This report is a continuation of our post-Carmel fire coverage, regarding major Jewish philanthropic institutions which are actively engaged in ventures with the evangelizing messianic community.
Recap and Developments
In our previous report on the Carmel fire, we disclosed that while the Jewish Agency and United Israel Appeal were awarding and praising PTL Ministries for their assistance in bringing Jews to Israel, that very same evangelical organization was concurrently and publicly bragging about baptizing Jews through their messianic partner in Ashdod, Israel Pochtar (Pochtor) of Voice of Judah Ministry and Beit Hallel .
Jewish Israel’s report expanded on Pochtar's connections with the Assembly of God Ministry, Jacob's Hope and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA). Jewish Israel also reported on a rather mysterious and shady announcement publicizing Pochtar's appearance in a New England Church last month with Ashdod's "mayor". The report suggested that something was rotten in the city of Ashdod and that it may be time to send Pochtar packing.
Soon after our report’s publication, Yad L'Achim held a mass counter-missionary prayer rally in Ashdod. The event was well attended, with leading Hareidi rabbis calling for missionaries to "leave our city!" According to messianic Christian sources, the prayer rally took place outside of the building housing Israel Pochtar's Beit Hallel congregation and Pochtar reportedly "felt pressured enough to cancel the activities of the Messianic centre on Monday night." The Video coverage of the event can be seen here.
[Jewish Israel notes that a number of counter-missionary professionals in the Diaspora and Israel continue to debate over whether or not these type of mass rallies are the best way to approach the growing missionary presence and messianic Christian thrust into Israel. One of the questions being bandied about is, "should Jews lost in the messianic Christian movement be deemed adversaries or victims?]
Jewish Israel also reported that the missionary organization Jacob's Hope was meeting with and donating funds for the rebuilding of the Yemin Orde Youth Village, which suffered severe damage in the Carmel fire. Jacob's Hope, which has a vision "to bring the gospel of the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people", expressed hopes of partnering with Yemin Orde.
Calev Myers,"Israel's foremost Messianic civil rights attorney", defender of the "Judeo-Christian community", and crusader against "Orthodox Jewish bureaucrats" is also raising funds for Yemin Orde through his Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ). Finnish Christian Television station, Heaven TV7 broadcast Myers' appeal.
Israelis should keep an eye on Myers and his political aspirations. The evangelical born and bred attorney is the Chief Counsel of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ) and a partner in the prestigious Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices. Myers has served as Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Knesset Social Welfare Lobby and is representing those trying to establish a Judeo-Christian political party in Israel. Myers also served as one of five judges who determined the winner of the World Likud’s "Likudnik Prize for 2010".
Myers can be seen in this October 2010 video stating that Aleli Admaso, the Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Ethiopian affairs, requested Myers’ assistance with Ethiopian children in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood in Jerusalem.
What should give everyone pause for thought (including Israel’s Prime Minister) is that Myers' JIJ video was produced "courtesy of Maoz Israel Ministries". In addition to Jewish Israel's extensive reporting and video coverage of Maoz Israel's missionary endeavors, we have also posted a Maoz Israel fund-raising clip showing their ambitious promotion of missionary endeavors among the growing messianic Christian Ethiopian community in Israel.
The Left, the Right, and JNF can't see the forest for the trees
Jewish Israel’s previous Carmel fire report also examined the Jewish National Fund's ventures with messianic groups in a seeming breach of the JNF’s own 2006 resolution, which stipulated that JNF would not cooperate with or accept funds from messianic or proselytizing Christian entities.
We now continue with our coverage of an additional and controversial project that JNF has with the evangelical channel, GOD-TV.
GOD-TV's message, which is beamed from their headquarters in Jerusalem, is "to enable every television household to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that each family member may believe in Him, call upon His name and be saved." The station regularly schedules and hosts a number of missionary/messianic programs and personalities who target Jews for conversion – Sid Roth and Jonathan Bernis among them.
As JNF bulldozers and plans for a million-tree forest in the Negev, in the name of GOD-TV and Jesus, came within close proximity to an illegal Bedouin village, human rights organizations suddenly became distressed over an affront to Jewish spiritual integrity.
