Christian missionaries and evangelistic workers in Israel face an uncertain future now that the land’s fragile religious peace has been shattered. Arsonists last month set fire to several buildings that house Christian agencies, demonstrators protested missionary efforts, and the Knesset (parliament) reportedly agreed to debate the missionary question. Some Israeli leaders are calling for the ouster of missionaries and a prohibition against evangelism.
Representatives of six Knesset factions and four cabinet members met informally February 19 to discuss “the problem of mounting missionary activity in the country by fringe movements, such as ‘Jews for Jesus,’ ” the Jerusalem Post reported. The article said Moshe Baram, the chief coalition whip, had persuaded the other factions that the problem should be probed quietly, “avoiding the negative repercussions abroad” that might result from a full-scale Knesset debate. The full debate is still a possibility.
In a memo to Prime Minister Golda Meir, religious-affairs minister Zerah Warhaftig stated his concerns about the evangelistic activity and suggested countermeasures. These suggestions were not immediately disclosed, but the Ministry for the Interior, in cooperation with the Religious Affairs Ministry, has apparently already outlined steps to limit evangelism through a Christian-excluding application of the Law of Return, which guarantees every Jew the right to settle in Israel. (The law defines a Jew as a person born to a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism.) A number of Christians, primarily from America, have registered their “conversion” to Judaism in rabbinical courts and emigrated to Israel to engage in evangelism. These may have their conversions rescinded if it is proved ...1
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