Messianic Jews Singled Out in Israeli Town
Flyers post addresses, phone numbers of harassed minority.
By Wayne King
ISTANBUL, September 15 MPBS24/7(A CDN REPORT) â Messianic Jews in a suburb west of Jerusalem continue to be harassed for following their faith, this time by someone anonymously placing flyers in public areas singling out members of Messianic congregations.
The flyers began appearing two weeks ago in the town of Mevasseret Zion. Asher Intrater, leader of the Ahavat Yeshua Congregation, said he thinks the flyers are âan effort to drive us out of the neighborhood.â
The flyers posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Messianic Jews, and in some cases included their photographs. Intrater said he thinks the addresses were placed on the flyers to incite others to harass or harm the Messianic Jews.
âWhy else would you put the addresses on the flyers?â he said.
This is the second time in three months that a group has singled out Messianic Jews in Mevasseret Zion for ridicule. On June 26, members of Yad LâAchim, an ultra-Orthodox, anti-Christian group, protested outside the home of Serge and Naama Kogen, a messianic couple.
Yad LâAchim claimed the couple had befriended and then manipulated a teenager into becoming a Christian. The Kogens denied the charge, as did the 16-year-old girl who was the alleged conversion target. The girlâs parents, with considerable help from Yad LâAchim, filed charges against the Kogens and Intrater. The judge found in favor of Intrater and the Kogens and dismissed all the charges.
It is unclear who actually posted the flyers, and Intrater declined to speculate. But the flyers match a well-established pattern in Israel. According to a classified communiquĂ© issued by the U.S. State Department in May 2008 and leaked on Aug. 30 by Internet activist group Wikileaks, ââOutingâ Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians through the publication of names, photos and addresses alongside flyers with hysterical allegations about âsoul stealingâ and âbrainwashingâ is a favorite tactic of Yad LâAchim branches throughout the country.â
The State Department further noted links between Yad LâAchim and both national and local governments in Israel.
âYad LâAchim and other anti-missionary activists may also have allies, tacit or active, in the Interior Ministry and police departments, where clerks and police officers have wide discretion in deciding which national benefits a person is entitled to and which crimes are worth investigating, given limited resources,â the State Department communiquĂ© said.
As an example of the links, the communiquĂ© referred to comments made by Uzi Aharon, one-time deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb of Or Yehuda. According to the State Department, Aharon told the Israeli daily Maâariv in 2008 that the Or Yehuda municipality âoperated a team of activists, available 24-hours a day, devoted entirely to uprooting missionary activity, and that the burning [of Christian materials] was a fulfillment of the commandment to âburn the evil from your midst.ââ
Aharon was a prime player in a May 15, 2008 incident in which, on his instruction, a group of students from a local ultra-Orthodox school collected hundreds of New Testaments from throughout the town. The Bibles were later burned in front of a synagogue.
Kogen said that the flyers in Mevasseret Zion stay up only a brief while before someone rips them down. Intrater added that the latest round of harassment has been viewed as such an invasion of privacy that it may have âbackfired a little bit.â
âThis is the first time we have seen a positive response from the local government, The Jerusalem Post and possibly the police,â Intrater said