"The JNF, instead of promoting civic equality for all Israelis – the basis for trust and peaceful coexistence - is now supporting (and being supported by) an evangelical ministry that wishes to utilize Israel and the planting of trees to bring about the 'Second Coming of Christ.'…
JNF-KKL last week established a large new bulldozer camp just one kilometer from the village of Al-Arakib, and is planting one million trees in Israel including many near the village of Al-Arakib as part of the “God-TV Forest.” JNF has accepted substantial donations from an evangelical Christian ministry called God-TV, who claim to have received 'instructions from God…to prepare the land for the return of my Son…[to] plant a million trees'.”
Cold water got poured on hopes for significant media coverage of the protests down south, because of the Carmel fire raging up north. It seems that even Israel's fiercest media hounds were sensitive to the scent of destruction and realized it was no time to blacken JNF's image.
However, on December 6th, the day the Carmel fire was officially declared extinguished, left-wing peace activist Richard Silverstein was still smoldering, and playing upon Jewish sensitivities. Disingenuous for sure, but disturbing nonetheless.
"In other words, world Jewry is embracing a group which is aiding evangelical radicals in their goal of bringing about the Second Coming of Jesus. Is this why we collected coins in our blue JNF pushkes in Hebrew school lo those many years ago?"
GOD-TV is also financing water projects for the area and the excavation of an ancient church in the Negev region of Bnei Shimon. According to the GOD-TV video, the Israeli government simply didn't have the funds to finance the archaeological dig. The northern Negev communities are banking, and apparently cashing in, on an expected wave of Christian tourism to the site.
Ironically and tragically, Arutz 7, the mouthpiece for the national religious Right in Israel, chose to brand a very missionary GOD-TV as "pro-Israel ":
"Groups on the extreme political Left have joined residents of an illegal Bedouin town to condemn a pro-Israel Christian organization over a donation to a forestry project in the Negev. The Christian group, “God TV,” has given one million saplings through the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and has donated money toward water projects as well."
Perhaps the management of Arutz 7 would like to view the 1.06 minute mark of this video and listen-in as CBN's Wendy Griffith exclaims, "Thanks to God-TV, millions of believers around the world are joining believers here in Jerusalem to pray not only for worldwide revival, but that the Jews here in Israel, will come to know Jesus - Yeshua - as their Messiah."
Perhaps it is time that the Israeli company, RRsat, and Israel’s Ministry of Communications, which licenses Christian missionary stations like G-d TV, Daystar and TBN to broadcast the gospel into Israeli homes, should consider the consequences.
It seems that the secular left periodically "finds God" when it serves their political purposes, while a lonely, love-starved religious right is extremely flexible with Jewish tradition in their overreach for a Christian embrace. Then there are those Israelis on both ends of the political and religious spectrum, and in all sectors, who readily turn a blind eye to avodah zarah in the Jewish state when the check and benefits are big enough. Any way you slice it, it spells C-h-i-l-l-u-l H-a-s-h-e-m, a desecration of G-d’s name.
Israel Bonds bonds with missionaries
JNF is also in business with Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry (FOI), and Israel Bonds courts them, too. FOI is a missionary organization "established in 1938 to proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…". FOI is closely associated with and support the missionary Kalisher family in Israel, and the messianic Jerusalem Assembly House of Redemption. FOI's current executive director is William E. Sutter.
Last November State of Israel Bonds and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Southern New Jersey held a reception in Suttner's honor and presented him with the Israel Unity Award.
Jewish Israel reported on William Suttner back in June 2010 in relation to our 2-part article on the Galilean Hotel, a Christian-Jewish project going up on the shores of the Kineret. This venture is managed by Anne Ayalon and David Zwebner and supported by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Pat Robertson, Pastor Hagee, and a number of known missionary personalities.
Top counter-missionaries in Israel and the Diaspora all agree that FOI is a problematic organization which targets Jews for conversion. Outreach Judaism's Tovia Singer has exposed FOI and its former director Elwood McQuaid. Jews for Judaism covers FOI in their article archives, and Binyamin Kluger of Yad L'Achim recently provided Jewish Israel with documentation tying FOI to a the very active messianic missionary Meno Kalisher. Church profiles of Kalisher present him as "associated with Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry" and books written by and about the Kalisher clan and their stumble upon jesus are published by FOI.
