The recent attack on the son of a leading missionary, who was wounded by an explosion hidden in a mishloach manos package, prompted accusations in the media that chareidim were behind the violence.
"We have experienced numerous attacks on the Messianic communities by chareidim over the years," Howard Bass, head of a missionary congregation in Beersheva, told The Jerusalem Post.
But Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz, chairman of Yad L'Achim, vehemently denied that the chareidi public had anything to do with the explosive package, which wounded the son of David Ortiz, a Messianic Christian pastor in Ariel, in the Shomron.
According to The Post, the Messianic community in Israel numbers around 15,000, spread out among 120 congregations throughout the country. Ortiz complained that he had been subjected to anti-missionary campaigns that included the distribution of pamphlets in Ariel with his picture on them warning that he and his followers belonged to the Messianic community and were "masquerading as Jews."
While Rav Lifschitz acknowledged that Yad L'Achim targets every locale where missionaries are active, organizing demonstrations and trying to stymie missionaries, he insisted that the organization "opposes any violent activities."
He added that in the more than 50 years of Yad L'Achim's counter-missionary activities, not one of its activists has been convicted of violence. On the other hand, he added, missionaries have reacted violently to legitimate, legal efforts to stop them.
"The missionaries see the success of Yad L'Achim in foiling their activities and just lose it," Rav Lifschitz said. "Every week, with Heaven's help, Yad L'Achim activists save Jews from missionary cults. These activities frustrate the missionaries to the point that they become violent."
He cited as an example the case of Eddie Beckford, head of a missionary community in Arad, who was caught on by Yad L'Achim on video brutally beating a chareidi activist. Thanks to the filmed evidence, he was arrested and confined to house arrest for 45 days. (to see the video, click here)
In the case of the attack on Ortiz, Yad L'Achim said that its lawyers are filing a libel suit against those attempting to blame it for the violence. The act would appear to be terrorism, it argued, considering that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ekrima Said Sabri, issued a fatwa (religious order) in the mid-1990s calling to kill Ortiz.
"The fatwa was even published in the Al Quds newspaper," Ortiz told The Post. "I got a call from the U.S. Embassy asking me to keep a low profile." He added that he had been beaten by Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem.
Rav Lifschitz stressed that the sole goal of the missionaries is to get Jews to renege on their Judaism and to, Heaven forbid, destroy the Jewish people. "They don't desist from any means, including attempts to distract the public by claiming to be hounded, in order to achieve their lowly goals," he said, adding that the latest tactic will not deter Yad L'Achim from continuing its legitimate protests and rescue work.
At the same time, Rav Lifschitz issued a call to, once and for all, draft legislation that makes it illegal for missionaries to operate in Israel.