In light of the dramatic election results in Israel, which have given the religious parties renewed clout, Yad L'Achim this week called on these parties to do everything possible to get a law passed banning missionary activity in Israel.
The law currently on the books is ineffective because it only forbids missionary activity among minors or in cases where payment of one kind or another is offered to potential converts. Moreover, even this watered down law is not enforced.
In a letter sent this week to religious Knesset members, Yad L'Achim implored the parties to raise the issue during coalition negotiations. "We cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is to demand legislation against missionary activity in Israel," the letter stated, adding that the problem has reached unprecedented proportions.
In its appeal, Yad L'Achim revealed that the missionaries take advantage of widespread economic distress, offering assistance that earns them trust in parts of the Jewish community. "The financial difficulties that many families find themselves facing has created opportunity for the missionaries," the letter said. "At the same time, ignorance of Judaism leads many young people to attend missionary conferences, which lead to baptism, R"l."
In light of the seriousness of the situation, Yad L'Achim is calling on the religious parties to act with determination to place the subject of anti-missionary legislation high on the next government's agenda.
"Don't let this opportunity slip away," the letter concludes.
It will be recalled that during the second Netanyahu government, in 2009-2013, an anti-missionary bill drafted by Yad L'Achim was placed on the table of the ministerial legislation committee. The bill, in its preamble, described the dramatic increase in missionary activity.
The bill was supported by the justice minister at the time, Prof. Yaakov Neeman, who encouraged Yad L'Achim's founding director, Hagaon Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz, zt"l, to submit his draft for passage. However, the bill was scuttled, apparently due to orders from on high.
Harav Lifschitz fought attempts to block the bill, engaging in a back-and-forth correspondence with the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Harav Lifschitz, in his letter, submitted frightening figures on the spread of missionaries in Israel, citing facts and figures supplied by the missionaries themselves. "In the past 19 years, more Jews have converted to Christianity than in the 1,900 years before that, R"l," the missionaries boasted.
Now, with the advent of a new political constellation that gives the religious parties more power, Yad L'Achim sees an opportunity to correct an anomaly whereby in Israel, the Jewish state, missionaries are free to convince Jews to abandon their religion.
A cry that remains unanswered.
The exchange of letters between Yad L'Achim chairman and founder Hagaon Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz, zt"l,
and the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on a proposed missionary law.