Nine missionary "synagogues" in Yerushalayim alone; 60
communities nationwide; 10,000 Israelis in messianic Jewish
groups; over 3,000 active missionaries; according to staff
members of the anti-missionary division of P'eylim / Lev
L'Achim -- these are the grim statistics of the year 2000.
They point to a huge growth in the activities of Christian
missionaries in Israel, but worse, to their employment of a
new and extremely effective method through which they
penetrate mainstream Israeli society and ensnare the tens of
thousands of Israelis who are looking to make religion a
bigger part of their lives.
Like the wolf that dresses up in sheep's clothing, the
missionary of today now dresses himself up in the garb of a
religious Jew, complete with black hat and beard, to reach
his prey. For the unsuspecting traditional Jew who has more
of a love of learning than learning itself, this is
especially dangerous. His respect for Torah and talmidei
chachomim will make him automatically show respect to
this "rav," and he may not be able to see past the beard and
payos to discern the false teachings. Thus, he is all
too easily caught in the trap laid for him.
Another tactic, equally dangerous, is the "tzedaka"
these missionaries give. Over the past two decades hundreds
of thousands of evangelical Christians, mostly from the
United States, gave millions of dollars in tax-deductible
donations to missionary organizations based in Israel.
Supplied with these vast sums of money from abroad, these
organizations are in an excellent position to offer
assistance to poor Jewish families.
New Russian and Ethiopian immigrants are especially
vulnerable to a favorite ploy, offering a needy family a rent
subsidy. The catch is that someone from the family has to
come to the missionary "shul" to pick up the subsidy
check. Once there, the person is encouraged to come for
prayer services, take home the group's pamphlets, or attend
"shiurim." The person is often not in a position to
One such heartbreaking instance involves a 19-year-old girl
who had been a student at a top girls' seminary in
Yerushalayim. Troubles at home made her flee into the arms of
American Jewish missionaries, who were more than happy to
provide her with lodgings and food. In return, the girl
became baptized. Although the girl says that she doesn't
believe what she hears, she still takes part in the prayer
services, receives their money and has yet to return to her
Although there are groups, such as the International
Christian Embassy and Bridges for Peace, that give assistance
to needy Jewish families without trying to convert them,
there are many others out there whose hands are not as
Funding by missionary groups is not taking place on just the
individual level. In some instances, settlements -- and even
some yeshivos! -- in Yehuda and Shomron have been adopted by
American missionary organizations posing as pro-Israel
Christian groups. Rabbis in these areas have come down on
both sides of the issue, with some absolutely refusing to
take this money, while others believe it is permissible as
long as the groups do not actually attempt to proselytize or
interfere in any way.
Recent statements by Rabbi Eliezer Waldman of Nir Yeshiva in
Kiryat Arba, which receives money from one of these
organizations, illustrates the degree of difficulty some
yeshiva administrators are experiencing in turning down
"These non-Jews," Rabbi Waldman says in reference to the pro-
Israel Christian organizations, "sincerely believe that the
salvation will come from the Jewish People. True, they have
their own faith, but they are in the process of getting
enlightened. I can't say the same thing about all of them. Of
course one must take precautions to avoid missionaries. One
must definitely be careful. But still, those that are in the
process of becoming enlightened, and who recognize the unique
rights of the Jewish People to Eretz Yisroel, should be given
the benefit of the doubt."
But Sandra Brege, a senior official of Christian Friends of
Israeli Communities (CFIC), a group that supports several
communities in Yesha, paints an entirely different
"Look," says Brege, "let's face it -- there is not a single
Christian in the world who does not believe that in the end,
the Jews will accept our faith. The only issue under debate
is what method we should use to attain this goal: through
missionary tactics, or through more passive means."
And so what, you may ask, is being done to counteract these
attacks on Am Yisroel?
Two years ago, during Netanyahu's administration, missionary
activities reached such a fevered pitch that a special
Knesset committee was convened to draw up legislation that
would outlaw "preaching with the intent to cause another
person to change his religion."
Netanyahu came under tremendous international pressure to
vote against the bill. The legislation was never passed.
However, all is not bleak. One organization in Eretz Yisroel,
Lev L'achim, is mustering its forces and finding equally
ingenuous ways to counter the tactics of these groups.
Working in conjunction with The Committee for Rescue of
Immigrant Children in Israel, an organization based in
England, Lev L'Achim runs a wide range of anti-missionary
When you walk into the anti-missionary headquarters of Lev
L'achim in Netanya, it feels like you're walking into a
witch's brew of avoda zorah. On each wall are rows of
files divided into categories with labels that scream at you.
To the east, Christian missionaries; the south, Cults; the
north, messianic Jews; and wedged behind the door, Informants
A computer is in the middle of the room. The screen displays
the photograph and biographical details of a friendly looking
man with beard, side locks and yarmulke.
The man also happens to be wearing a cross.
The "Informants and Volunteers" section of files suddenly
becomes clear. If they can do it, why can't we?
It hasn't been easy, but Lev L'achim has managed to assemble
and train a small group of yeshiva students willing to go
undercover and infiltrate the missionary groups operating in
Eretz Yisroel. Two to three volunteers are sent to each
community. The boys become friends with the group's members.
Once they are an accepted part of the group, they begin to
monitor the group's activities.
One simple but effective tactic the volunteers employ is to
rifle through the mail. If they see a letter from someone new
to the group, they return the letter. If the group receives a
shipment of messianic literature from abroad, they return the
shipment. If they hear that the group is going to stuff their
literature in a particular neighborhood's mailboxes, the
volunteers contact Lev L'achim. When the missionaries get to
the neighborhood, they are greeted by a group of kollel
men, and the mail doesn't get delivered.
The "Informants and Volunteers" operation costs Lev L'achim
some 12,000 NIS a month. But despite the high cost, the
organization feels that it is money well spent.
Lev L'achim is also in the forefront of stopping missionary
activity hiding under the guise of art. When the play "David
and Batsheva" opened in Israel, the organization discovered
that funding for the production came from missionaries. Lev
L'achim organized demonstrations in front of the theater, at
a cost of 5,000 NIS per demonstration, and the play, which
had a messianic message, was forced to cancel its scheduled
Another tactic Lev L'achim uses is to bring a minor to one of
the group's activities. Although it is not illegal to try to
get an adult to convert to another religion, under Israeli
law it is illegal to seek to influence a minor. And so one
messianic group may be closed down.
But without a comprehensive law in effect against
proselytizing, Lev L'achim's anti-missionary efforts are
often thwarted. And there won't be such a law because the
missionaries have a powerful public relations tool, which
they wield all too effectively in the international press:
the freedom of speech and religion argument.
According to this line of thinking, if Israel wants to see
itself viewed as an enlightened democracy, it has to allow
missionaries to freely disseminate their ideas. The cost to
Jewish neshomos is clearly not taken into account.
Therefore, we will continue to see photographs of Israeli
elected officials warmly smiling as they greet Evangelistic
convention organizers. And we will continue to read about Lev
L'achim's fight to preserve their fellow Jew's right to
In an effort to support Lev L'Achim's war against the
missionaries, the London Committee for the Rescue of
Immigrant Children in Israel will host a play produced by
Marion Hermes and Doris Lanzkron at The Institute Central
Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb (ladies only) on the 7th, 8th
and 9th of March. Tickets are available from: 455-3239; 455-
8589; 203-2239; and 806-3851.