A few weeks after honoring FOI's William Suttner, State of Israel Bonds held an interfaith evening with the evangelical Catch the Fire church Church in Montreal. The Candian Jewish News reported that Israel Bonds apparently uses material from evangelical prophecy expert and financial planner Grant Jeffrey, in order to stimulate Christian interest in investing in Bonds.
Grant Jeffrey can be seen on GOD-TV proclaiming that the anti-christ will be a Jew. In 2004, in an evening where "the name of Jesus was proclaimed", Jeffrey was honored by Israel Bonds with the State of Israel Loyal Friends of Israel Award.
Nowadays, the new poster pastor for Israel Bonds appears to be Reverend Majed El Shafie of One Free World International ministries. El Shafie, a convert from Islam to Christianity, was the keynote speaker at the November Catch the Fire/Israel Bonds event. El Shafie is being touted as a defender of "freedom of religion and human rights around the world". But what Jewish groups seem to ignore is that El Shafie serves as a spokesperson on behalf of messianic rights in Israel and has used his name and ministry to apply pressure on the government of Israel.
Like a number of Christian leaders and organizations, Majed El Shafi turned the tragic 2008 Ami Ortiz attack in Ariel into an issue of church persecution and as an opportunity to campaign on behalf of "messianic Jewish" rights in Israel. CBN reported:
"El Shafie sees Ami's case as an attack on Israel's Messianic believers -- those Jews who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah. He's calling on Christians and Jews to speak up against the persecution."
El Shafie's petition mentions that, "Israeli law guarantees freedom of religion and Israelis in general are content to treat their neighbors’ religious beliefs as a private matter."
However, as Jewish Israel reported in January, the Ortiz family is hardly "private" about their religion. They were thoroughly involved in the production of an anti-Semitic documentary and Pastor David Ortiz unabashedly and very visibly proselytizes Jews in the streets of Israel.
The International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) recently sent out a mass mailing advertising the premier of a documentary on El Shafie called "Freedom Fighter":
“Freedom Fighter” follows the footsteps of Rev. Majed El Shafie and One Free World International over a four-year period as he travels on fact-finding missions to investigate and document human rights abuses against religious minorities around the world, focusing on Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and China and the rising of anti-Semitism."
A clip of the documentary can be seen here.
While the persecution of messianic Christians may not be the focus of this film, and while Jewish people everywhere should be concerned about human rights abuses in the Arab world and elsewhere, we must not fall into a trap where we equate democracy and freedom with a condition where the Christian gospel message can be spread without restraint in the Jewish State of Israel. Otherwise Israel will become a state where religious freedom becomes religious tyranny and the integrity of Judaism itself will be at risk.
The Jewish community should be especially wary of those evangelical leaders who play the church persecution card in relation to "messianic Jews".
It's no surprise that missionary television personality, "Sid Roth — the Jewish man who is red-hot for Jesus", is especially fond of using Christian Arabs activists like Majed El Shafie, Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel to get his message across.
There was a time when Jewish leadership and major Jewish organizations were able to take a stand and even admit mistakes.
In 1996 the Jewish National Fund "cut down plans by a Messianic Jewish group to plant trees in their name in Israel." According to the JTA report at the time, the JNF originally agreed to plant a forest of about 100,000 trees, which would have brought the organization $50,000, "and to put up a plaque with only the initials of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America-Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations of America". But then the JNF changed its mind after a public outcry from the Jewish community. JNF acknowledged that it made a mistake.
In 1998 it was reported that several prominent Jewish leaders backed out of an Israel Jubilee celebration (50th anniversary) after discovering that the organizers of the event, the Christian Alliance for Israel, were messianic. Excerpt:
"Several prominent Jews who say they were initially unfamiliar with the organizers have decided not to attend. These include Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America; and Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby. 'We certainly welcome Christians celebrating Israel's 50th anniversary,' Hoenlein said. 'But if they're Jews for Jesus and other proselytizing groups, we don't give them credibility by associating with them'.''
The report goes on to say that Prime Minister Netanyahu also opted out of the event at that time.
In our next report, Jewish Israel will explore a recent missionary sponsored event to see whether our leaders in Israel and the Diaspora held firm or buckled.