Asher Intrater couldn't believe his good fortune. The pastor of Ahavat Yeshua (Love of J.), a congregation of Messianic Jews near Jerusalem, was given 25 minutes of prime time on one of Israel's leading educational programs to deliver his poisonous message.
"It is not normal for Israeli Messianic Jews to be given such air time, especially since there was no anti-Messianic spokesman to combat him in the interview as there usually is," said the Rosh Pina Project, a website of Messianic Jews.
The program, hosted by Rino Tzror, a well-known media personality, was aired on Channel 23 at 9:15 p.m., when children are still awake.
Yad L'Achim learned of the program before it aired and worked furiously to get it cancelled, or at least to have someone present a counter view. Yad L'Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lipschitz sent urgent appeals to the broadcast network, as well as to the Prime Minister's Office, the Education Ministry and the Communications Ministry.
The network refused to alter the program, claiming that "Intrater is being presented as a private individual and not as the leader of a Messianic congregation."
But contrary to this assertion, Intrater was indeed introduced to viewers as "a Messianic Jew, leader of a congregation of Messianic Jews near Jerusalem."
Intrater answered questions on Christian doctrine and the workings of his organization: How many members he has; how his and other messianic congregations support themselves; where the money comes from.
Immediately after the program, Rav Lipschitz contacted Avigdor Dagan, the legal adviser of the station, which claims to be "educational TV," and expressed outrage at its insistence on running such spiritually poisonous material.
Dagan responded lamely that "there was no missionary activity during the program."
In response, a member of Yad L'Achim's legal team, Moshe Morgenstern, sent a letter to Dagan citing the violations to the missionary law committed by the interviewer and by Intrater, beginning with the expressions of praise for J. which were repeated throughout the program.
Morgenstern expressed amazement that the interviewer had not challenged the standard claim missionaries always use in seeking to entrap Jews: "We're not Christians, we're Jews."
Morgenstern noted that the program was aired when children are up, and that the law explicitly forbids efforts to convince minors to convert out of their religion. "It's enough for one minor to have watched that program for you to be in violation of the law," he wrote.
Morgenstern also complained about the infuriating, and false, accusations leveled by Intrater against the chareidi public, and the failure of the host to challenge them. "We repeat our demand that you apologize to the public and take appropriate steps to ensure that this infraction isn't repeated," he wrote.
Commenting on the episode, Rav Lipschitz said: "As long as the missionary law in Israel isn't amended, the missionaries and their accomplices, from right and left, will continue to do as they please, with no one to stop them."
He added that the responsibility for amending the law rests with every single MK who has the ability to enact legislation, but fails to do so.