaper Maariv reported Tuesday that Knesset (Parliament) member Michael Ben Ari deliberately tore up the New Testament and threw it in the trash. He posed for photos while he did it and then posted the pictures.
That last excerpt was Google translated from the article. Google had a hard time with the Hebrew. But you get the idea. MK Ben Ari believes that Christian holy materials are a desolation to their religion, the catalyst for Jewish persecution, and a threat to their nation.
On Wednesday, there began the expected outrage against Ben Ari's outrage. MKs are calling for Ben Ari to be censured. Israel has been battling perceptions of their low tolerance for Christian Missionaries for a long time (a perception that may indeed be warranted) that Ben Ari's action only serves to highlight.
So why this hostility to the Christian witness? Usually the case is because of 2 Corinthians 4:34 which says, "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
So it is satan who has blinded the non-believer's mind. However, it is a little different for the Jew. In this case, it is GOD who has blinded them!
Paul wrote in Romans 11, "What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” (Romans 11:7-10).
He continues the thought in verse 25- "Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." (Romans 11:25).
Individual Jews can come to saving knowledge of Christ, as anyone can. Joel C. Rosenberg is a prominent example of one man with a Jewish heritage could accept by faith that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah. However, because they are partially hardened, Jewish individuals accept Jesus through massive odds. Widely, and as a nation, not at all. Not yet.
|Source, public domain bible clipart|
All Israel will be saved at the appointed time: "And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;" (Romans 11:26).
Blessed is our Lord who is mighty to save, mighty to preserve, mighty to remember. Until that time, the road ahead for Jews, Christians, and everyone else will be fraught with hostility and rising persecution and divisions. One thing we can do is be aware of the tensions, we can pray for missionaries in Israel, we can pray for the zealous but mistaken Jews like Ben Ari. We can pray for men like Ben Ari who hold in their hands the key to eternal life, the New Testament story of Jesus the Messiah, but continue to reject the Good News. We can praise Him for the missionaries who constantly attempt to get the News in front of all people in Israel using all methods at their disposal, whether spoken or written. We should plead with God to make these materials more widely distributed and more available. Because...they will soon need it.