After failing to convince government authorities to cancel a "new age" Pesach festival that attracts thousands of Israeli 14-year-olds, Yad L'Achim dispatched teams of volunteers to the site to stymie the efforts of missionaries who target the event.
The Boombamella festival, held on chol hamo'ed at the Nitzanim Beach near Ashkelon, offers "spirituality" – which often includes cults and drugs. In an attempt to preempt the danger, Yad L'Achim chairman Rav Shalom Dov Lipschitz dispatched urgent requests to the education minister and to the public security minister, who is in charge of the police, to cancel the event.
In his letter, Rav Lipschitz cited the findings of Elem, a non-religious group that helps youths in distress, which details the damages suffered by young people who attended the festival in the past.
"We are asking you to cancel this event, which is a focus of missionary activity among young people and which has contributed to criminal behavior."
Top officials of both ministries acknowledged receipt of the letter, but failed to act on it. Once it became clear that the festival would go on as scheduled, Yad L'Achim enlisted the support of volunteers from around the country to protect unsuspecting Jewish youngsters from the missionaries.
The volunteers were briefed on legal, nonviolent ways to block missionary activity. They were also given information on four cults that were planning to swoop down on the festival, and their modus operandi.
Yad L'Achim had received information that Avi mizrachi ,head of the messianic congregation "hashem Roi" , and "Dugit" messianic center in tel aviv, Zeev Porat, a known missionary from Tel aviv, and many other missionaries from Haifa, were planning to attend.
Attempts by missionaries to set up stands and attract youths were met with Yad L'Achim teams shouting, "Caution, Missionaries! Youths, Keep your distance from them!"
When two of the missionaries responded with violence, they were arrested. The missionaries, numbering around 200, were forced to leave empty-handed.
Yad L'Achim not only worked to neutralize the negative influence of missionaries, but set up a center where youths could hear Torah classes and engage in heart-to-heart talks throughout the night. The volunteers helped them understand that Judaism could meet their longing for spirituality, and that there was no need to look elsewhere.
Rav Lipschitz said this week that the "the missionaries didn't succeed this time, but it pains us to discover that officials who are supposed to watch out for the interests of young people are ignoring these dangers. Considering that this terrible event is sponsored by government authorities, it's no surprise that we read day and night about violence and crime among young people and in the school."
Due to a mistake in identification, the name of Tony Sparendeo was originally inserted in this post as a participant in the violent event in the Boombamella festival.