Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Word on Religious Persecution of Israeli Believers

The recent news reports on the Elav conference touches briefly on the recent rise is "anti-missionary" activism against the believers in Israel.

The rise in persecution has a correlation to the recent Israeli elections where the right-wing religious parties became a critical factor in the coalition that Prime Minister Netanyahu formed.  Whenever an Israeli government coalition becomes dependent on the support of the religious parties for national security purposes, the tradeoff is religious parties are free to exercise their power in religious persecution. It's the dilemma of the faithful Body in Israel who are strongly national security conscious, but also suffer when the religious parties gain political muscle in government positions.

Although the Israeli Body of Messiah is loathe to dwell on the issue of religious persecution, it is important for international intercessors to be aware when the environment of freedom of religious expression in Israel begins to undergo change.  This is such a time and you are intercessors for Israel for such a time as this! 

So, let me brief you on recent incidents of concern that we have seen popping up in the Israeli news media. First it is worth mentioning that the Israeli news media in general has become much more factual when reporting on the Israeli Messianic community in recent years.  This is a good sign that religious persecution of the believers is becoming much less acceptable among the news media as the news media becomes more educated in the facts and exposed to Messianic Jews as good people. This will influence how the regular public views these incidents.

First on the ELAV conference.  There are a couple of news items you can read on this.  The first is an article that was issued a few days before the conference by a news outfit that leans to the religious right in Israel - which means its bias is with the anti-missionary activists, not with the freedom of Messianic Jews to chose Who and how they worship.   The second news report is after an incident during the conference.

Massive Missionary Conference in the Heart of Jerusalem
Anti-assimilation group Lehava calls for public protest Wednesday outside 3-day missionary event in municipally owned compound.

Next up is a report we saw a couple of days ago.  We called for prayer during the forming of Netanyahu's government that he would not give the power over the Interior  Ministry to the religious parties.  This is because that ministry in the hands of religious parties inflicts much damage against the believers in Israel - those who have already immigrated and those that desire to immigrate. 

The bureaucracy of the Interior Ministry is already heavily entrenched with an anti-Messianic perspective, and there is ongoing, illegal interaction with anti-missionary groups bringing accusations against individual Messianic believers.  When the religious parties are in control of the Interior Ministry the persecution increases. Fortunately, Netanyahu did not place that power of the Interior Ministry in the hands of the religious parties, but did place them in charge of the Finance Ministry, so the religious have another way to strike at Messianic Jews - through their recently expanded non-profit status.

Knesset Cuts Tax Benefits to Messianic Group
Despite Finance Committee chairman's comments, the decision is illegal under Israeli law so the congregation has firm footing to appeal and win a reversal.

* In an update from we have learned that the Messianic group denied non-profit status is the Maoz Ministries, which includes the Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv.  

Last week we also brought attention to the backlash that came after the large Christian Empowered21 met in Jerusalem seeking the outpouring as experienced by the first believers in Acts 2, as prophesied by the prophet Joel.  The un-intended consequence of the charismatic pastors in Jerusalem is that the ultra-Orthodox and anti-missionary activists used the meeting to create an uproar about "evangelistic" meetings and consequently got the Jerusalem municipality to agree to let the rabbis approve or disapprove ALL groups meeting in the new Jerusalem Sports Arena.

Now we see that a clear, strong push among the anti-Messianic opposition in Israel is in progress, so ALL groups who come to Israel for any kind of event need to be cognizant of this fact and do their utmost to avoid increasing the persecution of the local Israeli Body of Messiah.  There is no question that Christian groups have a desire to associate themselves with Israel. Jerusalem is a choice location to hold an event. But it is time for the local community of believers to be factored in. 

At the very least, if we are going to hold meetings in Jerusalem, the local Israeli believing community should not be an after-thought in our meetings.  They should be consulted from the very germination of the event idea - and the Body of Messiah in Israel ought to receive major benefit from every Christian group using Israel as a choice for tours and event locations.  What does that mean?  It means that groups who meet in Israel ought to carve out a portion of the event mission to make awareness of the increasing Body of believers in Israel, the Israeli ministries, as part of their  tour or event vision. 

We should not go into Israel blind to the situation of the community of believers in Israel.  We should first make sure we do them no harm, but also make sure that as we organize an event or tour in Israel, that we consider how we will honor and respect those fellow believers in Jesus who live and minister in Israel. Estimates of how many they number range from 15 to 20,000 Israeli Messianic Jewish believers. Time to factor them in. 

- Donna Diorio