A proposed "anti-missionary" law has galvanized the Israeli Messianic community and sparked complaints from evangelicals around the world. The law, introduced in Israel's Knesset on February 19 (CT, April 28, 1997), would make the "unjustified" printing, distribution, and possession of "missionary" material a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison.
The ad hoc Messianic Action Committee (MAC) formed within days of the bill's introduction. Baruch Maoz, committee spokesperson, says that "what is at stake here is not Messianic Judaism, but the freedom of speech. [Messianic Jews] have a duty of righteousness toward our own nation."
MAC's first meeting resulted in a quot;call to action" forwarded to evangelical leaders around the world. Their concerns struck a chord. "This campaign has had a far greater impact than we could have hoped for or imagined," says Maoz.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu heard concerns expressed about the law by religious and political leaders "on a number of occasions" during his April 8 visit to the United States, according to Maoz.
MAC also has cultivated ties among Israeli policymakers and human rights workers, according to Noam Hendren, pastor of Kfar Saba's Keren Yeshua congregation. "We have contacted both Members of Knesset (MKS) and people who have influence with the MKS," Hendren says.
"If this becomes a matter for public debate, it will be the person who can shout the loudest who will carry the day, and there are a lot of people out there who can shout louder than us," Hendren says.
There is evidence that lawmakers are listening. After a meeting with MAC members, Nissim Zvili, the bill's author, asked for suggestions on how to reword the legislation. Zvili says he has "no problem with Christianity." ...1
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