Baptism in Jewish Town Canceled at Last Minute

Residents, officials, chief rabbi and Yad L'Achim succeed in blocking missionary baptism of Jews, after it was already thwarted once.

Hillel Fendel,

Christian baptism at the Jordan River
Christian baptism at the Jordan River
Maxim Dinshtein/Flash 90

Cooperation between residents, municipal officials, a city Chief Rabbi and the Yad L'Achim anti-assimilation organization has lead to the cancellation of a Jehovah's Witnesses baptism ceremony this coming Sabbath.

---Update: A legal appeal of the decision was turned down late Friday afternoon. The issue will be reviewed next week.

This is the second time that Yad L'Achim has succeeded in heading off the same baptism-of-Jews ceremony. It was first scheduled to be held in the city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, two months ago. The activist organization received word of the planned event, which was to be held in the city's Yad LeBanim building erected in memory of fallen IDF soldiers. City officials were contacted, and the baptism was called off.

However, the Jehovah's Witnesses missionary group found a new site for the ceremony: the MetroWest Sports Center of Raanana, between Tel Aviv and Netanya. 

Once again, Yad L'Achim went into action, contacting hundreds of city residents and asking them to do what they could to have the ceremony canceled. Raanana's Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz and several City Council officials were also made known of the event and the local residents' efforts to stop it.

Finally, on Wednesday, the city council members of the United Religious List of Raanana drafted a clear ultimatum to Mayor Ze'ev Bielski: "If the ceremony is held, we quit the city government coalition."

The party also threatened to take other action, such as organizing a protest and taking the case to the courts.

The next day, with fewer than 48 hours before the baptism, Mayor Bielski announced that the ceremony would not be held. A special protest prayer service was to have been held outside the Sports Center if the baptism had not been called off. 

Yad L'Achim also notes the inter-city cooperation in this success: Deputy Mayor Rabbi Chaim Steiner of the city of Kiryat Malachi, a personal friend of Raanana's mayor, called him personally and pleaded with him to prevent the anti-Jewish ceremony.


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