I was not going to issue any lengthy update on the pre-Purim attack against a Messianic/Hebrew Christian family which took place in Ariel. I think everyone is appropriately distressed by this tragic incident. We hope that the young man involved recovers, and we are anxious for the police to do their work. There are just far too many unknowns in this case to start speculating.
But now I feel compelled to say something, because Messianic Attorney and Pastor, Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and law firm Yehuda Raveh, seems anxious to steer this episode in a different direction. As a good friend suggested, it’s to the benefit of certain parties to “ride this horse until it drops dead! “ So, I just have to say,“Whoa!”
Before we examine the agenda of Advocate Myers, I think it’s worth noting that the Director of the Jerusalem branch of Jews for Judaism, Penina Taylor, was quick to condemn the attack:
“We at Jews for Judaism, Jerusalem condemn this atrocity and hope and pray for the complete healing of this boy and the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator of this heinous crime.”
Her full statement on the attack can be read at: www.jewsforjudaism.org.il
Rabbi Dov Lifshitz, of the counter-missionary organization, Yad L'Achim, told the Jerusalem Post that, "Someone who thinks logically will not do this. It just harms the struggle. I'm sure this is not connected to the anti-missionary cause." …If the culprit is Jewish, the bomber "is either crazy or does not understand the struggle." …
"We are now pushing for legislation that would make it illegal for members of any religion to try and convert others to their faith," Lifshitz said. "Our struggle isn't against anyone. What we're saying is, we are Jews. Let us be Jews. Christians should remain Christians. In our 50 years of activity, we've never had any violence. We have a big argument with messianic Jews, but that doesn't include violence," Lifshitz said.
But Calev Myer’s thinks otherwise and has been quoted in a number of news sources - and he appears to be pointing the finger at “radical Orthodox Jews”:
But Caleb Meyers, the primary legal representative for Israel's Messianic community, explained that "there is a campaign of harassment against the Messianic Jewish community by radical religious organizations that are trying to create dehumanization – especially in religious newspapers."
Propaganda that aims to dehumanize Messianic believers could produce in the minds of some radical Orthodox Jews a kind of justification for carrying out the bombing of an innocent family.
Meyers explains that the messianic community, which numbers about 15,000 people in Israel, "sees itself as a legitimate branch of Judaism. The central belief is that the messianic branch is influenced by the Old Testament as well as the New. It's a bridge between the Jewish and Christian worlds and harassment comes from this because it threatens the worldview of extremist religious bodies that want to uniquely define who is a Jew."
I imagine Calev Myers was indeed upset by the original YNET and Haaretz reports on the explosion, because headlines on their homepages inferred that a “cult” may be involved in the incident.
Boy hurt in blast; cult involvement suspected
Cult may be involved in blast that seriously hurt Ariel Teen suffers shrapnel wounds, possibly from firecracker; Family belongs to group considered a cult.
[NOTE :The stories later clarified that police classify the Messianic movement as a cult.]
Not only is there a big question with regards to the identity of the perpetrators of this crime, but there also remains a big question within the Messianic community as to their own identity. They refer to themselves as “Messianic Jews”, “Hebrew Christians” ,“Judeo-Christians”, Jewish believers in Jesus”, or simply “Believers”.
Calev Myers reflects that confusion on his own website (JIJ.org.il), and has simply clumped everyone together, and refers to, “the illegal mistreatment of Judeo-Christian Minorities.”
According to the Jerusalem Institute of Justice site, "Throughout the years of his professional experience, Calev became acutely aware of the inferior state of the civil rights of Israeli Evangelical believers, Messianic Jews and families of mixed (Jewish-Christian) marriages (“Judeo-Christian Minorities”)."
The Jewish community, as well, is at a loss with regards to finding a politically correct term to describe “Jewish believers in Jesus”, as well as born Christians who dress the dress, walk the walk, and talk the talk of Jews – but who retain belief in Jesus as their lord and savior. Halachically, all of these people are simply practicing Christianity.
The incident in Ariel is to be taken seriously and we all hope Ami Ortiz quickly recovers from his severe injuries, but we think Calev Myers should stop salivating over what he may deem to be PR opportunity to present the “Judeo-Christian” church as a persecuted entity in Israel ,and to promote Messianic Judaism as an authentic and legitimate branch of Judaism.
It should be clearly understand that those of us who are concerned with maintaining the physical and spiritual continuity of the Jewish people, and who seek to preserve the dignity and status of Judaism as an independent faith community (separate from Christianity), will continue to strive towards establishing proper legislation, and will turn to our halachic authorities for guidelines and guidance. And we will continue to use educational and democratic means to counter the missionary activities and efforts by certain evangelical and messianic groups who wish to encourage Christian belief among Jews in Israel.