The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, after hearing more testimony, reiterated its ban on Jewish participation in the Christian-sponsored conferences in Jerusalem this week.
The rabbinate's Committee to Stop Missionary Dissemination met for a second time on Thursday, this time with MK Benny Elon, the Chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. Though Elon demonstrated his opposition to working with missionaries and the care his groups take to ensure that no missionary work is tolerated, the rabbis reaffirmed the previous ban.
The committee's first decision was a unanimous vote, agreed upon by Rabbis Simcha Kook (Chief Rabbi of Rechovot), Yitzchak Peretz (Raanana) and Yehuda Deri (Be'er Sheva). At the second vote, however, Rabbi Deri was not present, and Haifa's Chief Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, who replaced him, voted against the decision.
Also participating in the meeting were Jerusalem Councilwoman Mina Fenton (NRP), a long-time activist against missionary activity, and Ze'ev Shtieglitz of the Netanya-based Lev L'Achim anti-missionary organization.
Elon Will Not Participate in Conference
MK Elon expressed disappointment with the decision, but said he would honor it: "I feel that the evidence presented to the rabbis was not complete, but the bottom line is that as a religious Jew, I am bound by the rabbis' decisions, and I will not participate in the conference." He said that the decision does not affect his work as head of the Knesset lobby, which deals chiefly with Jewish-Christian political ties.
Hardships Facing Women and Biblical Solutions
The conference involves two days of seminars and lectures beginning today (Sunday) on the following themes: Abuse and trafficking of women, incest and honor killings, as well as the rights of women to an education, free speech, vote and religion. "Over 600 women from around the world will join together for this monumental event," the Caucus promotional literature states, "to discuss the many hardships facing women today and possible solutions to these problems based on their shared Biblical values.
Among the speakers will be the founder of Precept Ministries Kay Arthur and Aglow International President Jane Hansen. The summit will culminate with a march from the Crown Plaza Hotel to the Jerusalem Rose Garden.
Fenton and Shtieglitz presented the rabbis with evidence of direct or indirect missionary activity by two of the organizations behind the two Christian conferences being held in Jerusalem at this time: The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Bridges for Peace. Both conferences are part of a larger Women's Summit Tour of the ICEJ and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, taking place from May 13-22.
The rabbis ruled that in light of the incessant missionary onslaught by many Christian evangelical groups, events of this nature that "strive to create a partnership between famous Christian preachers and leaders of organizations that have worldwide missionary programs to missionize as many Jews as possible... have been banned in the past by Torah giants throughout the generations, and they are forbidden."
Rabbi Deri explained the original decision to Arutz-7: "We note of late the terrible phenomenon of Messianic Jews wreaking havoc and destruction in Israel by trying to bring Jesus as Messiah into Israel. With pleasantness and kindness, they bring Torah, fear of G-d and even Torah commandments - but all with one underlying theme: that Jesus is Messiah... They want to help and support us, but they have the same goals as the Messianics. They make tremendous efforts and support us all over, and are even more right-wing than we are in some ways, and they help us with Bush, etc. - this is all true, but in the end, they have one goal, and that is Jesus. We are not on the level of early great Rabbis who were able to take the good and spit out the bad..."
Spokespersons for the Christian groups, both Jewish and Christian, say the groups in question do not engage in active missionary activity. Many Jewish groups that work with them say they are careful to screen out missionaries, and make it clear that they will not work with anyone who espouses a missionary program.
But Fenton says they're missing the point: "The goal of all the groups is to blur the differences between Jews and Christians, to show the Jewish roots of Jesus, and to show that we believe in the same things... That's why they have all these missions and study groups and women's groups and seminars on Christianity's Jewish roots and the like - because they want Jews to think that they can remain Jewish while still accepting Jesus."
Friendship Leads to Interest
Ze'ev Shtieglitz of Lev L'Achim goes further, saying he has evidence of actual missionary activity by these groups. "For instance," he told Arutz-7, "ICEJ Liaison Officer Doron Schneider is the head of the Messianic Jewish community in Maaleh Adumim... The pastor of the Brit Olam Jewish-messianic congregation received his salaray from Bridges for Peace... But more than that: Dr. George Giacumakis, the one-time Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ICEJ, has said straight out that it is hoped, through various 'friendship' organizations with Jews, and by giving financial and political support to Israel, that Jews will start showing interest in Christianity."