Legislative Issues

we will be covering anti-missionary legislation , Messianics and the Law of Return and Visa issues for evangelical volunteers and missionaries.

A brief synopsis of the status of counter-missionary legislation in Israel:

At present, there appears 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.

Recent History:
In 1998, there was a move to draft serious anti-missionary legislation in the Knesset. Labor MK Zvilli and Shas MK Gafni jointly sponsored the Bill. In that same period the American Congress passed the “International Religious Freedoms Act.” which Evangelical Christians (including Jews for Jesus) used in order to get the American State Department to pressure Israel to withdraw planned anti-missionary legislation.

Then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was accused of breaking a promise to Christian leaders abroad by voting for the anti-missionary bill during its first reading in the Knesset

Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and other fervent supporters of Israel were livid with Netanyahu.

Israel was also threatened with trade sanctions from the United States if the legislation passed.

Opposition was spearheaded within Israel by the Messianic Action Committee (MAC), a group calling for “deliberate, continuous and intense pressure” on Israeli lawmakers by opinion-makers, politicians and other interested parties who are friendly towards Israel.

Zvilli withdrew support for the bill he had sponsored, and Netanyahu buckled.


To make matters worse the The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) kicked in with a public statement expressing concern with regards to civil liberties and religious freedom in Israel. Foxman wrote to Netanyahu:
“While we are concerned by efforts to convert Jews, we are also concerned by the implications such anti-missionary legislation would have on minority rights in Israel.”

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Prime Minister Netanyahu responded with,
“Let me assure you again that Israel will pass no laws which limit freedom of religion and contravene the international conventions to which it is a signatory.


ADL WELCOMES ASSURANCES THAT ISRAEL WILL NOT PASS ANTI-MISSIONARY LEGISLATION


The dispute was allegedly resolved when leaders of The Christian Embassy (ICEJ), Bridges for Peace and others Christian groups operating in Israel formulated an anti-missionary pledge in lieu of Knesset anti- missionary legislation.


However it was conceived with a major loophole…


While some evangelical churches and ministries have agreed not to engage “in activities which have as their intention to alienate them [the Jewish People] from their tradition and community…”, they find it perfectly kosher to fund and encourage “Jewish believers in Jesus” - because they “remain Jews” and are therefore not alienated from their community.

Since those days, the State of Israel has done little to stop the flow of missionaries into this country or to restrict their activities. In fact Israel has reduced visa restrictions and encouraged them under the auspices of government affiliated organizations like the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus which "provides assistance in obtaining visas for the Christian community, educates Israelis about Christianity, promotes Christian tourism to Israel, and seeks to strengthen the status of women worldwide on the basis of Judeo-Christian values" (and unfortunately associates with a number of missionaries)...

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ADDENDUM: The Big Irony

As already stated above, it was the ADL who assisted the evangelicals (and by extension, messianics) in their efforts to squash attempts to curb missionaries back in 1998, but look at what the ADL has to contend with a decade later (as of March 28, 2008)

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said in a statement:
The World Evangelical Alliance Statement defending the targeting of Jews for conversion is offensive and insulting to the Jewish people and brazenly dismisses Jewish self-definition. Instead of validating God's irrevocable covenant with the Jewish people, and ongoing Jewish covenantal life, themes also found in their Scripture, this group of religious leaders does the opposite. It is especially odious to defend the duplicitous proselytizing of Jews by groups such as Jews for Jesus and so-called "Messianic Jews." While they claim to deplore the use of deception and coercion, they "reject the notion that it is deceptive for followers of Jesus Christ who were born Jewish to continue to identify as Jews," thus turning the meaning of deception on its head.

It appears what goes around, comes around.
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The Impossible Solution: the true friendship test

In addition to enacting legislation, one obvious solution would be to ask your very friendly evangelical Christian organizations to support Israel in her struggle to rid herself of this plague by endorsing efforts at legislation and visa restrictions and by publicly condemning any efforts to publicly spread the gospel throughout Israel via any means (but that is the evangelical religion - so how could they?).

Such a request would certainly separate the men from the boys and would let us know who truly stands with Israel, as opposed to who wants a Judeo-Christian empire in Eretz Yisrael.

Israel may feel obligated to protect the holy sites of the three major religions and to respectfully welcome visitors and tourists from various faiths and backgrounds, but why does the Jewish state feel compelled to grant unrestricted American-style religious freedom and freedom of expression to everybody and anybody, and to those who challenge the very nature, character and faith of this land and its people?

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