Court Rules Raanana Must Hold Baptism Ceremony

Lod District Court rules that Jehovah's Witnesses are permitted to hold a baptism at the MetroWest Sports Center in Raanana on Saturday.

Haim Lev, Cynthia Blank,

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

The Lod District Court ruled Wednesday that a Jehovah's Witnesses baptism ceremony may take place on Saturday at the MetroWest Sports Center in Raanana. 

Originally scheduled to be held in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, two months ago, the baptism was canceled after the Yad L'Achim anti-assimilation organization protested. 

Upon receiving word of the baptism, which was to be held in the city's Yad LeBanim building erected in memory of fallen IDF soldiers, Yad L'Achim contacted city officials who called off the event. 

Not to be deterred, the Jehovah's Witnesses missionary group found a new site for the ceremony, now scheduled for this coming Saturday: the MetroWest Sports Center of Raanana, between Tel Aviv and Netanya. 

Following opposition from Yad L'Achim and several city council members, the missionaries petitioned the District Court in Lod to order the municipality and Raanana Mayor Ze'ev Bielski to allow the event. 

In the end, a judge ruled on Wednesday that the Ra'anana municipality must allow the event to take place on Saturday in the MetroWest Sports Center. 

Representatives of the Raanana government, specifically from the Likud and United Religious List factions announced their intentions to immediately appeal the decision to the High Court, in hopes that Israel's highest court will forbid the missionaries from holding the event. 

Deputy Mayor Haim Goldman said he was deeply troubled by the Lod District Court's decision. "It is too be the court chose to ignore the feelings of thousands of Raanana residents and prefers to identify with this dangerous Jehovah's Witnesses sect."

The chairman of the United Religious List faction in Raanana, Eli Cohen, also condemned the ruling, saying the baptism will not only offended the religious community, but also the general public who are overwhelmingly opposed to the event.

While Yad L'Achim hopes the High Court will accept the appeal, they are prepared to hold a mass protest outside of the event, if not.