In its International Religious Freedom Report for 2008, the United States State Department has accused the counter-missionary organization Yad L'Achim of using violence against those who come to Israel seeking to bring Jews to abandon Judaism. Yad L'Achim accuses the State Department of publishing the report without a minimal investigation of the truth of the claims.
The recent accusations by the State Department mark the fifth time since 1999 that Yad L'Achim has been referenced in the International Religious Freedom Report. The current report includes claims that Yad L'Achim organized repeated harassment, explicit threats, intentional and persistent intimidation, and vandalism against missionaries and missionary movements throughout Israel.
In a letter to the US Embassy in Israel earlier this month, Yad L'Achim Chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz wrote (in translation from the Hebrew original), "Every year, the US State Department publishes a report on the state of human rights and religious freedom in Israel. To our great sorrow, you repeatedly, every year, report baseless claims regarding Yad L'Achim. You write that Yad L'Achim harasses missionaries and uses violence against them. These unfounded claims have no basis and are essentially nothing more than slander."
Rabbi Lifschitz points out in his letter that Yad L'Achim has never even been charged in a court of law with any of
Rabbi Lifschitz points out in his letter that Yad L'Achim has never even been charged in a court of law with any of the actions of which the group is accused in the State Department report.
the actions of which the group is accused in the State Department report: "We fear that the information you have published comes from interested parties among the missionary organizations and that you are giving them a stage for their libels without verifying the claims."
In an interview with IsraelNationalNews TV, Joel Rebibo of Yad L'Achim discussed the US report: "What's outrageous is that instead of the State Department contacting us for some kind of clarification, they just printed it."
Regarding the content of the report, Rebibo said, "If anything, it's the opposite. It's the missionaries who have been violent against us, against our Yad L'Achim activists and not the other way around."
INN: So practically speaking; will this generate problems for Yad L'Achim?
Rebibo: "There's no significance on a practical level at this stage, but we're concerned. We've been asked to come to America and set up shop there, to help American Jews fight missionaries.... We're concerned that if the State Department has us down as troublemakers, they might get in the way of allowing us to set up operations there."
INN: Why are the missionaries doing this in America if Yad L'Achim is active in Israel?
Rebibo: "The missionaries in Israel are in a bind, because they're getting a massive amount of money from their supporters in America and around the world, and they don't have much to show for it. They're working very, very hard and Yad L'Achim is succeeding every week in rescuing Jews from their missions and they need an excuse. ...If they can accuse us of violence, that's the excuse that they need."
In addition to combating missionary activities in Israel, Yad L'Achim rescues Jewish women and children who have married Muslims and who are violently prevented from returning to their people. The organization is also involved in Jewish outreach, which it calls "spiritual absorption".