Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

5 Shevat 5760 - January 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Jerusalem Demonstration Against Missionary Activity

by Betzalel Kahn and M. Jacoby

Hundreds of residents of Jerusalem's Talpiot and Bakaa neighborhoods participated last week in a large demonstration organized by Lev L'Achim's Department for the Struggle Against the Missions. It took place near the missionary center of the Bethlehem Community messianic Jewish group, located at 48 Derech Beit Lechem in Jerusalem.

The numerous demonstrators assembled at the site despite the heavy downpour. They came to protest the missionaries' activity. By their presence they prevented an "open house" meeting which was supposed to take place that evening. A group of thirty Jewish women were scheduled to attended their final session with a conversion counselor in preparation for group baptism in the Jordan River two days later, on January 6.

As a result of the demonstration, organized by Lev L'Achim's anti-missionary division, the evening's session was canceled and the mass conversion ceremony postponed. A spokesman for Lev L'Achim described the congregation's meeting place as not being a church, per se, which might put even Jews with a minimal religious background on their guard. "There are no crosses or other religious symbols. Services are held every Shabbos, and include what appear to be traditional readings from the Torah and, lehavdil elef havdolos, from the Christian Bible. Followers are not told to give up their Judaism, but `merely' to add belief in J. and his teachings."

The coordinator of Lev L'Achim in Jerusalem told the media that Lev L'Achim would demonstrate wherever missionary activity takes place and will persist in their demands for enforcement of the law forbidding missionary activity, including proselytizing. It is known that such missionary activity is well-financed.

Area residents learned about the planned meeting on Tuesday afternoon. A spontaneous organization of the demonstration ensued, expressing the community's abhorrence of missionary activity. The many demonstrators who participated carried placards condemning the missionaries and demanding that the police enforce the laws which forbid missionary activity.

Activists in the anti-missionary field estimate that there are some seventy communities of "messianic" Jews scattered throughout Israel who actively engage in missionary activities among Jews. Recently, two sites in Bnei Brak were rented by missionary organizations looking for bases for their efforts to snare local residents. They are financed by millions of dollars donated by international church organizations around the globe. Some 5,000 adults -- many of them Jews, R"l -- are active in full and part-time missionary activity in Israel today.

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