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ISRAEL: Messianic campaign spreading the news to the Jews?

May 14, 2008 |  7:55 am

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"5.4 million Jews live in Israel today -- more than in any period throughout history, but only 0.1% of them believe" in Jesus, says an internal memo of Israel's messianic communities announcing a campaign to spread the gospel throughout the country's Jewish residents. Anti-missionary circles say their "intelligence people" intercepted the "shocking memo" (Hebrew) that also expressed concern over legislators' support for a bill seeking to tighten restrictions on missionary activity, already outlawed in Israel.

Reportedly, a campaign equating Jesus with salvation came to an abrupt end after people complained of billboards on buses throughout the country reading "Jesus = Yeshua = Salvation" (the words are very similar in Hebrew, perhaps too close for some). An urgent appeal by Yad L'Achim to the national bus company bore quick results and the billboards were removed within hours, the company's advertising department stating it did not want to offend the Jewish public's feelings.

Last week, several rabbis called for a boycott of the annual Bible Quiz after learning that one of the participants was a 17-year-old girl belonging to a messianic congregation in Jerusalem. The Ministry of Education had refused to disqualify her from the annual iconic Independence Day event, saying her ID stated she was Jewish.

And in March, a teenage boy from another congregation suffered serious injuries from a bomb that had been concealed in a holiday gift basket.

There are 15,000 messianic Jews living in Israel today in dozens of congregations throughout the country. They view themselves as a legitimate stream of Judaism; most are committed Israelis, many of them serving in elite army units. They stress that Jesus was a Jew and are careful to use his Hebrew name, Yeshua. Many in the communities say they feel threatened by individuals, organizations and state bureaucracy. Religious Jews regard them as an abomination and a concrete danger.

—Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Photo: Picture showing the short-lived ad campaign, reading "Jesus = Yeshua = Salvation" in Hebrew, from the Yad L'Achim website.

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