In the aftermath of the Carmel fire, there has been an expected outpouring of support from Christian evangelical and messianic groups. Statements and appeals coming from Israel’s Prime Minister's Office, Tourism Ministry and Jewish National Fund (JNF) indicate that post-fire funding is being actively solicited from the evangelical community.
Jewish Israel acknowledges that many Gentiles who contribute to Israel likely do so out of friendship and a sincere concern for the Jewish state and its people. We recognize that in a humanitarian crisis, it is appropriate to accept aid from non-Jews who take a moral stand with the state of Israel, as long as Torah values, the Jewish faith and the Jewish people are not compromised.
Unfortunately, numerous church leaders and their missionary cohorts perceive every tragedy or challenge faced by Israel as either an evangelizing opportunity, a chance to garner further Christian influence in the Jewish State, or a personal calling to fulfil their prophetic end-times mission according to the gospel. Regardless of the actual motive, Genesis 12:3 is often cited for good measure (and because it makes Jews feel good).
At present, there are various evangelical groups which are partnering with the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds, and United Israel Appeal while actively targeting Jews for conversion – and reporting their "successes" right down to the number of baptisms. For their part, Jewish organizations on the receiving end of this economic, humanitarian, and political support, are neither drawing nor holding by red lines. In many cases, Jewish organizations are simply erasing them.
Jewish Israel is loathe to be critical of essential and reputable Zionist foundations which are struggling and in crisis. In addition, it is difficult to call the Jewish National Fund to task in the wake of the Carmel fire and the challenges ahead, but questions need to be asked:
Are these major Jewish philanthropic institutions simply unaware of the evangelical agenda, or are they turning a blind eye to the obvious? In desperation for funding, are these quasi governmental agencies sacrificing the very vulnerable souls that they purport to assist?
Paying for, Praying for, and Baptizing Jews
Missionary Pastor Tommy Lilja of Sweden runs PTL Ministries and enjoys a long-standing partnership with the Jewish Agency and the United Israel Appeal (Keren Hayesod). Much ado was made when Lilja was in Israel in 2009 to welcome the 10,000th Jew whom he had helped bring to Israel through the financial assistance of PTL's Operation Great Exodus.
The Jewish Agency's site features a page with representatives from Keren Hayesod and the Jewish Agency Immigration and Absorption Department presenting Lilja with an award for helping to bring Jews home. But during that historic visit to Israel, Tommy Lilja was also busy meeting with messianic leaders and boasting about bringing Jews to Jesus .
On December 6th, one day after the Carmel fire was extinguished, Tommy Lilja's blog site reported the "wonderful news" that his missionary partners in Ashdod had recently "baptized 14 Jews in the name of Jesus".
As of this writing, Lilja's PTL homepage is carrying yet another story of his endeavors with the messianic Christian community in Israel and his intentions to support and develop the evangelizing church in Jerusalem.
A "mayor" by any other name
PTL Ministries has been supporting baptizing missionary Israel Pochtar of Ashdod's "messianic" Beit Hallel and Voice of Judah Ministry. Pochtar reportedly runs activities for youth, which Yad l'Achim claims is in violation of the Israeli law against missionary activity with minors.
But what about missionary activity with "mayors"? This Saturday, January 29th, Pochtar is scheduled to be the featured speaker at a church in New England with the mayor of the City of Ashdod, Yacov Ifraimov, and the State representative from New Hampshire. But the Mayor of Ashdod is Dr. Yechiel Lasri. So who is Yacov Ifraimov? We think Israel Pochtar may know.
Is it another messianic scam or a mere typo? Either way, something is rotten in Ashdod and it may be time to send Pochtar packing.
Food, clothing and the gospel
Pochtar's ministries in Ashdod and a number of missions in other Israeli cities are the recipients of support from Jacob's Hope", an "Assemblies of God" ministry that partners with the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America's( MJAA) Joseph Project.
Jacob's Hope, directed by former Orthodox Jew Jeff Friedman, has a vision "to bring the gospel of the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people." From their featured videos, one gets the feeling that Jacob's Hope feels that Judaism as we know it is "incomplete".
The missionary organization is currently raising funds to rebuild the Yemin Orde Youth Village, which suffered great damage as a result of the Carmel Fire.
Jacob's Hope unabashedly promotes an agenda of Christian missionary activity in conjunction with humanitarian aid. "Assembly of God's" General Superintendent George O. Wood can be heard on one of Jacob's Hope's featured videos stating:
"This is the first time that Assemblies of God adherents have a chance to invest in humanitarian, evangelistic and discipleship efforts to reach Jewish people around the world."
That same statement by Wood also appears on the Assembly of God website .
How the municipality of Jerusalem allowed for a branch of a known missionary University, sporting Wood's name, to be established in the heart of the Nachalat Shiva neighborhood is worth investigating. Jewish Israel thinks evangelical attorney Calev Myers has that answer.
It's no longer covert that members of Israel's weakest sectors frequently receive a Christian bible and a "blessing" with their blanket and food basket through the efforts of organizations like Joseph's Hope. And Jewish Israel feels that it may only a matter of time before the love of Jesus creeps into Yemin Orde's Youth Village and seeps into those vulnerable young people". Jacob's Hope seems hopeful:
"But the best thing of all was meeting the lady that took me around the village. She was so thankful for the donation and I believe that we will work together to rebuild Yemin Orde.”
JNF Forests and Messianics on fire
As already mentioned Jacob's Hope partners with the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America's Joseph Project. The Joseph Project publicized their Carmel fire-readiness via truckloads of "humanitarian" aid. MJAA also likes to speak of their messianic forest (a Jewish National Fund endeavor) in the same breath as declaring that, "never before have Jewish hearts been more ready to hear the good news of Yeshua – the harvest is enormous."
Operation Outreach is "a charitable organization that raises funds for various Messianic Jewish organizations in Israel". They also plant trees and claim two forests under the auspices of the JNF.
JNF should take a closer look, as no organization concerned with Jewish continuity in the land of Israel would want to be in bed with the list of notorious Operation Outreach "messianic" missionaries operating in Israel.
No comment from JNF
Last July, Jewish Israel published a report on some of the JNF's evangelical partnerships. Prior to releasing the report, we made efforts to contact Mr. Alon Badihi, JNF's executive director in Israel. We never received a response to our phone calls or email messages.
Prior to writing this report, it was suggested to us by a reputable and concerned source that we contact Rabbi Eric Lankin, Chief of Institutional Advancement and Education for the JNF. Once again, we left phone messages, spoke with his personal secretary and sent an email, but received no reply to our inquiries and concerns.
However, Jewish Israel was able to obtain a copy of an impressive anti-messianic resolution, which was drafted by the board of the JNF in 2006. The resolution clearly stipulated that the JNF would not recognize "the participation of or accept donations from groups qua groups that call themselves Hebrew Christians, Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus groups or their institutions, in any JNF function or program." The document goes further and resolves that "those participating in JNF activities may not engage in religious proselytizing".
Based on the JNF's current activities, it appears our source rescued this precious but condemned paper before it reached the shredder.
In the next part of our post-Carmel fire coverage, Jewish Israel will continue its investigation of JNF's evangelical partners. We will also take a look at some problematic pastors involved with Israel Bonds.
The smoke may have settled, but "strange fires" continue to burn in the Jewish state. The very best of Israel’s charitable institutions are playing with, fanning, and fueling those flames.