A plan to build an evangelical village on the shores of the Kinneret is back on the agenda, warns Yad L’Achim president Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipschitz, raising concern that the facility will be turned into a missionary center, with potentially devastating results.
According to the plan, which reached Yad L’Achim’s offices recently, a 500-unit hotel is to be built for Christian visitors from abroad. At a later date, a shopping center is to be put up for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are expected to visit annually.
Rabbi Lipschitz is demanding that the evangelicals sign a legally binding document that no missionary activity will take place at the site, not by the evangelicals themselves or by any other group. Rabbi Lipschitz insists that this demand to be anchored by a government decision.
Yad L’Achim also insists that the land not be sold outright to the evangelicals, but leased. In this way, if they violate their signed agreement, it can be taken back.
Two years ago, Rabbi Lipschitz met with then-Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson when it became known that he and the finance minister were planning to approve a huge evangelical center on 500 dunams of land on the shores of the Kinneret. At the time, Rabbi Lipschitz explained that, based on Yad L’Achim’s bitter experience, there was no doubt that the center would be used for missionary activities. He demanded that the evangelicals be forced to sign an unequivocal commitment not to engage in such activities, before being given the land.
In the wake of that meeting, Hirschson sent Rabbi Lipschitz a letter clarifying the government’s view on the matter. “We will make certain that our contract with them [the evangelicals] will include an explicit commitment that they won’t engage in any missionary activity and that any violation of that commitment will be cause for canceling the contract. We will involve your representatives [of Yad L’Achim] in drafting these clauses, and it will be brought to the evangelicals by the Cabinet secretary.”
An official at Yad L’Achim said this week that the evangelicals are “experts at appearing to be seekers of peace, but who in fact continue to advance their dark goals. We must continue to stand watch until the promises are fully kept.”
Rabbi Lipschitz recently sent urgent letters to the current tourism minister, Yitzchak Aharonowitch, and to chareidi ministers and Knesset members urging determined action before it is too late and facts are established on the ground.