Director of Rabbi Riskin's Interfaith Center Appeals for Funding to Build Church in Jerusalem

In January 2013, just prior to Israel's national elections, a controversial video emerged with Bayit Yehudi candidate Jeremy Gimpel declaring to a Christian audience that in the future, once the corner stone of the Temple is laid, "the Jews would build churches. We would build them!"

The future has arrived, sans the Temple. David Nekrutman, executive director of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), located in Efrat, has made an urgent appeal for funding to establish a church in Jerusalem. In the appeal, published in the October 2013 Jerusalem Post christian Edition, Nekrutman implores the readership:

"…my brother is facing hard times and needs help. CJCUC has been able to introduce him to some of our key supporters, but this is not enough. I ask for more than your prayers for a miracle to occur in having the congregation find a permannet location in east Jerusalem, but to see it in your heart the urgency of the situation and give generously."

HolyLand Missions, directed by Pastor Stephen Khoury, is an evangelizing church with six ministries throughout Israel - two of them in Jerusalem. Their Calvary Church branch located in "East Jerusalem" has to relocate because the landlord will not renew the rental agreement, reportedly under pressure from Muslims. The new building project involves the purchase of 2 hectares of Jerusalem land and the construction of a multi-purpose church facility at a cost of $3,750,000.

"No and No Again"

The obvious question which comes to mind to Torah observant Jews is why in the world would an organization founded and directed by the Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Shlomo Riskin, and staffed by Orthodox Jews enter into the church-building business? Surely it is not a mitzvah incumbent upon the Jewish people to facilitate the spreading of the gospel of jesus christ anywhere in the world, let alone in Israel! But then again, Rabbi Riskin and his rabbinic partners have proclaimed that Christians and Jews jointly share Abraham's covenant with G-d. Riskin and the CJCUC have also sanctioned everything from Jews engaging in theological dialogue with Christians to Jews entering churches to granting jesus rabbinic "smicha".

JewishIsrael has reluctantly addressed the following unheard-of-questions to a number of rabbis and scholars who hold varying halachic and hashkafic viewpoints:

1.      Is it halachically permissible for a Torah observant Jew to solicit funds from Christians to help establish or support a church in Israel or anywhere else for that matter?

2.      Is it halachically permissible for a Torah observant Jew to encourage and solicit funds to assist Christians to spread the gospel to Muslims in Israel or elsewhere?

"No and No again" was the unanimous opinion – with the added commentary, "have people gone nuts?"

Unwise and Unhealthy

Apart from the halacha, simple common sense would seem to dictate that it would be unwise at best for a Jew in Israel to build-up an evangelical Christian ministry with the following stated mission:

"Holy Land Missions exists to preach the Gospel to the hurting nation of Israel and the Palestinian peoples. Bringing worldwide awareness of the persecution of born again Christians living in the Holy Land today."

Similarly it seems unhealthy for a Jew to partner with a pastor with the following profile:

“Growing up on the Mission field for twenty years has not only taught me the life of a missionary but also the struggles and battles of every believer.

God has burdened my heart in a great way. He has shown me that Arabs can come to salvation; He has shown me that Jews can come to the MESSIAH, and that the people in Israel are losing hope in life…

Throughout the entire country of Israel there is only 15,000 born again Christians who are daily persecuted by the other two dominating religions. Pastor Steven has seen church members attacked, discriminated against, and lose of income all for the sake of the Gospel."

 

It would be reckless to form an alliance with a zealous church leader who has several unresolved issues with respect to Jews, Judaism, and the State of Israel. Pastor Steven Khoury has his plate full when it comes to dealing with Palestinian Muslims. However he also perceives born-again Chistians as being persectuted by Jews, and sees himself as "oppressed by Israelis":

"There are only about 15,000 born-again Christians in Israel. They face daily persecution by the other two dominating religions." ---CBN News (May 8, 2012)

"If I say I am an Israeli-Arab, which I am because I was born in Jerusalem and have Israeli documents, I get oppressed and persecuted by the Palestinians," Khoury details. "If I'm on the Israeli side and I say I'm a Palestinian Christian, I get oppressed by the Israelis.” ---OneNewsNow (May 4, 2012)

A few other telltale signs of why Jews and Jewish-run organizations may want to keep a respectful distance from the good pastor:

  •         Khoury openly demands through prayer for the blood of his lord jesus to be upon the nation of Israel so that they may be saved.
  •         It would seem Khoury's church has nationalistic rather than zionistic aspirations, as his website refers to "Palestine" alongside Israel:

 "Holy Land Baptist Mission (HLBM), our headquarters, has been serving the Lord in several locations all over Israel and Palestine for the past 30 years."

Rabbi Riskin and the CJCUC go way beyond the compassion to respect and ensure freedom of worship in Israel for the "other". This agenda is driven by a hybrid mix of theology, politics, prophecy, and eschatology, involving many millions of dollars and many millions of zealous born-again believers in jesus. It is JewishIsrael’s prediction that Riskin’s and the CJCUC’s maverick efforts will not bode well for neither Judaism, the Jewish people, nor for the future of the Jewish State.

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