Following an address at a church in Irvine California in which he thanked Christians for their support, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, granted an interview to journalist Dan Wooding and raised the red flag on proselytizing and messianic Christianity.
When asked if the growth of Israel’s Messianic community concerned him, Oren responded,
“I have no statistics on the size of the Messianic community, but I think certainly that the State of Israel wants the Jewish people to remain Jewish…” While noting that "Israel greatly values its relationship with the evangelical community and other Christian communities in the world,” Oren cautioned that, “we are very sensitive to the notion of proselytizing -- very sensitive.”
Hopefully Ambassador Oren’s prudent remarks signify something of a departure from former Ambassador Daniel Ayalon’s no holds barred embrace of evangelicals. As we noted in a previous post, Daniel Ayalon told several church leaders, as he left Washington, that he intended to be “their ambassador to Israel” – and he continues to work in that direction in his current position as Deputy Foreign Minister.
In an attempt to escape Soviet communism Oren said, “Literally hundreds of thousands of Soviet people who were not Jewish, came into Israel and became Israeli citizens. So much so that at one point theIsraeli army was printing out the New Testament in Hebrew so that soldiers could use it to swear in because they were practicing Christians serving in the Israeli army. We now have a great number.” He included in those numbers Russian Messianics, Pentecostals, Baptists and a significant Russian Orthodox population.
Arutz 7, also reporting on Oren’s interview, claims that "Proselytizing in public is illegal in Israel, but the prohibition increasingly has been violated.”
Oren who penned the historic tome, Power Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1976 to the Present, has a lot to say – both good and bad – about the ongoing historic role missionary influence has played in the Middle East. As an example, Oren believes that while missionary attempts to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity in the region failed, evangelical zeal manifested itself in other ways. The State Department sought missionaries for their diplomatic core, and oil companies were keen to tap into and channel missionary enthusiasm. Missionaries established universities which imparted to Arab students the concepts of Western–style democracy and ideals of anti-colonialism, and that in turn helped give rise to Arab nationalism. Oren believes that evangelism is an ingrained part of American foreign policy and that the drive of "churches and evangelist groups … to save the region spiritually" will continue to influence all of us.
Let’s hope that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren uses his wealth of knowledge and expertise to establish a wise “respect and suspect” policy with zealous Christian groups currently aligning themselves with the Jewish state.