Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Dean of the Har Bracha Yeshiva and Rabbi of the Samaria town of Har Bracha, wrote in his influential weekly column in Besheva Magazine that there is no problem with the Ministry of Education's accepting funds from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) for children's summer camps, and that it is alright for parents to register their children to the camps.
Rabbi Melamed's column goes much further, however, and indicates a newfound openness in the way part of the leadership of the strictly orthodox leadership stream in religious Zionism – the hareidi religious Zionists, or “hardalim” – views Zionist Christians.
Rabbi Melamed's column, which is very popular in the religious Zionist public, brushes off as false the claims that the summer camps serve Christian missionary aims and that the children in them will be exposed to missionary materials. “It is hard to understand where such a libelous claim sprang from,” the rabbi adds.
The rabbi took issue with the IFCJ's policy of collecting funds by presenting Israel as a poverty-stricken country, when in fact its economy is growing, and poverty is not as bad as in the US. The fund would have done better to ask for support in a more respectable way, for scientific and spiritual endeavors. However, he said, “after the evangelists donated their money with kindness of heart and with love for the people of Israel, unconditionally and with no involvement in where the money goes, they must not be insulted by throwing their contribution back in their faces, while accusing them of trying to proselytize Jews.”
He notes that the IFCG funding is only a small fraction of the total funding for the camps: 36 million shekels, compared to 260 million shekels that the Ministry of Education allotted.
"As for the claim that this contribution could cause the Jewish masses in Israel to view evangelists – who are Christians who love Israel – favorably, there is no fault in this, because they deserve recognition for their support for us. We must battle missionaries, not moral Christians who respect our religion and support us.”
The rabbi goes even further and says: “It appears that we can say that the American evangelists are the most important and meaningful group supporting Israel nowadays. These are about 70 million citizens of the largest superpower in the world, who believe that the words of the Bible hold true today, and that the nation of Israel needs to return to its land and follow its Torah and Mitzvot. Their moral stature is higher and more exalted than that of Coresh [Persian King Cyrus], who assisted the Return to Zion.”
Rabbi Melamed quotes Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook ztz”l, who wrote that “The love of human beings must be alive in the heart and soul, the love of every person individually, and the love of all the nations... despite all of the different opinions, religions and beliefs.”
For an article by Rabbi Melamed on philo-Semitic Christians, click here.