Dancing outside Ashdod's church
Dancing outside Ashdod's churchCredit: Yad L'Achim

On Friday, noticeboards in synagogues and on the streets in all the haredi areas of Ashdod prominently featured a proclamation headed "Vayikhalu Hayehudim" (And the Jews gathered together) regarding the growing menace of missionaries operating in Ashdod, signed by all the rabbis and hasidic leadersof the city. Pictures of missionary activity in Ashdod were also displayed.

The notice stated: "According to Yad L'Achim activists, missionaries operating in Ashdod are working with great determination to entice as many people as they can to join them. Every single week, hundreds of people [residents of Ashdod] arrive at their house of worship in order to receive donations of food and other forms of assistance. In this way, and also via other sly and underhand tactics, they succeed in convincing unwitting people to adopt their faith."

"Therefore, we, the rabbis and hasidic leaders of the city of Ashdod, have resolved to do whatever we can to assist those working for the good of the community ... Among the options being considered are putting more activists on the ground, to stand outside the mission's church and warn people of the nature of those who profess to help them; and establishing a charity fund to ... provide for their material and other needs, in order to put an end to missionary activities and remove this abomination from our midst.

"We hope and pray that we will be able to restore a pure spirit to our city ... and that all those who have been ensnared will return to the faith of Israel."

Highlighting the exceptional nature of the matter, all the rabbis and hasidic leaders of the city signed the proclamation, including Rabbi Refael Abuhatzeira, Rabbi Yekutiel Abuhatzeira, Rabbi Shmuel Toledano; the Admorim of Pittsburgh, Melitz, Shomrei Emunim, Chernobyl, Tolna; the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Ashdod Rabbi Yosef Sheinin; the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Ashdod Rabbi Chaim Shimon Pinto; Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Hakohen Gross of Gur; Rabbi Chaim Pesach Halevi Horovitz of Belz; Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Vizhnitzer of Belz.

In addition, shortly before Shabbat (Sabbath) dozens of haredim headed to the industrial zone just outside the city where the missionaries' church, "Beit Hillel," is located. They brought with them music and loudspeakers and began to dance, singing "And the Jews had light, happiness, joy, and honor" - a verse from the Scroll of Esther, which is read on the upcoming holiday of Purim. The verse celebrates the Jewish people's victory following the downfall of the evil Haman who sought to eradicate the Jewish nation.

A spokesman from the anti-missionary department of Yad L'Achim said that following this heartfelt appeal from the rabbis of the city, they hope that in the near future hundreds of new volunteers will sign up to help. Particularly important is ensuring a near-constant presence of volunteers outside the mission's church, to inform Jews heading there for whatever reason that those "helping" them are in fact missionaries who seek to lure them away from Judaism.