(Written for the Jerusalem Post)
Should we. . .or should we not, go to court? That was the question facing us as believers – both Jews and Gentiles — in Yeshua/Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of God. Our congregation in Beer Sheva had just experienced a second, violent, so called ‘prayer gathering’, which this time had turned into a full-scale riot, ending after about three hours, and only after dozens of police were called to the scene, including the riot squad (see JP article, “Abused For Our Beliefs. . .”, Dec. 28, 2005; Letter to Editor, Jan 1, 2006).
Having turned the other cheek already once in a big way, and numerous times in smaller incidents – similar to Israel towards Hamas – and after counseling with other Messianic leaders around the country, we decided to sue the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Beer Sheva, and the anti-Messianic organization, Yad L’Achim, which includes within its organization a department called ‘The Struggle Against The Mission’. We have what we believe to be sufficient evidence to link them together in calling for an illegal protest against the lawful right to express our faith in Beer Sheva and in the rest of Israel, according to the existing laws which supposedly govern the State. A mindset which refuses to recognize the existence of a legitimate and historic group will, for example, restrict Israel from being Israel; will restrict a nation or a faith group from perpetuating itself in natural and normal ways; but will rather obsess with undermining or eradicating them.
Our nation was re-established literally on the ashes of people who were killed, and then dishonorably cremated, simply because they were Jewish. Now we who believe that what Moses and the Prophets wrote points to Jesus being the promised Messiah and Savior are being targeted simply for that, and treated with insults and contempt. Will this also lead to pogroms and worse? Disturbingly, there has been a virtual Israeli media black-out for covering both the riot, and for the actual trial itself, which took place in Beer Sheva on June 10, and continued this week on the 21st (Civil 1652/07). (A final date has been set for November 23 to complete the presentation before the court.) Do we only consider religious persecution newsworthy when it happens against Jewish people and synagogues by others? Should we not speak out for fear? That may be a galut mentality, but we have been brought back home, and are to remember that we were slaves and strangers inEgypt, in order to respect those amongst us who help build up this nation whose calling and destiny are uniquely given to us from the Possessor of Heaven and Earth!
We live amongst our people and are not ignorant of history, and of terrible mistreatment of Jews by those called “Christian”. Yet when I look at our own history as Jews, we have a need to ask ourselves how much have we honored the God of Israel in the eyes of Gentiles, to whom we were called to be a light? People are people, and will show themselves to be generally the same when put in similar situations. We all need to learn God’s righteous ways versus our own, and that usually comes only after it is seemingly too late.
Most of us are aware of the Islamic nations’ determination to cut off Israel from being a nation, that her name be remembered no more. Most Jews, even if not consciously expressing it, have a similar attitude regarding Jesus, whom we have blamed for all our troubles in the world, and want to blot out his name and memory. And the God of Israel has declared war from generation to generation against Amalek – and those who act similarly – until He has utterly wiped out all memory of them. Our experience with Yad L’Achim and with the Chief Rabbi has been this: they have stated their objective to get rid of us. Is this goal really any different from the efforts of the nations in the Tanach who sought/seek to destroy Israel? Our history is filled with such attempts and many of our citizens still recall their suffering at the hands of the Nazis, while in more recent times, the Jewish people suffered, and continue to suffer, at the hands of jihadists. The current laws of Israel regarding her citizens do not sanction trespassing onto private property, disrupting religious services, assaulting individuals, destroying property, solely because of differences in religious beliefs. There have even been efforts in the Knesset to change the laws in order to make our legal activities illegal.
I want to stress that this lawsuit is not against Israel or against the Jewish people. It is not intended to be used in any way to foment or promote anti-Israel or anti-Jewish actions or reactions. Nor is our legal action intended to be used by any other minority or religious groups in Israel to encourage or affirm anti-Israel/Jewish sentiment.
This legal course we have taken was not in haste. We recognize our dilemma in Israelby proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. We appreciate the political and religious influence of the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Beer Sheva. We know the efforts of “The Struggle Against The Mission” to restrict our legitimate liberties. We love our nation and our people, and are committed to her uniqueness amongst the nations. Whether you consider us as good citizens or only as strangers amongst you, we are for you and with you.
Our lawsuit, and the compensatory damages asked for, is to hold up to the public’s attention (is anybody noticing or even interested?!) the standard of existing law, and saying out loud, “STOP! Consider what you are doing!” If a riot by Jews against those who believe differently is allowed to take place without any legal accountability for taking the law into their own hands, then we are not truly a nation under law, but one that opens a door for lawlessness, every one doing what is right in his own eyes, resulting in much evil in the Promised Holy Land.
Freedoms of conscience, religion and religious expression are essential for a truly free society. This necessarily admits to differences and to disagreements, both in politics and in religion. Pray, protest, demonstrate, even believe. . . but let’s do so lawfully, in love for our neighbor as for ourselves.