Okay, looks like I’m getting a good post in today after all.
I subscribe to a number of newsletters about Messianic Jews in Israel but am very careful about what I pass along. The reason is very simple: Many of these newsletters focus almost exclusively on the persecution Messianics sometimes face for their faith. While such persecution does highlight our need to pray for our brethren, it can create a distorted picture.
Today, a post from Maoz Israel’s blog serves to perfectly illustrate why I am careful about what I pass on. There’s nothing wrong with the post itself, which is an eyewitness account of a protest by Yad l’Achim (who we’ve posted about before) against a Messianic synagogue in Ashdod:
The Ashdod police had the entire street closed off. Police check-points stopped cars that wanted to enter the area. In front of the congregation were police barricades, a stage with a podium, a long table, with banners and signs that read: “Yad L’Achim”. I soon realized this was going to be some well organized hate-fest.
Within half an hour the entire street was packed with hundreds and hundreds of ultra-orthodox men and boys dressed in black.
Soon, ‘rabbi’ (I use that term very loosely) after rabbi took to the stage to condemn the plague that is Messianic Judaism. Missionaries, they called us. Then came the comparisons to Hitler. We’re here to destroy the Jewish people, to steal Jewish souls to lead all Jews away from Judaism and on and on and on.
I tried to stay out of people’s way and just video-tape the speakers. But soon, the crowd became restless, no doubt bored senselessly by the endless ramblings of the elderly hate-mongerers.
Before I realized what was happening I had between 50-100 people surrounding me, calling me a missionary and asking me what I was doing in Israel. Boys as young as 6-7 years old were hissing at me, making hateful faces. The group closed in more and more trying to intimidate and I’ll be honest it worked.
There was a heavy police presence in the area, but it took the police a while to notice (or want to notice) that suddenly I had become a topic of interest to many in the crowd.
As my heart pounded more and more, I kept repeating to myself ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah’. I suddenly had a glimpse like never before of what it must have been like for Peter or Stephen to suddenly find themselves surrounded by a hate-filled mob.
It wasn’t just that there was a group of people surrounding me. I’ve lived in some of the most dangerous cities in the world and encountered all sorts of ‘seedy’ elements. No, this was something entirely different.
These were people who had been bred from the the womb, to hate Yeshua and anyone who identifies themselves with Him. They didn’t even see me as a human being. They just saw me as a vessel of everything they loathe.
The spirit of hate, the demonic spirit that just radiated off of them is hard to put into words. I tried to look some in the eyes, but I found only a cold, death-like gaze staring back at me.
After about 15 minutes of the crowd getting closer and closer and becoming more and more vocal, I knew it was time to go. I asked a police officer to escort me to my car and then left.
The post includes a video that the author took of the event, and I do recommend checking it out.
I believe the author when he says there was something demonic about the hate of the crowd. I even wrote him a note saying so. Let’s be blunt about this: The Adversary is as capable of recognizing the signs of his end as anyone else, and Jewish followers of Yeshua in Israel are almost as prominent a sign as the existence of Israel itself. He will seek out any opportunity to whip up pre-existing anger and hatred into a frenzy of persecution.
There are two ways to respond to this hatred. The correct way is the high road that our Messianic brother took: “I wasn’t really afraid. I was honestly just so sad. These are my fellow Jews, my fellow Israelis, my family…and they wanted to kill me. I’m convinced that if the police had not been there, they would have tried.”
Here is exactly the wrong response, from an annonymous commentator:
I am so sorry. They would still crucify Jesus if they could. I thought there was freedom of religion in Israel but apparently not. Why don’t they demonstrate against a Mosque or some of the many other sects. They know the Messianic Jews wouldn’t fight back. They are no different than that crowd in Egypt that raped the woman because they thought she was Jewish.
Do you see the difference? One–from the actual victim–regards this as an in-family problem, Jews persecuting Jews, and is saddened by the hatred more than anything else. In fact, it is that the persecution does come from “within the family” that makes it so personally hurtful. The other sees this as Jews-vs-Christians, tries to present the event as official persecution by the Israeli state, and compares the Haredi anger to a Muslim crowd that actually did rape a woman. There’s even an implicit suggestion of returning hatred with hatred.
Also, while we are being blunt, let’s point out that Israel does have freedom of religion. This was not a government-sponsored event. The police did provide a presence to keep the rally from turning into actual violence and did intervene to protect the Messianic.
A final thought: In the long run, the Haredi are really shooting themselves in the foot here. Yes, they’re succeeding in making the lives of Messianic Jews a bit more difficult. However, given that they also make the lives of other Jewish groups more difficult–like harrassing people coming to pray at the Western Wall (and what the heck is with the haredim calling everyone nazis?)–in the long run this sort of thing is more likely to increase sympathy for Messianics among mainline Israelis than anything else.
Hang in there and keep turning the other cheek, my brothers and sisters. And for the rest of us out here in the Diaspora, keep our brethren in Israel in prayer. This is not a war against flesh and blood, after all.
- Report: Yemeni Muslims Kidnap Jewish Child as Pressure Tactic (returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com)
- Radical Discipleship, Continued Membership (returnofbenjamin.wordpress.com)